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The Friday Rant
Jomomma is so phat
By Matt Pearson
Making jam is easy.
All one needs is fruit, sugar and a pot in which to boil it. Throw in some canning jars and you'll be all set. Unless of course the jam you're making is of the musical kind. If that's the case, you'll probably need Jomomma.
Formed in the summer of 1999, Jomomma has taken Southwestern Ontario's trip-funk "jam" scene by storm. What began as a collaboration between drummer Ed Casasanta and guitarist John Kent, has grown considerably with the addition of Nick Gefucia on bass, Paul Agriesti on vocals, Jonas Berkeley on saxophone, Geoff Hilhorst on keyboards and Johnner Goldsmith on percussion.
For readers unfamiliar with the "jam band" phenomenon, they traditionally encompass an assortment of musical genres including bluegrass, jazz, funk, folk and rock. Still, bass player Gefucia has his own idea of what the label entails.
"The underlying theme of a jam band is improvisation," he explains. "Jamming refers to the band getting together and improvising. None of the band members really know where it is going to go, so they kind of come together. We never play the same song twice."
When it comes time for the band to write music, Gefucia admits the band has its own formula. "Paul has a binder where he keeps the lyrics. Lyrics and music meet halfway," Gefucia remarks. Jomomma's debut release, Ficiu, (pronounced "fu-chew") was recorded about two and a half months into the band's existence. "We're very proud of this album, but our live show is where we come alive," he says.
During live shows, the band has an undeniable connection with the audience, the inner workings of which Gefucia explains modestly. "It's quite simple. When you're jamming, you just watch the crowd to see what they like," he says. "You watch their body language, you watch how they're dancing and it becomes really easy to read a crowd after a while. If we see the crowd is enjoying it, then we go on playing for another three minutes."
Gefucia points out that fans of the band tend to be active listeners who spend a major portion of the evening on their feet, dancing. "We want people to leave sweaty, we want them to dance everything out," laughs Gefucia. "It's a continuing party that we want to keep going."
Despite the party, jamming actually requires a significant amount of work. "Being in a jam band involves a lot of concentration," explains Gefucia in a serious tone. "We're really concentrating on improvising and breaking new ground all the time. Time is not really what we think about on stage until one of us has to go to the bathroom."
The largest challenge for a jam band is trying to translate the eclectic, energetic sound of a live show into the studio during the recording process. Gefucia admits this is tough, adding Jomomma has only been able to do it once or twice successfully. "It is a very difficult transition to go from live to studio," he sighs.
On their recent tour across Canada, Jomomma learned a great deal about each other's idiosyncrasies. They also discovered how challenging it was to work as a team. "Adversity is a part of our band," Gefucia admits. "There is inevitable conflict and differences in taste and ambition, but we have to learn to compromise."
In terms of influences, Gefucia cites the jam band standards The Grateful Dead, Phish and Jamiroquai. Still, he is hesitant about such comparisons.
"The jam band scene is plagued by comparisons. To say we sound like the Grateful Dead or we're trying to be the Grateful Dead is going too far. They're definitely a major influence, but it's not done consciously. People go in with a notion that we're going to sound like this type of music and we're trying to get away from that," the bassist explains.
Focusing on their distinct sound and developing a devoted following in the live scene is of paramount importance to Jomomma. With enough luck, they will continue to make more tasty jam.