Roman Street Album Release Party
Friday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m.
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel (fourth-floor Terrace), 64 S. Water St., www.marriott.com
The Azalea City’s music scene maintains the typical mix of rock, blues, country, soul and hip-hop. However, one local band occupies its own niche. For almost a decade, Roman Street has brought the city an exotic mix of world music built on a foundation of classical guitar. After gaining both inspiration and tutelage from European duo Tonic Strings, brothers Noah and Josh Thompson decided to create a casual musical project focused on gypsy jazz, flamenco, rumba and a variety of other styles rarely heard on the Gulf Coast.
When they laid down tracks for a 2007 demo album, the duo had no intentions of making Roman Street a career. Noah was in a pre-med program and Josh was still in high school.
Since then they have gained an extensive and diverse worldwide audience, playing numerous festivals ranging from Hangout Fest to the Big Bear Lake Summer Jazz Festival. Roman Street’s music can also be heard on Sirius XM as well as on Music Choice. Ultimately, Roman Street’s trajectory has been a natural progression, just like its music.
“Whenever we first made our first demo CD back in 2007, I never thought that we would make five,” Josh said. “We just did it because it was fun, and we had no idea how it would be received. Here we are four albums later, and it’s been great.”
The brothers base their success on a grassroots movement that begins with their listeners. Over time, Noah says, Roman Street’s fans have done an excellent job promoting its music. In addition to publicizing its fresh sound, fans’ love of the music has been encouraging to both Josh and Noah. They have especially been moved by the people who proclaim their music has changed their lives or helped them through difficult times.
“Every couple of years, you evaluate and think that maybe the next chapter in my life may be something different, but these people keep coming back into your life,” Noah said. “It’s really reassuring that you’re doing something worthwhile. It’s making music with Josh and connecting with people.”
Now Roman Street fans are getting their next taste of the duo’s spicy sounds. “Bohemia” is the fifth release from the Thompsons. According to the brothers, this album perpetuates a common thread that has flowed through all their releases. Roman Street’s albums have the talent to take the listener on a musical journey to a variety of the world’s most exotic locales. This time Roman Street wants its listeners to jump on a gypsy caravan and live the bohemian lifestyle. From gypsy jazz to flamenco to rumba, “Bohemia” is a world tour via sonic flair and talented work on the fretboard.
“The word ‘bohemia’ is another word for gypsy,” Josh said. “That makes sense to us. With this album, you listen to it and imagine these people traveling around the world and going to these different places that have these styles of music. It made sense to call it that.”
Bands usually have a basic songwriting process. Sometimes songs begin with lyrics. Other times, music comes before the words. Since Roman Street is an instrumental band, Noah and Josh base their creative process on more organic techniques with mutual production tasks shared between the brothers. Sometimes the duo’s songs form through improvised jam sessions that evolve into arranged compositions. Other times songs can be formed individually.
For Noah, traveling has been conducive to his songwriting process. When he travels, he tries to “recalibrate” his brain and soak in the natural culture and mindset. Music begins to form in his mind, and he brings it into reality on his guitar. Afterward he brings the song to Josh, who adds his touch.
“We don’t have lyrics,” Noah explained. “Our lyrics are the melodies and the way that the song ebbs and flows and develops.”
“Everything that you hear, even if it’s something that I consider Noah’s song, is a combination of the sound that we’ve been going for,” Josh added.
The initial single from “Bohemia” is a great example of Roman Street’s songwriting process. “Cortado” was born in the Miami International Airport. Noah was experiencing a drawn-out layover and decided to pull out his guitar and spend his time working with a tune. During that time, he enjoyed a “cheap and strong” espresso drink called Cortado that he purchased from the local coffee shop. Afterward, he began to arrange the riffs and melodies.
During the composition of “Cortado,” the environment must have become ingrained in the measures. Upbeat modern jazz mixed with Cuban overtones paint pictures of the bustling activity that surrounded Noah during his wait.
“Whenever I got home, I showed it to Josh and the band, and it came together,” Noah said. “We stuck with it, because it was so much fun playing it live. I thought it had a really good energy. So we were excited to use it as the first single of the album.”
In both creation and instrumental contribution, Roman Street made this album as local as possible. The brothers brought in their longtime bassist, Joe Morris, as well as his brother, Brian Morris, to lend a hand on drums. Andy Williams added his percussion.
The Mulligan Brothers’ Melody Duncan’s violin echoes through the album, and she brought her brother Chris to create keyboard tracks. Mithril’s multi-instrumentalist Tom Morley was recruited to add his magic to the album’s gypsy jazz tracks. Vocalist Denise Small completes the list of Azalea City talent that appears on “Bohemia.” In addition, Nashville cellist Carol Rabinowitz was brought into the studio, as well as West Coast saxophonist Vincent Ingala.
Roman Street utilized the services of two local studios. First, University of Mobile’s impressive Fisher-Brewer Studios allowed the band to lay down tracks. Roman Street also entered Day Six Entertainment’s inconspicuous facilities in West Mobile to record. All the while, Matt Damico manned the board along with Adam White lending a hand. Damico has been the band’s go-to engineer for its last four albums.
“One of the things that sticks out to me is that this is going to be the fullest sound that we’ve ever had,” Noah said. “We’ve got an expanded rhythm section on this whole album. I’m super excited about that. It’s probably one of the more groovy albums that we’ve done.”
“I think the compositions are better,” Josh added. “I think this is more of world music than some of our other ones. It’s really covers a lot of ground.”
Roman Street will be using the Riverview Plaza’s fourth-floor terrace to give its local fans a live introduction to “Bohemia.” Noah and Josh feel the outdoor setting will be a perfect complement to their music. In the event of rain, Fathoms inside the Riverview will host the performance.
Thanks to the Riverview and RE/MAX of Orange Beach, this album release party will be free to the public. Proceeds from album sales will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network. After its performance at the Riverview, the band will begin to tour in support of “Bohemia,” traveling across the Southeast, into the Southwest and along the Gulf Coast.