*Voted "Best Of DC 2008" in the Washington City Paper!* Good Rock-n-Roll is hard to find nowadays. Big, unapologetic rock tunes with hooks so large you could hang a side of beef on them. Add strong guitar work and three part harmonies and you have JunkFood.
Review of 'No Space – Matt Atkinson for On Tap Magazine
In an industry predicated on endlessly copying the trend of the day, new sounds have become harder to find. Look no further than the area that brought you acts like Vertical Horizon, O.A.R., and Jimmy's Chicken Shack, because JunkFood will shake up more than you might think.
Despite some obstacles to overcome (see "Don't Leave Your Beer Alone" in this issue), JunkFood delivers their debut album at the perfect time, bringing together the right sounds, lyrics and energy. In contrast to the endless pseudo-punk and deliberately soul-less music out today, No Space has plenty of qualities that fly in the face of convention.
Songs like "Perfume & Vodka" tell stories too ridiculous to be made up, with clever lyrics and catchy hooks. Songs like "Better" slow things down a bit, but fit the progression of the album, and have the perfect amount of soul and depth.
If any one thing sets JunkFood apart, it's their dedication to a quality product. Not satisfied releasing covers (which they can also play) or putting out too many (or too few) songs just to have a CD out means every song lands on this disc for a reason. This is no trend-jumping bunch, and the folks associated with the album (Todd Wright and Drew Mazurek) knew a good thing when they heard it. Their contributions have culminated in one of the best new releases by a local group in recent memory.
Be sure to check out their website (gotjunkfood.com) for information on their upcoming shows and locations to pick up their debut album.
Dont Leave Your Beer Alone – On Tap Magazine
Don't Leave That Beer Alone
JunkFood's On the Prowl
By Matt Atkinson
If the holidays have you lugging around a few extra pounds, we've got the perfect solution: a diet of JunkFood. With the release of their CD, "No Space," one of DC's hardest working bands shows why they're making crowds throughout the area work up a sweat.
It's more than a year after the whole process started, two band members later, and several beers into this chapter. The guys from JunkFood have gathered at their boardroom, and are taking a seat and a glass and pulling up a memory of what was and is. This area has an interesting history of producing musicians and bands, and these guys are no exception to that rule and they know it. Before any semblance of an interview began, we did the introductions; Jeff Essex, Larry Thibodeau, Bart Harris, Joe Murray and of course me. I made it clear I didn't want the traditional kind of interview where we talk about favorite songs on the album (that's a nifty tune) or name dropping all the folks in the industry, so they ordered another round and we got down to it.
These guys have opinions on everything, but they're so unassuming about it they required some drinks and comforting words, and those were quick to arrive. Having heard them play before, I was already interested in their music, which my editor had passed along before I even got to meet them. The interview started backwards, with them asking me questions. Jeff wanted to know why I had taken the job to cover them, and the answer sparked the rest of the night. I've become the local champion for the return of rock, and JunkFood fit the bill, plain and simple. These guys are unabashedly Rock & Roll, and quite frankly, it's refreshing. One of the necessary parts of rock is the hook, followed immediately by solid lyrical intertwining. To me, even the quiet one, Joe, remarked that a lot of music today is missing both, instead trying to copycat whatever else is successful at the moment. Beyond that, it seems that the lyrics – and in a lot of cases the music – isn't even theirs, but rather is written by an executive on another coast. JunkFood takes great pride in the internal nature of their process – the very organic manner in which songs simply come together with input from everyone. They do their own bits and pieces on their own time, but when it comes time to put it together, it just jams.
That led us to a discussion about performing live, which these guys consider a strong suit of theirs. Whether it's doing the covers or the original material, they all feel strongly that the show has to be energetic, live wire and true to the Rock & Roll tradition. For bands that have no connection to the music or lyrics (you know who they are), a potentially great show falls flat. These guys would rather play a technically horrendous show with a ton of energy, than a proficient, accurate show that wiggles like a dead fish. Their energy is apparent throughout the discussion, with Bart energetically throwing in stories about shows past and lyrics for the future. He mentions that even though they're happy to play shows and record, they've all got ideas flowing, and for him personally, he can't get lyrics down fast enough to keep up with all the ideas just in his own head.
