John Brown's Body (band)

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John Brown's Body
Members of John Brown's Body.jpg
Background information
Origin Ithaca, New York and Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Genres Reggae, dub, indie
Years active 1995–present
Labels Easy Star Records, I-Town Records, Shanachie Records
Associated acts 10 Foot Ganja Plant, Mang Dub, Guvna Dub, Midnite
Website www.johnbrownsbody.com
Members Elliot Martin
Tommy Benedetti
Jon Petronzio
Jay Spaker
Dan Africano
Sam Dechenne
Drew Seyers
TJ Schaper
Past members Kevin Kinsella
Dan Delacruz
Chris Welter
David Gould
Mike Keenan
Nate Edgar
Scott Flynn
Mathew Goodwin
Nate Silas Richardson
Alex Beram
Josh Newman
Sam Godin
Lee Hamilton
Scott Palmer (deceased)
Paul Merrill
Alex Toth
Annakalmia Traver
Brian Thomas
Jason "Jocko" Randall

John Brown's Body is an American reggae band from Boston, Massachusetts and Ithaca, New York. The band describe their sound as "Future Roots Music". The sound is rooted in reggae rhythms and blended with a variety of other styles including dub, electronic, funk, ska, hip-hop and dubstep.[1][2][3][4]

The band's sound was described by the New York Daily News as "more Massive Attack than Marley" and by the Village Voice "reverent and revolutionary at the same time".

John Brown's Body has performed with groups that represent a wide range of genres including Dave Matthews Band, The Flaming Lips, STS9, Furthur, Ozomatli, Broken Social Scene and Jurassic 5.

History[edit]

Development (1998-2006)[edit]

Beginning in 1996, JBB released All Time on their own I-Town Records label. The record made Rolling Stone Magazine's "Top 10 Indie Records List." Following that, JBB signed with reggae label Shanachie, then released three albums; Among Them (1998), This Day (2000) and Spirits All Around Us (2003). The Boston Herald called them "one of the world's best roots-style reggae bands" following the release of This Day. After positive reviews, the band appeared at Bob Marley Day Festival in Miami, FL., alongside Lauryn Hill and others. Also, after the release of Spirits All Around Us, the band had become a national name. The appeared at The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Reggae on the Rocks and Wakarusa. After the release of This Day, Mike Keenan left JBB to raise his children, Oscar and Damon (Damon in 2004) and returned in 2006 but was not an "official" member until 2006.[citation needed]

In 2005, JBB signed with New York City record label Easy Star and released their fifth studio album Pressure Points, evolving from a traditional roots approach to a twist on reggae and dub they titled "future roots."[citation needed] Pressure Points was critically acclaimed and the Village Voice review called JBB "reverent as well as revolutionary"[citation needed] while Popmatters described the record as their "strongest, most consistent effort to date."[citation needed] Elliot Martin wrote 8 out of 11 songs, while Martin had only written a few songs from previous albums. Kevin Kinsella wrote the other three.

Disaster and recovery (2006-2009)[edit]

Tragedy struck when bassist Scott Palmer died from cancer. Lead vocalist Martin and drummer/co-founder Tommy Benedetti continued the band.

The band recruited Boston bassist Nate Edgar to replace Scott; he had been a fan since seeing Scott playing years earlier with DJ Logic's Project Logic. More JBB line-up changes include the departure of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Kinsella who had formally left the band on good terms and organist/guitarist Nate "Silas" Richardson who stepped out to spend more time with his newborn son. JBB replaced Richardson with guitarist Keenan who was a member of The Tribulations and a previous member of the band who also stepped out to raise his children. JBB continued to tour.[citation needed] Near the end of the journey, Dan Delacruz and Chris "C-Money" Welter who joined the punk-reggae band Slightly Stoopid.

Kinsella's departure freed Martin to become the band leader and point in new musical directions. For years, a creative rift separated the two primary songwriters and childhood friends.[citation needed] Kinsella's songs tended towards religious and roots-reggae sounds, more like the band's beginnings, while Martin's writing emphasized futuristic and atypical rhythms, as well as dense metaphorical imagery.[citation needed] "I used to think that having two songwriters and vocalists was a strength that made us unique, but it probably confused a lot of people. Now our sound is more cohesive," says Benedetti, "We feel comfortable with one another and you can hear it in the music we're creating."[citation needed]

Just before Kinsella's exit, Martin wrote three "rooster" tracks, Give Yourself Over, Speak of the Devil and Be at Peace. When Kinsella quit, Martin felt less pressure to make everything fit within a perceived JBB sound. He then wrote The Gold, an up-beat drum and bass-inflected tune featuring a guitar line reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western soundtrack and Make Your Move, which brought the band closer to hip hop.[citation needed] According to Martin, the title track was one of the band's original ideas. He stated "the seeds for that one [The Gold] are five years old. It was originally a hip hop beat, like a Funkadelic song. The bass line was the same, but much more slinky. I didn't know what it would become, but I knew it should be the lead for this record."[citation needed]

