Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Jeb Bush Orchestra

Photo courtesy of Jeb Bush Orchestra.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez 

Described as “entirely apolitical, mostly instrumental,” Boston-based funk band Jeb Bush Orchestra has released a new single entitled “Space & Time,” which will be featured on their upcoming album, ‘Greatest Hits Vol. II,’ slated to be out July 24, 2020.

Recommended for fans of Lawrence, Vulfpeck, The Meters, Dopapod and Ripe, they formed from the desire to show listeners music’s true purpose – to make one dance.

Jeb Bush Orchestra is bassist Luke Bergamini, guitarist Grant Bloom, drummer Willis Edmundson and keyboardist Ben Hammer.

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the band about the new release and more.

Music Bugle – How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the band?

Ben Hammer – COVID-19 first affected us when we had to cancel our tour right as we were in the middle of it. It was mid-March and we were driving from Memphis to Texas when our gigs started getting canceled and the country started going into lockdown. We canceled our remaining gigs and returned to Boston as soon as we could. The band has not played together since that last gig in Memphis. Luke and I are roommates, so we work on Jeb-related projects when we can.


Music Bugle – What inspired your latest single?

Grant Bloom – We wrote the song during a jam session or rehearsal. I think Luke or Ben started playing that intro line, then we got a groove going. The lyrics for the chorus kinda popped in my head while we were riffing. The inspiration was a fun night of jamming combined with our eternal quest to stretch riffs/grooves out into songs.


Music Bugle – If you had to describe Boston to someone who has never been there before, what would you say?

Willis Edmundson – Boston’s a college town and there are positives and negatives about that. A downside is that the city is transient, constantly in flux. People are coming for school and then leaving, which makes it hard for the music scene to grow naturally, but there are so many arts colleges like Berklee, New England Conservatory, Boston Conservatory, BU, MassArt and they are always putting out great new art, so even though the music scene turns over frequently, there is always a fresh feeling to the scene. There’s a decent amount of live music going on from sessions at Wally’s Jazz Cafe, to Allston’s basement DYI scene, all the way up to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and everything in between, but the whole music scene is spread out. All the best clubs seem to be about 30 minutes away from one another, so unfortunately, there is no epicenter to the clubs in Boston.


Music Bugle – What made you want to play funk music in particular?

Luke Bergamini – I want people to dance. I hate watching people slowly sway and head-bob, trying to make themselves have a good time when a way too serious medium-tempo rock band plays. I’ve seen it for years and I need it to stop. I want to make music that goes, “Have as much fun as possible right now.” I want people to smile, dance and laugh. I think it’s what the world needs. You don’t have to take yourself seriously when you play or listen to funk music, in fact, it’s almost definitely worse if you do. In funk, you don’t have to constantly be writing new, introspective lyrics. It’s so much less pressure and as a result, way more fun. I want to make a party happen. I don’t want to be a beautiful composer, I want to be in an awesome band. When you’re at a show and you play a sad song about your girlfriend leaving you, or your cat dying or whatever you think needs to be immortalized via a waltz and only minor chords, I think you’re begging to bore people. Nobody says, “Let’s get our friends, have a few drinks and listen to a guy miss his ex.” They say, “Let’s go out and dance!” That’s your audience.


Music Bugle – Could you tell us more about your upcoming July release?

Ben Hammer – Our upcoming July release is a full-length album comprised of songs from the last year and a half. The majority are groovy instrumental tracks. Three have vocals. The songs were tracked in Grant’s basement in West Roxbury. Our friend, Brian Raj in LA, did the mixes and I did the mastering. Considering the budget, the production value is excellent and the recordings faithfully capture the energy of our live performances.


Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder to stand out as a band these days?

Luke Bergamini – I’m going to say harder. I’ve only been in the music industry during social media, so I have nothing to compare it to, but social media forces you to work on recording and your live show, which are completely opposite skills. In fact, they work against each other. When you’re recording, you have control over 100 percent of the process. When you’re in front of an audience, it’s maybe 60 percent. Sometimes, it’s less. Other times, it’s more. The variables are endless. You get used to one of those environments and suddenly, you find yourself spooked in the other. In the past, as a band member, you only had to work on your live show. Usually, the band wouldn’t mix and record their album. When you’re starting out, you kind of have to do that. In 1975, when recording and music were far more separate disciplines, You could become a specialist. Every musician now has to be a master of two trades, which I think is an unavoidable detriment to both art forms.


Music Bugle – What’s something you think people don’t know about the band?

Grant Bloom – Fun, little known fact, our bassist Luke was originally a guitar player and I — the guitarist — was originally a bassist. Go figure.


Music Bugle – Of course, this depends on how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, but did you have any set plans for the rest of 2020?

Grant Bloom – We are releasing more music and hoping to have an album release show later in the year. We had hoped to do another tour, but one of the daunting realities of the pandemic is that live music will be one of the slower industries to recover. I get goosebumps when I think about the day when we’ll get to play live again.


Music Bugle – What is the most frustrating aspect of today’s music industry?

Luke Bergamini – Promotion companies who bait you into giving them way too much money for “promotion” that does nothing. For example, Relix Magazine and Sonicbids. Thousands of people who have never picked up an instrument live off of inexperienced twenty-somethings just throwing them money because they think it’ll help their careers. It’s designed to be predatory and should be illegal.


Music Bugle – If you had the chance to talk to one of your musical influences, who would it be?

Willis Edmundson – John Coltrane. His philosophy, dedication and love of music and life led him to become one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. From the interviews I’ve read and stories I’ve heard, it’s clear that Coltrane was a deeply spiritual, thoughtful, intelligent and loving person. I believe a conversation with him would be an eye-opening reminder of the greatest purpose of music, to bring joy to people’s lives. He once said, “I would like to bring to people something like happiness. I would like to discover a method so that if I want it to rain, it will start right away to rain. If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed.”

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