The first time I saw The James Newman Band they were hardly a band and definitely not called The James Newman Band yet. It was a few years ago at a house party in Snowmass near the Rim Trail and at the time they were going by Neutron Bomb and the Exfoliators.
The James Newman Band is currently comprised of James Newman, Mike Foley and two drum machines. Their sound is raw on purpose and they are not willing to apologize for it.
Newman writes the songs and together they work out the technical details. It’s taken a few years for them to hone in their sound but I would say the steady work and attention to detail has been well worth the time.
A couple weeks ago they played their first gig at the Belly Up during a local artist showcase and last Tuesday they released their year’s labor, a five song CD titled “Grow E.P.”
Advertised on Facebook as, “a full original set, and then jamming a couple of cherry covers,” the release party was held at the Red Onion, accompanied by the finest Pabst on draft in town.
They handed out CDs with the goal of getting their sound into the ears of everyone willing to listen. Their sound was tight, relaxed and unrefined. Every time I have seen them they have made solid strides in sound and style.
This Saturday, Feb. 23, The James Newman Band will be playing the Aspen Brewing Company at 9 p.m. Their grunge-influenced modern rock will fit well in the small taproom of the brewery.
“We are a band that is not afraid to hit wrong notes,” says Newman. “We would rather fuel the songs with emotion and just have raw aggression. We are trying to be abrasive; we are trying to rub our way into the scene here.”
They pull off this edgy sound with minor chords and vocals drowned in bass. The way Newman’s voice meets the melody works but the main complaint I would have is that the vocals aren’t clear enough.
The “Grow E.P.” was recorded in Newman’s apartment over the last year or so on Pro Tools, a digital audio workstation. After listening to their album, “Grow” is the stand out track, but live that might not be the case because of the melodic jams in their other originals.
Live and on their E.P. they play programmed drum tracks on two drum machines. Since the last drummer who was part of the band moved to Atlanta, they have been looking for a replacement. A few have had interest but no one has really fit the spot.
“When you find a drummer, they have one foot in the door and one foot out,” says Newman. “They don’t really get into the music like I would prefer.”
While they would like to complete the band with a drummer there are some benefits to going it without one: it’s easier to find space to practice and some gigs don’t have the space to allow for a drummer. In the meantime they have been using programmed tracks to pull off their sound.
Currently The James Newman Band is independent in every sense. They record at home and do everything on their own time. They would love to tour and sell albums and are currently sorting through their original songs with hopes of making a full-length album by this summer.
“We would like to grow in every way,” says Newman. “‘Grow’ was an idea to plant the seed of interest and see what the flower looks like.”
James Newman is John Zelazny’s biggest fan. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.