Although Tulsa's local music scene is thriving, there has been something conspicuously missing. Sure, the artists in the "New Tulsa Sound" group have been incredibly productive and churning out some great music and we've seen a resurgence of pure pop over the last year or two. In fact, nearly every aspect of our local music scene has been thriving as the indie scene regenerates itself and we've even seen a fresh infusion of punk rock aesthetic.
Amidst all of that, though, what we haven't seen over the past year and a half is a truly visceral, straight up modern rock band to step into the void left by the dissolution of bands like Congress of a Crow and My Solstice. Sure, we do have Vandevander's from the gut rock, but even Matt Fisher spent most of 2011 laying low and finishing classes.
The band that's been bubbling just under the surface, however, is finally jumping to the forefront with the release of its debut EP and a fistful of shows to make its presence known. Chances are, you've already heard the name, but a limited number of live shows have kept the band decidedly under the radar as it honed its live set and prepared to take the spotlight. Now that the debut disc is finished and the New Year has arrived, however, it's time for RL Jones to finally step to the forefront of the local rock scene.
Although the band is just now truly debuting, don't mistake it for a crew of newbies. Fronted by Matt Wright (formerly of The Feds) on guitar and vocals with Tom Pritner (of My Solstice and The Televised) on bass and Shane Kintz (Swampfox, Fiddlebacks) on drums, this trio is comprised of veterans of a handful of Tulsa's most solid rock acts of the past 5-10 years.
This lineup wasn't just thrown together, either. The three members came together nearly two years ago and have taken their time developing an innate chemistry and fistful of killer songs to grab local music fans by the throat. I got my first glimpse of the band in June of 2010 when Pritner pulled me aside after My Solstice's final CD release show at Flytrap Music Hall and played me a rough demo from band rehearsals in the car.
The band had not quite found its identity yet and went through a couple of name changes behind the scenes before it started playing shows last year, but the immediacy in the songs was already there, readily apparent even in rehearsal demos. Early versions of "Slinger" and "Relay" stuck in my head and kept me anxious for the band's official debut in 2011.
True to form, the band kept a low profile in its first few shows, opening a few gigs at The Marquee and Downtown Lounge without much fanfare. It only took a few shows, however, for the band's energetic shows and hit and run approach to start creating a buzz.
Those who knew people close to the band or kept their ear close to the ground were able to keep up with RL Jones in the bands' early stages and catch the group as the chemistry continued to evolve. A summer house party and garage gig that I was privy to revealed as much about the band as any CD could: the sound may be modern rock, but these guys are getting back to the basics with a garage rock attitude and indie rock approach to the music.
Everyone in the band has been through the cycle before with previous bands and Wright has seen the highs, lows and everything in between during his tenure in The Feds. Even so, each of the members has retained a pure love for music and the creative process and that's what binds this band together.
The five songs on RL Jones' debut EP are primarily Wright's compositions, but they definitely bear the band's stamp on them. Maturing over time with Pritner and Kintz developing their own parts and recorded and mixed by Kintz, the five songs on the disc take the three members' backgrounds, throw them in a blender and shoo them in an all new direction.
Partly by nature of the songs' visceral energy and partly due to Kintz's production, and initial spin of RL Jones self titled disc throws impressions of Queens of the Stone Age and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Dig a little deeper, though, and Velvet Revolver and Stone Temple Pilots references pop up to give the songs just enough mainstream edge to make the songs both edgy and commercial enough to warrant airplay consideration.
On the live stage, nearly two years of work behind the scenes is already paying off. Matt Wright is the consummate front man and seeing him take over as lead vocalist while playing guitar is a welcome break from his taking a more secondary role in The Feds. If anything, Wright has an innate cool and swagger that carries over to the entire band. More importantly, the interaction between Wright, Pritner and Kintz is seamless and seemingly innate as they lock into a groove together, then explode with energy. There's just enough snarl here to make the band dangerous and the members feed off of that energy to give the band its edge.
Although the band's five song EP seems too short, it delivers exactly the same effect that the live show has: it hits you in the face, grabs your attention and gets out, leaving you wanting more. The hooks from "Relay" and "Slinger" stick in your head, swirling in your subconscious for days, while the heavy groove of "Harletts" is simultaneously haunting and hypnotic. Once you put the disc on, you'll most likely let it cycle through repeatedly and feed off the band's energy.
Although the disc arrived in December, the band celebrated quietly with an understated and last minute release party gig at the band's virtual home based at Downtown Lounge. Now that 2012 has arrived, however, the band is stepping up for some bigger shows and kicking things off this Saturday night with a larger release party at Fassler Hall and split bill with Vandevander. This should make for a near perfect paring as Vandevander is coming off of a relatively quiet 2011 and will be debuting a handful of new songs that ring as true as the band's "State of Vandevander" trilogy.
Cover is $5 at the door and music starts at 10pm at Fassler Hall this Saturday night, Jan. 21. If you've been waiting for the return of heart felt, gut-check rock and roll, two of Tulsa's best come together to bring it back to the forefront this weekend. Make no mistake, you'll be hearing plenty more from both RL Jones and Vandevander in 2012.
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