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 ISSUE  9.1 WINTER 1999 

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Be sure to check the previous issue.

Talkin' Shit With The Jive Turkeys

This interview was conducted Feb. 1, 1999. Text and photos by Brad Liebling. Artwork by Meagan Alwood.

Cringe: Let's get the inevitable "how did the band get together" question out of the way first. Any volunteers?
Justin: I can make it nice and simple. We got together about three years ago. Josh, Matt and I and our old sax player Justin Coons were the original members. It wasn't a big deal or anything, but we reached a point with Justin where it was clear that we were heading in different directions. We replaced Justin with Brad whom we recruited after we saw him play with Heifer. As far as Johnny goes, we found him in a pretty unique way. I was out of town and Josh and Matt were playing a blues at a party with George from Our Flesh Party on drums. Basically, Johnny just stepped right up and played this amazing solo and that was that.

Cringe: Could each of you in turn describe your musical backgrounds and influences?
Matt: My dad used to listen to a lot of jazz. I always heard it growing up, and I always hated it. But now I love it.

Cringe: Did you have any jazz training?
Matt: No, not really. But I'm practicing the bass now.
Brad: And it shows.

Cringe: Something that I think is a really big complement to you is that I have heard several people comment on the fact that you never look at your bass when you're playing.
Matt: I didn't even know that. That's great.

Cringe: Yeah.
Matt: My influences would be all of the people that I have played with and all of the bands that I have seen. I listen to local music more than anything else. That's where it's at. The radio sucks.
Josh: Fuck the radio!!!
Johnny: Well, I've played the horn for about 20 years now. As far as trumpet influences are concerned, I'd have to say 2 of my biggest are Lee Morgan and Miles Davis. Morgan for his greasy sound and for the way he wore his balls outside his pants, and Miles ... Well, he was Miles. My listening tastes have always been varied, but I've really been digging into New Orleans' funk the past few years. I guess in general, I'm basically attracted to aggressive, abrasive kinds of music. I'm also really into the local scene, ya know. I consider myself pretty fortunate just to be living in the same city surrounded be such talented musicians, let alone working with them.

Cringe: Your turn Josh.
Josh: I like rap a lot. In high school I had three tapes in my car: Ice Cube, Nirvana and Tom Waits. Those were the three that were in circulation. I like blues and jazz a lot. Like Matt, I'm really into local music. I'm really influenced by Bigfoot. They're the best band around here or anywhere. I miss Heifer. [A collective lamentation ensues.]
Justin: They were my favorite band in Columbus for about two weeks, then it went back to Bigfoot.
Josh: That's pretty much about it. I've been playing guitar since I was about twelve, and all I played from the time I was twelve until I was fifteen was metal. Nothing else.
Justin: The first music that I started listening to on my own was the British Invasion stuff. In middle school I really started getting into The Who. Keith Moon has really been a big influence on me. I'd say The Beatles got me into music and The Who got me into the drums.

Cringe: Brad?
Brad: I was raised by MTV. As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a rock star. So when I was a kid I liked Def Leppard and Whitesnake a lot. I remember jumping off the back of my couch singing "In The Still Of The Night."
Josh: Brad had a mullet.
Justin: That's a good question for the interview. How many guys in this band have had a mullet?
Brad: We've all had mullets.
Justin: Every single member of this band has had a mullet. That's a great thing to put down.

Cringe: Alright, someone please explain to me what a mullet is.
Brad: It's a white-trash guy haircut.
Justin: You know, you've got the bangs in the front and it's long and scraggly in the back.
Matt: You tell the barber to take a little off the sides and nothing off the back.
Josh: We're all recovering mullets.
Johnny: Watch "Cops" if you want to know what a mullet is.
Brad: I started playing the sax in fifth grade and the guitar in junior high. I started with a bunch of Metallica tunes on the guitar. I really didn't get into playing my sax until after I graduated from high school. I started taking lessons and discovered jazz. So I like jazz a whole lot, and I like noisy rock a whole lot. My favorite rock bands are probably Sonic Youth, The Beach Boys and The Beatles. But Bigfoot is my favorite band ever.
Justin: For the record, Bigfoot is the best band ever.
Josh: EVER!!!
Matt: I concur.
Johnny: It is decidedly so.
Brad: I don't think that I really understood how great it was to play music until I started to play out with and become friends with really good bands like that. My biggest influence is the fact that I have a community of great musicians [to watch and to make music with].


