Written by Luke Klaer
Isaac Berkowitz // Guitar, vocals, fart and percussion
John Nowak // Drums, percussion, and vocals
Chris Bota // Guitar and vocals
John Loria // Bass guitar and vocals
George Falk // Saxophone and vocals
Desmond Jones is a prime example of all pieces coming together in order to make the magic happen. They are a five-piece funk/rock/jazz fusion powerhouse from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Having formed in college, they were able to find all the perfect people in due time to hit the ground running. Starting in 2012, these guys have been hitting it hard and have been gaining constant traction and a building fan base every where they go. Their music, so eclectic and diverse, is centered around melodic guitar riffs, silky bass lines, funky drum beats and tasteful saxophone. Desmond Jones puts on very high energy and exciting live show. With a catalogue of over 60 plus songs, they play different set lists and songs every night. The first album was released October 10th 2017 self-titled, “Desmond Jones,” is available on their website and many other platforms. I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with these guys and they are thoroughly amazing dudes and phenomenal musicians. They are a class act on and off the stage. Please enjoy our exclusive interview with Isaac Berkowitz while you listen to their music on the bandcamp player embedded below.
What is the origin of the band name Desmond Jones?
When the band first started out and we were still finalizing our lineup, we went through a few band names until we ended up with Desmond Jones. Our most notable name though was Dirty Mike and the Boys, I think we played two shows under that name? But once we secured our lineup we knew we needed something better, and after a few weeks of searching John (Nowak) and I came up with the name Desmond Jones, which is from The Beatles song “Obl-Di-Obla Da.”
How did Desmond Jones come about? How long have you known each other and how did you meet?
The band started at Michigan State University in April of 2012. I was approached by a friend from high school who told me he was having a party and wanted some music. He knew that John Nowak (drummer) and I had played in bands together all through Middle School and High School, so he asked if we still had a band. I lied and said yes which lead to an exciting few weeks of assembling our first formation. In that time I wrote up some posters for Bass Players, Keyboardists, and Horn Players and threw them all around campus. I only got one response but luckily it was our guitarist Chris Bota, who initially swindled me by saying he was a bass player…after jamming a song or two he told me he was really a guitar player and asked if we could both jam on guitar instead. Good thing he did because he is an insanely talented player and after that we knew we had picked up our third member. Later on that summer I put up the same add on Craigslist, which is where our Sax player George Falk found us. Again it only took about 5 minutes of jamming with George to know we had found exactly what we were looking for, he could fit into any song, style, or space. It took us a very long time to find a bass player though. I think we went through four bass players in three shows worth of time, mostly just friends and people filling in when we needed. But one day in the dorms I heard someone playing some stinky dirty funky music down the hall, so I more or less decided to let myself in and introduced myself to our now Bass Master John Loria.
What genre of music do you consider yalls work to be? (Fusion , explain)Who are your major influences? What inspires you guys?
I think genre’s can sometimes be misleading. With that being said I would consider us a mix of Glam Jam/Long-Rock/American Music. Some of our major influences are The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Phish, Fried Egg Nebula, Miles Davis, Van Morrison, Thelonious Monk, The Mand, Courtney Barnett, The Avett Brothers, and lots of music from the 70’s. What inspires us is having the opportunity to freely express ourselves through music as well as the chance to grow a fun and exciting community of friends and fans. Just being able to go out and have fun, to play music the way that we want to, is what it is all about. Every show we play that we see people out there there enjoying themselves, pushes us that much more to keep playing.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Can you briefly explain your music making process?
I have probably written the majority of the material, but everyone in the band contributes a great deal to the repertoire as well, with each member having at least 3 or 4 songs of their own. We like to write about a variety of topics: Love, Friendship, Sorrow, Mimes, Dancing, Squids, Gangsters, Falling into wormholes, Mono, Taco Bell, Farts etc…But we strongly believe in having a versatile and eclectic mix of songs, not just genre-wise, but also in the lyrical content, allowing ourselves to not have to be so serious all the time and include some humor when we can. We all listen to so many different kinds of music, so why not try to play different kinds of music? The writing process varies. Since everyone in the band writes there are always different collaborations going on. But if someone brings a completed song in and we all dig it, then it’s good to go outside of any minor flavor we all add individually.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together? A 60+ song catalog is impressive and must have taken some time…please explain a little bit.
I think our music has evolved quite a bit. I came into the band with a few songs and made a lot of the material early on, but in the last few years everyone has gotten involved in the writing, both with their own songs and collaborating on others. Just having everyone be involved like that has been amazing for progressing our sound and allowing everyone to grow into their own, musically. At this point we are all writing so much and are being inspired by so many different things, that it is just so exciting hearing what everyone brings to the table.
Where are some key places yall have performed? What are your favorite venues? Any venues or festivals you are excited to play that you haven’t yet?
Some key places we have performed are Grand Rapids MI, Chicago IL, New York City NY, Asheville NC, Baltimore MD, Waterloo NY, Columbus OH. All these cities have become not only some of our favorite places to visit but also where we’ve been able to build a growing fan base. We have played almost 500 shows so far as a band, and of those some of my favorite spots are; The Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids MI, Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit MI, The 8×10 in Baltimore MD, The Bottleneck in Lawrence KS, and Fox’s Lair in Augusta GA. As a band we aim to keep playing bigger and better places, and right now a huge goal for us is eventually getting to Red Rocks, I think everyone would be “pretty stoked on it,” as our drummer would say.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Our biggest challenge as a band has been, and always will be, deciding on which fast food restaurant and/or diner we will be spending all of our money at. Unfortunately overcoming these issues has been rather difficult, and is something we are constantly struggling with. It’s just that how can you ever really decide, you know? Subway or Taco Bell? Wendy’s fries or McDonald’s fries? The Reuben or the Club? But, we are overcoming these issues by turning every meal into a publicly displayed eating battle that takes place on the Desmond Jones snapchat feed we like to call, Smash or Save™ which allows for us to get our frustration out on the playing field so we can focus on the music.
Any big upcoming shows, tours, festivals, new albums you are stoked for coming up? Where can the fans experience you next?
Right now we are very excited because we are finishing up recording our second full length album, which we have been working on at InMuSo studios with our manager Kevin McKay. It should be a fun contrast to the first album and I think we’re all really excited to get it done and out there. We are also playing around as consistently as we can. We’ve got all the social media pages you can imagine, and we try to keep them up to date with all of our shows and news including set lists and recordings of our shows that we post to the Archive.org in case anyone missed out. We also have our studio recordings available all over, iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube etc.
What is the message that you are giving out to your fans and the community? What do you strive to have people leaving your shows thinking and or feeling? Some advice or experience for younger aspiring musicians?
We like to try and hit a lot of different emotions and feelings with our music. In a “perfect world,” or I should say in a “perfect jam,” we’d make someone laugh, cry, hide under the table, and dance around the room smiling and hugging everyone all within the same song. So really what we strive for is making some kind of emotional connection with the people that are watching. We like to put our all into these shows and seeing people share our excitement is an amazing and inspiring thing. We hope that everyone leaving our show, leaves having heard something new, and leaves knowing that they are each just as much a part of this as we are, and that we can’t wait to grow with them. As far as advice goes, I don’t know what else to say besides keep playing! Go now! Play! Get shows and go play as many of them as you can!
Visit the band’s website to learn more.