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A working class band trying to pay the rent



Jazzberry Ram not about to follow any standard formula

Who: Jazzberry Ram

Where: Merlin’s Bar & Grill

When: Dec. 31, doors 8 p.m., show 10 p.m.

When you chat to Al MacInnes, what strikes you is that the Jazzberry Ram guys focus on the original.

Fresh from their Boxing Day 10 th anniversary show at Richards on Richards, MacInnes shared some thoughts on music.

"Audiences deserve to be entertained but not in the formulaic way. Our songs have music and lyrics that reflect the mood of the tune," says MacInnes, who plays bass and sings harmonies.

Emotion is an underlying key element complementing their indie groove. "It’s a pain in the butt because we’re not radio rock, and not urban enough for another station. If your song doesn’t fit the format you don’t get airplay, although someone like Dave Matthew didn’t get airplay for years," adds MacInnes.

Like the famous peanut butter and jam combo, Jazzberry Ram likes to mix it up.

Without airplay on mainstream stations, aside from the Island’s Q, campus stations remain a major focal point, in particular colleges in Eastern Canada.

"We get a great response out east," says MacInnes. "Maritimers are mental, they really have a good time out there."

Jazzberry Ram played the Marquee club in Halifax and Dalhousie University campus. There are plans for a Rocky Mountain tour in February.

"We try and do a snowboarding tour out east – a few nights in Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise, and when we get a day in between we snowboard."

Another album in the works promises more out-of-the-ordinary combinations. MacInnes won’t say much about it, but he will say the album is "schizophrenic at this stage, because we have so many different styles and songs which makes it harder to classify."

That Sound We Make , their current album, was recorded at Mushroom Studios in Vancouver, and includes the single the Purveyors of Cool. Their previous discography includes 1995’s Jr. Adventure Hr. , and 1994’s Super Fishy Allah Tea .

"Ideally we’ll release the new album next spring and tour in the summer in Boise, Idaho, where we’ve had a good response, and Seattle and Portland too," adds MacInnes.

Jazzberry Ram songs are stories of life in odd places.

"One song on our upcoming album is all about this guy that falls in love with a girl at the ice cream shop," he says. "Whoever writes the lyrics to our song will sing them (too), because it’s hard to sing truthfully and with emotion if they’re not your own lyrics," says MacInnes. "A lot of the songs are semi-autobiographical, but sometimes the song just comes out of nowhere."

MacInnes has been with the band for the last eight years. The rest of the band lineup – which includes Dave Stewart on vocals and guitar, Stephen Stewart singing and on piano, and Colin Stobie on drums and doing harmonies – has been together for the past 10 years. But the lineup isn’t static; band members may switch instruments at each show.

The band spends about 75 per cent of their time on their music. The rest of their time is spent supplementing their music career with alternate jobs.

"We’re really a working class band, trying to pay the rent. Bands like Puff Daddy create the image that it’s all about the money, and I know that’s part of their schtick, but at the same time people can’t relate to that. We sing songs about having to pay taxes and life issues," MacInnes says.

Jazzberry Ram has an array of film credits, including a last minute gig with the Chris Issak Show, whose Vancouver offices are located near their Marpole area studio.

"Someone called us up from there, and asked if we’d be willing to perform a lip sync, drop our pants and run away screaming, things like that. So we performed for them, and they said ‘Damn, you guys are crazy, you’re hired!’" he laughs.

The Jennifer Love Hewitt series The Time of Your Life, broadcast in 2000, featured several tracks from That Sound We Make . Unfortunately the series was more short-lived than her previous stellar tearjerker, Party of Five.