JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound release their Bloodshot Records debut, Want More, today and it is a fine, fine soul album that feels and breathes and dances with a deep shimmy, not playing out as a lifeless set-piece as can easily happen when a modern band takes up a sound closely associated with an earlier era. Lyrically, it’s a relatable album that speaks in real terms instead of heart-shaped metaphors. Musically, it’s a straight-up rump-shaker of rich grooves that just seems to grow richer with each listen. And, personally, I was singing along within two or three spins of the album.
JC was kind enough to answer a few questions for us…
When and why did you start singing? How did the Uptown Sound come together?
Because my mom was always singing, I started singing around the house as a toddler. I did Chorus in elementary and middle school, and formed my first band in high school. JCBUS came together because Ben, our bassist, and I answered an ad put out by Billy, our guitarist, who was looking to make aggressive dance music.
A press release describes your music as “post-punk soul”. What does that mean to you? How do you think your music fits into this era?
Post-punk soul, to me, is emotive music that doesn’t try to fit into the typical “soul” girdle of warmly lit, grease-lensed love. We discuss love in our music, but usually more graphically than traditional soul, and we also don’t only take the point of view that the common portrayal of love is the ‘be-all, end-all’ ultimate goal. We write about the lighter side of lust and the general messiness of love, its hindsight is less hazy and more 20/20 when we write about why a relationship went wrong, etc. I don’t think our music fits into the post-punk era so much, but it does harken to a post-punk aesthetic that’s been pressed through a soul filter.
I hear some Stax influence in your music, like Otis Redding and the Dramatics. Who else are you influenced by?
For me personally: Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner are huge performance influences. Vocally, I draw inspiration from Otis, Teddy Pendergrass, Anita Baker and Amy Winehouse.
For the band: Bad Brains, Gang of Four, Living Colour, The Stooges, Bowie, Tower of Power, The MGs… the list could go on and on.
How did the idea to soul up Wilco come about?
Well, it started with Billy wondering what Syl Johnson (we were working with Syl at the time for the Numero Group revue) would sound like covering music like Wilco or Bowie, and from there it blossomed into the version we do now.
How did things come together with JCBUS and Bloodshot?
We stormed the Bloodshot office and held them hostage until they agreed to our demands…
What have you and the band been listening to lately?
Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Adele, Tune-Yards, JD MacPherson, Jill Scott, Joe Bataan… A lot of stuff all the time, really, but the artists I listed above have been getting a lot of play lately.
Listen to and download their first single, “Everything Will Be Fine”.