The Jordan Years is a five-piece band made up of Wes Restless (vocals), Mr. Anderson (bass), Michael "MC" Cole (keyboards), "Angry Joe" Dorenbos (drums) and Roger Panella (guitar). Together they combine elements of funk, rock and hip-hop into a groove-heavy mixture of vintage soul, reminiscent of Motown and Stax.
Wes (also of The Gent$) is at his finest crooning over the driving rhythms of Anderson's bass and Dorenbos' drums. Cole and Panella are the mellowing factor with their playful banter of melodic keys and choppy guitar riffs. Two singles - "See the Light" and "Warm Me Up" - have convinced fans that The Jordan Years is the real deal, and with a full-length looming, Centerstage sat down with the quintet to discuss its beginnings and what 2010 will bring.
How'd you guys meet?
Joe Dorenbos: Craigslist "men seeking men" ad.
Interesting name. Is it your homage to No. 23 himself?
Roger Panella: Yep...you got it. It's an homage to Ryne Sandberg.
Mr. Anderson: Legally it's based off a friend of ours named Jordan...but in all reality, it's more of an homage to Chicago and a time when the Bulls were winning and no one knew what an mp3 was.
JD: The Jordan Years is a moniker that is meant to elicit a deep personal emotional reaction, much like the words "Ferrari" or "America" or "Double penetration."
Michael Cole: This is the second "basketball-themed group" I've played in (Fly Williams was the other), and I did not help name either but I endorse them both.
What did you think of MJ's Hall of Fame induction speech? For the most part people seem split.
Wes Restless: The worst rapper I know is less humble on the mic than MJ.
JD: I don't think about it. What I do think about are off-color slogans to print on t-shirts for babies.
Who are some of your musical influences both past and present?
MA: In '95 I discovered V103 and spent countless hours listening to Herb Kent with notepad in hand, playing student to his radio show.
JD: My playing is influenced by stuff I hear on the radio, or the Weather Channel.
MC: Past influences: Stevie Wonder, Sly, Prince, Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock, Meters, Donny Hathaway, Fela. More recent influences: Animal Collective, Radiohead, John Legend, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye, Medeski, STS9.
What sort of inspiration does Chicago provide?
MA: This is the city that brought the world Curtis Mayfield, Barack Obama, Walter Payton, Mike Ditka, the Daley family, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Michael Jordan, Chess Records, Playboy, etc.
JD: The never-ending supply of pretty girls.
MC: Coming from NYC I originally liked Chicago because it was "cheap and easy," but there is an incredible scene in Chicago for creating music and art. Hearing other Chicago artists is inspirational and provides the drive to work harder.
Any favorite places to perform at?
WR: NYE at Black Gate Studios was fun, crunkness & indoor chiefing equals A+.
RP: Anywhere that will deal with our huge egos and our ridiculous riders.
MA: The studio.
JD: In front of pretty girls, rows and rows of hotties.
MC: A full room, a full darkroom.
What's been your most memorable show so far?
RP: There's only one gig I can remember clearly, but I'm not sure where it was at.
JD: I was asked once if I was as good in bed as I am on the drums. That kind of stuck in my head.
MC: Probably the last one. We are on a roll right now.
Listening to your music is sort of like inhaling a Motown-style breath of fresh air. What's the recording process like for you guys?
RP: Basically, we write music and play it through Andersen's computer. We run it through a plug-in, and it comes out sounding old.
JD: Hard work, decision-making and inhaling copious amount of...
MA: We really should have Bud Light, PBR and Camel Lights as sponsors, hopefully the staff at Food Smart get a raise from our patronage.
Tell me a little bit about West Town Recording.
MA: Heavily influenced by labels like Daptone, Stax, Chess, and Motown with recording studio, house band (The Jordan Years) and label all under one roof. The mission is to record and release through unconventional means the soulful side of funk, jazz and hip-hop. It started as a rehearsal space, it turned into a studio and then became a record label. The plan is to be the next Berry Gordy, but for now I will strive to be the next Gabriel Roth.
JD: I like to refer to it as the "spliff-bunker."
MC: It's a start-up operation, but it's built for the state of the music industry in 2010. We just try to handle as much as possible ourselves. Rehearsing, recording, screen printing shirts and posters, logo and website design, marketing and promotion - it's all done in-house at WTR.
There's a nice contemporary funk scene now. What's your take on people's revitalized interest in soul music?
JD: They should seek medical attention immediately.
RP: Feed people enough crap and they'll realize that they like watching people play instruments. Especially in a non-ironic way.
MC: We call it the second wave of soul. There's always going to be a market for original, soulful music because the sounds are so rich. It just makes people feel good, like comfort food. When you hear real, live brass horns and other fat-sounding instruments, it's noticeable. So much of today's music is heavily quantized sequences, sample and soft-synth stuff. It doesn't have the same impact as the real thing. People love fat analog sounds. There is no substitute for real instruments played by real people.
When can we expect a full-length?
JD: We won't give you much in length, but we have plenty of girth.
MC: Hopefully by the end of 2010. If an investor wants to sponsor us, we can probably get it done faster.
Anything else on the horizon for 2010?
WR: The Jordan Years, Wes Restless, The Jordan Years, Wes Restless...
MA: The house band spot for Dre Day with Rhymesayers artist Psalm One on February 19th at darkroom, and a trip to NYC in April backing Chicago comedy legends Schadenfreude, tentatively titled "The City That Works."
JD: Hopefully lots more gigs with lots more pretty girls dancing.