Published in City Newspaper (Rochester) September 15, 2004
love us in Japan
by Bill Chaisson
Over the last two years the
Sim Redmond Band has become increasingly popular in Rochester and ... Japan.
At the band's initial Milestones appearances the audiences were mostly
out-of-towners, fans who had followed them from their hometown of Ithaca
or from some jam-band haven like Geneseo.
SRB is a band that is
breaking the mold in a number of ways. Their record label is a collective,
based in a small college town. They appear to be blissfully uninterested
in musical trends popular in the mass media. They are expanding their audience
through informal networks rather than trying to land a contract with a
media corporation. This, in fact, is how they got to be big in Japan.
City: Why were there three years between Life Is Water and Shining Through?
Redmond: Weíve been busy. Raising families, making homes, playing music. We just really took our time finishing this record.
City: Why does Shining Through have more of a reggae feel and less of an African feel than the previous two CDs?
Redmond: We don't
make a conscious choice about what kind of record to make or even what
kinds of songs to write, we just feel it out. It is hard for us to even
see it like that, the songs just are what they are, we try the songs a
variety of ways at shows and in practice, but usually the songs dictate
the sound. We always want to be trying new things.
City: Why is Kevin Kinsella [of John Brown's Body] such a frequent presence on the new CD?
Redmond: Kevin played a big role in helping us get this CD finished. He gave us energy, ideas, songs, and has supported us in every way he can since we joined I-Town [the Ithaca record label]. We are all very good friends with him and he also happens to be married to one of our singers --- and it's not me!
City: How does playing a song live influence the arrangement that ends up on the CD?
We do try songs a number of different ways, trying to find that perfect
arrangement can be hard. We experiment at our shows quite a bit to see
what works. Sometimes we'll go with a different arrangement for the disc
than live, whatever feels right. The arrangements tend to change even after
the disc is released too. We are not concerned with reproducing the CD
at live shows. They are really two different worlds.
City: Why is the sound of the first CD so different from everything that came after?
Redmond: It was probably a holdover of what I was doing acoustically by myself. It was really my senior project at Ithaca College. I was studying audio production and had been playing with the guys a little bit, so I called them in to do some tracking. I also met Uniit [Carruyo, the band's other singer] right around then and asked her to come sing on a few songs. So what you're hearing is the very early stages of us coming together, based mostly around my acoustic songs.
City: How did the Japan tour come about? Is your music played on the radio in Japan?
Redmond: Our discs were being sold to a couple jam-band stores in Japan by [US distributor] Homegrown Music Network. Through word of mouth the music spread. Buffalo Records, a distributor in Japan, contacted us and began ordering directly in bigger quantities. The distributor really worked the record stores, found buyers who really liked SRB, and got the music on more shelves. They also worked the radio and had great success.
Life is Water has gotten a lot of airplay on the radio in the Tokyo area on three of the biggest radio stations. And there are only five real stations there, so that is huge. So Buffalo Records brought us over for a short promotional tour to support the new CD.
City: Where do you place SRB relative to the constellation of sound that folks call jam band?
Redmond: We got
this question a lot in our interviews with Japanese media as well. I think
the beauty of the jam band scene is that it is very inclusive of many different
kinds of music and influences as long as there is some element of improvisation.
Bands whose music doesn't fit easily into one of the pre-existing genres
are often embraced by the jam band community.
The Sim Redmond Band will appear for a CD release party on Saturday, September 18, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 10 p.m. Tix: $7. 325-6490.
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Last revised: May 3, 2005