Rock Steady: J Roddy Walston and The Business to Play Fayetteville

Rock Steady: J Roddy Walston and The Business to Play Fayetteville
Courtesy Photo: J Roddy Walston (left) and The Business are Steve Colmus (left middle) Logan Davis (right middle) and Billy Gordon (right). They will be coming to Fayetteville at George’s Majestic Lounge, Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Courtesy Photo: J Roddy Walston (left) and The Business are Steve Colmus (left middle) Logan Davis (right middle) and Billy Gordon (right). They will be coming to Fayetteville at George’s Majestic Lounge, Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Seemingly possessed by some kind of rock n’ roll spirit, J Roddy Walston thrashes his mane of long, curly hair to and fro at his piano, marked “J Roddy” in neon orange, as he bashes out jangly chords from its keys.

On each side of him, two equally hairy dudes in leather jackets simultaneously tear into their guitars while singing harmony to the chorus of the raucous performance. Behind Walston, the only short haired member of the bunch pounds away at the drums with authority.

This is just business as usual for J Roddy Walston and The Business.

The rowdy, piano driven rock n’ roll band from Baltimore, Md., have been hitting the road since forming the band in 2002. The band’s roster consists of frontman J Roddy Walston (piano, guitar and lead vocals) and business members Billy Gordon (lead guitar/vocals), Steve Colmus (drums), and Logan Davis (bass/vocals). The band’s sound centers around Walston’s rooster-like growls, foot-stomping piano rhythms and Gordon’s chunky, powerful guitar riffs. Their live show is just that — an all-out kick-yer-ass show.

Since their release of their newest album, “Essential Tremors,” in September 2013, the band has been raging across the continental U.S., enjoying more and more exposure with radio play for the album’s single “Heavy Bells.” They’ve been featured in several big name festivals this year, including headlining Bonnaroo’s Thursday night, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Wakarusa and more.

Playing Bonnaroo was a sort of wild experience for the band. They were the final band to play Thursday night of the festival, and the concert was filmed and live-streamed online to thousands. At this point in their career, Walston said the band can always rise to the occasion.

“I think we were all pretty confident in about what we were going to do,” Walston said in a phone interview. “It’s now more just like getting loose and acting on whatever impulse you get onstage. The one thing I’m constantly sure of on stage is that I’m confident in what we’re doing. At those late night shows, I think it’s a good way for people to find out about you, and just seeing the energy that happens.”

The band recently did a live taping for the PBS music show, Austin City Limits. Being a featured performer on the show was another one of those landmarks the band hit this year.

“When we did the Austin City Limits taping, they told us we could do another take on a song if it didn’t feel right, but I didn’t like having that option,” Walston said. “You gotta keep it going and just play the next song, just like any other time.”

With the new album’s appeal, playing larger shows has caused the band to adapt to the growth of audiences. Whereas playing a venue that houses a crowd of 100-200 can bottle the energy into a frenetic rager, playing a stage to 1,000 or more requires more of, well, everything.

“In the past it was more like us just doing a show,” Walston said. “Maybe making some sort of eye contact with the crowd, or a little gesture. Y’know, playing a 4-inch stage to 100 people is one thing, but with 1,000, a little gesture at a small venue becomes a big wave at a big show. Everything has to be done bigger.”

The band recently added a sound technician to their touring crew, who has been a big help for maximizing on their performance. In a lot of ways, the sound guy is a lot like the band’s fifth member, Walston said.

“It’s great having a guy who knows the songs and can crank up the volume for an upcoming guitar solo, or add in a little reverb to the vocals here and there,” he said. “People have said things like ‘Billy’s gotten so good at guitar!’ And it’s like no, now you’re just hearing it better. It’s a thing I wish we had gotten to sooner. For me, it’s been a huge step forward performance-wise.”

While the music is heavy and rockin’, intertwined within it all are Walston’s seemingly cryptic lyrics that he’s able to string together amidst the booming riffs. When looking at the actual lyrics to the songs, it sort of brings about a “Wait, that’s what he’s singing?” feeling.

For example, in “Take it As it Comes,” a song featuring the album title lyrics “essential tremors,” which Walston said was inspired by a condition he has that causes him to tremble sometimes. In the second verse, Walston dances around and extends syllables finding ways of fitting the words to the music, singing “I’m just some dirt girl./ A bone you traded. / Don’t blame the tools dear blame the hands, the hands that made it./ And I felt some life throb. / Blood pressed till the tubes are tight.”

Walston said he writes each song differently, and chunks of phrases come to him as he writes. He likes keeping the lyrics open to interpretation.

“You can look at earth from outer space and you see this sphere of water, clouds, maybe some dirt,” he said. “It becomes completely different when you zoom in and you can see the details, be it a tree, or a house. I try to write in between those perspectives where it’s not exactly clear what I’m doing.”

With years of touring notched into their belts, the band is ready to make their return to Fayetteville. They’ve played George’s several times in the past, and oftentimes would play in Little Rock one night and Fayetteville the next.

“We played all the time there with American Princes back then. We had a great show up there,” Walston said. “We played the front of George’s, and it was a really rad show. Little Rock was surprising in how cool it was, and three and four hours up the road to Fayetteville, we didn’t have many expectations. After playing here we were like, ‘This place is rad.’ Two out of two is pretty good for a state.”

The band will make their return to George’s Wednesday, Oct. 8, with up and coming psychedelic rockers Fly Golden Eagle. If you’re up for it, down a few drinks at the bar, sit back or stand close and take in the unbridled energy these dudes bring.

Tickets are $10, and can be bought through here.

Doors at 9 p.m., Wednesday Oct. 8.
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