John Brown’s Body up and ready to jam
Tommy Benedetti of the reggae and dub band John Brown’s Body said he was a rock and metal fan when he first discovered the drums.
"I grew up with a lot of rock and metal music — Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and a lot of the greats of old," Benedetti said during a telephone interview from his home in Boston, Mass. "I also got into a lot of heavier stuff like Slayer and would play along to their records in my folks’ basement in Albany, New York."
When Benedetti moved to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, he was "blown away" by other types of music by artists including jazz great Charles Mingus, classic-rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, bluesman Muddy Waters and reggae pioneer Burning Spear.
In 1996, Benedetti formed John Brown’s Body with Kevin Kinsella, who was the main songwriter for the band’s first five records.
After Kinsella’s departure, the band’s backup singer, Elliot Martin began writing the songs.
"In 2003, we did a record called ‘Spirits All Around Us,’ and that’s when the sound you hear JBB play today started taking shape," Benedetti said. "That’s when we started hearing the type of music Elliot was capable of writing, and we started gravitating toward that style."
John Brown’s Body will bring its reggae groove to Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
"Park City has always been good to us, so we are psyched to get out there," Benedetti said.
Still, with fans not only in Park City and around the country, the members of John Brown’s Body survived some hard times.
After Kinsella left in 2006, the band experienced some shakeups, which included the death of bassist Scott Palmer after a battle with cancer and breaking in their current bassist, Nate Edgar.
"It was a tough time for us, but all that happened has led us to where we are today, and I’m happy with the decisions we made to continue playing back then," Benedetti said.
In addition, the band has been able to expand its sound from standard reggae to dub, which is a style of music that is comprised of remixes of existing music.
"We all come at the music from a lot of different angles, but we play music all the time, whether with JBB or our side projects," Benedetti said. "That, alone, lends itself to a certain level of proficiency and communication that we have with each other.
"We have evolved naturally as players, although there is a common thread that runs throughout all the records when it comes to the band’s sound," he said. "I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s definitely there."
That rings true with the band’s latest extended-play release, "JBB in Dub."
"The CD came out on the Easy Star label in September and has seven songs," Benedetti said. "Out of those, six of them are instrumentals."
The lone vocal track is called "The Grass," which has been part of John Brown’s Body’s live set for a few years.
"We knew it wasn’t going to make it on the upcoming full-length album, so we decided to throw it on the EP as a treat for our fans, because wherever we play, people always like to hear that tune," Benedetti said.
"JBB in Dub" is a side of the band the musicians wanted to document.
"We’ve played at least two or three instrumentals in our set to give us a chance to stretch out and give Elliot a breather," Benedetti said. "So, we felt we needed to lay them down. Plus, the idea of releasing an EP was exciting to us, because we haven’t done that before."
The EP reached No. 1 on the iTunes charts and made it to the Top 10 on the Billboard Reggae charts, he said.
"Since we are working on a new full-length CD that we plan to release in April, the EP set us up nicely," Benedetti said.
Although there is no solid release date for the full-length, the drummer isn’t worried.
"At this point in our career, we don’t want to put out something that is not the most absolute, sonically brutal thing we can offer," he said. "We definitely want the newest record to be better than the last and I found that we are our own worst critics. After we put out an album, we come back to it and say, ‘I wish we would have done this song faster’ or ‘I wish I didn’t play that fill.’ But, I feel the band keeps evolving, and I like to think it keeps getting better."
John Brown’s Body will play Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 9 p.m. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.parkcitylive.net.
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The Park City community will honor the late Joy Tlou with a memorial celebration at City Park.