El Paso Music Scene

Jonezetta interview

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Remember when music was fun but clever? When you didn’t have to dumb it down to dance to it? Much like neo-new wave giants The Killers , Franz Ferdinand and The Faint, Jonezetta is here to rejuvenate a pop landscape that has forgotten you can have fun and brains, too. And all without taking yourself too seriously.

When Jonezetta frontman Robert Chisolm shouts out, “Wake Up!” during “Burn It Down,” it’s an exhortation as much to the musical masses as the audience in front of him. Isolation breeds artistry, and like The Smiths or The Cure, the Jonezetta story begins with creative people bursting through the seams of an otherwise stuffy environment.

Clinton, Mississippi is a very tiny town. If you’re a young boy, you either play sports, go hunting, or both. “We come from small families within a sheltered town and our parents made it obvious that we were to go to school for twelve years and then to go for four more years,” Chisolm deadpans. “The idea of not going to college and trying to pursue music was never a reasonable one in our heads.”

Jonezetta began as a lark. Even their name was birthed off the cuff. It was designed to combine two words that don’t go together but sound cool (like Radiohead, Coldplay, or Starsailor) but as Chisolm admits, “all of the good words were taken.” It wasn’t until they took a long hard listen at the demos they were creating purely for their own amusement that Jonezetta realized how incredibly special their band could be. “When we met [co-manager] Ryan Rado and the guys in the band As Cities Burn, they really gave us hope that pursuing music simply because its something we love is not a bad thing,” says Chisolm, who credits the pair with bringing Jonezetta to Tooth & Nail’s attention.

Cue a bidding war that involved several major labels and one of the biggest deals for a new artist in The Nail’s history. Jonezetta has quickly amassed a slew of believers in the music industry and across the rock and pop underground. And the mainstream is next.

Like the rich blues embedded in the soil around them, Jonezetta’s Tooth & Nail debut is full of mood and atmosphere, with hooks that slice through the fog the way song titles like “Hot Machete” would suggest. And from here, with a coveted slot on the 2006 Tooth & Nail tour ahead of them, Jonezetta’s goals remain as modest as ever. “We want to be the first band to sell a billion records,” laughs Chisolm. “We want to play every continent in the world. And then, we want to meet Prince.

"People take themselves too seriously. Music today has become such a downer," he adds thoughtfully. "We encourage kids to enjoy themselves."

EPMS: How old are you?

Robert Chisolm: I'm 22.

EPMS: You just recorded your first full-length CD this year?

Robert Chisolm: Right. Definitely.

EPMS: Who was producer for the CD?

Robert Chisolm: Steve Wilson.

EPMS: You're only a few years out of high school. How have things turned out differently than your expectations?

Robert Chisolm: It's just that our expectations were super-low, so, I guess everything was different than we thought. It's all been unexpected, really.

EPMS: What things have been different?

Robert Chisolm: The response of our record, things of that nature. The sales, what people are saying... that kind of thing.

EPMS: How are the live shows different, since you came out with your CD?

Robert Chisolm: More people are there. We're playing before crowds we've never played before.

EPMS: Who had the biggest influence on you when you were in high school?

Robert Chisolm: That would be ... four years ago. Radiohead, The Cure, The Beatles, definitely.

EPMS: When you started the in high school, what year were the different band members in?

Robert Chisolm: We were all seniors, except two were juniors.

EPMS: Were you playing this kind of music from the start?

Robert Chisolm: Yes. We've always played pop music with beats, I guess.

EPMS: Was this common where you were at the time?

Robert Chisolm: Not at all. We're from Mississippi. Music there was definitely not the kind of music we were playing.

EPMS: What got you started playing that kind of music, then?

Robert Chisolm: We've all always essentially enjoyed a pop-structured song, and that's mainly why we enjoy pop. We fuse it together with rock.

EPMS: Music was still more or less a hobby for you guys while you were in college. What were the different band members majoring in?

Robert Chisolm: Nothing, really. I kind of knew what I wanted to be doing.

EPMS: Music?

Robert Chisolm: Yeah.

EPMS: Was anybody in the band hard to convince?

Robert Chisolm: No, it was something we all wanted to do. We just needed a bigger push to actually do it.

EPMS: Ryan Rado, the manager for As the Cities Burn, told you something that totally changed your direction as a band. What was it?

Robert Chisolm: Just that we were good enough to push through what we were doing, and to not give up... that we should really try to follow something that we believe in.

EPMS: As the Cities Burn is a Christian music band. Were you playing Christian music at the time?

Robert Chisolm: We got started playing in garages, local coffee shops. We were never really into Christian music, really.

EPMS: What were doing when you met Rado?

Robert Chisolm: It was our band's first out of town show.

EPMS: What city were you in?

Robert Chisolm: Monroe, Louisiana.

EPMS: What effect do you think that being from Clinton, a small town in Mississippi, had on your music?

Robert Chisolm: I feel like, having a Mississippi background kinds of brings some type of passion to the music. You can hear the passion in someone's voice. Bands that are from here, or recorded here, sounds like they're passionate about life... all that kind of stuff.. heartfelt.

EPMS: I understand that one of your goals is to meet Prince. Have you met him yet?

Robert Chisolm: No, we haven't.

EPMS: Who is the most famous person in music that you've met?

Robert Chisolm: I don't know. Probably James Brown.

EPMS: How did you meet him?

Robert Chisolm: Whenever we were in Minneapolis... We met him at a restaurant.

EPMS: How did it affect you when your new keyboard player committed suicide?

Robert Chisolm: He wanted us to keep going. We went from the funeral to the studio to the road, with no break in-between. It's been a year now, still... We were definitely inspred by him. He was in our minds each day, especially when we were recording.

EPMS: What do you think of all the traveling you have to do? What cities do you particularly like?

Robert Chisolm: Each city is different. It's just crazy to be able to travel around the country for free. It's a cool thing.

EPMS: Your music is supposed to be "fun and clever." In what way is it fun and clever?

Robert Chisolm: I'd say, a lot of times, it sounds happy and upbeat, although some of the lyrics are sad. It's happy-sounding most of the time. You can dance to it. It's weird, the combination.. happy music, sad lyrics.

EPMS: Great, thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

Robert Chisolm: OK, no problem.