In 2007, the band went into the studio to work on their sixth record at More Sound, a recording studio owned by sound engineer Jason "Jocko" Randall in Syracuse, NY. During that time, Elliot began to notice problems with his vocal strength and endurance. After months of doctor visits and vocal training, the problem was diagnosed as vocal polyps.[citation needed] In early 2008, Martin had surgery to remove polyps on his vocal chords and began voice training to teach him how to lessen the strain on his throat. Another quote from the band's website states "I feel better every day. Each show back after surgery, I could feel myself getting stronger. Now I think I'm doing things I couldn't even do before," along with saying, "Add that to the energy of the new line-up and this new batch of songs."[citation needed]

The band released Amplify on New York City label Easy Star Records. Amplify debuted at #1 on Billboard 's reggae charts, #10 on CMJ's World Music Chart and made it on the "iTunes Beat of 2008" list for reggae records. The band toured across the U.S. for the first time in nearly two years.[citation needed]

All Music Guide wrote that "Elliot Martin has taken firmer control of the group and now it is [JBB] now a completely different organism; although the John Brown's Body sound is still distinctly reggae-ish, it's denser, swirlier, sometimes downright funky and loaded with more melodic hooks."[citation needed]

Success (2009-2010)[edit]

In 2009, JBB released their first remix EP Re-Amplify (under the Easy Star record) and it debuted in the Billboard reggae Top 10. Re-Amplify featured remixes by artists from around the world including Dubmatix (From Toronto), WrongTom (From London) and their friend Kasongo from Gym Class Heroes (US.)

After a few changes to the horn section, they brought in trombonist Scott Flynn, saxophonist Drew Sayers and trumpet player Sam Dechenne. In 2009, the band traveled to the United Kingdom for 16 shows with labelmates Easy Star All-Stars and 11 shows in New Zealand with The Black Seeds, also Easy Start label mates. The tour leads to a musical brotherhood with The Black Seeds and they later performed together at the 2010 Grassroots Music Festival in Ithaca, NY.[citation needed]

In December 2009, JBB covered "Bankrobber" by The Clash for a charity record named "Shatter the Hotel: The Songs of Joe Strummer in Dub". All proceeds from the record went to benefit Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music.[citation needed]

In 2010, JBB performed on Jam Cruise off the coast of Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island.[citation needed] Then, in April through May 2010, the group performed their first tours ever in France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and in Canada performing at festivals and headlining clubs.[citation needed]

New Music (2013)[edit]

On April 16, 2013, JBB released its Kings and Queens. Neil Kelly of PopMatters wrote about the album, "where they have stayed true to their roots on previous releases, JBB incorporates many electronic embellishments and elements on Kings and Queens, giving the album as a whole a modern, American touch." [5] The album featured 12 new tracks and was released in iTunes download, CD and 180 gram vinyl LP. The latter was the first time that a vinyl version was readily available for fan consumption.

Influences[edit]

Elliot Martin stated that while writing Amplify he was influenced by artists including Sigur Rós, Batch, Toumani Diabate, Sly and Robbie, Radiohead, Talib Kweli, Aswad, Funkadelic, King Tubby, Roots Manuva, Masaru Sato and Midnite (whose lead singer, Vaughn Benjamin, lends a vocal to the end of "Speak Of The Devil").

"I think that the strongest reggae was coming out of the UK in the 70's and early 80's," Elliot explains. "It was the best produced, had the most complex songwriting; it's the most progressive reggae that's been made. Steel Pulse, Aswad, Reggae Regular, Misty in Roots, Mikey Dread, Dennis Bovell and Linton Kwesi Johnson were doing groundbreaking stuff. I want to pick up where those artists left off. Of course, we don't come close to what those artists did, but I think that's where the idea comes from—that reggae can take other forms. I guess I'm just saying that I see our music as progressive reggae."

Awards[edit]

Recent collaborations[edit]

Martin performed vocals with Iowa reggae band Public Property on their album Work to Do. Martin Collaborated with the Baltimore based band Can't Hang on their 2009 Release Ride The Lightrail.

Studio releases[edit]

  • All Time (1996)
  • Among Them (1999)
  • This Day (2000)
  • Spirits All Around Us (2002)
  • Justin Hinds & John Brown's Body - Live At Grassroots Festival (2002)
  • Pressure Points (2005)
  • Amplify (2008)
  • Re-Amplify (2009)
  • JBB IN DUB (2012)
  • Kings & Queens (2013)
  • Kings & Queens in Dub (2015)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lesemann, T. Ballard (2011-07-27). "Futuristic Reggae-Rock". Charleston City Paper. 
  2. ^ Frazier, Jazmine (2013-05-23). "John Brown's Body". Art Voice. 
  3. ^ Nailen, Dan (2010-04-10). "The Pack a.d., King Khan & the Shrines, KRCL Concert, John Brown's Body, OK Go". City Weekly. 
  4. ^ Burk, Greg (2003-10-30). "Dub". LA Weekly. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Neil (2013-06-12). "John Brown's Body: Kings and Queens". PopMatters. 

External links[edit]