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Perspectives from the Scene: YEARS

October 12, 2010

Adam John (left) and Jordan Banks (right)

A couple weeks ago, I chatted with Jordan Banks and Adam Jahn of local band, Years (formerly known as Jordan Banks and the Years) before their 9/24 show at Greyhouse. Years recently finished their No Confusion EP, and are in the running for Journal & Courier’s Best Local Band. Adam and Jordan are long-time friends who helped build Greyhouse and Greyhouse Recording studios—key institutions in West Lafayette’s music scene. We talked about everything from the elaborate history of Years, to their new band member, to the local music scene. You can read the full interview below:

L: Could you take a moment to introduce yourselves?

JB: I’m Jordan Banks and I play guitar, sing and occasionally play the keyboard in Years.

AJ: He was born on January 31st in 84…Let the record show I do know his birthday.

JB: Adam’s is September 6th and just recently passed. And we had a bouncy castle.

L: For real?

AJ: Yeah

AJ: My name is Adam Jahn and I play bass in the same band as Jordan.

L: So how did you both come to be involved in Lafayette’s music scene?

AJ: That’s an interesting story, actually.

JB: Well, Adam and I both grew up in Columbia City, IN, which is a small town outside of Fort Wayne. Adam came to Purdue in 2003. I stayed home—I graduated from high school in 2002 and went to school in Fort Wayne. I played in a few bands in the Fort Wayne area…But when I graduated, it was time to get away from home. So I thought, ‘Where should I go’? Adam and my friend Sam both lived here so I was like, I’ll move down to Lafayette. I wanted to start playing music in some way shape or form. For a long time that was just solo acoustic shows, which were fun. But there’s so many really really good solo acoustic acts in Lafayette that you have to be amazing to stand above them

L: Like John Davey?

JB: Right. He’s a great friend of ours.

AJ: Great friend.

JB: Great friend. I’m looking at him right now.

{We all look over to John Davey, sitting on the other side of Greyhouse}

JB: So I did that for a while and met a guy named Benjamin Ezra. He used to live around here and play a lot. [I] became friends with him and did a few shows with him. But it was kind of obvious that I didn’t really feel like being an acoustic act was the way to go. I was working on a solo album, which I had been for several years. We finished it up around October of 08. Zach [McNulty] played on a few songs, but most of it was just myself…My friend Ryan played drums on a few songs.

But I wanted to play [all] those songs with other people. And [the current members of Years] were actually in a different band, with a different singer…That kind of fizzled out, so we started to focus more on Jordan Banks & the Years at the time.

A lot of how you get involved with the scene is you just get to know people. Getting involved in any scene really is just getting to know people, making friends and acquaintances and so we started to make friends with other bands, get shows with other bands. John [Davey]–we started playing shows with him. The Clutter—we played a few shows with them and that was really fun. And [also] Nations, who we’re playing with tonight. We’ve known Jared for a long time, and Craig for a little while as well. They’re great guys. I mean that’s one of the biggest benefits of being in a scene—the relationships you make with other people. It would be awesome if this scene were bigger because it’s good to meet those people. So I pulled Adam in…

AJ: And I think we should mention that when I was a freshman in high school, when I met Jordan, we were in World Geography together, and Jordan was in a band and I thought that was really cool. Cause I was in a band and it wasn’t cool.

L: What’s the difference between a cool and an uncool band?

JB: Well, I don’t want to give the band I was in a lot of credit because we weren’t that great of a band. But we actually did play shows.

AJ: Yeah, we played a show in Glen Ryan’s garage. And we had a few songs of our own, and they were not that great. I played guitar in [that] band and sang occasionally. I saw Jordan’s band play at the local YMCA and I thought that was really cool. And then that band broke up…and Jordan started a new band. And you kinda wanted me to be in it, right?

JB: I was like yeah, you can be in my band.

AJ: And I didn’t think I was good enough. I was too nervous to call him and ask to be in the band.

JB: This was somewhere around 1999, 2000

AJ: About 10 years ago.

JB: We’ve known each other for a long time.

AJ: Anyway, when Jordan moved here he wasn’t in a band. And I was playing in a different band and one of the guitar players left, and so we extended the offer to Jordan. So that’s how we started playing bands together.

 

 

YEARS' current line-up at Mosey Down Main Street

 

L: How would you describe the music scene in Lafayette?

