Jazzy jammin’ of Jazzberry Ram

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By Steve Shaffer

After the guys from Jazzberry Ram put on a great show during frosh last week, the bass player, Allan MacInnes, was told the band was making quite a buzz among the audience.

“That’s the best thing that’s happened to us,” he says, not surprised. “Just people telling other people.”

As is the case with many successful independent bands, word of mouth has followed Jazzberry Ram wherever they’ve toured. Their fan base is expanding coast to coast. A local record storeowner in Fredericton, New Brunswick liked their unique blend of funk, rap, hip-hop, rock, ska, jazz and Celtic so much he stocked up on their CDs. It was only a matter of time before the local campus radio station worked their music into the rotation.

Back in Vancouver, where the band started in 1994, all they needed was their original sound to catch a break.

“There were all these heavy metal bars, all these grunge bands, and a real lack of poppy, dancey music at the time,” explains MacInnes. “We just filled a gap that the usic industry forgot music for people who actually like dancing and having a good time and not listening to depressing lyrics.”

Besides putting on a show that’s sure to get you out of your seat, Jazzberry Ram brings a lot of musical diversity and talent to the stage. Guitarist Drew Stewart and pianist Stephen Stewart share vocal duties on stage. The brothers started out by playing classical piano in their youth, and while Drew rebelled and took up the electric guitar, Stephen went on to study music composition and recording arts in university.

MacInnes and drummer Colin Stobie are childhood friends of the Stewart brothers. They also started playing in their youth. They now bring in their own musical influences to the stage. Their long history really comes through in their live sows. According to MacInnes, they’re just as in sync offstage. Despite the long road trips, the band gets along great, he says.

“They’re the closest brothers I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s really scary actually — they never fight. They have minor arguments but they always back each other up and they’re always on the same wavelength.”

If you missed the island show and you want to get a feel for Jazzberry Ram, their latest album, That Sound We Make, is a good place to start. Featuring 18 tracks that transcend any categorization, the album is what MacInnes calls “the closest we’ve been able to come to a live sound.”

If it’s just word of mouth that’s carried Jazzberry Ram this far, they aren’t doing badly. Aside from playing with Wide Mouth Mason at the island picnic, they’ve played with Run DMC and Great Big Sea and other successful bands. Besides drawing musical influence from them, the members of Jazzberry Ram have also been taking notes.

“They’re where we want to be right now,” says MacInnes, referring to the members of Wide Mouth Mason. “They’ve done their word of mouth, they’ve done their touring. We just want to get up to that level and take it from there.”

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