Sometimes when bands start up, they’re a bunch of young whippersnappers looking to make themselves heard. Other times there will be a bunch of seasoned veterans coming together to play the …
Sometimes when bands start up, they’re a bunch of young whippersnappers looking to make themselves heard. Other times there will be a bunch of seasoned veterans coming together to play the music they enjoy. A Band Of Killers from Boston definitely identifies with the latter while not being your typical rock & roll band. On January 6 at Askew on 150 Chestnut Street in Providence, they’re going to be performing with one of their two lineups. Singer-songwriter Cody Nilsen will be opening up the show at 8 p.m. with a “Retro Dance Party” hosted by DJ Venom due to close out the evening.
I had a talk ahead of the show with guitarist Johnny Trama about how A Band Of Killers came to be, having two lineups in a singular band, being in a few other bands and taking things slow to prevent burnout.
Rob Duguay: How did the idea for A Band Of Killers come about? Was it just you and a bunch of friends looking to make music together or is it a little more complex than that?
Johnny Trama: I’m in a ton of bands, but I’ve always been writing music for myself while kind of looking for something different. Something that’s more of what I’m fully into, like a mashup of old school R&B with rock & roll. I first planted the seed a long, long time ago and started writing music with my brother Toussaint The Liberator but nothing really came of it. We wrote a few songs, a bunch of years went by and just before the pandemic we kind of revisited it with Alan Evans, Nate Edgar and Darby Wolf. We wound up recording a single called “Dreaming & Scheming” that we put out on Alan’s label and we did a small run of shows, which is when I started calling it A Band Of Killers.
I also had started writing some songs with Tim Gearan and we also recorded a single called “Bring It Down”, which had Thomas Arey and Mark Hickox on it. Those two singles happened before the pandemic but they’re just under my name, Tim’s name and Toussaint’s name, that’s when the seed for the band was planted in the face of the world falling apart. While having that time to reboot my system, I was pretty productive at the time with writing a ton of music, collaborating with Toussaint & Tim and keeping the band going. We now have two albums that are finished, one with Tim and one with Toussaint, and we’re really starting to launch this thing. It’s amazing.
RD: It definitely sounds like it. The band is very unique in how it has two lineups in one with Tim leading the one that’s performing at Askew while Toussaint leads the other. When it comes to each lineup, do they have a different set list and a different kind of performance or are they both fairly similar?
JT: They’re definitely different. The music is coming from the same heart but I would say the Toussaint stuff has a little bit more of a funk to it, it’s a little heavier and a little more funkier. The stuff with Tim is a little more classic soul and rock & roll sounding but it all fits together. I try not to categorize what I’m doing with whoever I’m doing it with, I like to just let the music happen and how it comes out is what it’s going to be. As with any musician, my influences will always come out and the things that inspire me are all in there in some shape or form.
Whether I choose to write a song a particular way or stuff just kind of comes to me and then I’ll bring it to the band or whoever I might be co-writing with. From there, whatever avenue it goes down is the path it travels to ultimately becoming what it is.
RD: It’s a very interesting structure for a band. How difficult can it be to manage a band that sometimes has nine members including yourself? Do you have any ways to circumvent the challenges that come with getting so many musicians together for a show or with the two lineups each member is sort of assigned to one from the get go?
JT: It’s a little complicated but I’m so used to juggling so many things that it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I play in The Silks, I play in Dub Apocalypse. I play in B3 Kings and I also play with a guy named Jesse Dee. Now I’m also in A Band Of Killers and I do a lot of the booking for most of these bands so I guess in that sense I’m able to control the juggling a little bit. Things seem to happen all at the right time, I haven’t had too much overlap but I guess the hardest thing is the schedules of all the other musicians. Even with that, I’ve been fortunate to make things happen.
Like I said, we have two albums done and we’ve just been releasing singles. We have both albums due out later this year but we’re already scheduled to do another album on top of a bunch of tour dates starting to happen this month going forward.
RD: In a musical sense, what makes A Band Of Killers stand out from the other bands you play in?
JT: The music is very song driven with vocals and like I said, I don’t like to categorize things but it’s a very fresh yet timeless sound. We touch on classic rock and old school soul, but the songs really stick out by themselves. As opposed to my other projects, most of them are instrumental like Dub Apocalypse and B3 Kings. Jesse Dee is a soul singer and The Silks are a rock & roll band, but I feel like the songs from A Band Of Killers are very relevant to what’s going on today and yet they’re very familiar to what you’ve heard from the past.
RD: You’ve alluded to how you guys have a couple records due out next year and you’re already planning on making a third record along with doing some touring, so do you have any perspective release dates for the two albums and for the tour do you guys plan on going up and down the East Coast or out West? What are your plans for all of this in 2023?
JT: Right now we’re just biting things off small. We’re getting it going and we’ve already released five singles, three with Toussaint and two with Tim. We’ll probably drop the first album with Toussaint sometime in February or March and the second album with Tim is going to kind of follow that. There’s actually a track on the second album that features Susan Tedeschi, so we’re just trying to get that all together. It’s a bit of a slow crawl right now and the whole thing is just being born, we have a website now and with the tour we’re staying regional.
We’re going to be playing shows from Maine to Connecticut and the New York area, we’re not going too far because we’re trying to get our legs together. It costs a lot of money to just go out on tour so until we get a bunch of music out and obviously opportunities will come in we’re going to pace ourselves. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that if you try to do too much you can burn the whole thing out. This means too much to me and the rest of us to let that happen because we’re having so much fun with it.
To learn more about the band, visit their website, click here.
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