Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Durand Jones & the Indications have come a long way from college buddies recording their first record in a basement.
But the old-school soul group from Bloomington, Ind., wasn’t expecting much to come from their debut album. In fact, after its late 2016 release, the band of music school graduates had all gone their separate ways.
“We were doing it for fun,” said guitarist Blake Rhein. “The goal was just to finish the record. There really wasn’t any ambition beyond that.”
The ongoing, positive response to the eponymous eight-song album brought the group back together to perform the tunes they had written and recorded in drummer Aaron Frazer’s basement, Rhein said.
The group has toured across the country and recently has been tapped for performances at 2018’s South by Southwest this week in Austin and the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival this June in Tennessee.
As part of its current U.S. and European tour, Durand Jones & the Indications will be stopping in Santa Fe Thursday.
“When we meet people after shows and they express the music in these songs means something to them, it makes it a special thing to go and play these shows, travel around the world and get to perform these songs,” Frazer said in a recent telephone interview from Austin the day before the band’s first SXSW show.
“We made it for us, but if it can mean something to other people and serve a purpose in other people’s lives and do some good outside of our basement in Indiana, it’s a path worth traveling.”
Jones, who moved to Bloomington from Hillaryville, La., to study at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, met his future bandmates in 2012. He and Rhein were both a part of the IU Soul Revue class. Jones was writing horn charts and coaching the horn players as a grad student and “reluctantly” agreed to sing for the class after the ensemble’s director heard he fronted bands back home.
After hearing Jones sing, Rhein introduced himself and invited him to hang out with him and Frazer, who enjoyed writing soul music. The group also included bassist Kyle Houpt and organist Justin Hubler. All of them other than Jones had been together in a local rock ‘n’ roll band.
“I really did it to make friends,” said Jones about playing with the group. “That’s why I do music in general, for the camaraderie. It really made this shy, introverted dude find his space in the world.”
This week, the group released its deluxe version of its album, with additional material that wasn’t on the original, including digitized live performances and covers of obscure soul songs that they love. These include “Put A Smile On Your Face” by E.J. and the Echoes from 1967 and 1970’s “You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters. Those bands and groups like Detroit’s Brothers of Soul and Baltimore’s The Whatnauts have been inspiration for the group, Frazer said.
Leading up to the deluxe release, the band put out a music video for its single “Smile,” which deals with masking internal pain. Jones said when his bandmates first showed him the song, lyrics like “Ask me how I’m doin’/I smile and say I’m fine” resonated with his life in graduate school in which fellow students were trying to hide stress and feelings of pressure. Co-writer Frazer said the song goes deeper.
“It is about addiction and losing somebody, but not necessarily only substance (abuse),” he said. “In my own life I’ve known people that I’ve lost to heroin, the opioid crisis, and turned to needles. But also just addiction to a relationship that isn’t good for you, to something that might be emotionally unhealthy. It’s addiction to anything that’s causing you pain.”
Even while deep into soul music, Jones said the band’s rock roots give them a “raw, unabashed” quality that takes over its live shows – something he said Santa Feans can expect on Thursday.
“We’re going to bring a really wild, high-energy fun night,” he said.