JB: Well, it’s a tough one. Because there’s definitely not a shortage of talent. There are plenty of good bands around. But there’s not really a lot of people who support it. Part of that is because there aren’t really any good venues. Greyhouse is what works for us, in some ways. Outdoor shows are really fun to play, but indoor shows are really tough for us because of volume issues.

There’s a few venues across the river, but they can be kinda picky on who they book.

AJ: They’re not really venues—they’re just

JB: Bars.

AJ: They just have bands play. Which doesn’t really make it a venue, in my opinion.

JB: Most of them have questionable sound systems, if they have a sound system at all. So, [the music scene] excites me in a lot of ways because there’s plenty of great musicians and bands to play with, but it can be difficult to book a show. And there’s been a really great acoustic folk scene in Lafayette. John [Davey] is great. You’ve got Small Town Heroes, who are really good friends of ours. A lot of people have moved away, like Ben [Ezra], Rebecca McCleod…Mike Reeb [too], he’s a good friend of ours. There are some rock bands as well.

AJ: We’re losing those too.

JB: With the university scene here, there’s tons of talented people who put together projects, but because of the university a lot of things have their days numbered. You never know how long [a band is] going to be together because somebody graduates and leaves…it’s tough.

AJ: For a while there was a really good acoustic folk scene, and I feel like the university students received it well. But it’s not necessarily what they all would be interested in seeing—it’s just kinda what’s here because of the venues that are able to let [musicians] play. So people go folk/acoustic cause that’s the only way to play, and then that scene grows because that’s what people are accustomed to. It’s self-perpetuating. So when you want to play rock music it’s kind of difficult, because people expect to see folk music. So it’s hard to break in.

JB: It’s getting better.

L: Do you think the folk/acoustic scene detracts from what you guys are trying to do?

JB: No I don’t think so. The biggest thing for us was to step away from that scene. In a lot of ways, it’s a little bit easier to get noticed. Because [we’re] a rock band playing electric guitars, dancing around, being goofy on stage.

AJ: I don’t see it that way…

JB: I think it helps us…it’s easier to stand out…

AJ: Basically, you can be a mediocre rock band and stand out…

JB: That’s not what I’m trying to say…

AJ: I know.

L: Do you guys think of yourselves as a goofy rock band?

AJ: No. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously either.

JB: We do take the music really seriously. We really try to craft something that we would be proud of, that we would really want to listen to ourselves. But at the same time we’re not gonna be like Radiohead with these cryptic messages that no one can figure out. I love Radiohead and I love that they do that kind of stuff, but you know…

L: So there’s no hidden message in “Daylight Savings”?!

JB: Uh, I don’t think so. There are things to be found that the average listener might not pick up on. But is it an allegory for something else? No. There are elements that are deeper than what people might pick up on the surface. But that’s kinda the case with anybody who puts some serious time and thought into the art that they’re making.

AJ: I think we take the music seriously. Sometimes we get mad at each other because of that. But generally, we …like to have fun.

L: Is there conflict?

AJ: No…but music is art and something you’ve created, you’ve put a lot of yourself into. You need to be careful in talking about it if you’re gonna be serious about it. Jordan usually writes the core of what the songs are going to be. And if we’re not receiving it well it could hurt his feelings.

JB: Anything you do that’s creative is inherently personal. I was in a band before where…the motto [was] ‘nothing is sacred.’  If you hear something you don’t like, you speak up and say “No, I don’t like that.” And I cannot agree with that philosophy. It is so inherently personal that if Adam writes a bass line, that is an extension of himself. So I can’t say, “ew, that’s gross.” I might not like it, but there are better ways to approach it than that.

AJ: It is approached because we all care about it…

{At this point, Tory joins us!}

AJ: Tory originated the drum position in Years. I don’t know if I should say…but go ahead.

JB: Tory will soon be playing [with us], at least for a trial period. And if he’s interested in doing it, Tory will be playing guitar and keys and other various things to help us fill out [our] sound.

L: How does it feel to be joining Years?

T: I think it’ll be great to get back. I’m looking forward to it. I’m not playing anywhere else right now. I’m pretty busy with work and school.

JB: We’re really excited about it. Tory is actually good at any instrument he picks up.

AJ: Pretty much.

JB: And he has a music degree in drum performance.

L: From Purdue?

T: No, I went to the Atlanta Institute of Music. I lived down in Georgia for about a year and a half. So I moved back up here in January and started at Ivy tech this fall.

