Time to get a little folky again my friends. This next badass band is one whose folk roots and lyrics constructed of clever idioms/metaphors will have you continuing through their album in sheer happiness. Think Mumford & Sons meets The Beatles plus a dash of Gogol Bordello. Badass Band 86 is The Evening Guests.
The Evening Guests found me through their friends and previous Badass Band Will & the Won’ts. Boy, am I glad I was handed their album. At the time I was in the midst of receiving a slew of crappy electro-pop/metal albums and putting their album on was exactly the reprieve I needed. After only a few songs, I realized this album was something special. The first song I listened to off their EP ‘Not In Kansas Anymore’ was the title track. Immediately the combination of trumpet, keys, and the free flowing, warm vocals from both lead singer, Jokull, and during the harmonies reel you in. On top of that, you have lyrics like, “There are vultures and thieves with looks that deceive, just smile and face the other way, you can learn from your foes and the errors of your ways. But it don’t mean a thing what they say…There are things in life that you want to ignore, but hang on to the things that you remembered before, but you knew this minute that you walked through the door that you’re not in Kansas anymore.” The execution of the highly relatable lyrical content on top of the well-honed instrumentals just makes you feel damn good listening to this song. Its one of those songs that you can’t get out of your head for days following a listen.
My second pick off their EP? “What a Show”. This tune has almost a slower polka feel to it based on the guitar/rhythm patterns. The vocals are a tad rougher, which adds to the overall mood, its almost as if this song is a secret being whispered to you in a dark bar. Take the chorus, “Needless to say, we’re all the same, we’re all stuck together in the same old game. Our hearts say yes, but our minds say no, what a show. Day or night we’re tryin’ to get by, but we might as well just roll over and die. Our hearts say yes, but our minds say no, what a show.” I could say the same things about this song that I did about “Not in Kansas Anymore”, along with the rest of the songs on the EP. Its just THAT solid of an album. Take a listen for yourself, get out and see these guys, in Iceland or out here in LA. Your time will not be wasted.
Some of gentlemen of The Evening Guests were kind enough to take some time to chat with BBB, so read on to find out about their interesting beginnings, The Evening Guests The Flame Thrower, and why respect/perspective are two things they’d change about the music industry.
How did you all meet and form The Evening Guests?
Jokull Jonsson (Guitar & Vocals)- I moved here from Iceland to attend Musicians Institute, and that’s where I met these guys. I went there to study guitar and eventually I started a solo project. I was writing a bunch of songs and I started doing gigs as a solo artist sort of like The Tallest Man on Earth. Later on, I realized I enjoyed playing in bands instead of playing by myself, so I decided this one night to get together a band. None of the original members are here today, we’ve had members come and go. Anyway, we ended up doing a last minute show and we had two days to come up with a band name. I decided to call us The Evening Guests, which was the name of my grandfather’s radio show. He ran it for 30 years and when he passed away I wrote a song called “The Evening Guests” so now the band is called The Evening Guests. We had some members coming and going, and eventually Gerard Uht joined the band after about a month of asking.
Gerard Uht (Keys)- I was actually at their first show, but I didn’t know any of them. My friend was the bassist in that first rag tag band that was put together. I played with him for years before that and I had just quit his band. When he joined The Evening Guests, they said, “You played with a keyboardist in your old band right?” he said yes, but it took him a while to ask me about playing in Jokull’s band. So Jokull asked me himself and we started playing shows.
Jokull- The first time I saw this guy play piano was outside this place called Maui’s, there was always this old dusty piano hangin’ there and he just started playing.
Gerard- Yeah the LA Phil put these piano’s all over town, and this was an MI hangout because they let in all the under agers, which is probably why they closed. Anyway, there was just a piano in the middle of it, covered in mirrors and gallons homeless people piss.
John Lin (Bass)- I remember the first time I saw The Evening Guests play, it was over at this place called Pig & Whistle. I was there for the show, and right as I left, Jokull came up to me and asked if I could play for their showcase the next week. I had to do two songs. I totally wrecked it. So Gerard and my first show was over at Maui’s later that night and eventually, I’ve become a solid member.
Jokull- Yeah, the others that aren’t here, Ken our trumpet player, we found him on Craigslist.
Gerard- In the murder free section.
Jokull- He was the only one who answered the ad. That was about a month after the band formed and he’s been a member ever since. Mike Sassano, is our drummer, he joined after our old drummer Tom got a deal to play around Asia. Alec also joined earlier this year after our other guitar player mysteriously disappeared.
Gerard- We assume that he quit, but he might still be in the band. We don’t know.
Who are your musical influences?
Jokull- I think hands down, my biggest musical influence is Bruce Springsteen. A lot of people say Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, but no, mine is Bruce Springsteen. I grew up listening to him. I went to see him on my 18th birthday. That’s how I got into folk music, he did an album called The Seeger Sessions, and he got an 18 piece band from New Orleans with a banjo player, a horn section, its amazing. I went to see him in England with that band. I was blown away by the organic instruments. I was a hard rocker at the time too. That has a lot to do with how The Evening Guests sound today.
Gerard- My influences as far of my playing, well my family wasn’t big on music, except Christmas songs at Christmas. So, playing its Chick Corea, technical George Duke and then I got more into funk like The Meters. More recently, Jeff Beck is huge for me. I am more into guitarists, pianists can be super pretentious. He (Jokull) has showed me a million bands. This one band, Frightened Rabbit, the music is simple, and that is what I’ve whittled it down to. Every dude at MI, when they start out, its Metal bands and its all super technical. But then you kind of whittle it down to what is important about music and that band just nails it. That is a huge thing to me now. That is what I want The Evening Guests to be.
