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Friday, June 17, 2016

Premiere: Royal Jelly Jive's Stand Up is a Blast From The Past, With a Nouveau Twist

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 10:28 AM

click to enlarge TOM DELLINGER
  • Tom Dellinger

In Royal Jelly Jive's new album, Stand Up, jazzy, cabaret sounds blend with hints of funk, traces of rock, and smidgens of soul to create a unique album that is every bit as retro as it is modern. Because if there's one thing you should know about this San Francisco/Petaluma-based band, it's that they're not a throwback act. 

"Musically, a lot of throwback bands sound exactly like the time they want to sound like," says the band's keyboardist and accordionist, Jesse Lemme Adams. "But for us, we have old-timey influences, but the songwriting is really modern and we have elements of hip-hop and rock and soul and stuff. When we write songs, we're not trying to write an old swing song; we're trying to write something that we would want to listen to, but it's inspired by all of our tastes in music."

The sextet, which includes accordion, clarinet, trombone, saxophone, and upright bass, formed in 2013 through stints at the Boom Boom Room. Many of the musicians were in different bands at the time and they met through residencies at the venue, eventually coalescing as Royal Jelly Jive by July. 

"We were in some ways born on stage," says Adams, who fell in love with the band's singer Lauren Bjelde (the two are in a relationship). "We just had really great chemistry and would play lives shows that never failed ot get the audience dancing." 

Stand Up, premiered today on SF Weekly, is the act's sophomore release and their first album to be recorded in an "official" studio (Prairie Sun Recording Studios in Sonoma County) with production by Grammy Award-nominated producers Andre Zweers and Judy Kirschner. The upbeat, dance-inducing album is rife with stories culled from Bjelde's and Adam's lives, with songs about falling in love in San Francisco, being influenced by Tom Waits, the impact of neighborhood characters, and standing up for who you are and what you believe in. 
"Dear Mr. Waits," the second track off the album, is — as you might guess — an ode to the famed singer-songwriter, who lives in Sonoma County where half of the band also resides. "We're just trying to make a connection between the people who were making music before us," Bjelde says. "They're the ones that taught us not only how to play our instruments, but how to live this life." Royal Jelly Jive even sent Waits a letter containing the song's lyrics and an invitation for him to be on it, but, alas, they have yet to hear back from him. 

Another notable song off of the 13-track album is "Oh, Roger," a tune about a neighborhood character from the Lower Haight who leaves potted plants on the sidewalk every Monday such as arid bonsais and wilted orchids that, Bjelde says, "just need a little love." Bjelde used to live near him during college and now the band's bassist, Tyden Binsted, lives directly across the street from Roger. One day, the band was having a jam session on the porch when Roger walked over to introduce himself and enjoy their tunes.

After he left, Adams began strumming chords on the accordion and drummer Felix Macnee started playing a tune, prompting Bjelde to sing the first words that came to mind and that would eventually become the basis of the song. 

"It was one of those jam moments where the music just comes out and it's done," Adams says. "Sometimes, you need to cook songs, but if you're lucky, you'll get a little golden egg like that that will hatch right away." 

The only thing you won't hear much of on the album is guitar. Granted, there are definitely some chords in there, but not a whole lot because, says Adams, "it's one thing that sets us apart."

"Guitar drives so much music and we love it, but to be a band that's making people go crazy and dance and jump up and down with only keys and horns and beats and stuff, is a unique thing." 

Catch Royal Jelly Jive at 9 p.m., Friday, June 24, at The Independent. $15-$18; more info here. 

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Jessie Schiewe


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