Jimmy Lewis Band will play at Mother’s Saloon 9 p.m. July 24.
It’s no secret that musicians are a generally restless bunch. So it’s no surprise that many of the area’s best-known performers are concurrently in several other combos.
What is unusual is for the side project to also become a local club favorite. But perhaps that was inevitable with the Jimmy Lewis Band.
Performing at Mother’s Saloon on July 24, the band comes with a distinguished pedigree. Featuring Superunloader frontman, singer / guitarist Jimmy Lewis, bassist / singer Chris Torres of Grass Heat and drummer Jeff Kelley, who has drummed for jazz and soul combos, the trio was not so much formed as it was loosely assembled. The exact start date for the band has been obscured by time.
“This trio formed years ago, we played random gigs here and there. Basically, if one of us was offered a gig but one of our main bands could not do it, the Jimmy Lewis Band would play.” According to Torres, the choice for a name was obvious. “Jimmy Lewis is one of the most talented guitarists in town. It was a no brainer,” he said.
While their other groups focused on originals, here, the situation is reversed. The band excels at favorites by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Humble Pie and The Faces. “
We’re definitely inspired by late 1960s and 1970s rock,” said Kelley. “When we choose a cover song we look at what will work best with the players in the group. We look at the key of the song, the feel of the song, we look for vocal parts to utilize the two voices in the group.”
Crowd favorites at their local Mother’s Saloon gigs include their versions of Free’s "Ride On A Pony" and The Band’s "The Weight."
“OB is filled with music lovers, we love playing there,” Kelley remarked. “We have kept it strictly to Mother's Saloon. We like the people and the club.”
Though the band was conceived to play cover tunes, the band has begun to branch out into their own music. “We do have seven originals,” Torres said. “The original stuff that we do play is well received by our fans.” The response has been good enough that The Jimmy Lewis Band has headed into the studio.
with the aim of releasing their debut album later this year.
“We have eight originals recorded,” Torres continued. They used vintage gear at Audio Design Recording to capture the classic rock magic. “We recorded it all to 2-inch tape through a 1975 hand-wired console to keep that 1970s sound. No digital Pro Tools crap here,” he laughed.
Now seasoned veterans of the Southern California club scene Kelley notes that while technology has improved, the treatment of musicians has not.
“The pay has gone down a lot since we all started playing live music in this town,” he confirmed. “Back in the mid to late '90s I played in a band called The Price of Dope. The band would get the door and we would make $1,500-$2,000 a night easy on a regular basis. You are now lucky to get $400 for 3-4 hours of music.
“This is why we play a lot of covers. Normal sets for original bands is 75 to 90 minutes not four hours. It seems as though people have lost their interest in live music, that many people can't tell the difference between very talented players versus players who are not very good. Or they just don't care. Sad!”
For their part, Kelley and Torres are clear on what they enjoy about their life immersed in music. “Recording, writing and being on stage,” Kelley said. “Playing live makes us forget about everyday life,” Torres confirmed.
The Jimmy Lewis Band. Sunday, July 24, at Mother’s, 2228 Bacon St., 9 p.m. 21 and up. For more information, visit www.motherssaloon.com.