Some bands have a sound that can’t be pinned down, that defies easy classification.
Providence-based Jowl is one of those acts, harnessing a cavalcade of punk, folk, funk, new wave and even a bit of hip-hop to create something purely original.
The band comes from the creative mind of Joel Blum, a native of Circle Pines, Minnesota, and current Providence resident. The group’s other members include Warwick resident Kimberly Hallman on backing vocals and Warwick native Dan Harvey on bass.
I recently had a talk with Blum, Hallman and Harvey about going from one project to another, avoiding a bar fight by playing an impromptu gig and riding the “Whambulance.”
ROB DUGUAY: Joel, before you started Jowl you had the band called VaVaBlume. That act had more of a new wave vibe, while this current project has more of a funky thing going on. What was the vision you had when you began making music under the Jowl name, and how much has it changed?
JOEL BLUM: Jowl was born out of a recording project. Derek Reynolds, who is a record producer, audio engineer and musician, approached me after seeing VaVaBlume perform at The Parlour in Providence. While talking to him for only a short while I could tell that he got it, he got what we were trying to relate or convey. Then life happened, some time passed, and by the next time I talked to Derek, VaVaBlume ended due to Alex Pevzner leaving the band, and Dan had started a production gig that had him on the road most of the time. Derek, believing in my songs, was undaunted and felt that we should proceed.
Out of respect for Alex and in the spirit of starting something new, I wanted to give it a new name. Jowl felt right, and the debut album, “Whambulance,” soon followed, which people can listen to on Spotify. Dan plays all the bass and him and his brother Pat lay down a lot of rock and soul harmony backups. That’s what gives it a funky feel. It also has the punk, electronic and avant-rock stems from the VaVaBlume days. Derek and Glenn Alexander were tickled with the outcome of the record and vowed to help me put together a live band.
Soon after, Kim, Dan, Zach Paquette and Steve Sharp joined the team. It has changed some due to more instrumentation and creative possibilities, but it definitely feels pretty damn funky now. We are gelling, but we’re still excited by it and still exploring the infinite possibilities of a seven piece. We got a horn section consisting of tuba and baritone sax along with bass, drums, keys, samples and a lot of Parliament-Funkadelic style group singing and backups. I’ve got to say, it’s a personal thrill to be fronting these monsters of their craft.
RD: That’s amazing how this crazy vision of yours came to life. Glenn Alexander also made the music video for “This Is Not Complicated,” which is on “Whambulance.” How did he get all of the colors to come together for the visuals?
JB: Teaming up with Glenn Alexander for the video was ideal. Not only is he skilled at doing pro editing and camera work, but he is also skilled at doing quirky Adult Swim kind of animation. The real cherry on top was his skills as an audio engineer. He was the head engineer at Lupo’s for over a decade, and a drummer. This allowed him to effortlessly give all the rhythm and timing to the editing that is crucial in a music video. For “This Is Not Complicated,” I had the idea of rollerblading at the Woonasquatucket River Greenway bike path and skatepark.
The park is full of graffiti art and nature scapes. This gave Glenn the idea to contact his buddy Scott Davey in Newport who pimped out these old school boomboxes for a living out of his company Master Blaster Inc. He also agreed to let me dance and jump around in front of his literal wall of boomboxes. Glenn labored through a zillion quick edits, camera changes, and animated blends to get those colors and flavors just right.
RD: Dan, you’ve been a bass player in the Providence scene for over a decade, but you also got to play a gig in the Philippines with a band called Shade Of Roots back in February. How did this all come about?
DAN HARVEY: I was in Manilla for work. While eating dinner and drinking with an old friend named Raul, we were approached by a large group of men. I don’t know what their business was, but it seemed pretty serious, as they essentially asked us in mixed English and Tagalog what the hell we thought we were doing at their bar. Before Raul could respond, I pointed at the stage and backline instruments and said, “I’m gigging tonight. Stick around and I’ll play for you.” They said I was lying, but I had already arranged to perform an old ballad called “Sex Dojo” that was an instrumental from an old band I was in called 2 Sheds Jackson. The gig was fabulous and we didn’t get violently assaulted. It was a total win-win.
RD: Sounds like a crazy night. Kimberly, you also sing in the cover bands Groove Tank and The Winehouse Project. Both bands delve into funk, soul and R&B, so did going from that to Jowl take any adapting on your part?
KIMBERLY HALLMAN: I wouldn’t say that. Jowl is the most free and creative band I’ve had the pleasure of singing with. My bandmates and the energy we create is very organic and fluid. I feel very comfortable expressing myself creatively and the music itself can best be described, to me, as outer worldly. It picks you up and takes you somewhere else in the universe and we have fun doing it. Our songs never sound the same so the experience is very original and real, every show we play is guaranteed to transcend a unique flow.
RD: What does the future hold for Jowl going into 2020?
JB: Before I get to that, let me plug a few things happening in 2019. We are playing the BarterTown Art and Music Fest at Studio Blue in Providence on Sunday, Oct. 13, and we’re also putting on a special show called “Jowlaween” at The Parlour on Halloween. In 2020, we will be releasing new videos and recordings with the present full band sound and going on tour with the ambulance I am currently renovating. Stay tuned, friends.
To learn more about Jowl, follow the band on Facebook or visit jowlstuff.bandcamp.com.