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The J.O.B. Are Still On The Clock In Vacationland

by Daniel Warren Hill

Playing hundreds of shows touring in twelve states with regularity – with six studio albums, nationally-charted songs in rotation on various radio platforms all over the world, The J.O.B. had big plans for 2020 that (like many musicians) came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit. Eric Bandy, the band’s drummer for more than five years decided to step away from the project, providing room for replacement Brian Penczak, who auditioned for the band via Skype, becoming the newest addition to the band since bassist Jared Merrill joined in 2016.

The J.O.B. stands for the Jim O’Ferrell Band, led by (you guessed it) Jim O’Ferrell, a U.S. Army veteran who had enlisted guitarist Jason Crawford to help lay down some tracks for Jim between deployments in 2007. Jason and Jim would continue to collaborate through Jim’s eventual retirement from the military and pave the way for the numerous accolades and critical acclaim that would follow.  

In January of 2021, The J.O.B released two singles, one of which, “Broken Heart,” was written from the perspective of someone experiencing self-blame resulting from heartbreak. The leading single from the band’s most recent endeavors, “Criminal” is the result of the band’s desire to document the events happening in their hometown of Richmond, Virginia in the wake of the death of George Floyd by the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

“We had all the protests happening around the confederate monuments, we had riots going on, teargas in the streets, cops & confrontations, rubber bullets flying…it was almost a nightly occurrence right here in our downtown,” says O’Ferrell. “It was definitely inspired by everything that was happening in town. It was a lot going on, and we recognized this is important, this isn’t just some passing little blip. This is an event of our generation, of our time, and it’s happening right outside our door. We worked on it while everything was happening, and while we were feeling it. We wanted to record that moment as best we could in the way that we can with our music.” 

At the end of August, the band, along with live & studio engineer Ian Buss, would retreat to the New England coast of Maine to record these two tracks in a comfortable & scenic environment, helping them focus creatively while capturing the sounds inspired by all that they had temporarily left behind. “We were taking walks, exploring the area, we visited a fort on the beach,” says Merril. “A lot of that was kind of part of the vibe. It was almost like a vacation.” In fact, Secluded from the internet and social media, the band dubbed their recording studio home away from home as ‘Vacationland,’ which the band notes also happens to be Maine’s state motto.  

When I caught up with the band they were back in ‘The Band House’ in Richmond between recording sessions for a number of new songs slated for release later this year. 

“It always feels like there’s not enough time, but it always ends up sounding great,” says Crawford. “We have gotten a lot done in the time that we’ve allotted.” O’Ferrell notes, “The trip to Maine was something of a trial run for this; a refinement of lessons learned from that trip only without the travel time and all the other logistical support.”

The band’s producer, Rich Stine (also based in RVA), has worked with the band for the last three records, and continues to shape the sound for the latest and upcoming releases. “If he has some ideas once we finish tracking, he’ll toss them in”, remarks Crawford. ”We tell him to go 100% and then we’ll dial it back if we need to for different ideas. The creative process really doesn’t end until everything is mixed. He is like another member of the band when it comes to dialing in our sound for each of the songs, and that hasn’t changed since we began working with him in 2012.” 

The band credits their successes over the years to the various individual contributions made not only by the musicians involved, but also the engineers and promoters, who help the musicians spend more time on creative endeavors. However, the band still engages directly with fans through the mailing list and social media.

“Being an original band making records today,” says O’Ferrell, “is like a thousand penguins on an ice flow, and they all look the same, and there’s one little penguin trying to wave and get your attention in the middle…We’ve got PR happening from here within the band-house that we are coordinating organically, and then we’ve hired out to Planetary [Group] to do the radio push. So we’re going to see where we are strong at and where the spins are at, and as soon as shows get started again and we can get back on the road we’re gonna hit these areas and see if we can start playing shows where people are spinning our records.”

Crawford says that “Criminal,” “Broken Heart,” and all the new material marks a new moment and a different direction for the band’s sound. “It’s a really fortuitous situation where everything lined up and it gave us more time to really fine-tune some ideas we’d been experimenting with.”

O’Farrell notes: “There’s an influence because of the overall environment and climate that we’re in that is affecting our songs. I think it’s affecting our songs creatively in a positive way. I guess hardship and calamity…challenges like that sort of really push a creative drive in people instead of comfort and complacency.

“Heart is Hollow” is one of those new tracks the band is working on.

“It’s one of the most rockenest things we’ve ever tried to do,” comments O’Farrell. “Our first albums were very Americana, acoustic-guitary, Gordon Lightfoot influenced kind of songwriting by me, and to be playing this song right now…with the electric guitar and the power and the energy & drive that’s in this song is just amazing.” 

“It’s a mosh-pit kind of song,” says Penczak with a smile. 

Alternatively, “Here For You” is a love song that O’Farrell says “relates to being in love and uncertain and needing some reassurance against the world we are living in.”  

It’s a perspective many listeners will relate to as both fans and musicians around the world are simultaneously having this shared experience and the music being produced during this time is a reflection of that. O’Farrell mentions that music and song are not the only artforms that will yield this kind of effect: “Everybody has a vantage point because everybody is affected by it. Not just us, but sculpture, drama, screenwriting…everybody can connect to it in some way no matter where you are…because we all sort of have a thread connecting us.”

While The J.O.B. take their role as storytellers very seriously, but are always looking for those common threads. Their website even states “Every face in the crowd is an individual opportunity to form a bond.” So if you’ve enjoyed this piece, whether you are enjoying The J.O.B for the first time or being reintroduced to their authentic rock/blues vibe, drop them a line and let them know. You can find all the ways to connect with them on the band’s website: thejoband.com

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Daniel Warren Hill

Daniel Warren Hill is an American musician, writer, and motivational speaker. He is best known as the frontman for Washington DC area Alternative Rock band YellowTieGuy, as co-founder of Capitol Groove Collective, and increasing the exposure of artists on a global scale through his work with Alchemical Records. 

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