“JC Brooks looks and performs like a cross between Chuck Berry and H.R. of Bad Brains in their primes, but his skintight R&B and post-punk soul upend expectations of a retro act.” –-Washington Post
“…enveloping stage presence and palpable charisma.” –Rolling Stone
“Brooks trained as an actor, and even by soul man standards he’s an outsized showman (with an equally outsized pompadour), shimmying, swiveling, sliding and jumping around the stage, his singing ranging from Otis Redding raspiness to Curtis Mayfield falsetto sweetness.” –Chicago Tribune
“JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound describe themselves as a post-punk soul band, but their sound is so much more expansive than that. Uptown Sound is on par with soul musicians from the heyday of the genre’s popularity.” –Paste Magazine
With their forthcoming release Howl (out 5/21) JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound enters the next chapter of its soul sound evolution. In December 2012, the band holed up at Hotel2Tango Studio in Montreal to work with producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and dove headfirst into previously unfamiliar sonic territories and tough-yet-transfixing lyrical matter. By approaching the new album with this direct and free outlook, what began with the raw soul of 2011’s Want More advances in new, exciting directions.
Throughout Howl – the Chicago-based quintet’s third full-length album and second for Bloodshot Records – the dark side of love and longing is explored by frontman JC Brooks’ starkly personal lyrics and the Uptown Sound’s willingness to bare all their influences and let the grooves fall where they may. A collective evolution has been made where influence meets experience, and this organic progression results in 11 songs that are more open than ever both in message and vibe.
Howl is soul music by children of the post-punk era. It’s the sound of a band that cut its teeth listening to PurpleRain and In On the Killtaker, is drawn to the theatrical-cum-creative auras of Tina Turner and Otis Redding, and has most recently hustled big festival stages where adventurous listeners come away rejuvenated and undeniably converted.
With a taut minimalist blend of rock and R&B punctuating JC Brooks’ potent delivery and brutally honest words, Howl creates a mystique at the same time it induces sing-alongs and hip-shakes. Tracks like the eponymous “Howl” and “Rouse Yourself” are pleas for snapping out of emotional apathy, as in the latter when Brooks first coos in falsetto and then belts a cautionary chorus in harmony, “If we had forever / I hope we’d just get better / that’s why it’s such a shame / the ways we stay the same.”
Just as it embraces past artistic influences, Howl covers the range of emotion from celebratory pop to crestfallen ballad. “River” is vintage gospel narrative, complete with
Brooks’ solo show-stopping, open-throated vocal sear, and a rhythm section that could’ve backed the Memphis greats during the ‘60s. “Before You Die” struts with the carefree, party atmosphere of Tom Tom Club with auxiliary percussion, handclaps, and some Bernie Worrell psychedelic-pop wall of synth.
Formed in Chicago in 2007, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound consists of JC Brooks (lead vocals), Billy Bungeroth (guitar), Kevin Marks (drums, vocals), Andy Rosenstein (keys, vocals), and Ben Taylor (bass). JCBUS has toured North America and Europe, attracting an enthusiastic grassroots following while garnering the support of the likes of NPR and AAA radio with their eyeopening cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” (which they performed with Jeff Tweedy at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in 2011). MOJO Magazine called them “one of the hottest US soul acts right now”. JCBUS spent 2012 on the road supporting their previous Bloodshot release, Want More, with electrifying appearances at Lollapalooza and Bumbershoot, and an incendiary World Cafe Live double bill with Gary Clark Jr.Now armed with Howl, the band is hitting the road for spring East and West Coast tours, and a European leg leading up to Firefly Festival in June.
JCBUS bio, circa 2010
In his 1970 Playboy Interview, Ray Charles described soul as “people who do things from the heart.” In performance and on record, it is undeniable that JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are 100% soul. Like Otis Redding fronting the Stooges, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound get crowds twisting and writhing on the floor, something thatʼs been sorely missing from live music.
Brooks erupts with heart and raw emotion, harnessing the Uptown Soundʼs post-punk reimagining of JBʼs moves and MGʼs grooves to unleash pure and uncompromising soul music ranging from sweaty on-the-one workouts, dance-punk booty shakers, garage rock thump humps, and aching R&B ballads without a missed step in between. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are not just another throwback group; they came to be during an age of war, envisioning an aggressive dance music with lyrics that dig deeper and hit harder than the usual “baby, baby” fare.
Born in the great melting pot of Chicagoʼs Uptown neighborhood in 2007, guitarist Billy Bungeroth, drummer Kevin Marks, and bassist Ben Taylor (Beat Down Sound/September Sessions soundtrack) joined forces with keyboardist Andy Rosenstein to lay a ferocious foundation for the soulful shouts of Mr. JC Brooks. The son of a Jersey funk diva set adrift by the disco era, heʼs renowned for his take-no-prisoners stage style, giving you no other option than to get up and move!
Since leaving audiences awestruck on the Numero Groupʼs critically acclaimed Eccentric Soul Revue tour in 2009, they keep pushing forward, following up their explosive debut Beat of Our Own Drum (Vampisoul/Rabbit Factory) with the relentless new Get It Together single (featuring a stomping cover of Wilcoʼs “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”). Featured prominently on MOJO Magazine May 2010 “Heavy Soul” CD, theyʼve collaborated with greats like Syl Johnson, Tortoiseʼs Dan Bitney, lost soul legend Renaldo Domino, and the Impressionsʼ Nate Evans, cut live sessions for influential indie stations WFMU and KDHX, racked up rave reviews throughout Europe, and been lauded by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, TimeOut, and Chicago Sun-Times. Armed with a full slate of North American and European dates, these intense young soul stirrers are bringing it to your door, ready to tour, score, and not be ignored.
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are for the people remaining awake through a great revolution… for people who want to move and not just sit tight… for soul people! Guaranteed to make you dance by any means necessary, JC Brooks is the new sound of Chicago. Guaranteed to make you dance by any means necessary, JC Brooks is the new sound of Chicago.