MY JERUSALEM Biography 2010...
They wandered their 40 years, collectively at least, through bands and projects that dried up to desert. Milk and honey, stale beer and cigarettes, it didn’t matter they found their Jerusalem when they found each other.
The collective met through critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Jeff Klein, who played with each of them in his travels as a solo artist. Jeff met guitarist Dave Rosser, a touring member of the Twilight Singers, through producer Mike Napolitano. Bassist Ashley Dzerigian was in Great Northern and toured with Ed Harcourt. Drummer Cully Symington was in bands like Cursive and Bishop Allen and tracked the Gutter Twins album. Rick Nelson, who plays violin, viola, cello and keyboards in the band, is a longtime member of the Polyphonic Spree and St. Vincent. Matt Bricker, also a member of the Polyphonic Spree, had been playing with The Low Lows.
„I didn’t actually start out thinking of forming a band,“ Jeff says. „I’d played with all of them at different times, and I was like, ‚How great would it be to play with all of these people at the same time?‘ And then when we did, it made perfect sense for that to be what we do. We clicked immediately.“
„Once all of us got in the same room at the same time, I knew at that moment it had become very special to all of us,“ Rick concurs. „In many bands I have worked with, some musicians just don’t listen to each other. They only pay attention to themselves. In My Jerusalem, we all interact. The end result is evident.“
While most bands say that sort of thing in the first blush of musician love, what makes My Jerusalem special is the varied experience and perspectives they bring to the songs, both those Jeff had when he walked in the door, and those they’ve since written together. All are multi-instrumentalists with a history of onstage and self-recording ingenuity.
„All of us at one time have kind of done the one-man-band kind of thing, so if you put six one-man-band people together, it’s like 30 people, like the Polyphonic Spree,“ Jeff chuckles. An example of how songs are turned over again and again, like a stone in a teenage science project rock tumbler, is live-show favorite „Remember Everything.“
„The way I demoed it,“ Jeff explains, „It was basically me and computer. When I brought it to everybody, it started out more like a Peter Gabriel song. We replaced all the drums and added horns, trumpets, and strings. And now it sounds like a Neutral Milk Hotel song. It has a lot of instruments in it. For everybody, it was a lot of fun to get your hands dirty with real instruments and as a result, the song is a lot more upbeat.“
The driving „Sweet Chariot“ is another new song that’s been rousing audiences at the band’s shows. It begins with a jaunty horn line tugging at Klein’s wounded whisper, Cully’s fierce drum rolls ratcheting up the intensity until it all explodes into its cathartic chorus: „Victory is ours!“ „The end takes off into our own My Jerusalem cacophony blanket of sound,“ Rick says. The song was recorded in the band’s two-room rehearsal space/recording studio in New Orleans, where songs were worked out in one room then quickly recorded in the next „like a music sweat shop.“
„Sweet Chariot was the most fun to record,“ Jeff says. „We set up drums in the kitchen and used only two microphones. The song feels almost like the band’s anthem.“
The band is of no fixed genre, approaching each song individually to see what they can bring to it and pull out if it. „That’s it for me,“ says Dave. „It’s the ability of the songs to be done in a bunch of styles from acoustic to trashrock. We’ve done versions of several in different ways and the strength of the melodies and all seem to stand up, which will make for a killer, and unpredictable live show.“
An example is „Farewell,“ which is unlike anything else in the band’s repertoire. A surprisingly uplifting song about grief, it elegantly sways along like an Irish pub hymn. You’re left less with a sense of loss than „the positive side,“ Jeff says. „It’s about moving on, letting things go.“
And „Sleepwalking,“ which began life as one of Jeff’s trademark solo soul-shredding jeremiads, and has such been tweaked in a song that, as he puts it, „sounds like ABBA on crack. And who doesn’t like that?“
There’s a theme here: positivity, an upbeat outlook. Jeff’s solo work was always well received, but for all its intensity and dark beauty, it wasn’t what you’d dial up looking to be uplifted.
„A sense of community and camaraderie can go a long way,“ Jeff explains. „I don’t think anybody in this project was the coolest kid in school. All of these people are highly revered musicians who have been involved with a bunch of other projects everyone is somebody from somewhere. This time around, we’ve all gotten together with people on the same level, to have fun. And that’s the key in all this: Just to have fun and play music that is fun for us to play, with songs that are meaningful.“
„Each of us are branching out and trying new things that are perhaps other avenues of our careers,“ Rick adds. „Everyone’s ideas are heard and taken into consideration. That does not always happen in bands.“
„It’s actually the most exciting time in my life. It actually reminded me why I like doing what I do. I had my finger cut off and reattached, quit smoking and lost a bunch of weight,“ Jeff laughs, „I’ve earned myself a band.“
Yes, Jeff almost lost a finger to a steel door at the end of last summer, which could have ended his career. „The top part got severed,“ he says. „And after eight hours, it was all put back together. I can pretty much use it. It hurts, but I’m playing keyboards again. „And at the end of the day, this band sounds so good I’m willing to give a finger for it.“