“Jarmean?” is no longer just the popular British time-saving, slang version of “Do you know what I mean?,” but it is now also the moniker of one of the most fabulous, refreshing bands I’ve come across in recent months. The British five-piece fuses punk and vaudeville in an amazingly innovative way and discovering this band was like discovering a diamond in a pile of rocks. Jarmean?
They released their debut single, Mind the Gap, earlier this month and took the time to answer some of my pressing questions in anticipation of the release. Being the cohesive team that they are, they answered all of the questions … together! Talk about uncommon, and awesome.
Jarmean? are: Truman (Ukulele/Crooning + Abuse), Jericho (Smooth Horns), Mr. Fox (Tuba Rapper), Swanimaru (Baby-Faced Assassin) and Smoochi (She’s Our Bez!) – Their descriptions, not mine!
Q: How did you all first meet and how did Jarmean? come about?
A: After years of playing, and carrying!, a double bass, Truman bought a ukulele as a new way to create music and write songs. Shortly afterwards Jericho and myself (Swanimaru) moved into the Whitechapel Warehouse where he was living. We were all musicians with different style background, but the trumpet, ukulele and drums just sounded the best together. We met Mr. Fox from the open mic night at the Rhythm Factory just round the corner – so it all came together quite organically. Smoochi joined us this year on the live shows to encourage people to dance and we also have a few extra members who join us occasionally to bump up the sounds – we just like to have an entourage!
Q: When you’re writing music, is there a process you follow?
A: Truman usually comes up with a basic melody and lyrics, then we work on the structure and riff parts all together. We’ve found that we sometimes have two versions of songs [and] we definitely lengthen the songs for live [performances] as we like to keep everyone dancing as much as possible!
Q: The sound is wonderfully old-school and vaudeville-y – where do you look to for inspiration?
A: In lots of places – we could list a lot of artists/bands who inspire us, but we’re all quite individual in our tastes. I think the inspiration comes more from life experiences, history, story telling and observing the world and what’s going on around us.
Q: How has studio time been treating you? Any surprises?
A: Working in the studio is an interesting process as all the instruments are acoustic, but we go in with the attitude of creating more of a “rock” sound. So, for example, the tuba is the bass guitar, the ukulele is the rhythm guitar and the trumpet is the lead! Our track Bad Penny is our first experiment with some triggered and electronic sounds, if you listen carefully you can hear a dub effect during the rap, and this is something we’d like to experiment more with in the future – mixing old and new sounds.
Q: When can we expect an album?
A: We’ve got our next single out in May, with an accompanying video and we’re hoping to do 3-4 mini-releases a year. At the moment we feel that with iTunes, downloads and mp3 players, the album is dying so we’d rather invest in new ways of getting our music/visual out there. Whether it be in the form of a recording, a musical or a video.
Q: If you could collaborate with any artist or band, who would you choose?
A: Truman – Stevie Wonder
Jericho – Dave Grohl
Swanimaru – James Dean Bradfield
Mr. Fox – Max Bygraves
Q: What’s been the best gig so far?
A: There’s been a few really for different reasons, but top would be Club Dada at Bestival 2009. We played at 2:30 in the morning, after being asleep [so] we were half asleep! But the crowd was packed and they loved it! That’s the best time for us: the later the better. When people are a bit pissed and ready to dance and party.
Q: Any pre-show rituals?
A: Absinthe anyone?
Q: The most surprising thing about Jarmean? as a band?
A: Er, that there is no guitar?! A scandal in this day and age! Sometimes we turn up to gigs and people ask, “So where’s the guitarist?” and we’re like, “There is none!” For some reason people seem to think you need a guitarist to be a band.
Q: Top standout moment so far?
A: Our first play on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 2 show.
Q: If you weren’t in Jarmean? what do you think you’d be doing right now?
A: Working and being very bored!
Q: The Bonus question: desert island albums?
A: Truman – Repeater by Fugazi
Jericho – Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Swanimaru – The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers
Mr. Fox – Any by Max Bygraves
More Jarmean? at www.myspace.com/jarmean