Saturday night proves to be the night you need to get to Mainstay Rock Club. Two amazing local bands are going to be blowing the doors off the club. Rather than me tell you why to go, I spoke with Ben James from Pluto Revolts and Joe Hedges from July for Kings….
CincyMusic.com: What can one expect at a live Pluto Revolts show?
Ben James: The volume is definitely set to 11. And we try to offer something new at every concert. Rarely is the set-list the same as it was the show before. One of the hurtles of playing our songs live for me has always been deciding: how accurate to the (mostly "electronic") recordings do we try to perform? Some songs have remained very well-preserved as time goes on, while other songs can sound much different from the recordings, and are always evolving from the versions you hear on the albums. If someone comes to our show that's familiar with our songs, I'd like to think we satisfy their picture of what it might sound like to see it in-person. But I hope we still bring a new, unique energy to it that shakes things up. We've had a classical pianist on stage with us before at a show, and sometimes we have a bass player, sometimes not. Part of the excitement of our shows for me personally is experimenting with elements of the recordings (of which, there are many!) as often as I can, whenever the stars align for us to pull it off.
CM: Give us some background on Pluto Revolts…
BJ: In hindsight, I would view the start of this band as my effort to essentially protest everything and everyone I felt was telling me I wasn't good enough to express my own ideas through my music. I had people telling me my song writing sucked and other people standing directly in the way of getting my songs out there. There just comes a time when enough is enough and you need to reboot. I started this project with blinders on, because I had to re-focus on what shaped and inspired me in the first place. Collaboration is awesome when it's agreeable with what your gut tells you is OK and for the best. But when your gut tells you you're compromising your integrity (or even your overall future success), for the sake of a label, producer or band-mates...well, I think the music I've released as Pluto Revolts speaks for itself, in that it was what I needed to do to define what I believe is right. I wish every song-writer in the world the chance to have a "Pluto Revolts" of their own sometime in their career. Beyond the genre, or style, or lyrics, I think that it's an overall commitment to doing something truthful that makes it stand for me, and possible to stand for others as well.
CM: What is your favorite thing about being a musician in Cincinnati?
BJ: The Southgate House, Mainstay Rock Bar, Madison Theater, The Comet and each respective ORIGINAL MUSIC venue's awesome staff of people that have allowed us the opportunity to consistently have a place to showcase our hard work, since day one. Without the support of these venues we'd be stuck in our basement. Or going broke making music videos for YouTube and touring to get an audience, so we are extremely thankful for the establishments that have taken (and continue to take) chances on us. We'd have no hope of earning money as musicians at this stage of our career if it wasn't for their support and the support of our friends and fans that come to see us play.
CM: What is next for Pluto Revolts? Tour dates, new album etc…
BJ: My drummer (Cliff Revis) and I are hard at work shaping the next album, which we're intending to be the first full-length. I've programmed mostly everything on the recordings of the first two EPs, so having some acoustic drumming on this album is going to be much-welcomed spin on what you've heard from me before. The next album will have a little bit of everything on it. About a quarter of the album is already tracked, and few songs are already complete. The single I put out last year called "Lightning" will be on it. That song is kind of serving as the "retroactive" first single from the new album, as well as a blueprint for the direction we're going for the whole record.
CincyMusic.com: What can one expect at a live JFK show?
Joe Hedges: At a July For Kings show one can expect passionate performances of guitar-heavy rock songs with memorable melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Possibly fans doing awkward dances. Sometimes, Mayor Mark Mallory shows up.
CM: Give us some background on JFK, you guys have an extensive history thus far…
JH: I am founding member and sole songwriter of July For Kings. While we have yet to strike it rich with our music, we maintain an enthusiastic international fan base and have experienced most of the ups and down's that people associate with and rock stardom. I have had the opportunity to meet some famous people like Elton John, Christina Aguilera, MC Hammer, the chance to perform in faraway places like Amsterdam and London, and hear my own songs on the radio in cool places like Memphis and Las Vegas. In 2002 we released an album on MCA Records. I am still proud to say that we are one of the few bands from Cincinnati to land a recording contract with a major label in the last couple decades. However, we soon after realized that "getting signed" was not (and never was) a ticket to success. The label was engulfed by Geffen and shortly after our album SWIM came out, we found we were an independent band once again.
Fortunately, the distinction between being a major label or independent band has become less and less important over the years. We released our second album Nostalgia to independent success including debuting the #1 seller on CDbaby.com, the world’s largest retailer of independent music. Our third album Monochrome I was recording more on my own, experimenting as a songwriter with folk, pop, and even country. I also released two solo albums that I believe to be my most creative music, although possibly less accessible than JFK.
CM: What is your favorite thing about being a musician in Cincinnati?
JH: Small enough city to create meaningful relationships with fans and venues, big enough to find fans. Cincinnati is a great place for musicians and artists! It's a cheap place to live too, so compared to places like New York or L.A., you can spend less time worrying about bills and more time making things.
CM: What is next for JFK? Tour dates, new album etc…
JH: Over the last couple years we have been writing and recording and are preparing to release a new record, a return to guitar-heavy melodic rock. We don't have a title yet but we have tracked 18 songs and are narrowing things down as we record. While we are producing it ourselves, unlike our last album, we are really reaching out to a lot of different people to help make it the best possible record. For the most part we are sticking to our alt-rock roots. I think having parameters is important for any creative pursuit; when you are doing everything "in-house", it's easy to get carried away and forget that. JFK is a brand that a lot of people enjoy, and making this kind of music always came naturally to me--graceful, emotive melodies, with the distortion cranked.
Tour dates will depend on the album's release schedule.