The Sea.Hear.Now festival in Asbury Park will be a huge event for New Jersey’s rock community: A megafestival, on the beach, with sets by Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, The Avett Brothers, Patti Smith and many others.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Sept. 18-19 fest could feel like an unofficial end to the havoc the pandemic has wreaked on the local music community. But it will also represent a new beginning for one of the most prominent New Jersey artists on the bill: Remember Jones, who will use his Sept. 19 set to debut a new band and new material from an upcoming album.
“I feel like I’m a bit more confidently representing myself,” says Jones, who performed under his birth name, Anthony D’Amato, before adopting the Remember Jones stage name in 2014. “I think this is probably the best sounding release I’ve ever had. I think it really encapsulates all the colors of my voice, and I’ve written all of the songs myself, which is different from my past releases.
“While I’ll still tinker with others’ songs live and show off my influences in those ways — I love being a song stylist and doing my own versions of things, that’ll always be there — I’m excited to pair those with songs of my own and really show all of the avenues that I can go down.”
He gives a preview of his new sound with his funky, playful and very catchy new single, “Fat Jeans,” inspired by the extra pounds that many people put on during the pandemic. You can watch its animated video, made by Tyler March, below.
Jones has wanted to work with March for a long time. “I sent him an early demo,” he said, “and he was like, ‘I think this is the one for us to work on.’ … It was just really the perfect time for us to do it. I’m still working out my branding — you know, my onstage stuff, my new look and things like that. So this was a nice bridge from the old to the new.
“The song does that, too. It has some R&B. It has horns and things like that. But lyrically and stylistically and production-wise, it’s definitely a little bit more modern than what I put out there before. And truthfully, it resonates more with who I am personally. I just thought the song, with its sort of tongue-in-cheek mentality and, you know, it’s sort of Lonely Island-type vibe, was perfect for an animated video.”
Back when he was still performing as Anthony D’Amato, Jones was quite overweight, and has been very open about the major changes he has made to become healthier.
“A lot of how I was presented in the video was my choice, with sort of my gut hanging out,” he said. “It’s a nice way for me to play on my past and my current struggles but also have fun with it and be sort of body positive.”
Jones’ past bands have been large, with multiple horn players, guitar players, keyboard players and backing vocalists. His new band (whose members he declined to identify at this early point) will be more streamlined.
“It’s more of a rock-forward band,” he said. “Two guitars, one keyboard, drums, bass, one saxophone and a female vocalist. There will be guests in and out, as usual, which I love to do, and we’re really kind of playing with sounds and exploring sounds, a bit more. Also, everyone in the band is a vocalist, not just the singer … Everyone uses their voice as an instrument, which I’m really excited about, and that has helped me sort of pare things down a bit as well.
“Even though I had a band of a large size and we did so many great things, I think I was limited in what I was putting out there because of other people’s influences and comfort levels. I would never want anybody to be in a position that they felt untrue to themselves. So there was (in the past) a lot of me sort of saying, ‘Sure, if it sounds great to you, then I’m down,’ or, ‘If it feels good to you, I’m okay.’ And now it’s a bit of the opposite. I’ve envisioned everything and kind of cast, for lack of a better word, the band and the sound of the people that I wanted involved in this particular step in my career.”
With a smaller band, he said, he will be able to play at a wider variety of venues. And musically, he said, “I’m able to shape-shift a little bit more, and artistically fulfill the visions that I have when it comes to the production of the show and the sounds. I’m spending a lot of time doing that with this particular band — a lot of effects, a lot of electronic stuff going in and out with the authentic sounds. Of course, it will have a lot of that kind of old-school bravado that I bring and I’ll still be the multi-faceted entertainer that I am. But it will definitely shift genres more than I have in the past — which I think I have done, but my own songs (and not covers) will be helping to carry that.”
He hopes to release the new album in February, and tour from February to April. “We’re currently routing the dates,” he said. “It’s very competitive for next year because a lot of people are doing the same, and a lot of people moved their dates to 2022 already. But we’re looking at a lot of U.S. touring next year.”
He does have a number of more imminent shows. Every Friday and Sunday of this summer, he will appear in Glen Burtnik’s “Summer of Love” shows at Ovation Hall at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. And on July 24, he will perform with Motor City Revue at the Monmouth County Fair in Freehold.
He kept busier than most musicians during the pandemic, with a series of online shows. But it was not the most satisfying experience, he now says.
“Live streaming is not my personal favorite medium to connect with people,” he said. “I know a lot of venues and promoters are still using that, which I think is a good bridge to get back to live shows as we used to know it. But I don’t think people really connect to music and entertainers and storytellers in that way. I felt that disconnect as a performer. It’s very hard belting high C’s to a little dot on the screen.
“But I will say that I learned a lot. I enjoyed the production and work that went into doing what I was doing with the live stream, and fans were really giving. We donated nearly $20,000 to charities and, you know, people donated a lot to the Remember Jones charity, when I wasn’t working. So it was really, really fulfilling and I was able to pay musicians and pay technical people and my sound designer. Everybody was able to work.
“So it was good and bad. I just don’t prefer it.”
For more information, visit rememberjones.com.
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