Reggae octet John Browns Body may not be a household name, but its version of reggae often described as forward thinking or progressive has the ability to cross genres.
Its not uncommon for the band to hear the comment: I didnt think I liked reggae, but I like you guys.
We do hear that a lot, says drummer and founding member Tommy Benedetti. Styles of music get stereotyped. We have a lot of influences. Were not trying to sound like a Jamaican reggae act or Bob Marley. There are many bands doing well in reggae, and everybody has a little bit different take on it.
I think of (the old and new) the same way you listen to John Coltrane and then you listen to Medeski Martin and Wood. Theres that exciting adventurousness that I love in music.
Adventurous is a good description of the band, which is based in Boston and Ithaca, N.Y. The group recently released an album called JBB in Dub to explore the instrumental portions of its live show as well as appease fans waiting for the bands first studio album since 2008. (Its due out in spring 2013.)
Tuesday at Visulite the band shares the stage with a genre- and culture-bridging ensemble: Ashevilles world music travelers Toubab Krewe, who blend African music from Mali with Appalachian roots music.
JBB has already completed its next album, which Benedetti says captures its live energy while continuing the bands evolution. Many point to a 2006 shakeup as the turning point for the group.
Lead vocalist and songwriter Elliot Martin took a larger role in writing and arranging after the departure of co-writer and founder Kevin Kinsella and the death of bassist Scott Palmer from cancer. Martin drew on styles outside roots reggae (electronic, drum n bass, ethereal Icelandic band Sigur Ros, hip-hop).
Benedettis roots are also eclectic. He grew up with AC/DC, Slayer and Van Halen before his future band mates introduced him to acts like Charles Mingus, Jimi Hendrix and Burning Spear while he was studying at Bostons Berklee School of Music. Those influences both new and old help differentiate John Browns Body from the current crop of reggae-rooted rock acts.
We draw from a different well of inspiration than a lot of bands from the California rock reggae scene. Were not products of the 90s Sublime kind of thing. We go back and draw on the 70s UK and dub stuff and Burning Spear and Culture. That gives the music a real depth, says Benedetti. Weve always traveled with a horn section. We dont cut corners in the way we want it to sound.
The horn trio has been a big part of the bands live show since the beginning, even when an eight-piece band wasnt necessarily economically sound.
I remember back in the early 2000s when there were a lot more actual Jamaican reggae acts that were still touring. Wed be opening for these bands like Culture and Israel Vibrations bands wed learned from and studied their records that had these beautiful majestic horn lines, he said.
Then wed get to the show and thered be some cheesy keyboard lines and we think, Thats not the way its supposed to sound, recalls Benedetti. It had a lot to do with the logistics in touring. The one band that inspired us not to do that was Burning Spear. They had the most kickass horn section. That was always the template.