Shortly after celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band and the heralded release of their latest studio album Fireflies, American reggae pioneers John Brown’s Body have decided to take an indefinite hiatus from touring. And though that term typically stokes fear in the hearts of music fans, JBB wants it known they’re return is imminent, and that you can check out some of their side projects during the brief pause.
Speaking on the hiatus, JBB founding member and the man behind the kit, Tommy Benedetti says, “If you look at JBB like a volcano, we’re starting 2018 in a dormant phase. There could be an eruption at any time, but right now there’s no time frame. I think that after getting some space, Elliot (Martin) has intentions of writing new music for JBB in 2018. We had a great and busy 2017 supporting the Fireflies album, and we want to send massive love to all JBB fans for their continuing support.”
JBB’s creative longevity has been an extraordinary outlier in the world of music. For over two decades the group has melded tradition and innovation, constructing their own distinct sound and style dubbed “future roots.” JBB established themselves in the mid-’90s in Ithaca, NY at a time when the US reggae scene was somewhere between fledgling and non-existent. Today the scene is as healthy as ever, and it’s difficult to find an American reggae band that hasn’t been influenced in some way or another by JBB’s expansive catalog of music.
Passafire bassist Will Kubley reminisced on his first memory of listening to John Brown’s Body, sharing, “You know, everyone hears Bob Marley and Sublime, but then when Nick (Kubley) showed me JBB’s album Spirits All Around Us, it was like ‘Oh, this can go in a completely different direction.’ It felt exciting to listen to that album, and it still does. When I joined the band, I think JBB was our starting off point, especially that album.”
Jumping off of that thought, Passafire lead vocalist and guitarist Ted Bowne added, “On ‘Spirits All Around Us,’ there are at least five or six tracks that exemplify how JBB takes reggae and grits it up. They take reggae and add this gritty edge to it that’s not so smooth. It’s not just like sitting back with a Corona on the beach, it’s working music. Picking up boxes, welding shit. It’s hard edge music, but it’s still beautiful, and musical, and very eclectic. That album woke us up.”
John Brown’s Body has had its share of lineup changes over the years, but has always been able to keep stride and grow as a unit. In many ways this has led to the overall diversity of music that JBB has to offer. From the group’s timeless early material with former member and JBB co-founder Kevin Kinsella mostly handling lead vocals, to the ground breaking albums like Amplify and Kings & Queens with Elliot Martin at the helm, JBB has continuously served as visionaries of American reggae.
Easy Star Records CEO Eric Smith, who has worked together with JBB since the release of their 2005 album Pressure Points, expressed his gratitude for the band and the influence they’ve had, saying, “Over the past 20 plus years John Brown’s Body has continually pushed the boundaries of reggae, challenging all of us to redefine and reinvent our conceptions of the genre at every turn.”
JBB played a series of send-off shows to close out 2017, ultimately finishing in front of a packed Boston crowd at the House of Blues alongside Stick Figure and 10 Ft. Ganja Plant on New Year’s Eve. Though that show may have been the last show for the foreseeable future, JBB’s music will continue on. In the meantime, JBB fans, and reggae fans in general for that matter, can satiate themselves on the numerous side projects the band’s members will be participating in during the temporary hiatus. Benedetti notes, “The members of JBB will still be very active musically on local, regional, and national scenes in 2018. Jay (Spaker) with Double Tiger, JP (Petronzio) with Road Man, Dan (Africano) with Elephant Wrecking Ball, and myself with Dub Apocalypse and Organically Good Trio (with Paul Wolstencroft of Slightly Stoopid). So as Elliot said on the ‘Amplify’ record, ‘Be at peace..til’ we rise again.’”
Watch: John Brown’s Body – “Hard Man Fe Dead”
Watch: John Brown’s Body – “Step Inside” [OFFICIAL]
Watch: John Brown’s Body ft. Passafire – “New Fashion” (Live) | Sugarshack