The goal of most bands is to capture an audience with the raw musical power of their live performances. Guitarist/ukuleleist/composer Jeremiah Kirby, 34, spent several years trying to do that in a ska-punk band that played all over North Texas, including at the defunct and much-lamented Galaxy Club in Deep Ellum during the late 1990s and early ’00s. But with his new jazz instrumental trio Lazy Summer, Kirby has a more modest but arguably trickier aim: Performing music that’s quieter but that still makes an impact on listeners.
“I was playing in a lot of bars, but I was getting older, and I decided I didn’t want to be in ‘the loud band’ anymore,” said Kirby, a Burleson native and self-trained musician. “I wanted to make music that was pretty, that was the background to people’s lives, wherever they happened to be.”
Some purists might call that betraying the rock ’n’ roll ethos. Others would declare it a sign of growing up. Kirby went from a teenager emulating the bass and guitar in Primus songs to a twentysomething who dug the stylistic variety of The Clash to a thirtysomething who grooves on the classical- and jazz-influenced sounds of Sun Kil Moon and the polished nightclub charms of calypso crooner Harry Belafonte. Deciding last year that he wanted a fuller sound for his original compositions, Kirby put an ad on Craigslist for a trumpet player. Justin Weisenborn, the only one who answered, was hired. Not long after the two began playing together, bassist Deryck Barrera (Fungi Girls) saw them perform and simply asked to join. Lazy Summer’s bright, clean, precise sound is a bracing and welcome alternative to the sludgy blooze that seems to saturate North Texas. Though on first listen they might sound like background music in an upscale restaurant, Lazy Summer is about more than Herb Alpert-style slickness. On last year’s debut album Fall Creeping In, recorded mostly live with engineer Britt Robisheaux at Eagle Audio Recording on the Near Southside, Lazy Summer proved itself capable of moody, melodically intense, and rhythmically unpredictable songs within the parameters of what used to be called “easy listening.” Weisenborn is a formally trained trumpeter who worships everyone from Miles to Mahler; Barrera is a percussive bassist who appreciates the ingenious rhythmic possibilities in smart ear candy a la Fungi.
“What I wanted was two musicians who could put their own personal stamp on the music, and I found them,” Kirby said. “We don’t rehearse much. I write the song, and when we sit down to record, Justin and Deryck make up their own parts for it. They put the gravy on it. And then Justin will do some improv during the live shows.”
One sound that’s been at the fore of the Lazy Summer vibe is the ukulele. The instrument figures prominently on the trio’s upcoming album, Sleepy Porches, which is currently being mastered. “It’s a lovely instrument,” Kirby said. “I love the tinny, clanky sound of the nylon strings.”
There’s another instrument that Kirby and his mates are experimenting with –– the human voice. After communicating his respect via the internet, South African musician George Finnis recorded vocals in his small Johannesburg studio for the web-only Lazy Summer track “El Indio.” Kirby has no desire to stray permanently from Lazy Summer’s instrumental sound, but after the long-distance work with Finnis turned out so well, he created a project (and a goal) for Lazy Summer: Find eight singers from (he hopes) eight different countries to contribute vocals to eight Lazy Summer compositions. The Lazy Summer guys haven’t secured a second singer yet, but they’ve found a fan in Italian ukulele player Danilo Vignola, a flamenco- and classical-influenced musician who’s done some stringwork on Sleepy Porches. Vignola has offered Lazy Summer a spot on some of his shows in Italy, which the guys will take him up on if schedules and finances allow. Right now, Kirby is more interested in writing and recording original music than doing the club grind that he did for so many years in that long ago ska-punk band.
“One of my goals [with Lazy Summer] is not to rely so much on the bars for shows, though we do play them,” he said. “One of my turnoffs about the general [club] scene is that the first band doesn’t go on until 10 [p.m.], and you wind up playing there at 2 in the morning. I don’t want us to be one of those bands that does a local show every four days and then burns out.”
10pm Sat w/Gollay, Tidbits at The Grotto, 517 University Dr, FW. $12. 817-882-9331.