On the West Coast, Durand Jones & The Indications resonate with classic soul music lovers, especially those who have an affinity for that East L.A. brown sound. The band has nudged themselves into the popular Lowrider culture with more than four million YouTube views of their hit “Is It Any Wonder?” which gives tribute to love, glossy 1964 Chevy Impalas, and neighborhood pride.
The band played SOhO Restaurant & Music Club last March as part of their American Love Call tour, selling out the show weeks in advance of their stellar performance. Live, singer Durand Jones alone elevates the music with his gritty tenor; his soaring vocals are straight-up gospel driven. Drummer Aaron Frazer’s falsetto complements Jones’s vocals, while bassist Kyle Houpt, keyboardist Steve Okonski, and guitarist Blake Rhein lay down the other needed elements within their soul formula.
The band has created a knack for hitting the right guitar licks and deep background harmonies that are the signature pieces to the East L.A. sound. “We really try and pay attention to the songcraft,” Frazer explained. “The sonic elements of the drums are fat and big with vocal arrangements. I think it really comes down to the songwriting. If you can build a sturdy foundation, you can record anything regardless of the genre.”
Rhein added: “A lot of it within the recording and production process comes down to simplicity. We try not to get caught up in the details. If it’s just three voices and guitar, we stick to that. Also, Aaron’s falsetto takes it to the opposite side of the spectrum. It is like another instrument that opens up another door of possibilities. Not only for a falsetto lead tune but also for two voices to sing together. That’s a big part of the Lowrider sound are these harmonies.”
The band has found independent success with a punk-rock attitude toward promoting the sound they have created. Their arrangements have a sustainable sound filled with classic horn riffs, a solid Hammond B2 undertone, and stellar vocals supplied by Jones and the crisp falsetto of Frazer. Their recordings are carefully crafted and stand shoulder to shoulder with the soul era of the ’60s and ’70s. Critics have even compared them to Motown artists and Curtis Mayfield.
In addition to their soulful artistic ability, the band is socially conscious. Fifty years ago, America was at full tilt fighting racial inequality; soul music was the cushion for those searching for personal dignity, and it became the safe place to express the need for love and hope. Durand Jones delivers similar messages with songs such as “Morning in America” and “Make a Change.” “Being socially conscious is part of the legacy before us,” said Jones. “If we are not trying to push that forward and being relevant, are we truly being artists? I really feel like we have to say something.”
‘Long Way Home’ by Durand Jones and the Indications | Youtube.com
“We are trying to shed the subtlety of it all and be more explicit with songs like ‘Morning in America,’” added Frazer. “That concept of using race as a wedge to divide people within the same class and to be able to say that so explicitly, reaching a crossover audience, is really exciting; it’s a bit Marxist. We have also been told before that people who are incarcerated are enjoying our music, and people in L.A. representing their set are bumping us. Certainly, the prison system in America strips people of their dignity and to be tender. The economic disadvantage people of color face forces people into a hard life.”
Although the bandmembers come from Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, and Louisiana, their diverse geographic background may be the key to why they have developed a sound that has touched a segment of the Chicano community that loves to roll slow and bump the sweetest harmonies found on earth. “This relationship that we have found to the Latinx working-class community on the West Coast is a shift in soul music away from the Northern Soul style, and frankly an Anglo-centric style, to something that is slower and more diverse,” said Frazer.
Knowing the Chicano community relation to soul music as part of its identity and hearing how Durand Jones and crew provide the perfect tribute, it’s clear that there is a relationship of mutual respect. “The Chicano community has been a huge encouragement, especially early on,” said guitarist Rhein. “We did a lot of gigs that were sweat equity. We were not making a lot of money. But seeing that early response from the Chicano community and having people come up to us at those first few shows in L.A. and telling me that what we are doing really resonates with them personally is what helped to keep us going. It’s a complete honor to be welcomed by the Chicano community. It really means a lot. Cultures are very protective, so this relationship is very special to us.”
4•1•1 | Durand Jones & The Indications play the Bowl, opening for Rebelution, Sunday, June 16, at 6 p.m. Call 962-7411 or see sbbowl.com.