Genuine Junk Band
Once again, our current New Groove of the Month was selected by our readers. Ashland, Kentucky-based Genuine Junk Band took top honors in the latest installment of the Jambands 250. Here guitarist Nathan Gillum takes some time to pinpoint the origins of the group, describe a "Thriller" meland detail the attributes of "Junk Music."
Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet and how did the current line-up solidify?
The band was originally all high school friends that formed during our freshman year of college. Over the past 9 years we’ve had musicians come and go and found keeping a band together to be a huge challenge. Ian Caldwell, Mary Gillum, and I (Nathan Gillum) are now the remaining original members with addition of Andrew Gillum on drums and Jose Oreta on bass. We’re now back to a line-up all from the same high school but this time with a 6 year age gap.
You’ve recently changed your line-up slightly, bringing back an older member and drawing in someone new. Can you talk about their impact on your music?
Yeah, Andrew Gillum has re-joined us on drums. He’s been playing on and off with us since his first bar gig at age 15. Although he’s been too busy with school to fully commit to us in the past, he’s always bailed us out whenever we’ve had drummer issues throughout the years, including playing on our first album. So it’s great to have him in the band again because he’s one of the best drummers around and such a natural fit. We also added Jose Oreta on bass. Jose is a phenomenal musician and it’s so nice to have someone that can add a variety of upright, fretless, or fretted bass to our music. We think the band is the best it’s ever been right now and we’re real excited about touring and recording a new album together!
In terms of your musical backgrounds and interests, what does each of you bring to bear?
We’ve always been quick and proud to name Phish and the Grateful Dead as hugely influencing our sound, approach, and philosophy on music. In addition to that, we’ve all attended college studying music in classical and jazz formats. At this point, just about anything could be an influence on us. You could hear anything from newbie local bands CD’s to fusion jazz to Lil Wayne pumping from our motor home! Anything goes as long as it’s interesting! We’ll give it a chance and it might just find its way in there somewhere.
What is "junk music"? How has it evolved over time?
“Junk music” for us has always been a big conglomeration of whatever kind of music we choose to play hopefully with our own twist or perspective. Like junk art, taking random objects and combining it together into a new art piece! The band name could be confusing sounding like we play trash cans or homemade instruments but so far we don’t. We’ve talked about the “gimmick power” of incorporating that kind of thing but have chosen not to go down that road yet, not completely ruling it out though!
As for the evolution of our music, we started out with songs that had barely any structure or lyrics for that matter. We still have the occasional tune like that but for the most part we like to play lyrical melodic songs that can be expanded on live.
How would you describe the vitality and support of your local Kentucky music scene?
We’d probably describe it as the lack of vitality for music around here but that’s also why the musicians and bands support each other so well. We’re definitely not from a place of great opportunity so we’ve taken to traveling in search of success. So far, our area has managed to squeeze out a few country or bluegrass success stories but we’d be fooling ourselves if we counted on that happening for us here. We have started our own Junk Jam festival to give bands around here at least one more cool performance opportunity each year.
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
I (Nathan) usually come up with the songs on an acoustic guitar or piano at first. Then, Mary does a sort of quality control check and figures them out vocally in her own way. After we’ve finalized a key signature we present it to the rest of the band. Sometimes I have specific ideas in mind but most of the time they just put their own style on things. That’s part of what makes being in a band unique and cool, all of the musical personalities working together, especially when you have huge respect and trust for each other.
How do you approach original songs in the live setting?
Like a herd of wild stallions.sneak up on them, jump on their back and ride em til they give in!
What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them?
All band members randomly mention songs from time to time. Most don’t stick but occasionally one will for some reason or another. With Mary as our lead vocalist we like to pick songs that females don’t usually sing. We did a cover of "War Pigs" that sounded really great with female vocals! We’ve done Steely Dan’s "Black Friday" on Black Friday. Bob Marley’s "Soul Shakedown" Party always works well. We’ve done our share of Allman Brothers and Bonnie Raitt blues stuff and more random stuff like Pat Metheny Group’s "Have You Heard" or Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina." We’ve done so many over the years and usually tend to only play them for a short time before moving on to a new batch. Sometimes new covers come from suggestions from friends or fans too.
In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?
Failures seem to stand out the most. The only fight at one of our shows broke out during "Thriller" one Halloween. We tried to continue on but it was pretty pointless and kind of humorous in a theatrical kind of way! We also tried winging Johnny Cash’s "Ring of Fire" only to screw the words up which resulted in two wasted Jersey guys yelling in our faces “No, it’s down, down, down.” That was awkward and funny!
How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?
In the past we’ve tried to practice at least once or twice a week. We tend to cram more when doing new material or if a big show is coming up. A lot of kinks tend to get worked out live including figuring out each other’s role and space in our sound. We’ve tried extensive practice sessions in the past but they tend to just burn us out. From the jam aspect, we’re real good about listening and playing off one another. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about jamming, we just let it happen in the moment organically.
Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far. Is there a gig (or gigs) that stand out? Why?
Two shows that come to mind are the first time we played the Paramount Arts Center in our hometown of Ashland, KY. To go from hometown garage band to headlining a stage that hosts some of the best talent ever was a dream come true for us! The second one, when Phish bassist Mike Gordon showed up at one of our Nectar’s gigs. Whether he liked us or not, we had never imagined such a huge influence of our band actually watching us play! It was awesome and surreal!
You’ve released two albums. Can you talk about the musical development from the first to the second and what may yet follow on your next effort?
I think our first two albums are hard for us to explain just like our band. They’re both very eclectic, varying in length and style from song to song. They’re both concept albums of sorts the first one with more of a relationship theme and the second fictional storytelling. The first album was an inexperienced studio band with a bunch of time on their hands. The second was just the opposite, more experience with less time to record (about 4 days). So we’re very fond of both but we’re really looking ahead. With our third album, we hope to finally make our mark on the jam scene and more. We still feel like people have only gotten a small taste of what we’re capable of and that gives us hope and purpose for the future.
Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about you for the first time from this piece?We just want to thank everyone that voted for us and also thank jambands.com for giving bands like us this opportunity! For everyone that hasn’t heard us yet, please take a second to check out some of our music at myspace.com/genuinejunkband. We hope you enjoy it! Mention us to your friends, we hope to see you in “The Danger Zone” sometime at a show!