Jade Lea
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Jade Lea

Band Pop Rock


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"Local band Jade Lea tries to make it big"

With the release of their first CD tomorrow, local band Jade Lea is getting ready to explode onto the local music scene.

The CD release is just the latest step in the band's crusade to garner attention and support before the end of the semester draws much of the Ames fan base away.

"My ambition is to play music," said guitarist and vocalist Keith Rollins, junior in art and design. "I'm kind of building my life around it in the sense that I don't think I can hack a day job."

Rollins is the heart and soul of the band, starting it in 2005 when he took out ads in the local music stores. The first person to respond was bassist Francis "Dale" Noh, sophomore in liberal arts - open option.

"At first, I thought it was one of my friends, like, pranking me," said Rollins. "Then I thought, all right, this Korean kid wants to play music with me - why not?"

Rollins attributes much of the band's stage presence to Noh. A short Asian, Noh carries a bass guitar nearly as long as he is tall and is decked out in the best of '80s hip-hop culture - baggy jeans, untied Converse hi-tops and an oversized Lakers hat.

Original drummer Chresten Hyde, senior in marketing, joined shortly thereafter and played with the band until late last year. During this time, Jade Lea won the Homecoming 2005 Battle of the Bands and took second place in last year's Veishea Battle of the Bands.

This January, drummer Jon Saxton, a high school classmate of Rollins', joined, bringing them up to three members once more.

"He was pretty obsessed with it [the band]," Rollins said. Saxton plans to stick with the band, and is interested in touring. Noh, on the other hand, will be leaving May 14 to serve two years in Korea with the Army, leaving Rollins to search for new bandmates once again. In addition to a new bassist, he is also considering looking for a keyboardist.

Jade Lea's name is pretty simple, meaning "green meadow."

"Originally, I just wanted something that sounded cool and kind of ambiguous," said Rollins. "It was just to get the fact that we're from Iowa out of the way."

Rollins has difficulty defining his own sound, but describes it as a blend of jazz, blues and funk - not the sounds you'd expect from Iowa.

"We take the flavor of [those genres] and mix it all together," he said. "We're definitely a jam band."

Rollins' songs avoid conventional verse-chorus-bridge structures, meandering more through a variety of sounds.

"It's not that I try hard not to write normally-structured songs," he said. "My ignorance really helps me in terms of songwriting."

Jade Lea has been playing a few gigs a month, a number Rollins wants to increase. If the CD release attracts enough attention, he plans to start working out a touring schedule.

The band has played a variety of Ames, Des Moines and Iowa City-area venues, and considers Bali Satay House to be its home base. Their favorite venue is the M-Shop, but Rollins mentioned dealing with the revolving staff can be difficult.

The CD release

The CD release has been a long time coming, beset with problems.

"Basically, recording ended yesterday [April 25]," Rollins said.

The recording process for the four-track demo began last Thanksgiving with the drum parts. After Rollins recorded the vocal parts in December, the original guitarist and drummer both quit. Saxton had not yet joined the band, and Dale was rarely available, so Rollins was left to put together the rest of the record himself.

"I pretty much had to reinvent those parts as we went," he said.

The CD was recorded without any digital assistance, because of the band's financial situation.

"Anything you hear is as analog as it gets," Rollins said.

The CD release party will be held 4 p.m. Saturday at Bandshell Park, 125 E. 5th St.

This release party is the final step in Rollins' push to get the band's name out before the end of the semester. He has also been assembling a press kit and trying to attract the attention of local media outlets. If the release goes well, Rollins hopes to be able to book tour dates for the summer and into the fall.

Rollins chose the park for the event because of its accessibility to a variety of Ames residents - he's trying to reach out to the whole community.

The Greater Des Moines Music Coalition also lent some support, co-signing the lease on the park. This reduced the rental fee from $600 to $200.

"That's the difference between making money on this event and looking like an idiot and having to work my butt off all summer," said Rollins.

The final plans for the event are not set yet. Rollins said that local band Root Punch may open, and the Ames Impact Track Club may be selling refreshments, depending on the weather.

Jade Lea plans to play two 45-minute sets, and their self-titled CD will be available for $5, with the proceeds to go directly toward the band's expenses.

The band's performance will consist solely of original songs, somewhat of a feat for a local band with only a demo to their name. Rollins explained this by summing up his approach to his music.

"I'm actually a terrible guitarist," he said, "but songwriting is not something we lack." - Iowa State Daily

"Stripped to barest essentials, Jade Lea delivers unique show"

Campustown was sparsely populated, even for the summer season, last week. With a only one week of true freedom, many take the chance to get out of town.

This left local band Jade Lea stripped down to just frontman Keith Rollins, junior in art and design, playing to a crowd of eight at the Bali Satay House, 2424 Lincoln Way.

