10 Questions With A Band: JDT (Rope-A-Dope Records)

jdt_band.jpgJDT has recently released their awesome debut album on Rope-A-Dope Records, putting their record alongside some talented giants like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Medieski Martin and Wood and Charlie Hunter.  The NYC-based band recently sat down with us for an interview where dove into topics like the inimitable Roland Juno 60,  Radiohead impersonators and ways to engage your fanbase without being a douche.  Follow us after the jump and we’ll get to the bottom of this genre-bending trio.     

1.  A lot of people are shunning record labels right now, but you guys happen to be on one that is well respected (Rope A Dope).  What do you think that labels can still do for bands better than they can themselves?

I think the most difficult thing for bands is expanding their fan base, getting their music heard by people across the world who would have never known about them in the first place.  The internet has been a great tool for that, but Myspace and the like are completely saturated with every band on the planet vying for your attention.  A good label with an established name can get your music to a greater audience and help direct listeners to YOU rather than your neighbor on Myspace.  It’s become so easy to produce a record independently now that they may seem extraneous, but being on a label shows that someone else believes in your music and wants to invest in it.  Ropeadope is one of the few labels that consistently release amazing music that they believe in and we’re so happy to be part of the family.

2.  As a group, you’ve been praised for having a very unique, somewhat experimental sound. Throughout your development as individual musicians (and/or as a group), what factor would you say had the greatest influence upon JDT’s personal style?

It’s really hard to narrow down a few influences with this band.  Our personal style has really become an amalgamation of several genres and mediums.  All three of us studied jazz at school but were quickly pulled in other directions when we arrived in NYC.  We’ve played together in several different rock, jazz, and pop settings and we each stay busy with a number of things.  Aaron owns the Bunker studio in Brooklyn, where we do all our recording, Dave makes films.  We’re pretty much open to anything and I think you can hear that variety in our music.  

3.  The music industry, to say the least, is a tough one to break into. What is the smartest thing (interpret this however you’d like) your group has ever done?

The best thing we’ve done is to make music that is distinctly our own.  I’m not a huge follower of music industry trends, but it’s obvious to anyone that there is a lot of music being made that’s derivative.  We could have tailored our music to sound more like this genre or that artist, but who wants to do that!  We’ve been really lucky to just make music that’s fun for us to play and have it be embraced by people of all ages and interests.  Just because Radiohead is popular doesn’t mean that your band that sounds like Radiohead will be.  People in the industry are always starved for something new and I like to think that we’ve given them just that.  Another important factor in succeeding in this business is having a clear idea of who you are and where you want to go.  The industry loves to make money and a band can find themselves in a situation where they’re being marketed in a way that is completely against the band ethos.  I think we’ve been smart about knowing where we want to go and who can take us there.  

4.  JDT is loved for its lively sound and stage presence. What advice can you give for a group looking to improve their live show?

Look like you’re having fun!  I’ve been playing with Aaron and Dave for years and they’re some of my closest friends.  We love to play music together and I think that really translates to the audience.  Playing music is fun (I hope for most) and we’re very lucky to be able to do it professionally, but the only reason we can do that is because of our fans.  If you can let them into your world for your brief time with them, they’ll feel connected to you and, more importantly, the music, and they’ll keep coming back.  I used to work at a jazz club in NYC and saw so many performers come on stage, start the first tune and then walk off after the last.  If a performer doesn’t engage with me in some way, I have a hard time coming back for another show.  And that’s what it’s all about!

5.  As a follow-up to the previous question, what advice can you give for a group to build up buzz?

Buzz is hard because it’s so intangible.  Firstly, playing as much as possible is key.  The more people that hear you the better.  They tell their friends, and they tell theirs and it just grows.  In NYC, everyone is only a few degrees away from someone who can help you professionally and if you have friends that really sell your band, something is bound to come of that.  Secondly, being “connected” (in the online sense) is very important.  I’m always sending our music to bookers, management, publicists, even if I don’t know them personally. If you’re constantly reminding people of who you are and where they can see you, you’re on their radar.  Then you just have to hope that your music speaks for itself.  Either that or you can name your band something sensational and wear speedos when you play?  That could work…

6.  What is the coolest piece of gear you have come across recently?

Ah, gear.  The financial plague of every musician.  There are always ten things I want when I can afford one.  I just scored a Rhodes 54 which I’m really psyched about.  I’ve had a Rhodes in the past but they’re impossible to gig with and I’m a huge fan of Wurlys but their so damn finicky.  A bought a NORD a while ago and never really got into playing on it.  I’m a huge proponent of playing on the real thing, so when I found the 54 I snatched it.  They’re super rare and they fit in the trunk of a cab!  My most prized piece of gear is my JUNO 60.  It was the first polysynth I bought and become a huge part of my sound.  I love it!  Aaron is endorsed by Aguilar and has assembled a really amazing bass rig.  Dave plays a vintage Sonor Teardrop and I just scored an endorsement with Moog, so I should have some fun toys coming to me in the future.

7.  Do any of you have unusual, yet useful items that you bring on tour (items you would recommend to other groups)?

Our drummer.  He’s very useful and a little unusual.

8.  On June 29th you released your new album. Tell us something you learned from your last recording experience.

As I mentioned earlier, we do all our recording at Aaron’s studio in Brooklyn, which has become our home away from home.  Two years ago we went into the studio to record Notes from Underground, which was our first recording as JDT.  At the time, we had a weekly residency at Rockwood Music Hall and I was writing a lot of music on that gig, working things out on stage.  I went into the session with a batch of new tunes that were really different from everything I’d written previously but they felt really good to play and worked well as a cohesive album.  A lot of time was spent exploring different sounds we could get from our instruments and how those new sounds could make the song even better.  We also made it a point to track everything live, with no overdubs, so we could perform the material without feeling like things were missing from the record.  It was really our first time delving into effected piano, bass and drums and when the record came out, people we’re really surprised and intrigued by the sound.  We’re not just using effects because we can…we write with them, so they become an integral part of the song’s identity.  The new record, Inventing the Wheel, is a great extension of the last record with even more sonic exploration and adventurous songwriting.

9.  What is a piece of equipment your group can’t live without, and why?    

A good soundman.  Luckily we have a few in the band.

10.  Here at Musformation we like to keep track of instances of ‘ba
nds behaving badly.’ What is something you’ve witnessed another group do that you wouldn’t recommend to your colleagues viewing this interview? 

Don’t lie about your draw (at least not too much).  Lose the attitude.  I know so many amazing musicians in NYC that don’t get any work because people can’t stand being around them.  A good attitude always gets you far with other musicians, and especially with your audience.  And don’t buy a MicroKorg, get a cute girl to play it and think you’re a band.  You’re not.

Interview by: Arianna Koudounas