The Journey Agents: Flamboyance, Chops & Soul at Summer Fest
The Journey Agents can be described in one word: Funky. When we say funky, we mean like early Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you listen to their 2011 release, All Up in It!, you will either want to dance or turn the bass up to the max level.
Rocks Off caught up with St. Clair and Brandon Miles of the Journey Agents and chatted about such lovely things as their influences, their future and the process of making their first album.
Rocks Off: So tell me about how you guys came together.
St. Clair: This band has been going on for about three years now. We formed through a couple different circles of guys. Brandon [guitarist] has only been with the band for about two years.
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It was just a kind of happenstance where he caught us at a gig one night and we all started talking. This band [the current incarnation] formed two years ago as far as where we're at directionwise, musically speaking. We knew each other through our time in Denton, Texas, at the University of North Texas, in a way. So it kinda just happened.
We recently brought in a drummer in the past year [Hector Casillas], and between him and Brandon it has really changed the direction of the band. We're always heavy with funk, as we are now. When we first got together, it was kind of a cluster -- we had a DJ and a rock guitarist. That's the thing where, with the album we just released [All Up In It!], is kind of the song that we wrote but with a different band.
We kind of took a change when Brandon came in. You can probably hear on the CD what songs are more influenced by Brandon than the other tunes, which are more rock-centered. That's why we plan to have another release out by early fall.
RO: Who do you consider to be your biggest influences so far?
Brandon Miles: I'm gonna say War, Sly Stone, Kool and the Gang, Average White Band...
SC: War, Sly Stone, Manzel. Our South American influences are Band of Black Rio.
BM: Band of Black Rio. Huge [influence].
RO: What specifically inspired you about these influences?
BM: Flamboyance! Chops. Soul.
SC: That "in-the-pocket-ness," too. I love the use of the chants in many of the songs, like what you hear in War and Band of Black Rio. They incorporate the chants and they keep it tight and in the pocket. All we try to do is make people groove.
RO: What are some of your favorite songs to perform live, covers or originals?
SC: We don't do very many covers. Most of our songs are all originals. What we are doing now is the funnest. We have a nice disco tune that we do which is really fun. We do a house-party tune, which gets everybody involved with the chanting. Since most of the venues that we play hold about 15 people, it goes over really well. It feels like a house party.
"Mainline" from our latest album is another that we like to do live. Our current album is an "album-before"-type situation. Some of those songs have kind of run their course. However, "Mainline" is a fun, up-tempo song. We like playing up-tempo, get-bodies-movin'-type stuff.
BM: It's gone sort of more Latin-disco kind of movement with a '60s-'70s kind of jazz feel.
SC: We have done some cover tunes such as Curtis Mayfield and Leon Haywood.
RO: What do you see in the future for the Journey Agents?
SC: The future looks really good. We've been infused now with the kind of Spanish feel, the disco feel. We've been picking up a lot of great shows this year with Discovery Green, Summer Fest. We'd love to build on that and have a new album out in the fall -- just keep funkin' Houston and making noise in this town.
RO: Your debut album is called All Up in It! Tell me a little bit about the album.
SC: It's kind of a collection of songs of a band that existed before this band. It's got some heavy funk in it. We were glad to get it done.
BM: About half of that album is still in the regular rotation [at our live shows].
SC: It was recorded in three different locations. That's kinda cool because it doesn't just all run together. You can hear some nuances and different tweaks here and there. Once you listen to it over and over again, you get to hear how some producers record certain drums -- 80's style, some like it dirty style. I think the more fun tracks for us were the dirtier, muddier tunes. It felt more natural.
I feel like we are a much better live band than we are a recording band. As a whole, we have fun up there. It was great to get the CD done. I like the CD. But again, it was the collection of two different bands, really.
Except for "Mainline" -- the first track on there, which is like our burner. We came out with it and it just felt really good, [like] this is the song we gotta start the album off with. It's just a really small glimpse into where we're going.
The Journey Agents play FPSF 12 p.m. Saturday, June 2, on stage 6.