"I actually like these individual, solo shows," said Rollins, addressing his fans after his first song, "Breathe the Earth."

Rollins had been expecting to play without his bassist, Francis "Dale" Noh, who left for Korea earlier in the week. Then, shortly before the show, Rollins learned drummer Jon Saxton would be unavailable, leaving him to play the show alone.

However, Rollins certainly looked comfortable on stage by himself. Playing with his eyes closed to avoid staring at the same few people over and over, he looked as if he could have been playing for 600, remaining perfectly composed as he meandered through his airy, lengthy songs.

Between songs, Rollins discussed such topics as song inspirations and histories, explaining how songs came to be and how they would sound with the full three-piece band.

This led to a good-natured banter between Rollins and the audience. This was another aspect of the solo show that Rollins said he enjoyed.

"A good band in a place like this makes everyone feel like they could come up on stage," he said.

Two audience members took this to heart, traveling across the stage several times as they went downstairs to listen to the traditional Mexican band Solitario Musical, which was practicing in the basement. The sounds of their horns resonating through the floor added another layer of strangeness and humor to the show.

The audience was mostly made up of devoted supporters and friends of Rollins, however.

"I think I've been listening to Keith since before he was doing this [playing shows]," said Logan Schleier, senior in marketing.

Derek Martin, who played with Rollins in his former band, the Troubadors, offered good-natured heckling and suggested songs, being familiar with Rollins' repertoire. Bali Satay House sound technician Pat Blair added his own humorous quips over the talk-back mic, along with making the occasional musical suggestion.

Jade Lea's songs are airy and light, meandering through their subjects unconstrained by conventional song structures. With the lack of supporting instruments, Rollins' acoustic guitar was a little repetitive, but that's not really the point of Jade Lea's music.

"I love music that creates deep, expansive images," said Rollins, who described himself as a lyricist first and a musician second.

As Rollins explained, his sound is not easily compared to other artists, but most comparable are artists such as John Mayer and Dashboard Confessional.

His lyrical imagery was at its best in "Two Shots," in which he employed double meanings and split phrases across lines, creating something both accessible and unique.

"Chasing the Sun" was Rollins' most heartfelt effort of the night. The song stems from Rollins' own hampered dreams of leaving Ames and moving on to bigger and better things, a hope shared by many.

Toward the end of the set, Rollins played three covers, after being suggested by audience members. Although he was unfamiliar with the songs, he didn't let that stop him. He was even helped through the second verse of "Save Tonight" by an audience member. He also had to pause several times to hit the right chords, a lapse that didn't hurt the performance.

Despite all that could have gone wrong with the show, Rollins made it a positive experience. Even the presence of two semi-serious hecklers did nothing to diminish his enthusiasm.

"I don't take myself too seriously," Rollins said. "And, for the most part, I don't take the opinions of others too seriously."

The setlist

"Breathe the Earth"
"Little Sunshine"
"We Were Dancing"
"Two Shots"
"Chasing the Sun"
"Don't Rush"
"Rock the Night"
"Kiss of the Sky"
"Just Hold It Inside"
"Get Away"
"So Cold"
"Everything You Want" (Vertical Horizon cover)
"Save Tonight" (Eagle Eye Cherry cover)
"Grey Street" (Dave Matthews Band cover)
"Winter Lullaby" - Iowa State Daily


Jade Lea (self-titled, 2007)


1) Starlight
2) Rock the Night
3) Get Away
4) Chasing the Sun

Seconds (2007)

1) Just Hold It Inside
2) Little Sunshine
3) Two Shots

"Just Hold it Inside" is our current single rotated on KCCQ's "The Garage". It is also on a few different compilations rotating in the country.



Jade Lea was formed with the idea that music creates community and that good music has the mysterious power to create connections where everything else has failed to create them.

Jade Lea began in the fall of 2005 when Keith Rollins (The Troubadours, Steve Robinson and the Foundation), began playing and singing around central Iowa with nothing but his acoustic guitar. Dale Noh (bass) joined not long afterward being immediately drawn into the the subtle funk/soul roots of Keith's music.

After a few lineup changes, Jon (drums) joined in December of 2007 having worked with Keith on a few previous projects. An accomplished jazz musician, Jon added the needed pulse of the band, linking the guitar and bass.

Jade Lea's sound is unlike any other band's in Central Iowa as it's not easily categorized. Without many bands attempting Alternative Pop Rock, Jade Lea's live shows work off of the principle of music as an escape, and an excuse to have a good time. With blues rock roots along the lines of Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn, to the infectious pop rock stylings of the Counting Crows--from a tight pop a la Goo Goo Dolls, to the loose jam of Dave Matthews Band, this trio continues to find new ways to use their flexible style and mass appeal to their advantage.

Having released two EP's, and a full length album in the works, Jade Lea continues to get a thrill out of showing a different side of central Iowa's music scene.