L: Could you guys tell me a little bit about Greyhouse Recording Studios?

JB: The gear in the studio has been around for a while…it’s bounced around from different locations because they haven’t had a good location to keep it in for an extended period of time. So when Greyhouse opened, they built a couple rooms in the basement specifically for it. It’s basically a tracking and mixing studio. We do all our own work down there. And I’m actually one of two engineers who work in the studio. There’s a lot of projects going on right now. Our album is slowly progressing, which is good. We’re working on John Davey’s first full-length album, Nations’ record. The Transatlantic also did their demo [here].

Before we had the studio downstairs, I had my recording gear at my house.  You’d press play to record and quickly run into the closet and close the door and sing into the microphone because that was the best isolation you had. Or you’d be playing the guitar with the computer right there and the microphone [picked] up the fan of the computer. So it was pretty limited but it was fun.

When they opened the studio and asked me if I wanted to put my stuff down there and work there, it was a huge benefit to me. The audio quality has definitely shot through the roof on what we do. It’s also nice to have a place dedicated to [recording music]. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity for collaboration [before]. Whereas downstairs, from January to April, we just worked on writing songs. We did it all in studio so we could all be in a room together paying really close attention to what everyone else [in the band] does.  It’s given us all kind of a hands-on way of writing together.

AJ: We were really productive in our songwriting when we did that.

JB: I think if you listen to what we were doing before we made the switch to Years, there’s a huge difference in direction. I think we finally did find a direction that we wanted to take.

That wouldn’t have come about without that space…If people are interested in recording, they can send an email to greyhouserecords@gmail.com. We’ll have a site up soon.

L: How did the Greyhouse connection happen between you guys?

AJ: I work full-time at Campus House, which is a ministry on campus. And Campus House owns Greyhouse. We planned it, raised money, and built it. A lot of my day-to-day job is just doing things for this place.

AJ: And Jordan’s been helping out with Campus House all the time.

JB: Zach also works at Campus House. Zach, Adam, and I had a huge part in building Greyhouse. These chairs we’re sitting on—my friend Ryan and I took to Lebanon [Indiana] and sanded and finished. We put the front counter on.

JB: The stage that everyone plays on…

AJ: I built that stage.

L: And as a wrap-up question, what do you think is the biggest challenge for Lafayette’s music scene in the next 5 years?

JB: The challenge [to keep] it going is supporting it. We don’t really make a ton of money from shows. It’s not about money, but when you want to make a record it takes money. And when you’re starting out, you think, ‘oh sure, I don’t mind taking money out of my own pocket.’ But then it starts to build to a point where it’s a financial burden…So I think that’s the big challenge—finding a way to support the music. Which leads into the challenge I would give [to the scene]: Get some venues! If someone on this strip right here [Chauncey Hill] were to open up a venue…

AJ: A legit venue…

JB: …with a good sound system and brought in bands, they would prosper. They would make money. There are places over in Lafayette that want to do that, but they’re not in a good location. If [The Muse] were [in Chauncey Hill] and they were regularly having shows, there would be more bands who would want to play shows, and more bands would come through. [It] would cause the scene to grow.

AJ: I think about it regularly: opening a venue, how I would do it. I’ll let you know if I do it.

JB: That’s what I think is the greatest challenge. Finding a way to get people to come to shows.

AJ: I’d also say working together—bands and venues. If you want to see the scene prosper, work together and make it happen.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010 3:29 pm

    it’s creepy that you guys were watching me. a shiver ran down my spine when i read that.

  2. Duane Chew permalink
    October 13, 2010 3:59 pm

    YEARS is like the best band ever. Those guys…

    http://www.godaddy.com/domains/searchresults2.aspx?ci=16811

  3. Ed Hirschinger permalink
    October 16, 2010 6:16 am

    I agree on the venue thing. If it isn’t TV’s all over the place there is some divide. The Sparrow will think nothing of playing their ipod thru the house while a band plays in the other ‘side’. If asked to silence it they tell me to just stay in the other room or put up with it. They are bored with having to hear the band from that distance. They even have a way to feed PA to house to supplement sound in the other room but just don’t bother. LBC has a great venue, but only Friends of Bob promotes events there well. LBC hangs fine print posters behind the bar and out side the ladies room in the hall, and makes you go to a second page on their site to find out whats up. Healing Sixes had no print or even chalk on the easel. Real bad for a national act.

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