“We all met when we were in college and since then we’ve flung into adulthood, lived hard, played hard, had some heartbreaks and some triumphs”
Another weekend, another music festival.
That’s going to be the case when it comes to live music for the rest of the summer. And this weekend, from July 8 to 10, the action will be at the Levitate Music and Arts Festival on the Marshfield Fairgrounds on the South Shore.
After two years off because of COVID-19, Levitate is back with a stacked lineup featuring Ann Arbor, Michigan funk dynamos Vulfpeck, Hawaiian soft rock and acoustic pop surfer superstar Jack Johnson, Phil Lesh from the legendary Grateful Dead, local blues rock shredders GA-20, local reggae rockers The Elovaters, Stephen Marley, and many others.
Another act on the bill is the Bloomington, Indiana soul-funk force known as Durand Jones & The Indications. Along with being part of the upcoming festival, the quintet—Jones on lead vocals, Aaron Frazer on vocals, drums, percussion and synthesizer, Mayteana Morales on percussion and vocals, Matthew Romy on bass, Steve Okonski on organ, piano, and synthesizer, and multi-instrumentalist Blake Rein—have been on tour with Johnson as his opening act for the past few weeks.
Jones and I spoke ahead of the festival about their most recent album, Private Space, having a slight shift in the band’s sound, how touring with Johnson has had a family vibe, and working on a solo record that’s very important to him.
You and the Indications released your third album, Private Space, last summer and it was created in a collaborative way with everyone in the band having a role in the songwriting and the production along with arrangers Ginger Dolden and Pete Lanctot, harpist Brandee Younger and Boston soul artist Eli “Paperboy” Reed among others. What was the experience like making the album with so many people involved?
It was good. It was a bit stressful because it was all done during the lockdown so there were very strict protocols. We couldn’t have Ginger and Pete in the same room as us, they were in the studio in the control room whereas with our previous record American Love Call we were eating dinner together, talking with one another and being close with one another. We couldn’t do that this time, we wanted to stay isolated from everyone, so that was a little different but we made it work.
I think it goes to show how resilient music and musicians can be, how we can find ways to create with limited access to things so it was really cool seeing everybody rally together and come through with that. Aaron [Frazer] wrote “I Can See” with Eli; I wasn’t there at that session so I can’t really speak much on it, but I do think that it’s a really beautiful song and I’m glad it made the cut on the record.
I think the album in its entirety is excellent because you have these funk, disco and ’70s r&b elements going on. What would you say influenced that shift going from a very organic Motown sound to this glossy, somewhat psychedelic style that you had going on with Private Space?
I think we were just wondering what life would be like post-pandemic, we wanted our music to reflect joy and we wanted people dancing at the shows. We wanted people to dance, really be happy and have fun together again so I think that was a big, important step in the songwriting. We wanted that disco feel, we wanted to see the crowd move, and it’s so fun to watch the audience move and groove with us.
It’s that symbiotic relationship between the audience and the band which is always a beautiful thing when you have everyone dancing together. Looking back a year later, where do you think Private Space stands when it comes to the musical journey you and the Indications have taken over the past 10 years? Where is its place in the timeline of the band, the discography and everything else?
Oh man, I think it’s a mature album. I really do feel like Private Space comes from life experiences, we all met when we were in college and since then we’ve flung into adulthood, lived hard, played hard, had some heartbreaks and some triumphs. All of that is reflected in the music, I believe that the older we get the more we’re able to express ourselves artistically so that’s what I feel with that.
How were you guys able to link up with Jack Johnson for his tour and how has it been sharing the stage together?
Linking up with Jack I guess came about through him listening to our music. He was telling me that he would play our stuff at BBQs, cookouts, and things like that so when the opportunity arose his people asked my people and I was like, Hell yeah! Let’s go! Let’s do this. It’s been absolutely beautiful being on the road with Jack, he really takes care of his people. He takes care of his crew, he makes sure everyone is accounted for, affirmed, and validated and I think that’s really dope.
I’ve been on many tours with supporting bands but I’ve never been on one as a supporting band with the headliner gathering everyone on the first day and saying, Thank you for being here. Welcome, we appreciate you. His wife Kim came up there and she talked a little bit, it was so sweet. It’s a family affair and that’s really cool. He’s been inviting us up on stage too to do a song with him, we’ve been doing “A Place In The Sun” by Stevie Wonder.
I know you got a lot more touring going on for the next few months which includes a run of shows in Europe this fall. Do you and the Indications plan on working on a new album after you get off the road?
After the next few months, I’m going to start focusing on a solo project that I’ve been working on. I’ve been working on this thing for a few years now and I’m going to dedicate next year towards that project. It’s a love letter to my hometown of Hillaryville, Louisiana which is a small town. The land there was actually given to slaves as a form of reparations after the Civil War, it was given to eight slaves on one of the plantations and they named it after this guy Hillary Rice. This project is kind of a love letter to my hometown in Louisiana so I’m going to focus on that and hopefully do some really cool stuff for Hillaryville and for music lovers.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New Noise Magazine, Flood Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.