Today’s Feature, July 8-9: Georgie James

January 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm (Today's Feature)

John Davis and Laura Burhenn openly admit that forming a band together was an unlikely possibility. They would run into one another here and there at gigs but timing and logistics weren’t working. John, toured around the world with Q And Not U, while Laura stayed solo, balancing east and west coast shows, while managing her own label, Laboratory Records. Regardless of their backgrounds, they had very similar tastes in artists, which slowly erased any doubts. I imagine that first conversation being something out of John Cusack’s “High Fidelity” (“Ok, top five, The Beatles, The Kinks, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who, Neil Young, no wait, Emitt Rhodes, no wait…). Once again, the international language of art bringing people together…I love when that happens. Practice turned to shows, turned to more shows, turned to an intense following and repeat…the normal recipe for success. Right off the bat, everyone seemed to connect with Georgie James’ unique style and bond. Right now, Georgie James seems to be doing quite well with their “unlikely” method and style. Their MySpace page boasts roughly 35,000 combined views of four samples. It is this kind of following and dedication that makes Georgie James’ “Places” which is due out this fall, highly anticipated. In talking with John, he is very laid back when asked about the band’s life and success, which is a good sign that humble can lead to good things. If “Places” will do what Georgie James have planned, then I think John and Laura can bank on many good things coming their way. Read their XXQs to find out more.

XXQs: Georgie James (Interview with John Davis)

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Georgie James (GJ): I’ve been around music for my entire life. My dad is in the radio business, so many of my early memories revolve around music. I had access to all kind of music and was able to go to concerts and see bands play from an early age. That said, I feel like things entered a different gear for me when I was 12. That was the year I started playing guitar and also was the year that I seemed to start taking music a little more, well, “seriously.” Like, I guess that was when it started becoming more of my identity. I went headlong into bands like The Doors, U2, The Replacements, The Pixies, The Who, Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. I feel, in many way, it all kind of really started for me then.

PEV: How did the band form?

GJ: Laura and I were introduced in 2004 and saw each other here and there. At one point, we talked about playing music together and thought it might be a good idea. Although my old band, Q And Not U, was still together, we knew it was going to be ending soon, so I was particularly looking to start something new, as well as something that was a little more to my taste of music. So, basically, we started writing together in May 2005 and wrote songs and recorded demos for the rest of the year. We started playing with a backing band (at that point it was Adam Robinson on bass and Andrew Black on drums, though it’s now Andrew on drums, Michael Cotterman on bass and Paul Michel on second guitar) in January 2006 and played our first shows two months later.

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that you realized wanted to make a living playing music?

GJ: I’ve wanted to be in a full-time band since high school, though I can’t really remember any specific moment where I decided that. But it was with Q And Not U that I first would’ve been in what could be called a full-time band. I’ve still always worked part-time jobs when I was at home, but Q And Not U was able to provide enough when we were working at our peak that I could just do that for the most part. I certainly hope that Georgie James can be a full-time thing very soon. Working on music for a living is definitely my goal.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?

GJ: I was 15 and it was the summer of ’92, so I don’t remember a whole lot about it. But my high school band was recording its first demo and we went to a basement studio in Rockville, MD, called Bebop Productions. It was in the basement of a house (though I think they later moved to a proper facility within a few years), so it was a little more low-key than stepping into a big studio. I’m sure I was intimidated by it all, but it was a pretty fun, comfortable experience. The guys who ran the place were a little more “rock and roll” than we were. I remember playing then Fugazi’s “Repeater” saying that we wanted the drums to sound like that and they gave us a pretty quizzical look. Their claim to fame was recording Basehead’s “Play With Toys,” so it wasn’t like they were clueless to what we wanted to do. I’m sure they just didn’t quite know what to think of the five of us and what we wanted. I guess we didn’t really know either. But, thinking back, my main feelings are that I learned a lot and I had a good time. I also learned what the word “parameters” meant, thanks to one of the guys there who used it in some talk he gave us about the biz.

PEV: Is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in when you write music?

GJ: Heat, humidity, mildew, insects. Our practice space is kind of hellish in the summer, which was the time that we wrote most of the songs we’re playing now. I haven’t been able to finish any songs since the main run of writing in 2005 and early 2006 ’cause we’ve been working on playing shows so often. I have tons of raw materials ready to be sorted through when we sit down to focus on writing more songs, but nothing is finished right now. I play guitar every day and often come up with something I like and I just record it to keep in mind for later. Anyhow, since we’re not touring much this summer, I think we’ll try to get a few songs written so we’ll have some new stuff to play on tour this fall.

PEV: Tell us about the creation of your debut single, “Need Your Needs”.

GJ: The first two songs on it, “Need Your Needs” and “Cake Parade” are songs that will be on our upcoming full-length, Places. We finished recording the album back in October and we knew it was going to be a while until the album would be out. So, in the meantime, we figured we’d release a single on Laura’s label, Laboratory Records. We took of our favorite songs from the record and decided to add a cover that we recorded of “El Condor Pasa,” the Peruvian folk song that Simon and Garfunkel recast and covered on Bridge Over Troubled Water. The single came out back in February and served as our first release, even though it’s a limited run.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your success?

