Some Backseat Boogie on the Hoof’s Jazz and Leftfield dance playlist from Jay Si Proof, it has a cool retro Jazz Funk vibe, from the new five-track EP ‘Closer’ curious to know more about the band, he caught up with Jeff from the band for a chat.
Tell us about yourself, some background on the band, when and how did you get into music.
The first appearance of Jay Si Proof was at a monthly session at a local Portland BBQ joint called Bottles. The place is closed now but I still miss the food there. I guess the grooves must have been good to because the band didn’t end when the gig did. I had moved to Portland from the east coast in 2016 after playing a few years on Royal Caribbean cruise ships and after spending a few years networking the scene and playing sidemen in original projects, putting together my own band seemed like the right thing to do. There was this group of jazz musicians that leaned into the funky, and even hip hop side of things, but didn’t have a consistent project to work on so the players fell into place one by one as Jay Si Proof started to record. Now the core consists of Corey Heppner on guitar, Lucas James on drums, Levi Zalman on bass, Keith Cheek on reeds, JD Erickson on tenor sax, Bryanne Sawyer on vox, and myself on trombone and vox. It’s a full band so it’s always a party when we get up on stage. I’m old school I guess, so I love seeing a group of people all holding organic instruments.
I’ve always been into music as far as I can remember. My dad was a music teacher and a Lutheran church organist so I remember growing up to the sounds of him practicing his scales everyday at 5pm. Then my mom is more of an appreciator, so she’d always let you know if something sounded right or was sour. Not so much in words, but you could see it on her face if someone played something that didn’t sit right!
What’s the inspiration behind the Ep ‘Closer’ and the sound the band have created.
We’ve been called “earth jazz alchemists” before and I like that description because it speaks to how we are jazz musicians at our core but like to keep our music grounded and human. We recorded this EP the old fashioned way: 6-7 great musicians in a fantastic sounding room! Of course we did overdubbing too, but getting the core of the recordings and all of the solos this way gave is a very visceral and raw feel that I absolutely love. What we love to do most with Jay Si Proof music is bring jazz timbres and harmonies to more approachable song forms and ideas.
Tell us about a classic track, something that has inspired you or just one you love and never get sick of listening to.
One song I always come back to is “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. It was one of my Dad’s favorites growing up and it’s just the right amount of cheese for me I’d say. I think Quincy Jones is one of the most genius musical minds we’ve seen and I love anything he’s put his hands on. Everything of his always sits perfectly in the right place and this song in particular builds and crests in a way that gets me every time.
Can you recommend any new music, something that you have just discovered or are just really digging at the moment.
Yes! There are two bands in the European scene that have been inspiring me lately. The first is Nubiyan Twist out of London (with you there Jeff, great band – the hoof). Their horns smack and they combine genres beautifully. The second is Old School Funky Family out of somewhere in France…I think. I saw them do a cover of Vulpeck’s Dean Town with a sousaphone hitting the bass line and I just loved it. Oh yeah and Meute out of Hamburg, Germany has been doing it for me this quarantine (the techno marching band, love them – the hoof ). I was actually just talking to their trombone player about horns on Instagram. I guess I’m pretty into the European sound right now but it always changes, I’ve been obsessed with Australia in the past. In general, I like thinking about where bands are from and how that influences their sounds.
What’s the best way a fan can help you today? If they had a spare ten minutes – what is the best thing they could do to help you.
The best thing a fan could do for us right now would be to bump the new EP closer and add it to their playlists. Then head over to social media and give us a share letting their friends know what they’ve discovered! We want people to hear about us who aren’t just from Portland.
How do you connect with your audience – email, social media, PR firms, etc.
We use social media of course, mostly Instagram because Facebook just doesn’t like to share your stuff unless you pay up. But Instagram is fun and we like to be goofy with it. We’re not afraid to poke fun at ourselves or share snippets of rehearsal where we’re being silly. I think that’s the fun in music anyways, to get together and PLAY! I’ve also gotten really into the email list this past year. It’s great being able to write a more thoughtful letter to fans who want to take the time there. Social media is always bite sized, so getting on our email list means you’ll hear more about the story behind tracks and events.
Do you think playlists are important – what’s the future of the playlist, can you let us about any other playlists you admire or just really digging at the minute.
I think playlists are 100% how people discover music now and remember to keep playing it. There are so many amazing bands and songs that come out everyday, I have friends who exclusively listen to new artists they don’t know. So a playlist helps people sort music and it also helps them find a use for it, on a workout or chill-out playlist for example.
What’s best, 10k streams on Spotify or 10 albums sold on Bandcamp? Why?
I would rather take the streams although it’s a tough question. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my fans who are support us financially by buying our album on Bandcamp (there’s a link below). Without people being willing to spend money on music, artists just can’t make it happen. But right now, at the stage Jay Si Proof is in, we want to get our music out there so we can start playing more shows in more places on bigger stages. So as silly as it seems, those streams are a metric that potential fans or even bookers look at to see if you’re worth checking out.
How have you kept busy during the last year has the pandemic stifled your creativity or the free time allowed you to experiment more.
Covid has hit musicians particularly hard, it’s been tough seeing a lot of friends and colleagues lose work and struggle. I think the hardest thing for the band was losing the motivation that live shows provide. It’s hard to get professional musicians to rehearse when there isn’t a gig coming up! I’m really proud of us for sticking it out and continuing to get together to write so that we could release this EP as things have started to open back up. I also learned the value of connecting with audience members on social or email, it was so painful thinking about all the missed opportunities to make long term connections at gigs. The shut down really taught us to appreciate what we have and make the most of it.
What does 2021 look like for the band, your hope and dreams, exciting future plans, new releases, tours or gigs.
We are stoked for 2021 and are finishing booking our summer now! We’ve got some great shows lined up with local Portland talent like Rebecca Conner and June Magnolia. Then we’ll be heading out for some smaller local limited capacity festivals (covid rules) outside Salem and Portland. Since we missed those last year I think we’re especially excited to play for folks trying to get out and dance. I’m also excited to say that we are working on our next release which will be a full length album. We have the tunes ready so we’ll be woodshedding them at live shows this summer before hitting the studio in the fall. This one is going to be super special as we have plans to work with a couple different producer friends in town to continue expanding our sound.