An Organized Racket
Liam Catchings and Co. want to take it slow with you
By Jake ClappPosted Jul 5, 2012
It took Liam Catchings two years to record Secular Music but only six months for his band, The Jolly Racket, to come in and tear it apart, jokes Ryan Blanco, bassist for the group.
Following the dissolution of his former band, Barisal Guns, and the loss of a practice space when The Caterie burned in June 2010, Catchings holed himself up in a College Town storage unit off Burbank to record Secular Music, a mash of upbeat ‘60s style pop-rock and soulful blues. While he provided all of the music, Liam’s older brother Ben recorded and engineered.
“That was a utilitarian thing. Band broke up, you got no gear, you’ve got a piano and a guitar and a recording interface, let’s make an album happen,” Liam said. “[The Jolly Racket] happened around that.”
Sitting on a 13-track album he wanted to play live, Liam sent out the call for musicians in September, recruiting Ben for keys and rhythm guitar, Blanco for bass, Michael Cole on drums, and Paul Emden on lead guitar. A Jolly Racket was made.
The album will soon be mastered in New Orleans and released as it was recorded by Liam alone, but he is quick to point out that moving forward Liam Catchings and The Jolly Racket is a cohesive unit with each member bringing their own character into live sets and future recordings.
“Technically speaking, we’re playing parts that I’ve written, but everyone has their own additions,” Liam said. “It makes it a special thing live, now that they get into the character, they embody that character and they make it that much more powerful.”
The Jolly Racket are dead set with meeting as a group for an interview, and throughout the conversation, all members chime in. Despite having his name to the front of the band’s moniker, Liam is set on taking The Jolly Racket away from being just a backing band for his songwriting.
After forming in September, the group began playing shows in early January. Taking a slow and steady approach, the gigs have been sizeable and The Jolly Racket has impressed locally. Recently, the group opened for Eisley at a packed Spanish Moon on June 29.
“While it’s good to make sure to play at the right place to the right crowd and promote it well, something we’ve been conscious of the whole time, is that there’s a certain momentum kept up as far as people knowing about us,” Ben said.
At some point in time, each member of Liam Catchings and The Jolly Racket has fronted a band, with the exception of Blanco, who still wrote most of the material for his former band Save the Last Bullet. Before The Jolly Racket, Ben and Liam performed in Barisal Guns, Cole played with An Empire at Sea. Emden still fronts Monsters Will. All bands have a far distant sound to the current soul pop of The Jolly Racket.
The members of the band each admit that playing together with people of varied musical backgrounds brings a level of freshness to the music.
“For me personally, learning those songs and learning someone else’s take on songwriting, really inspired me, and gave me some new ideas. I’d been in a dry spell of a couple of years and this shook me out of it,” Cole said after confessing he had never played drums in a band. He’s had to adapt quick in order to sing backing harmonies and play drums at the same time.
There’s a contrast between Liam’s moodier style while singing lead and Ben, Cole and Emden providing more mellow backing harmonies. The complimentary styles singing heavy lyrics like “We all want to be John the Baptist/In the back of a limousine/Count the cash with me now” are further accented by the reversely peppy nature of the instruments. It’s a bold mix that works well of Catchings and Co.
With lengthy band histories behind them, the members of The Jolly Racket want to make this new group count. They’re determined to take it slow and steady.
“Having your ship in order will help you skip a lot of the establishing phase with your band,” Liam said. “We’re trying to do it right. Slow if need be. There’s a real honest way to build up a fan base, just by being smart, playing shows and getting good music out there.”
Find Liam Catchings and the Jolly Racket’s music through LiamCathingsAndTheJollyRacket.BandCamp.com