GJ: I’m lucky to have very supportive family and friends. I’ve really never met with any resistance on any of this. I suppose part of it is in who you choose to surround yourself with, but a lot of it is luck as well.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you?

GJ: It’s demanding, but I do like it a lot. Playing live is great and I’m enjoying it now more than ever. After seven years of playing drums in Q And Not U, moving to guitar and vocals in Georgie James was just the change I needed. So, I’m very much excited about touring again. It’s hard to be away from home for a long time, but since I am a musician, that’s what it entails at this point.

PEV: If I were to walk into your house/and studio right now, what is one thing I would be surprised to find?

GJ: It’s hard for me to say. I don’t know what your expectations of me would be, so I don’t know what would surprise you about me. I know what you’re getting at; like, do I have a collection of rare stamps or a large pyramid of oatmeal containers stacked in the corner. But, there’s really nothing in my home that surprises ME, so it’s hard for me to say. Maybe you’d be surprised by some of the records I own?

PEV: When you are not working, what do you like to do?

GJ: Hang out with my wife. Read. Watch movies. Play sports. Listen to music. Search for good records.

PEV: What can someone expect from a live Georgie James show?

GJ: That’s another question that’s hard for me to answer. I can’t really say “an awesome show,” ’cause I’m in the band, you know? I guess I could, but I’m not going to say that. Perhaps I could say that it might be different than what one may expect. A lot of people think we play live as a duo ’cause they see press photos and it’s just the two of us. But our live incarnation has been as a quartet and we’re about to expand to a quintet. Laura plays keyboard, I play guitar, Andrew Black plays drums, Paul Michel play bass and is about to switch to second guitar and Michael Cotterman is about to join us on bass. We’ve started practicing with him and the switch should set in by mid-summer. I’ve been told that people were surprised we were as loud as we were. I definitely look to a band like The Who or The Jam as a live role model, as opposed to Bread or America.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

GJ: I’m really enjoying playing live music more than I ever have before. I guess I really enjoy the communication. I enjoy the chance to reshape the songs. I love the subtle ways that a song changes the more you play it live.

PEV: What other artist right now should people be watching out for?

I’m a really big fan of Antelope, from here in D.C. They recently put out a record on Dischord and I think they’re great. Granted, we share a practice space and we’re friends, so I’m biased, but they really are one of my favorite bands right now. As far as D.C. goes, they’re one of the best bands I’ve seen since I started going to shows in ’91. It’s hard to define why they’re so good, but you should just hear their record.

PEV: In all your travels, which city – outside of the US, do you think offers the best music scene?

GJ: The best scene outside of the U.S.? That’s a tough question. I’ve played in Europe, Japan and Africa, but it’s hard to say what scene was the best. I generally didn’t like the bands we played with in most of those places, though some of them could he good. I felt that the scenes were very supportive in most of the places we went, though. I really like playing outside of the U.S. I don’t think there was a single country I’d never go back to, even though some were certainly better than others.

PEV: Is there a certain theme or concept you find yourself leaning towards when you write music?

GJ: Not really. I’m sure there are exceptions, but generally we just go with the way the song is flowing.

PEV: Describe your writing process.

GJ: Laura and I co-write the songs, but frequently one of us will bring in the general outline of the song and we’ll take it from there. Since I write the music for guitar, bass and drums and she writes for keyboard, the songs that I bring in tend to be a little closer to done. But it all breaks up pretty evenly. There are some songs that arose from jamming, there are some that she had mostly together and there are some that I had mostly together. Then we take that core and build around it; adding more, taking some. Generally, Laura brings in music and lyrics, whereas I usually finish the music first. Really, there’s no set way that our songs are written. They all have different births.

PEV: What’s the hardest part you about the music scene right now?

GJ: I’m not sure. I suppose there are a lot of bands out there, but that’s probably always been the case. I don’t really think there’s anything too hard about it at all. I just focus on doing our thing and letting it get out to people. Then we’ll see what happens from there.

PEV: Having played on both the east and west coast, what is the major difference between the two?

GJ: I suppose that the biggest difference is proximity. I know that’s not really what you were driving at, but that’s the biggest difference to me. There are fewer places to play and longer drives on the west coast. If you were to tour the east coast, you’d certainly play twice as many places as you would on the west. Both places have distinct feels, though, and I’m always happy to get out west to play.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the band?

GJ: I have to refer to the previous question about what may surprise people. I just don’t know what people’s expectations of us are.

PEV: So, what is next for Georgie James?

GJ: Our album comes out in September on Saddle Creek and we’ll be touring for the rest of the year. After that, we’ll take a little time off and then do more touring in the spring.

For more information on Georgie James, check out: http://www.GeorgieJames.com

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