Headband Jack
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Headband Jack

Band Americana Rock




"Headband Jack pushes past tradition ‘Throwback’ band maintains its originality"

The members of Saratoga Springs’ Headband Jack proudly consider their music “a throwback.”
“The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon and Garfunkel, The Allman Brothers Band, Van Morrison, The Doors, Zeppelin — I mean, a lot of these influences sound clichéd,” Judson Rudgers, the band’s vocalist, keyboardist, saxophone and harmonica player, said recently during a practice at the band’s rehearsal space in Ballston Spa.
“I think a lot of bands will say they have these influences, and you can’t hear it at all on the album, but our music’s really a throwback. I think it’s really a throwback to styles that were popular in the golden age of music, when AM [radio] was switching over to FM, when vinyl was switching over to cassette tape. All these things we grew up with, and it’s a part of our life, it’s a part of our hearts and it’s a part of our music, too.”
Don’t take this the wrong way though. The roots rock septet — also featuring drummer Bryan Hogan, lead guitarist Mark Retajczyk, bassist Colin Hunt, vocalist and guitarist Zack Hay, trombonist Heather Bisch and trumpeter Abigail Stone — plays all-original music that blends country, folk and classic rock with modern touches and strong storytelling elements that push the music beyond traditional sounds.
“It’s not to say that everything’s been done before, because it hasn’t — you can still go out there and do really original stuff,” Rudgers said. TOTAL PALETTE
“But as we’ve seen, it happened in the ’90s, where there was like a boomerang effect — you have the ’60s, which are different from the ’70s, which are different from the ’80s, and then in the ’90s you started seeing this throwback where people started wearing bell-bottoms again, and then in the 2000s, the ’80s got Headband Jack, with Jamie Kent & The Options WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday WHERE: Jillian’s, 59 N. Pearl St., Albany HOW MUCH: $5 MORE INFO: 432-1997, www.jilliansofalbany.com really popular. And I think now when people listen to music and they consider the music that they like, they’re not just thinking about what’s popular today; they’re not just thinking about what they liked when they were just getting into music in fourth grade — they’re looking at the total palette of all the music that’s out there.”
Since debuting at last year’s Battle of the Bands at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Headband Jack has become a staple on the local roots rock scene, playing at last year’s Saratoga Brewfest and Oktoberfest. They are also regulars at the Putnam Den (one of their favorite venues to play), and have so far played as far out as New York City. On Friday night, the band will play at Jillian’s, alongside Massachusetts band Jamie Kent & The Options.
The show kicks off the band’s summer, which includes further gigs at Putnam Den in July and August and another August show at the Bayou Cafe in Albany. Three gigs may not seem like much, but even getting the band’s seven members together for that can be a challenge.
“We’d love the opportunity to — I mean, we could pick up a lot more gigs this summer, but this is really all we have time for at this time,” Rudgers said. “We’ve got some people in the restaurant industry, so when track season comes up, it’s really busy. It’s hard to get out.”
The band is also busy finishing up its first full-length album, “Big Dipper,” which they hope to release by Labor Day. After that, the live schedule should pick up, with a planned gig in Boston, also with Jamie Kent & The Options, and others.
Recording for the album began in late April at Edie Road Studios in Argyle. The studio’s owner, Marc Fuller — who was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Kanye West’s 2005 album “College Dropout” — is producing the album and has helped the band achieve an older, analog sound.
“It’s good to work with a guy that’s got that kind of passion,” Rudgers said. “It just makes doing this project so much more fun and so much easier.”
The 11 songs on the album were primarily written by Rudgers and Hay, who, along with Hunt, went to high school together in Burnt Hills. Hay primarily wrote the music, while Rudgers focused on the lyrics — although both wrote complete songs for the album as well. SONGS FALL INTO PLACE
“We [have] pretty bare-bones acoustic songs that we start out with, not necessarily a full vision for them,” Hay said. “We kind of just sit out with the band and they flesh it out, and usually we keep the first thing that the guys are playing. It just tends to kind of fall into place.”
Their chemistry works so well, in fact, that the band is already looking ahead to its next album — and quite possibly the album after that.
“If we’re playing a full headlining set, we’ll do two sets, about 12, 13 songs apiece — so [we have] two hours of music at this point,” Rudgers said. “We’re pretty happy with the progress we’ve made — it’s been a year, a year and two weeks.” - Daily Gazette

