Portland, Ore.-based trio the Quick and Easy Boys might not want to be called a jam band, but if the shoe fits ...
Touring behind their second album, 2010's Red Light Rabbit (2010, Per Capita Records)--their first pushed by a label--the guys are staples of the So-Po district of their home base and are spreading their genre-bending funk across the West. With their war cry of "Yeah, bud!" QEB are all about getting the audience groovin'.
"We started the band when we were all going to school in Eugene. The idea was that we would do whatever we wanted to musically," bassist Sean Badders said. "We've been a very DIY band."
Along with Badders is guitarist Jimmy Russell and Michael Goetz on drums. The band formed in Eugene in 2005 and from there, they took on Portland, building a solid fan base in the jam band scene. In 2008 they released Bad Decisions with Good People on their own, and in 2009 they set out on their first tour of the United States. Their continually growing fan base is due, in no small part, to energetic live performances, which Boise audiences will get a chance to experience on Friday, Jan. 28, when the band performs at Liquid.
"We don't necessarily consider ourselves a jam band. We like the ability to go into a jam if we want to but retain that pop style format," said Badders.
Growing up, each of the members was drawn to a variety of music, with 311's Chad Sexton and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour as strong influences.
"Ska and punk music, that was the stuff that really got me excited and upbeat about music," Badders said. "At the same time, I was discovering my dad's old music collection."
For QEB, playing music was all about exploring their favorite bands, not just trying to emulate a specific sound or genre. Channeling their diverse influences, there are undertones of spaghetti-Western folk, machina distortion and Zeppelin-style takes on the blues. Red Light Rabbit's "Foster, I ..." is instantly reminiscent of the tube-sock days of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, complete with Flea's funky bass line and Anthony Kiedis' chanting vocals. In the title track, Russell lends his powerful picking to frenetic surfer rock chords.
"We can be the rock 'n' roll band but have the freedom to change from song to song ... to play everything under the wide umbrella of rock," said Badders.
"Daggers," the final track on Red Light Rabbit, is less Chili Peppers and more Tom Waits. Strumming a bourbon barroom baseline, a twanging guitar reprisal fades in mid-song but ends the hard-hitting album aggressively. It serves as a perfect counter-balance to an otherwise upbeat, up-tempo album.
QEB's style isn't always well understood. Badders admitted that some reviewers think it's too ungrounded, but that assessment fails to take the power of a live performance into account. According to Badders, the interaction with the audience is what's important: playing something they can connect to, regardless of its pre-defined genre.
"We've had reviews where somebody would say it's so all over the place. I guess there's some truth to that," said Badders. "But there's also something about what the listener wants to see."
He also thinks they've focused on what people like to listen to and that has helped craft their style.
"We'd be playing for like three hours--four hours in some cases--and people might not like it," he said. "[It was] 'How are we going to get people interested? How are we going to get people to have a good time?'"
Success isn't always about selling a lot of records or getting a song picked for a commercial. With word of mouth and networking, QEB has built a solid following in the thousands. Self-promotion has meant sticking true to what music is all about for them.
"We've always known that the music industry and the big labels are ... all just a big joke. While it sounds like a fantasy to have somebody give you $10 million and say, 'OK, go make an album,' there's all this other garbage you have to go through," Badders said. "All of the sudden they have this huge break. All of the sudden they have this song on a commercial. You could be great. You have this opportunity. It doesn't automatically translate into success by any means."
Instead, the boys prefer being in tune with their fan base and networking with fellow musicians on every stop on a tour.
"It's all just community ... The hippie community and the punk community are very different, but they're both communities that are very close-knit," said Badders.
Badders also talked about what social networking is doing for bands, including Foursquare and Twitter, and how those tools are making it easier for self-promotion--and what it means to interact with fans.
"Somebody types 'having a great time right now.' Somebody else can check it out online ... or if somebody is in the area, they can come by and check it out as something to do," Badders said.
There's always face-to-face networking, too. In clubs like Liquid, QEB can grab a beer with their fans. Badders enjoys that there's a lot of room to meet new people after shows.
"After we play, there'll be an after-party or something and [we'll] stay up until morning," he said.