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Pop songcraft and a great live show make Basement What contenders
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
Pete Jacobs, bass player for area band Basement What, isn’t afraid of the “p” word.
“We’re not afraid to call what we do pop-rock,” he says. “We write songs that are pretty simple, but they have a lot of hooks in them. It seems there are a lot of bands in this area that are kind of afraid of those terms, like calling yourselves ‘pop’ puts you in the same light as Britney Spears and that kind of stuff. But we don’t have a problem with being in the same category with John Mayer and Maroon 5 and Dave Matthews.”
Indeed, comparisons with John Mayer and the pop elements of Dave Matthews aren’t that far off. Basement What’s music sounds like the hooks of a pop/rock band mixed with the kind of fluid rhythms and musicianship of a jam band.
It’s a combination that has won a lot of fans in an area where — as any band playing any genre of music will tell you — original material can be a hard sell. Jacobs says Basement What has no problem slipping an original into their set, even during gigs where they’re required to play covers. “When we play our original songs, and we’ll have people ask us “who did that? That’s a great song.’ It just kind of blends right in to the set list.”
The current lineup of Basement What — which includes Dave George on vocals, Nick Young on guitar, and Lou Grant (real name Michael) on drums — fell together a few years ago when Young auditioned for a band Grant and Jacobs were playing in. Young and George already had Basement What at the time, playing original material in the basement of a house they lived in while attending Ball State, but the band was in limbo; rhythm sections kept dropping out on them, making it tough to get gigs. Young turned the audition around, and asked Jacobs and Grant to check out his band. “He sent us a CD, and we liked it well enough to say let’s get together and see how this works out,” Jacob says. “It just went really well from the very first time we met and played together, and we all got along so well, that ever since then we’ve been playing together.”
Since then, they’ve developed a reputation as a great live act, and amassed a healthy fan base. Four of the three band members live in Fort Wayne, and though they all work full-time jobs, a typical weekend might see them traveling to Indianapolis, Louisville, Columbus, or Cincinnati to play gigs. “There’s a lot of bands that tend to focus on one or two cities. We try to pick one or two venues in any given city, and hit that same club over and over again,” Jacob says. “We only play in a city frequently enough so that when we play, it’s an event. We don’t want people to say, ‘oh, I could have seen them at another place last Friday.’”
One of the things that helps them out in foreign cities is the support they get from people who used to attend the jam sessions at Ball State, when the band had rotating rhythm sections. “We go to Indianapolis or Chicago, and people from back then will come and bring their spouses and friends,” Jacobs says. “We’ve got people in front of the stage, dancing all night, and singing our songs back to us, so the guy who booked us is thinking ‘who are these guys.’ It’s a really good feeling.”
Basement What has gotten national attention from Billboard and Rolling Stone, who included their song “My Beer” on a compilation CD. The band is currently working on material for a new album (they released a limited run of a self-titled CD a couple years ago) and booking gigs for more weekend mini-tours. And if they’re not afraid to call themselves “pop-rock,”they’re also not afraid to speak openly about their ambitions — generating interest from record companies. record company interest. “We’re all confident enough in what we’re doing that we think that’s a possibility,” Jacobs says. “More than anything, we would like to make this what we do for a living.”
Thanks to solid song craft and musical skills, Basement What is well positioned to fulfill their ambitions.
Basement What stops in at Columbia Street West on October 15th.