"Q & A with local folk band Headband Jack"

Headband Jack: Zachary Hay (guitar and vocals), Judson Rudgers (keys, harmonica, percussion, saxophone and vocals), Cotton Weather (bass), Mark Retajczyk (guitar), Bryan Hogan (drums), Heather Bisch (trombone), Abby Stone (trumpet).

Headband Jack was formed in early 2011 as a folk/Americana band in Saratoga Springs. Since their first show at the WEQX Battle of the Bands at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center last June, they’ve secured steady gigs around the Capital Region at venues such as Putnam Den and Jillian’s. The band is currently in the process of recording their first album with Marc Fuller’s Edie Road Studios. The album, still unnamed, is set to come out in early September.

We recently met the band and had a chance to chat with Judson Rudgers.

How did you come together to form a band?

Zach and I are four years apart and we went to the same high school. One night we both brought acoustic guitars to a bonfire and started singing in harmony. We weren’t in Saratoga at the time but our paths ended up crossing again. We started writing a lot of music and getting enough together to get the invite to SPAC. We met Mark at Caffé Lena and Cotton Weather was another high school friend. Our drummer, Bryan, is a Saratoga native and he grew up around here. The others we met at bars.

How did the name “Headband Jack” come about?

It was the name of a band that had the same members four or five years ago. I just walked into an open mic and it was the first thing I thought of. It could’ve been anything.

How would you describe your music?

We grew up listening to the music our dads listened to, like Simon and Garfunkel, The Everett Brothers, The Allman Brothers Band. Our whole style’s a throwback. We’re just playing music we want to hear, and lucky for us, that’s coming back. We have honest music and people around here want to hear that.

Click here for video of a recent Headband Jack performance.
How would you describe one of your shows to someone who’s never seen you live before?

Lots of drinking (laughs). But seriously, we try to be part of the crowd when we’re playing a show and have as much fun as the people around us. I’d like to think that if we’re making people dance then it’s a fun time. We want people to come out, put down their work, and make them forget the day-to-day stuff. Everyone’s Fridays are sacred and if you’re spending them with us, we’re going to make them worthwhile.

Any upcoming plans for the band?

It’s really hard to make goals because you never know what’s going to happen with the band – you could blow it out of the water or end up really disappointed. We’re just taking it day by day and week by week. We try to represent our music and reach people through social media but you never know how it will be received. We have high hopes and realistic expectations and we’re just trying to play.

What’s the best part of being a musician? And the worst part?

Best: Free drinks, women, playing for people. There’s no drug equal to being on stage. When you’re part of a show, nothing else matters. I can’t say there’s a worst part. It’s a hell of a lot of work to get it on the road, but we’ve all grown in our characters from having responsibility and keeping it running. Like anything else, you have commitments and have to make it happen. - The Saratogian

"Headband Jack wants to make you dance at Putnam Den"

SARATOGA SPRINGS — If you’re looking for a new but classic sound, head to Putnam Den tonight to see Saratoga’s own Headband Jack.

The self-proclaimed “partying band” is made up of Judson Rudgers, Zachary Hay, Grill Collins, Mark Retajczyk and Bryan Hogan. They’ve only been making music together for a year, but their sound has roots as old as rock ’n roll.

“We have three members who grew up in Burnt Hills, and we all live in Saratoga now,” Rudgers said. “We have only been a band for a little more than a year. Zach and I started writing songs in January 2011. We submitted an application to the EQX Battle of the Bands at SPAC and got accepted.”