John- My music choices are different. I come from a country where my knowledge of western music was very, very little. I did not know who Led Zeppelin was until I came to America. I come from Taiwan. The music industry there is very backward.
When I first joined MI three years ago, I was a huge metal head. I was listening to speed and power metal. After time, and more education, I am slowly starting to absorb other music. Right now, my biggest influences are Paul McCartney, Paul Chambers, James Jamerson. Those are the big three where I can get the appropriate right tone and bass line.
How does your creative process typically work?
Jokull- When the band first started, I had already written half the songs we use now. Now, I usually bring the idea, lyrics and melody, and we work on the arrangements together. There is a lot of coffee, yelling and calling each other cunts involved.
Gerard- He is the principle vision in which the band is exercised. Its nice. There are some bands who go, “What if we play F 900 times and see what combination of meters sound good?” He brings it in, we figure out how it works with the other five people in the band. There is a lot less to worry about because we know the band has gotten where it is because of the songs he has written. Its just us doing our jobs as best we can and making sure the ideas he brings sound as beautiful as possible.
Describe your live show for someone who has never been.
Jokull- Well, we try to bring as much energy into it as we can. We try to keep it fun. We make complete asses of ourselves on stage. That is the best way to put it. You’re not there just listening to music, you’re watching six guys make complete jackasses of themselves. We do a lot of audience participation, for example, “Wouldn’t you like to know” we try to get the audience to clap along, and during the longer pre-chorus, Gerard will jump away from his keyboard and get people’s faces and things.
Gerard- I’ve grabbed elderly men’s hands.
Jokull- “Not in Kansas Anymore” we try to get people to do a waltz. So me and the guitar player will do a dance. We try to make people laugh while entertaining them with our music.
John- There are also a lot of stereotypical Asian jokes…
Jokull- Yeah, but they only come from John, he is the only one who does it.
John- We also Rick Rolled the rest of the band once.
What’s coming up for The Evening Guests?
Jokull: Writing new material, new band website. I’m going back to Iceland for about a month, and I’m setting up an Icelandic version of the group to promote the band there. We’re hoping to start pre-production of our first full length album. It all depends on when we raise the money.
Gerard- Yeah, we learned with the first EP we learned hard about the cost of recording. The cost of stuff that you can’t grasp like Engineering and Mixing time. Its not just “I’ll get to it when I get to it.” Its an hourly rate. All the best problems that we could possibly have, those that helped us to grow really quickly, happened. So we are now catching up by fortifying our online presence. Making sure bands who want to play with us can find us and getting the mailing list down.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Jokull- Just ONE?! First, 360 deals, get rid of that.
Gerard- Respect for things that they can’t touch, like they just think “Music!” but they don’t understand blood, sweat, tears, money, time, money, time, money, and time; I’m saying those a million times because seriously, we’ve all missed major portions of our lives doing this. We love what we do, but then someone walks along and says, “I really like your music, how about you give me 60% of it and then I’ll hook you up with this deal and you guys can wear cool clothes and have all your dreams.” They don’t understand that they’re taking a piece of our life away from us. The amount of things that we’ve done to make this music has been perverted into 360 deals. Its not the music, it’s the Evening Guests the blanket, The Evening Guests the Beach Ball..
Jokull- The Evening Guests The Flame Thrower!
Gerard- They just want the face, the looks and no one gives a shit about the music.
Jokull- Honestly, if there was one thing I would change, that really makes me said today, its that social media has become a fantastic way to network and get music out there, but I wish A & R people and agents would focus less on the amount of ‘Likes’ and YouTube views you have. I wish they would focus on the big picture. You have a product you know is good, we just need a boost to get it out there. It doesn’t matter now if it’s good enough, as long as you have a hundred thousand views on YouTube, you’re gonna get a deal.
John- Perspective. The perspective of how non-music industry people look at the music industry. If other non-musician people could stop thinking that if you’re super rich you can buy all this gear you can call yourself a guitarist, an engineer, whatever. You know if you’re a doctor, you have to go through the education to get there. Maybe if there was a system where at least people understood how much hard work and talent it really takes to be a true musician, things could be fixed. Just like Jokull said, people would appreciate it.
One song you never get tired of listening to?
Gerard- “Come dancing”- Jeff Beck
John- “Stan”- Eminem
Jokull- “Let my Love Open the Door”- Pete Townshend
Best live show you have ever gone to?
Jokull- Bruce Springsteen. I was 18 years old and my dad took me and my sister to England and surprised us with Bruce Springsteen tickets. We saw him at Wembley Stadium. That show is the reason why The Evening Guests exists.
Gerard- I saw Billy Joel and Elton John, that was a big deal. Their pianos were intertwined and they just stared at each other.
John- Michael Merring. He’s a bass player, but I wouldn’t call him a bass player. You have no idea what he is doing on stage. He has a drop beat tuner on every single tune. He has a four string bass, but basically one string will produce three different sounds. He plays fretless. It sounds like you’re listening to an orchestra instead of just a bass.
Favorite things to do not musically related?
John- Riding my bike.
Gerard- I do post-audio sound for Film and TV. I like it because its not music, its super mechanical.
Jokull- I like doing YouTube sketches. I haven’t done a lot but I’ve helped a theatre company do a promo. All mine end up being comedies.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Gerard- Captain Picard
John- James Bond
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, what are some bands you would feature?
Jokull- The Union Drifters
Gerard- The Hive Mind
Jokull- Side Effect
Gerard- Aaron Barnhart
FIND THE EVENING GUESTS HERE: