Soul band strives for authenticity
There are many things Paul Janeway, vocalist of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, is not. He’s not an accountant, although his in-progress accounting degree and suit-and-bow tie stage outfit might lead one to believe otherwise. He’s not your stereotypical party-hard rock star either; in fact, he doesn’t drink at all. But perhaps most important of all, when he sings of pain and heartbreak, Paul Janeway is not a liar.
“Every time I get on stage, there’s a certain mental place I have to go, and it’s difficult sometimes,” Janeway said. “I’m not pretending. Part of our show is in an act, but to do what I do, I have to go there every single time.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a soul band based out of Birmingham, Ala., will be performing at Green Bar Friday. The band, comprised of Janeway on vocals, Jesse Phillips on bass, Browan Lollar on guitar, Andrew Lee on drums, Ben Griner on trombone and Allen Branstetter on trumpet, seeks to recapture the honesty and raw emotion of early soul music, creating something tangible for its audience to grab onto.
“People occasionally become a little bit starved for authenticity,” Phillips said. “There’s a lot of super hyper-polished music and stuff that’s autotuned. After a while, there’s just a deficiency of music that sounds like it was being made by people in a room playing music.” While recording their first full-length album set for release late this summer, the members of St. Paul and the Broken Bones strove to avoid the over-produced quality they hear in much of today’s music.
“When we recorded the album, We really didn’t do much overdubbing or multi-tracking at all,” Phillips said.
“Everything is pretty much a live take of us just playing the song, rather than laying down the drums, laying down the bass, laying down the guitars and doing several vocal takes. What you hear on the record is just us playing at the same time in a room,” he said.
Janeway and Phillips, the band’s two founding members, originally met while playing for another band, The Secret Dangers. The Secret Dangers eventually fizzled out, but two years later, Janeway and Phillips started writing together again. The other four band members joined while the band was recording its first EP, “Greetings from St. Paul and the Broken Bones,” released in December 2012. Right from the start, Janeway and Phillips knew what they wanted St. Paul and the Broken Bones to sound like, and this ideal served as a road map for the band’s formation, Phillips said.
“The band formed around the vision we had for the music rather than just throwing things at the wall and seeing what happened,” Phillips said. “This started with a more focused vision in terms of what we wanted to sound like and wanted the music to feel like.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones have only been together for about seven months, but the band has already captured the attention of both Paste Magazine and NPR.
“A lot of it’s luck, but I think that when people come to the shows and hear the music, they just gravitate to it,” Janeway said. “A lot of the attention has been kind of word-of-mouth of someone going to a show and genuinely loving it.”
Janeway’s passionate, primal singing voice, which sometimes is only a few decibels short of yelling, has become one of St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ trademarks, adding a layer of depth to the band’s already multi-dimensional sound.
“I haven’t always sounded this way,” Janeway said. “As a kid, my voice was a lot sweeter, but I got my heart broken really good by a girl one time - I mean, I’m talking really good. And [when that happens], you just wanna scream because you’ve just been hurt, and that’s the only way.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ raw, untamed energy and rich, expressive musical style often leads to comparisons to Alabama Shakes, an Athens, Ala., band, but there is a clear distinction between the two bands.
“The way we look at it, they’re a rock band with soul influence, and we feel like we’re a soul band with a little bit of rock influence,” Janeway said.
Janeway believes St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ horn section further differentiates them from the Alabama Shakes and creates a deeper sense of emotion within the band’s music.
“Horns can be another voice,” Janeway said. “To me, horns can enhance the mood of the song. I think that’s why we get a lot of people dancing — because we have horns. We even have people cry, and I think the horns help with that too.”
For Janeway, it doesn’t matter whether or not people like St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ music. All he wants is for the audience to make some sort of connection to the music and to feel something, whatever that something may be.
“It’s kind of like looking at a painting,” Janeway said. “ I think all artists want you to come away with an experience, something that just kind of hits you and touches you in a real way.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones will perform Friday, Feb. 15, at Green Bar. The show starts at 10 p.m., with no cover charge.
If you go:
What: St. Paul and the Broken Bones concert
When: Friday, Feb. 15, at 10 p.m.
Where: Green Bar
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