With two members and some songs to play, Rudgers and Hay decided to recruit a full band. The local music scene offered plenty of options, but they chose to stay local.

“Zach and Colin and I have known each other forever,” Rudgers said. “Mark was met through a friend. We heard a lot about his guitar playing. Our drummer, Bryan, was with a band in the local punk scene until recently. We met him through a friend in downtown Saratoga. You meet people through random connections.

“After the SPAC Battle of the Bands, we had some good exposure. We started playing a lot of shows in Saratoga at Putnam Den. They’ve been great to us, and we’ve had a chance to open for local bands and touring bands as well. It’s been a really great experience. So we’ve got some good shows under our belt.”

When the members of Headband Jack aren’t playing live, they’re practicing. And when they’re not practicing, they’re working at their day jobs.

“We have some very different careers,” Rudgers said. “We have a graphic designer, one member works for the New York State Senate, a couple guys are in the restaurant business and I work for a software company. We have a wide variety of careers, but we have the ability to get out for gigs, so that’s all we really need.”

Through all that, they’ve created genuine music.

“We have a sound that is accessible to many different people. Our sound is really honest and we play the kind of music that we want to hear. We’re not trying to posture or pose or be a part of a scene. We’re playing roots music, stuff that dials back the clock. If you’re looking for something that is a really honest throwback, that’s what we’re doing every weekend when we’re playing.”
Rudgers says people can’t help but react to their classic sound.

“Our live show is really energetic. We started as a two-piece folk act, but we’ve added a lot more two-step and honky tonk,” he said. “We include a lot of stuff that is going to get people dancing. A lot of bands ask people to come up and dance, but for us people just come up and start moving.”

Headband Jack wants to get more people moving tonight at Putnam Den when they open for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.

This summer, the band will pop up at other local venues as well. To see their schedule, check their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/headbandjack, or go to HeadbandJack.com.

As the band plays more and continues to grow, they promise to keep entertaining their audience.

“We just want you to have a good time when you come to our shows,” Rudgers said. “We’re a partying band. We’re going to be having as good a time up on stage as you’re having down in the crowd.” - The Saratogian


Big Dipper - November 2012



Based out of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, Headband Jack began playing together in the spring of 2011 playing a modern and original blend of roots, folk, hillbilly stomp and swamp rock styles. Founded by songwriting duo Zachary Hay (guitar, vocals) and Judson Rudgers (keys/misc, vocals), the band includes members Grill Collins (bass), Mark Retajczyk (lead guitar), Bryan Hogan (drums), Heather Bisch (trombone), and Abby Stone (trumpet).
The band's first appearance was a three song set at the SPAC Battle of the Bands hosted by the regional alternative radio station, WEQX. While Headband Jack failed to place in the competition, their performance was enough to earn them a string of shows in New York's Capital Region during the summer of 2011. Headband Jack has built a loyal local following, while expanding their repertoire up to three sets of original music...with one or two covers peppered in for good measure.

Headband Jack has shared the stage with Deer Tick, Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Yarn, The Mallett Brothers, Barefoot Truth, and a revolving cast of excellent local acts including Mary Leigh and the Fauves, Eastbound Jesus and Capital Zen. With regular appearances at Saratoga's Putnam Den, The Bayou in Glenville and Albany, Bailey's in Saratoga, WEQX events and numerous local festivals, Headband Jack finds themselves busy at home. The band has ventured down to New York City to play at Mercury Lounge, and plans to tour the northeast in support of their first album, Big Dipper.
Big Dipper was recorded at Edie Road Studios by Grammy Award nominated engineer, Marc Fuller. The album ranges from harmony rich, storytelling folk ballads owing to the band's origin as an acoustic duo, to whiskey fueled roadhouse anthems. Also venturing into progressive folk, with a healthy dose of honkytonk rock, the self-produced Big Dipper is expected to be released in mid October, 2012.