For Desmond Jones, authenticity reigns tried and true.
The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals, guitar), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals, drums), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (sax, vocals) and Taylor Watson (bass) embraces their holistic selves on “Major Burbank,” a new glistening, groovy video out today. It’s the first new studio material Desmond Jones has released since their Hello, Helou album last July.
The 10-minute slow, transformative jam pays tribute to Jim Carrey’s legendary performance in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated film, “The Truman Show.” As an authentic ode to Carrey, “Major Burbank” majestically combines sparkling guitars, velvety bass, dancy drums and sensuous sax as Berkowitz smoothly sings, “So come back in to/The old world you knew/And although it’s not true/We’re all here for you.”
“With a flawless Jim Carrey performance and the layered philosophical themes present throughout the movie, ‘The Truman Show,’ makes for an excellent flick. We here at Desmond Jones aim to not only remind the listener of these important themes and encourage them to think further and pull back the curtain, but to also gain financially from the film’s popularity as well,” said Berkowitz, who wrote the track.
“We’re really excited to get this song and video out for everyone to enjoy and boogie to. We also encourage anyone who knows Jim Carrey to pass this song along to him because we think he’d dig it.”
Filmed this past winter at Plymouth Rock Recording Company, the “Major Burbank” video beautifully depicts Desmond Jones wearing fun, glitzy outfits and colorful, glam-inspired makeup on a dark, smoky soundstage while vibrant spotlights glow behind them.
Videographers Nick Small, Ryan “Toby” Hyland and Wayne Small eloquently capture the band’s magical instrumentation and rich improvisation from several innovative camera angles.
“That’s one of our newer songs, and the only recording we have is the video we took at Plymouth Rock. We did probably three full live takes, and I think we took the second one. They filmed each one, and when we chose the take we liked most, they put it to film and mixed and mastered it afterward,” Nowak said.
Before becoming a new video, “Major Burbank” served as a live gem in Desmond Jones’ evolving setlist at local, regional and national shows. The track also will be released as a single soon across all streaming platforms.
“Our original idea was just to get video content and to try to work on our social media and YouTube stuff, but it just turned out so awesome and sounded so good that we feel it is just as representative, if not more, than some of our studio stuff. We were like, ‘Dang, we should put these two tracks out,’” Nowak said.
While filming the “Major Burbank” video, Desmond Jones also recorded another video for “Gone,” a Nowak-penned, six-minute breakup anthem featuring swirling electric guitars, light cymbals and drums, and deep, funky sax. The track originally appeared on the band’s 2015 debut EP, Thick Cuts.
“We’ve desperately wanted a revamp of that song and a couple of other ones that we recorded now five years ago. We’ve been playing this song as long as the others, but we just don’t naturally play it as much because I play the guitar and because of the transition time between instruments,” Nowak said.
Both videos nicely capture the “glam jam” image Desmond Jones brings to their studio recordings and live shows. Nowak and his bandmates seek ‘70s-inspired glam rock style tips – including black eyeliner, heavy eyeshadow, smeared lipstick, quirky hairstyles and shiny clothing – from David Bowie and The Lemon Twigs. The band has adopted this offbeat retro style for select live shows during the past 18 months.
“Now, we have costume bag that we bring with us on the road, and my girlfriend Jennifer is always looking for fun clothing items for us. Before a show, everybody picks one thing out of the bag, and some people have consistent ones,” Nowak said.
“It’s a way to escape ourselves and become something different when we’re on stage, and it’s been a fun ‘rebrand’ to set ourselves apart and show everybody that we like to have fun, and that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and that we like to look hot sometimes.”
Last fall, Desmond Jones switched up their live shows with Watson as their newest member. The former Sunlab bassist joined the band after original member John Loria departed in October and recorded his final project, a three-track live EP, So Long, JL: Songs About Sandwiches, with the band at Shakespeare’s Pub in Kalamazoo.
Since replacing Loria, Watson has played more than 30 live shows with Desmond Jones and now participates in solo live-stream performances to spotlight his exquisite musicianship.
“He plays a five-string bass, and there are some new low notes in there. He just has a different vocabulary, so it’s been really fun to create new stuff with him and get a fresh take on our own music that we’ve already been playing for so long. It’s really fun to have a new approach to our jams,” Nowak said.
With Watson now in the fold, Desmond Jones continues to write and record new music during the coronavirus pandemic. Nowak, Watson and other members currently trade files of new material that will be included on the band’s fourth full-length studio album.
Before Loria departed, Desmond Jones’ third full-length studio album was near completion and promised to include a refreshing Americana sound.
“We have such backlog of songs we’re trying to get through in the studio, but with Taylor being a new bass player and us writing, it feels like the time to write new material for an album. I think our next album after the country one will be mostly new material, whether it was written in the last couple of months or in the future,” Nowak said.
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