Cringe: I'm guessing that Josh or Matt came up with name The Jive Turkeys. Who gets to take credit for the name?
Matt: Josh.
Josh: Yeah, I thought that one up, and we agreed that it was a pretty cool name.

Cringe: Well, I wasn't too far off then.
Josh: Yeah, I made it up.
Matt: You made up the phrase "Jive Turkey?"
Josh: Yeah, I coined that one. (Riotous laughter ensues) You jive turkey motherfucker! You ever heard that one? Anyway, I had been thinking about the name for a while [before I brought it up]. That's always the hardest part, naming a band. All the names are so dumb anyway.
Matt: Bush.
Josh: Pearl Jam.

Cringe: I've spoken with a couple of you about trying to describe the band's sound, and I think that the fact that we couldn't easily categorize it is a strong testament to the uniqueness of the band. Nevertheless, it's sometimes helpful to be able to encapsulate a band's music in a few words. Anybody willing to give it a shot again?
Brad: I like Rick Allen's take on it. He says that we are like a R&B bad news bears -- a white soul band. He doesn't mean it in a bad way at all. We're really soulful, but we obviously are not a black band.
Josh: That's cool. I like soul music.
Matt: Who doesn't? Well, I guess the fucking honkeys.
Josh: Yeah, honkeys don't like that shit.
Brad: Whenever I describe it to people I say we sound like The Beatles and Tom Waits. Not that we sound exactly like either of them, but we sound partially like both of them. Those are the two immediate things that I hear. The way that Josh and Matt harmonize and the fact that the music is so melodic are the things that make me think of The Beatles. But it's also really chunky and incredibly blues influenced like Tom Waits. And although the vocals have really good harmonies and melodies, they are kind of shouty.
Justin: I think it's just rock and blues that has horns that are really accessible to a lot of different listeners. I definitely think that the horn element in our band is something kind of unique.
Brad: I think it's just really simple/not too simple, rock. It's a rock band.
Josh: Yeah, that's what I say whenever anyone asks me "What kind of music does your band play?". I just say "rock and roll", cause that can mean anything from Chuck Berry to the Cramps to whatever.
Johnny: Which is basically what we do.

Cringe: I think that your music has a remarkably mature and sophisticated sound and this would be true regardless of the age of the musicians involved. But this impression seems to be heightened by the fact that four of the five musicians in the band are in their early twenties. Is there anything in particular which any of you can point to that would account for this?
Josh: We grew up playing together. We've played the same bars around this town for the last six years. I've known and played with most of these guys since I was sixteen.
Justin: I've played with Matt since 11th grade. I really haven't worked with another bass player for any period of time.
Brad: Plus, we all have good ears and like music a whole lot.
Justin: I can't say this for everyone else in the band, but personally I'm really tired of what types of music are accessible to vast amounts of people now. So I have been going back to the music of [past generations to try and find inspiration].
Josh: I have very, very few current albums.
Matt: I don't have any.
Justin: Except for local stuff. Local music is the only stuff that is going anywhere for me. I don't know if it's how [most mainstream music] is presented or what, but it all seems so contrived. It all seems geared towards the industry's molds of what is going to make them money. [Bill Heingartner of Heifer fame chimes in at this point by screaming "Where are your hits?"]
Matt: Yeah, we need a lot more hits.

Cringe: No less a musical authority than Bigfoot's David Holm said that you guys never make a mistake onstage. What's your reaction to that?
[Laughter abounds]
Brad: Alright guys! No mistakes!
Josh: We fuck up a lot.
Johnny: Did he really say that?

Cringe: Yeah, at your last show.
Brad: We're just really good at playing through our mistakes.
Josh: We just have a way of making our mistakes sound like we meant to make them.
Brad: They're musical mistakes.
Johnny: They're happy accidents.
Matt: I don't know. Sometimes I get pretty unhappy with those accidents.
Brad: We make a lot of mistakes, but that's fine.
Josh: We also give room for mistakes. There's room for improvs in a lot of our songs.
Brad: It's rock and roll; you're allowed to make mistakes.
Justin: The biggest thing about mistakes for me is that if I make one and I can laugh about it while I'm playing and not think that I'm really fucking things up, then it makes it easier to [recover].

