J. Roddy Walston and The Business headline SouthSounds Sunday night at Soul Kitchen.
Band: J. Roddy Walston and The Business
Date: Sunday, April 15, 9 p.m.
Venue: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., www.soulkitchenmobile.com
SouthSounds’ strong finale Sunday will begin at Soul Kitchen courtesy of J. Roddy Walston and The Business. For more than a decade, this group has conjured the spirits of rock and soul bands Faces, T. Rex and The Rolling Stones to establish a dedicated following.
Throughout a set frontman J. Roddy Walston describes as “hairy and chaotic,” he takes center stage armed with unblemished rock ‘n’ roll and a “slightly mutated and modified” upright piano that has spent years on the road. Recently, Walston has opted to travel with a spare piano, in case of emergencies.
“It woke me up in the middle of the night one night that we’re really banking on this old piano not crapping the bed in the middle of the show,” Walston says. “If it did, I’d be like, ‘Alright! I’m just a guy running around the whole time.’ Now, we have two pianos and the old synthesizer thing running as well.”
Before hitting the road with The Business, gospel and country music served as the foundation for Walston’s musical interests. With rock ‘n’ roll’s roots coursing through gospel, country and blues, Walston describes his transition into the rock ‘n’ roll world as a natural movement. He adds many of rock ‘n’ roll’s forefathers shared backgrounds in gospel, country and blues.
Walston also recognizes the power of a charismatic live delivery, which he witnessed each Sunday in his church-centric hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee. With this in mind, Walston makes sure each performance is filled with an energetic delivery that is passed on to the audience.
“If you’re from the South, you can understand why the songs are that way or why the shows are so passionate,” explained Walston. “My friends grew up more in the North, where the Catholic Church is more subdued. They’re like, ‘I don’t understand the jump from church music to this.’ If you’ve been to a Pentecostal service, you understand that there’s a bunch of jumping and wailing. It’s not much different from a rock show.”
J. Roddy Walston & The Business is touring in support of its latest release, “Destroyers of the Soft Life.” The group has managed to fill another album with classic arena-rock swagger, poignant emotion and infectiously unforgettable hooks. The album takes its name from the final track “Burn Black,” which covers the trials and tribulations of living a “soft life.” Walston describes the “soft life” as a “current state of being” that leads someone down the “path of least resistance.”
“It’s like saying, ‘Of course I’m going to go to school. Of course I’m going to take this job. Of course I’m going to stay here and do the safest thing over and over. My parents did it, so I am too,’” explained Walston. “The current is flowing this way and taking me, and I’m going to land there. It’s easy in that you’re not directing your own life. At the same time, it’s kind of miserable.”
J. Roddy Walston & The Business took responsibility for tracking this album. The members decided to build their own studio in a defunct grenade factory in the band’s home base of Richmond, Virginia. The group based this decision on its past studio experience, situations where, Walston noted, the band’s self-recorded “demo” version of a song sometimes lost its magic in transition from the rehearsal space to the formal studio. He likens these incidents to trying to “catch lightning in a bottle for the second time.”
Walston sees a personal studio as a way to completely fulfill each preconceived musical vision for the band’s releases.
“We wondered what would happen if a band retreated into their own studio and made a giant hi-fi sounding record and didn’t go to Ocean Way or one of these other major studios and still get the same slick Foo Fighters/Fall Out Boy sound,” Walston says. “We still wanted there to be grit, but we also wanted it to sound gigantic. We kinda just thought that if we said to people, ‘OK, we have this great idea for the record’ and they sent us into a major studio, we would land at a place that would be sonically boring or flaccid.”
If it’s anything like their typical live performance, J. Roddy Walston & The Business’ SouthSounds debut should be one of the weekend’s most memorable. In addition to an adrenalized live delivery of jam-minded roots rock, Walston jokes that the crowd can expect “a little bit of spit and a little bit of B.O., and then a lot of people touching body parts in a consensual way.” He adds that if it is a good night, the audience will transcend into a “communal, cathartic” scene. Overall, the crowd should realize Walston and his crew have led anything but a “soft life.”