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20 Years of Color in Bloom with Percy Hill’s Aaron Katz

Percy Hill is back, and whether you remember them from their late-90s reign of the jam scene or you’re finding them for the very first time, the New Hampshire-bred quintet is in fighting shape touring in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough Color in Bloom.

According to drummer/vocalist Aaron Katz, the musical synergy in the band has never been better, and when he’s not helping at-risk youth, he’s working on new music to fly under the Percy Hill flag.

In a recent conversation with Jambands.com, Katz reflects on how Color in Bloom is both a critical part of the band’s history and a living part of their current live show.

You guys are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Color in Bloom and an interesting thing about that album is you won the first Jammy for Best Studio album in 1999. Can you talk a little bit about that night?

I just remember driving down to Irving Plaza where it was that first year and met up with [Relix editor and Jammy co-founder] Dean Budnick before the show and we just all went in. It was quite a scene backstage. I was with Soulive and it was sort of what Jam Cruise is like now. It had that kinda feeling to it. But definitely an unforgettable night for us.

How does that feel to get recognized at that point?

It felt excellent. I mean we put a lot of work into the album; we put everything we had into that, so it was nice to be able to connect on that level— to get that kind of recognition from the community.

That album in particular represented a new lineup and a new sound, so it must have been a great kind of feeling on those levels as well.

It did. The band started in ’93 Nate Wilson and Joe Farrell started the band and then they brought myself and John Leccese in in 1997 to switch up the sound and the writing style a bit. And that was our first album together, so it was definitely nice to be recognized on that level after our freshman attempt there.

*Music has the ability to take us back to a certain time and a certain place. Are there any songs in particular on Color in Bloom that have that time machine quality for you?

When I listen to it it’s like looking at a photo album; it takes me right back to that time. But definitely the song “Color in Bloom” itself I thought was greatly realized in the studio and “Sun Machine” would be another one that really summed up that entire experience, that entire period of time for us.

You guys are playing a bunch of shows to celebrate the album and performing it front to back, but the great thing about being a jam musician is you don’t have to play it note for note. Are you enjoying feeling out these songs and being able to push their boundaries?

Absolutely. We’ve all grown as individuals, we’ve grown as a team and so where the music goes is really based on where we are today, so there’s definitely a lot of twists and turns within the compositions when we’re playing live.

I heard a rumor that you guys are going to put the album out on vinyl. Is that gonna happen?

We’re talking about that right now. We’re trying to find the best method and best way of doing that, but that is a conversation we’re having right now.

That’d be such a great release. Vinyl is just such a huge market now. It’s insane.

It is, absolutely. And it definitely caters to this community of music lovers.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself?

You know, my father actually owned an oldies radio station, so I got into vinyl that way with him. I don’t have a ton myself, but I have a small collection with my girlfriend here in Salem. But I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Percy Hill album out on that, so we can test out our new system.

Now to go back, you said you joined up with the band in ’97. Can you give me a window into what the jam scene was like back then?

Well UNH, the University of New Hampshire that’s where we all met. I actually auditioned for a jazz band with John on upright bass. That’s the first time we met or played together, and I was running around with Nate during our freshman and sophomore years, practicing and writing together. There was just a large live music scene in Durham in that time and that spread out to New Market, the Stone Church and then Percy Hill was already doing well at the Paradise in Boston, so we took the new band and started hitting that market. As well as Connecticut Rhode Island, Vermont. Burlington was always a great scene we used to play Club Toast and Higher Ground up there. So definitely a thriving scene in New England.

You mentioned the Paradise in Boston, that is probably one of my favorite places in the entire world to see music. I love that club.

Yeah, great energy there.

You could look back like U2 played there, obviously Phish and like every big jamband ever has come through there. It’s insane.

And that was the same in New Hampshire at the Stone Church, Phish played there Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler. Sort of like the Wetlands of New York City, that’s where a lot of the bands were coming out from.

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