Before the vinyl release show at Icehouse on Wednesday, Gimme Noise spoke with lead singer Jamie Quinn about how important his band is to him and why he considers Sexy Delicious more of a jazz project than a hip-hop project.
Band Members: Jamie Quinn (singer/songwriter/guitar), Ben Kelly (bass/vox), Dan Horvath (drums), Eric Mayson (keys/vox)
Jamie Quinn: This project relies on a very specific three-to-one musician to entertainer ratio. Ben, Dan, and Eric are all "players." They are the best at their respective instruments and have been perfecting their craft from a very young age.
I've always played music but I never had the patience to become a real player on any one instrument. Instead I've always been the court jester/wildcard entertainer of sorts. My parents would dress me up as Elvis when I was real young, and I'd perform "Blue Suede Shoes" at different family functions. I realized early in life that half the battle with performing anything live was just having the balls get up in front of people and make a total fool out of yourself.
Also, I've always thought about life through the lens of sketch comedy acts, and I definitely bring that style of comedic writing to the lyrical content of this project. I write the material and professional musicians sign off on it -- that's the dynamic that Sexy D relies on.
Gimme Noise: How did jazz get infused with this hip-hop project? Do you even consider this a hip-hop project? Who influenced the jazz flavor?
Jamie Quinn: We don't consider this a hip-hop project, although there are definitely elements of hip-hop all over the record. I find myself inevitably writing one novelty rap track for every ten pop/rock songs. On this record it's "Dollars in My Pocket," which is one of the more straightforward examples of our jazz-infused hip-hop.
I've always enjoyed the jazzier side of life and have been a wannabe jazz guitarist from the first time I picked up the instrument, but it was getting together with Ben and Dan in 2008 that really influenced the jazz flavor. They are both classically trained jazz musicians and they inevitably bring out the jazz in whichever ensemble they might be playing with. I've seen Ben playing bass with a hard rock group and he still manages to tastefully incorporate his signature jazz fills. Having Eric Mayson track keys on this record and join the band full time only perpetuated the hip-hop/jazz fusion. His work with local act Crunchy Kids is in a really similar vein as what Sexy D is going for instrumentally. It was the most natural thing having him join the band. It kind of feels like the last piece to a puzzle five years in the making.
Gimme Noise: From the name of the band to your lyrics, you seem to poke fun at yourselves. Was it important to you to have this light-hearted feel to the music?
Jamie Quinn: It was never really the intention to poke fun at ourselves, however most of my humor is of the self-deprecating variety. I suppose that seeps through during the creative process whether I intend it to or not. I always set up my jokes with a couple shots at myself, but then the punch line is always, "Yeah, but for real I'm the shit, and don't you forget it."
Regardless, the entire band is on the same page as far as keeping a light-hearted feel to the music. We have a blast playing live together. Ben, Dan, and I are always trying to make each other crack up by playing funny lines and fills -- it's a habit that might compromise the quality of the overall performance as far as the audience is concerned, but it's a hard habit to break because we get to have so much fun with it. I think humility is one of the most important characteristics to possess, and our music rocks that sort of vibe in spades.
Gimme Noise: To go off the last question, it's hard to include humor in music without it being cheesy. Do you think you guys achieved this?
Jamie Quinn: The humor in our music is probably where the hip-hop influence is most apparent. Most of my favorite rap artists incorporate a lot of humor in their lyrics. I remember listening to The Chronic 2001 for the first time and laughing out loud unlike I had for any music before. Snoop Dogg is pretty hilarious in his music and a well-respected artist at the same time. Clipse and Outkast find a way to blend hard-hitting topics with clever puns and I draw a lot of inspiration from that sort of thing.
I think we achieved a great balance of humor and generally high-quality pop music on this record. The jazz influence is relevant in this conversation too, because a lot of the aspects that we find humorous on Too Hot to Bother aren't the lyrics as much as the instrumental compositions. That's where Ben, Dan, and Eric really "get it." That's why our music works -- because I'll sing a line that might be funny in one way our another, and then one of them plays a line or a fill that totally complements that lyric, basically legitimizing whatever ridiculous thing I just said on the mic. I wouldn't be able to pull off my songs with any other three dudes in the world.
Gimme Noise: Tell me about your relationship with the Chalice, and how did you choose which songs to collaborate with Lizzo and Sophia on? Was it written for them, or did they help with the writing?
Jamie Quinn: I met Sophia in June of 2012 and we started working on some collaborations that she's used for her solo project since then. I wrote the album's title track "Too Hot to Bother" after having met her, and it was definitely written for her to sing the second verse. We were lucky enough to have Sophia and Lizzo in the studio one day, and Lizzo's vocal double on the chorus of "Too Hot to Bother" totally makes that track, and then Sophia just kills the third verse on "Dollars In My Pocket." It was a pretty easy decision which tracks needed some female lovin'.
Gimme Noise: Why release on vinyl at this time?
Jamie Quinn: The record is currently available digitally and on CD. We had to do CDs just for promotional purposes. We're all collectors and enthusiasts of vinyl records. From the time we began recording this album, we knew we wanted it to sound good on vinyl, and then we proceeded to tell everybody and their mother that we were going to press it to vinyl. So we were pretty much obligated to host a vinyl record release, not that that's a bad thing. It's going to be really cool for us to have copies of our own record on vinyl, but then we're just gonna have like 90 extra vinyl records on our hands. That's a lot of weight to move.
Gimme Noise: Any standout tracks for you on this album or that you enjoy playing?
Jamie Quinn: "Dollars in My Pocket" is really fun to play live. It's kind of a sing-along so it's a fan favorite as well. That's one of those tracks that just doesn't achieve the same energy in the studio as it does on stage, so it's really reassuring to have that one go over so well time and time again when we play it live. Conversely, "Floating" turned out great on the record but never really pops that hard when we play it live. I think it's expected to experience both ends of the spectrum as long as the quality of the record and the quality of the live performance balance each other out somehow.
Gimme Noise: What can we expect to see at the album release show?
Jamie Quinn: At the album release show we're going to be playing with our largest ensemble yet. Jesse Monson and Cole Premo, who both helped out on synths and guitar on the record, are going to be joining us at Icehouse in an effort to re-create the album as verbatim as possible. You can expect to hear a killer Sam Cooke cover, and see a surprise guest or two on the microphone. Also, if you've never seen Black Diet live, you're in for a special treat because they are one of the most entertaining bands in the cities. They're opening up for us and we're honored to be sharing the bill with them.
Sexy Delicious will release Too Hot to Bother on vinyl at Icehouse on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 with Black Diet.
21+, $6, 10 p.m.