This album was supposed to come out much earlier this year, and they had plenty of the aforementioned ideas and material to work with. But needing another member and a good steady feel in the studio gave them pause. Enter Larry Thibodeau to fill out the band and Todd Wright (worked with The Excentrics & Getaway Car) and Drew Mazurek (Linkin Park & Nothingface) to produce and mix the album. Larry might still be listening to the album simply to learn all the music, but his band mates have nothing but praise for him, and confidence in him. Those same feelings extend around the group and beyond to their producer and mixer. While the process hasn't gone exactly as planned, it has come to the point they've been aiming for. They've been playing more and more of their own material and now, with the release of No Space, the guys are looking forward to taking the next step.
The next step means moving towards the levels that their influences and musical heroes were or are at. I know it's typical to talk to a band about their influences and so on, but it's a hard question to resist – you really just want to know what kind of stuff they all listen to. As we had discussed earlier, a lot of new bands seem ignorant of their roots; but, in stark contrast, JunkFood's list is staggering. Rather than sit here and list them all, I encourage everyone to listen to the album and see if you can dissect it song by song. I did it and ended up with several pages worth, some of which really surprised me. The bottom line with these guys is that the album has come together organically: members, producers, history, and of course beer glasses.
Other than the drinking, something that made the bands of the ‘80s and early ‘90s so fascinating was the stories we heard, and the interaction between them on and off the stage. These guys have the same thing, with inside stories from the van (not really fit to print here) and the kinds of antics at shows that make a good band that much better (did I mention they record in what may well be an S&M house turned local studio?). From experience I can tell you not to leave your glass if you get up from the table, make sure there's a restroom near the dressing room, and above all, don't screw someone in the band lest you be immortalized in song. If the future is like the past, JunkFood will still have hurdles to clear, smaller gigs to perform and some crazy people to deal with. The good news is that they have a solid debut album available now, a growing base of fans and limitless potential. As aw-shucks as they can be about themselves, they have confidence in each other, and in the purifying flow of good old Rock & Roll. They all have a lot of experience on the road, playing live shows and working with big acts. These are the lifeblood of a solid band…and beer and wings takes care of the rest.
I decided not to take notes or tape-record the interview, in large part because the personalities involved are more than engaging, drawing you in, making you feel like a fly on the wall, and to be honest, the waitresses didn't help either. What was compelling was the passion for their craft that came through when they talked about all the little things that come together to make a good album. They talked about trying to choose the best songs for the album, trying to avoid any filler…and about putting everything in the proper order on the album so there was a flow: an organic transition from song to song that paired highs and lows, fast and slow. For anyone familiar with the process, it's the nuts and bolts, and for the rest of us it's the stuff we hardly even know is there, but definitely appreciate.
In the end, it's interviews like this that are supposed to give us some insight into the workings of a band in progress – some secret to their success and a prognostication for their chances down the road. Instead of following the Rolling Stone blueprint for redundancy, I let the guys sum everything up since it's their reputation and their future. They don't want to be on MTV in the future with 20 clones in the wings. They don't want to be part of a wave of bands that are all too similar. They don't want to squander their good fortune, solid lyrics, well-mixed instrument play or eager fans. They don't want to stop playing music, or playing together. They all had plenty to contribute about the things they didn't want, but when I asked what they did want (excluding ordering yet another pitcher), that gave them pause. After a good amount of consideration, another pitcher and one penalty for leaving a beer behind, the guys decide that they just want to do whatever it takes to make this work. More hours for all of them in the studio, hawking their CDs at shows in the absence of mega-label advertising, playing covers and opening for other people – it just doesn't matter. They said one thing that stuck with me when I sat down to put all this to paper: "I'd rather play a show for 30 people with all our own material than a stadium full of people and just do covers."
That's what sets JunkFood apart: that desire to progress, no matter how hard it might be to swallow. A close listen to the new album demonstrates the breadth of their talents and their dedication to themselves and the music. Awards shows have bastardized the phrase "it's all about the music," but in this case it rings true. They bring it every show, and every track, and for these guys it's nothing but a healthy diet of beer, wings, and of course, good ol' Rock & Roll. Check Please...