When JT and the Clouds bring their soulful mix of country, folk, and indie rock to the Lobero stage, listeners will know that theirs is a signature sound that could have only been crafted in Chicago. Since 2002, the Ohio natives have resided in the Windy City and allowed it to openly impart its considerable heart and soul upon their musical stylings. And while Chicago has certainly given birth to some deep musical traditions, it’s the city’s eclectic nature that has not only given rise to the band in question, but also seemed to form the metropolis’s greatest legacy.
“If you keep your ears open around here, there is just so much to experience,” offered JT and the Clouds frontman Jeremy Lindsay, phoning in from the city itself. “There is so much different music and so many different cultures and histories thrown together here. Certainly in this country-and probably everywhere in the world-it is this kind of scene that ends up producing different and diverse music. Obviously there are the soul and blues traditions here, but there is also a great indie rock scene. So you can’t afford to shut your ears off here, because anything might happen.”
After returning from San Francisco to his native Toledo earlier this decade, it was Chicago where Lindsay and a couple of musical cohorts decided to spread their collective wings. Along with his brother, Drew, and his brother’s longtime friend, Dan Abu-Absi, Lindsay decided to take his musical aspirations to the next level. And, along with the city’s thriving cultural dynamic, the practicalities of Chicago were too good for the group to ignore.
“Chicago is a great town, but if you are used to the sunshine, it can be a little taxing,” hinted Lindsay. “It has a great heart. And it does have a rough edge, but it is really kind-hearted. From an artistic standpoint, it is hard for me to imagine being anywhere else. It has a really driving underground scene, and the place is so big, which makes it much more affordable. For musicians and artists, that is important, because you can always find an apartment and practice space, as opposed to places that are just little slices of real estate, like New York or San Francisco.”
It seems as though JT and the Clouds has truly found its spiritual home. “I am talking it up pretty good, aren’t I?” responded Lindsay. “But I’m also sitting here in my apartment looking out the window, and right now, it’s about 12 degrees and covered in snow-nobody is out on the streets!”
Having played in a series of bands around Toledo, Lindsay decided to head to San Francisco for a while, where he lived and played. Upon his return from the West Coast, he was confronted by his brother and Abu-Absi’s own musical evolution, and it wasn’t long before the three were packing their bags and embarking on a real-life musical journey.
“When I first started playing in bands, [Dan and Drew] were in high school, and we used to sneak them in to come see us,” recalled Lindsay. “Then I went away for a while-I went out to San Francisco-and when I came back, they were out of college and had turned into these cold-blooded musical assassins. So I begrudgingly had to give them some respect and recognize that they weren’t just kids anymore. But it was pretty inevitable that we would start playing together.”
Not long after arriving in Chicago, the three crossed paths with another old musical friend from Toledo, Chris Neal. Having been in Chicago for some time, Neal knew of a drummer-Mike August-and, after that, it wasn’t long before JT and the Clouds started to take shape. While the band officially has two albums to its name, Lindsay firmly believes that it is their sophomore effort (The City’s Hot Yeah The City’s Hot) that truly captures the essence of what JT and the Clouds is all about.
“The new one is the first proper JT and the Clouds record,” exclaimed Lindsay. “The first album [Delilah] was just Dan and Drew and I and some session musicians, but the latest one is the true product of all of us being in the lab for an extended period of time and everybody getting their own input. I usually write the chords or the melody and, once I bring a song in, it can go in so many different directions. It’s really something to know that when I bring a song to the band, that it is going to end up in a better place than where it started.”
JT and the Clouds’s musical star is certainly on the rise. With The City’s Hot not only challenging for title of the year but also proving one of the most intriguing and satisfying releases of 2007, the ensemble has also been intent on taking their songs on the road. They have toured Europe and the U.K. with Po’ Girl, as well as joining the likes of The Be Good Tanyas and Jolie Holland for a string of local dates. And, according to Lindsay, the success of it all simply comes down to chemistry.
“There’s a lot of years between us,” offered Lindsay. “And I think there’s a lot to be said for that. We aspire to be one of those bands that has that tightness and a link between its members, and for that to come through in the music. We’re after that thing you can’t quite put your finger on but comes from being together for a hell of a long time. I think that really does mean a lot, because we have all seen hastily-thrown-together bands where there is a bunch of really incredible musicians, but where that little something that makes it special is missing. We want it to be special.”
JT and the Clouds headline January’s Sings Like Hell installment with support from Anais Mitchell at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Saturday, January 19. Call 963-0761 or visit singslikehell.com for details.