U.N. Jefferson Brings the Heat
Photo credit: Nice Marmot PR
Energy can be everything for a live show, and for U.N. Jefferson getting intense on stage is a necessity. With nine members pumping up the band's sound and ferocity on stage, the group is a fierce update to vintage rock. We caught up with U.N. Jefferson's Ajay Massey ahead of the band's set at Ottawa Bluesfest on July 13 to talk about getting crazy on stage and why they pulled their name from "Revenge of the Nerds."
Ottawa Life: With such a large amount of members what are the biggest ups and downs you find managing so many creative forces?
Ajay Massey: The advantage is definitely getting to work with amazing musicians and getting the full sound that I hear in my head. The only disadvantage is trying to schedule nine people to practice together. Sonically it's just such an advantage because I can take it to that spot that makes me happy, just making that huge wall of sound.
How exactly does the creative process work with so many people in the band?
When an idea strikes me, I just go with it. It usually just starts with something simple that happened in life or a story from a friend. It can start from something musically too, usually a drum-beat for me.
How did Justin Abedin get involved in your latest record, what did they bring and how are they involved in the live band?
So Justin plays guitar in the band too. He's got a great ear and great ideas overall. He took my ideas and just pushed them to another level, which made my songs more amazing. His thoughts and ideas, and the way he treated the instruments both individually and a whole I thought couldn't have been better. His ear and years of experience made the record much better than I thought it would be, I was pleasantly surprised and learned so much. I gained a greater appreciation for large bands too, before this I was in bands that were 5-6 members max. We got up to 12 band members on this album, which was often, and it couldn't have happened without his experience.
How did you want to capture a feeling of being overcome with emotions on "Testify"?
For me it was just that feeling of having something to say, not necessarily musically or verbally even. Everyone has that thing when you feel something inside you and have to let it out, whether it's good or bad. For me it was good, bad… all of the above and I put it into that song. I had something to say, and I wanted to capture that feeling of letting loose what you had inside?
And how exactly did the video for that song come together?
I was working with Alex Stephenson; we knew the video really had to reflect the feeling of the song. So we had a lot of fast-moving shots and cuts, we knew it had to relay that feeling through that. We even moved through twelve locations, which is a lot, so the video would keep moving visually too. We built the wall of speakers in the video too, I own all those speakers. Some of the speakers are part of the similar art on the album cover, and they're sitting in my basement now. It took months going to thrift stores and places like Kijiji to find them all. We ended up with about 88 speakers in the end.
What exactly is the origin of U.N. Jefferson as a name and what does it mean to the spirit of the project?
In naming the band, it's always hard to come up with a name. I made a list, that name stuck out from my childhood as a fantastic name. That name is from "Revenge of the Nerds" but the sonics of that name, and what it represents are awesome. It fits the group perfectly and has the spirit of us in that name. It holds this memory to me.
You're particularly known for your lively shows, but has this ever gotten out of hand either with band member antics or the audience?
We definitely get into the show but we don't go crazy over-the-top. If anyone will, it's me. We like to turn it up to 11 every time we do a show. We want to make it a point to get everyone moving by the end, though we hope to make it happen by the beginning. It's just something we get out of our music, and we want the music to feel like us. It's how we play and it makes me move playing it.