Pure Pop From Jonestown
By Bill Frost
JULY 6, 1998: It's late Wednesday night, the air is warm, and it's Sea of Jones singer/guitarist Pat Munson's birthday. He'd rather not say how old he is, but he's got at least a couple of years on Pete Droge, the fellow guitar-popster he and the Jones have just warmed up for in front of a mid-sized crowd at the Zephyr Club.
"I think we may have won over some new people tonightwhat Droge does isn't that much different from what we do," Munson laughs as he and the other three-quarters of Sea of Jones load their minimal backline of amps and drums into a minivan. "He's just got bigger and better equipment."
Winning over new people wouldn't be difficult for Sea of Jones: They've been together since 1995, but have performed around Salt Lake City less frequently than, say, out-of-town bad pennies Caroline's Spine in the three years since. Last year, after a long series of delays, including having their aforementioned gear stolen out of their rehearsal studio and sold off to a pawnshop (all was recovered soon after), the band finally released Icewater & Flyswatters, their six-song debut CD.
At the time of recording the pop and country-laced Icewater in Seattle, the band consisted of just Munson, singer/bassist Bill Kelley and drummer Roger Thom. Ace guitarist/singer Gary Turnier, who currently divides his time between Sea of Jones and the infamous Disco Band That Shall Not Be Named Here, contributed lap-steel licks to the song "Melanie" and, eventually, joined full-time.
"After I played on the CD, these guys just bothered and bothered me to come into the band," Turnier says, pouring a beer at Anchors Aweigh after Droge's show. "Later, we also had the common bond of having all of our equipment stolen. My old band, My Dog Vodka, shared a practice space with Sea of Jones. My band's drummer ripped us off, and you know the rest of that story. It was apparent that My Dog Vodka was over, so the decision to join Sea of Jones was simple."
"We started out with two divas," Thom laughs, referring to Munson and Kelley, who both write and sing their own songs in the band, "and a third one has slid in nicely. When you have three singer/songwriters in a band things can get weird, but we've managed to find a cohesiveness."
Will Thom take a shot at singing lead? "I'm saving that for the solo album," he smiles slyly. "I've got my own 'Beth' at home."
"Before I joined this band, I loved this band," Turnier says. "When I saw them, I thought they were awesome, just the greatestnow I'm in the band. I'm on top of the world." Turnier, who, like his bandmates, is a slightly-over-30 college graduate, adds adamantly "We're talking about songwriting here, songs that people our age can relate to."
Oddly enough, Sea of Jones' best reception in recent months came from an audience of 14-year-olds, when they played a benefit for the Red Cross at the DoubleTree hotel.
"We thought it was going to bomb," Munson remembers. "How could we relate to teenagers? But they loved us! Maybe they were just hopped-up on Pepsi or something."
Kelley finally looks up from his beer and speaks: "They thought that we wrote 'Don't Fear the Reaper.' (When pressed to fill time, Sea of Jones can pull off a frighteningly faithful cover of the Blue Oyster Cult nugget, as well as Camper Van Beethoven's "Eye of Fatima" and others.) We told them it was on the CD so they'd buy one."
"That's the demographic we need to aim for," Thom interjects. "Screw the over-21 crowdwe want the teens!"
"As far as the club audiences go, we're in kind of a marketing rut," Turnier says. "We don't play out often, so people aren't that familiar with usbut when they do get a chance to hear us, I know we make an impression. I mean, Pat and Bill are writing some of the best songs I've heard coming from this town, and I'm lucky to be playing with them. We're definitely about songs, as opposed to imagejust look at us!" he laughs, as the waitress seizes our remaining beer at 2 a.m.
Can a band that relies upon quality tunesmithing, vocal harmonies and a collective love of all things XTC, Replacements, Beatles and the like make a dent in Salt Lake City? Or are they doomed to play down the street from the flavor-of-the-month club filling clones that, in reality, are just covert cousins of that Disco Band That Shall Not Be Named Here?
"I think that, as more bands move out of town, we will slowly rise to the top by default," Thom laughs.
Although they have scads of new material that they're preparing to record for a follow-up discmost notably, the psychedelic pop gem "Bright Boy" and Turnier's dark and dusty "Angels" Icewater & Flyswatters is still available at Salt City CDs, Blockbuster Music and the usual outlets that carry the locals. You can also get it at one of Sea of Jones' gigs, the next ones being Friday, July 17 with Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons at the Zephyr Club, and Saturday, July 18 at the Rio Grande Festival in the afternoon and Burt's Tiki Lounge that night.
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