With a bit of a tumultuous history‚ John Brown's Body enters another stage of their life with a new album to be released September 30. Amplify features intoxicating vocals‚ playful and steady bass lines‚ along with catchy and sometimes even haunting horn melodies.
Their stage presence is something to be witnessed. No member goes unnoticed. The bassist moves to his steady beats. A focused drummer‚ bouncing keyboardist‚ and a grooving guitar player make up the colorful background. Adding to all that are three intense horn players moving and grooving up front along with an emotive‚ charismatic lead singer leaving no shortage of visual stimulus onstage. Thoughtful and insightful lyrics pull you in while entrancing‚ teasing beats build‚ making you bounce or even jump. A JBB show is a truly exhilarating experience.

Comprised of eight members from varied musical backgrounds‚ JBB has a lot of knowledge to draw from. Some members have been making music together longer than the others‚ but their knowledge and experiences have caused them to do what most great bands do: evolve.
I got the chance to have a beer with Tommy Benedetti‚ longtime drummer of JBB at the Grassroots festival in Ithaca‚ N.Y.
When I go to see you guys and I tell people‚ "I'm going to see John Brown's Body‚ that reggae band I go see all the time‚" it doesn't seem quite right. Your music is so much more than reggae. How would you describe it?
Yeah‚ these days it's a big stew of a lot of different influences and sounds and grooves. I think reggae applies to us in the way that we definitely draw from drum and bass. That's always the foundation of what we start with when we're writing tunes. So we always draw inspiration from‚ like‚ Sly and Robbie and Black Uhuru and stuff like that. But what goes on top of it these days tends to be a lot more cutting edge‚ I think‚ a lot more current and a lot more progressive sounding‚ as far as the sound of the grooves we try to incorporate. We try to step outside of the normal reggae grooves‚ sounds‚ lyrics and topics. So we've definitely stepped outside of that a lot since the beginning of the band‚ for sure‚ but it still always sounds like JBB to me somehow.
Yeah‚ it's definitely a unique sound. Your new album‚ Amplify‚ comes out at the end of September. How would you say the making of this album has been unique or different?
It's been incredibly different and unique in every way‚ basically. The obvious things are‚ its our first record without Kevin [Kinsella‚ band cofounder/vocalist] and since everything went down‚ since we had some lineup changes and Scotty [Palmer‚ bass] passed away and all that stuff. But just the way we did it was very unique‚ too. We took a long time to get this just right. We did a record with Easy Star‚ Pressure Points‚ and that was only a one record deal. So when we were making this album‚ we didn't have a label giving us a deadline‚ telling us when we had to hand shit in by. So we really wanted to take our time because this is a really important record for us. We wanted to take our time and make it exactly right. So we just went and basically took three blocks of sessions. We recorded in Syracuse‚ N.Y. and we did three blocks and then just built on top of it. We'd go on the road for a bit and come back to it and Jocko [Jason Randall] did a lot of work on it and it just kind of came together in bits and pieces over the course of lpretty much a year and a half. It took quite a bit of time‚ and‚ honestly‚ it took a lot more time than we're used to taking between records. But just given everything that went on‚ given the importance of this record in our evolution‚ we just wanted to make sure that everything was done right. We didn't want to be pressured that the right things would happen at the right times so…
So was it produced by yourselves then?
Yeah‚ it was produced by Elliot [Martin‚ lead vocals] and Jocko pretty much. We just knew the album we wanted to make at this point. Within the last six months we signed with Easy Star. We had been in touch with them‚ and those guys are awesome. They've been supporting us straight up through all the Pressure Points touring. We've been in full contact with them and we were negotiating with a couple other labels and we ended up going with them. Then things really started going quickly with bringing it all together and getting the date together and we got this massive tour planned out‚ so it's gonna be good.
Where did you guys record in Syracuse?
We recorded at Jocko's place. Jocko is our soundman and he's like our ninth member‚ really. He's just an invaluable member of the band in many ways‚ and he's got this phat studio in Syracuse called More Sound and that's our home. That was our home. He's got a great place for all of us to stay there and we're all comfortable and we just went and banged a lot of cool stuff out. It was really comfortable and we all felt really loose and we all had a great time recording. That's the ideal situation to making a record‚ really.
Absolutely! It's pretty awesome that you had that situation worked out. You kind of touched upon this point a little... The band is constantly evolving musically and in regard to the individuals involved. What challenges have you faced in this ever-changing entity called JBB?
It is a challenge to keep a band together of this many members through as much shit as we've went through‚ especially in the last couple years. So‚ there have been challenges. I mean‚ when everything went down a couple years ago with Scotty‚ there was definitely doubts if the band was gonna be able to continue or not at first. And then me and Elliot were basically of the mind that this is such a huge part of our lives and who we are. I mean‚ through most of my 20s and a lot of my 30s. It's like‚ I'm not ready to stop playing this music. There's a lot more music to give and Elliot has been on fire writing. Starting with Spirits All Around Us‚ he wrote three of my favorite tunes on that record. And then Pressure Points‚ he just really came into his own with songwriting‚ and it's just continued and flowered from there. He's got a really good streak going. He's really inspired and the band is really focused and tuned in on a specific sound right now. There's no disjointedness right now‚ so it makes it easier.
But‚ yeah‚ the challenges of keeping a band up and running and on the road‚ it's definitely there‚ but this band is a lot more focused and the vibes are a lot more fun right now than they've been in the past. That makes it a lot easier for everybody to contribute and be happy. Another thing that really makes a huge difference is we all play a lot outside of the band. A bunch of us play all the time in Boston‚ some stuff together‚ some stuff in different bands. So everybody's got other things‚ too‚ and that's really important because you can come back to JBB and it's making JBB better. JBB is making the other stuff better‚ so it's a big circle really.
Yeah‚ I did just see Rubblebucket Orchestra for the first time in Cape Cod and was pretty impressed with them.
Oh‚ yeah‚ they sound good. Were you at the Beachcomber?
Yeah. That was a crazy place.
That's one of my favorites. It's become like a tradition to go there every year. It gets nuts in there.
On your last tour you went to some pretty cool spots: Hawaii‚ Colorado and San Diego‚ California. How was that whole experience?
It's always crazy to go to those places. That tour was a lot more condensed than what we're used to doing. We did three dates in Colorado‚ we did San Diego‚ then we did two dates in Hawaii. We had been to all those places before‚ including Hawaii. But Hawaii was especially off the hook this time because we had been there before‚ like a couple years ago‚ and it was just nuts‚ like really crazy. And this time was even more crazy. The venues were better this time. We played in Honolulu and we played at University of Hawaii on the big island. Mad bangin' shows... like‚ killer.
So it looked like people took notice the last time you were there and came out a little more?
Oh yeah. I mean‚ the first time we were there‚ people had been waiting for us to come out. We had a bunch of really hardcore fans there for a long-ass time‚ and it's tough to get out there because it's a ways. So it had taken us a while for the right promoter and the right situation to fly ten people out and have us get paid properly‚ and it happened and people were nuts. The last time‚ it was pretty much lines out the door at every show. But the venues were 300-cap rooms and 400-cap rooms. This time when we went back‚ we were playing 1‚000-seat theaters and shit. And we're already slated to go back this winter again‚ so… it's definitely turned into a great place for us to go really quickly‚ and it's not a bad place to chill and play music.