“I’ve been wanting to play this festival for three years now.”
For Jessie Brown, who will be kicking things off Friday evening and taking the late night stage at the Acro later that night, playing the Riverfront Jubilee is proof that good things come to those who wait.
Sonically a kissing cousin to Queens of the Stone Age — especially Josh Homme’s signature ‘on the verge of death’ distortion, Brown also cut her teeth on the best of her parents’ record collection, soaking up as much Deep Purple, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding as she could.
The end product is hard to describe. Her peers have dubbed her music ‘doom soul’, she gleefully accepts the term ‘stoner rock’— while her producer, from his briefly held position on the drums, likened his position between Brown and bassist Jason Vautour as being stuck in a washing machine during a spin cycle.
Listening to Brown’s music, especially live, it’s a cause for wonder as to how a three-piece band can take up so much aural space. It may even cause parts of the brain to fail completely when you realize that there isn’t a guitar—overdriven, fuzzed, active, humbuckered or otherwise – in the mix.
“We were a four-piece when we originally started,” Brown explained. “Just over time our guitarist wanted to move on to do his own solo project and we decided not to replace him. So now we’re a trio— bass, keys and drums.”
The result is far from gimmicky. It isn’t a case of using midi or setting ‘2’ on a Casio and dialling in a default ‘guitar’ sound; instead, the absence of a guitarist and how to cover the same ground was something Brown and company had to work at.
“When we decided to do a trio we took quite a bit of time, sometimes six—hour jams trying to plan out exactly how we were going to fill out all the space the guitar once had and I ended up getting a beautiful, giant Fender amp that I’m in love with and just playing with all the patches on my keyboard and finding ways to distort them and choke them out.”
The other half of the equation is left to Vautour.
“(He) is just unreal and has this whole machine at his feet and can use whatever pedals he wants,” Brown said.
Brown said the only difficulty is that keys and bass are often working the same terrain.
“Keyboard players — we tend to write things with the bass player in mind,” Brown said. “The left hand becomes the bass player, which also can sometimes become an issue because I’m stepping all over what he’s playing. He can usually come up with a way, and usually way better, to have a bass part where my left hand doesn’t trample all over him.”
Brown has just finished tracking a new album and will be releasing a new single in August with her first full, proper tour in quite a while to follow in the fall.