Cringe: On your live CD Live Jive the songwriting credits are evenly split. Could you talk about your songwriting process and about how you come up with your arrangements and lyrics?
Brad: We're in this mail-order songwriting club -- you send in a penny and they give you eleven songs.
Matt: Josh writes the majority of the songs, but I write as well. And we do collaborate occasionally but not as much as we used to.
Justin: The person who writes the song crafts it with the band. Getting what you want to hear out of the people that you are playing with is definitely part of the songwriting process. I think we've actually done a pretty good job of that.
Brad: Basically the way that we write songs is that Matt or Josh writes all of the parts in the basic order that they are going to be in, and then when we get together to play [the song] we collectively add all of the bells and whistles and arrange it.
Josh: I think that the only song that Matt and I have completely co-written was "Chesapeake Girl."
Brad: Why do we split the songwriting credits the way we do?
Matt: Because everybody writes shit.
Johnny: When we're in rehearsal everyone is putting [the music] together. Brad comes up with a lot of the horn lines.
Brad: I don't understand it. Matt and Josh definitely write the songs. What we do to the songs is really cool, but they are songs without us. They could sit and play the songs without us, and they would be fine. I don't think that we necessarily write the songs together. We do arrange them together and make them a Jive Turkeys song.

Cringe: There seems to be a general consensus in the band that your live CD Live Jive isn't a good representation of the band's sound. If someone has just heard that what do you think they are missing?
Brad: Literally right after that we got a bunch of shit together that made our songs a lot better. If you listen to the horn lines on there, we don't play a lot of that anymore. [Since then] Johnny and I have really worked out our horn lines and that has really changed the songs a lot.
Justin: I think that we can do something much better than that. It's frustrating for me because that's our only release. I just feel that it's a weak representation of [our music].
Johnny: It was just recorded on the fly. I mean, none of us even knew we were being recorded.
Justin: There are just so many more things that could come out in the music if we took the time [in the studio]. [For that show] we just got drunk and went out and played and this guy just threw a tape in.
Brad: I don't think it's awful. I just don't think it's as good as we are.

Cringe: Outside of the live CD what other recordings has the band done?
Josh: We've done six tunes here at Bill's House of Rock -- Billy "Soundgartner". Those will be circulating soon. We also did two tunes with Jon Chinn at Workbook. We're going to have a 7" coming out soon.

Cringe: The band was out of circulation for several months prior to the show you had on Jan. 15th. Was there anything in particular which brought that about?
Brad: Matt was in therapy.
Josh: The reason for our break was that we were trying to work on some new songs. We also just needed a break. It's no fun to play the same bars three times a month.
Justin: Since we've taken that break, I think that we're on the ball.
Brad: I think it's really easy for Columbus bands to get in a rut where they're not writing new songs because they have a show and they have to practice all of their old songs so they can have a good show, but they play way too many shows at the same bars. We found ourselves in that rut where we weren't writing any new songs, yet everyone had a million song ideas. We didn't get as much done as I wanted to, but we did get three good tunes out of the hiatus.

Cringe: All of you are currently in other bands ( Josh is in The Velveteens, Matt is in The Haynes Boys, John is in New Basics Brass Band, Justin is in Earwig and Brad is in Jay Albert and The Living Wreck). How much does this affect what you want to accomplish with the Jive Turkeys?
Johnny: Over the long haul I think that I can make as much of a commitment to this band as to any of my other projects.
Matt: Everything I do with music I put my heart and soul into it. I believe in everything I do. I think that the other band I play in is just as good as The Jive Turkeys, and even though I don't do the same thing in that band, I feel just as good playing with them as I do The Jive Turkeys. That's the thing. I can write songs, and the medium I have for that is The Jive Turkeys and then I can have another band that I can play music with and practice my musicianship with without having to worry about my songwriting. And I think that everyone in the band has a somewhat similar situation.
Brad: Every band experience is going to be completely different. Ultimately, you're not going to be in a band if you don't like it. Since we're not really making any money doing this, the only thing that we really get out of it is the enjoyment of playing music with and for our friends. So you're not going to want to put time into [a project] unless you get that sort of thing out of it. If you want to do something, you make time for it.
Josh: If I didn't have to punch a time clock everyday ... If I could just pick up my guitar and play, I'd do it in a heartbeat. And that's the reason [why I don't make much money]. But I don't give a fuck. I'm happy with my life. I'm happier now than I've ever been in my life. I'm playing with people that I'm friends with, and I really enjoy the music that we make.
Johnny: Some things are more important than money.
Matt: So are we done with the interview? Can we smoke now??