Our Favourite Toys: Rock Talk With JIMBO

BY SAM GILLON
MUSIC EDITOR

On the outside, it looks like just another campus building. I’m sure there are people who walk past it every day and have no idea what it’s used for. It looks ordinary… even the main floor is an often empty middle-school-looking gym with a big auditorium stage that’s instantly visible from the main entrance. 

I was going to Mac Brown to meet up with JIMBO, a supremely talented heavy rock band that some readers might remember from our December launch party at The Brooklyn. After that show, I wanted to know more about these guys. They make you want to jump up and down and start a spontaneous mosh pit. But they also dare you to challenge their intricate instrumentation and genuinely thoughtful lyrics. That’s what sets this band apart and why you need to hear them if you haven’t already. 

As my feet clicked down the linoleum staircase, I could hear a muffled song being played behind a soundproofed sets of doors. With every step, the sound grew louder, reaching an apex when I arrived at the sound-sealed Jam Room in the basement of Mac Brown. As I opened the door, the muffled sounds I could hear brewing on the street washed over me and almost blew me back to my house. These guys are loud, and fast, and fun. 

JIMBO consists of 4 people. Tim Killeen plays a steady, chugging rhythm guitar, complimented by Joe Narducci’s lead guitar work, which consists of blistering solos and meticulously planned licks and riffs. Alex Vanderheyden keeps everything locked down with rhythmic baselines that are somewhere between funk and grunge… And he does it all while he sings. Behind the kit is Jacob Tessier, whose drums smack your ears like a wonderful concussion. But more than that, JIMBO sounds like a band; they have one sound created by four musicians, instead of the classic college-band pitfall of having 4 musicians on stage trying to take the stage for themselves instead of for their group.

After demoing a new original for me (stay tuned- it’s great), these college-rockstars suddenly put away their instruments and became thoughtful… contemplating Jordan Petersen’s controversial visit to Queen’s as they wrapped up patch chords and zipped shut their gig bags. 

“He’s not even gonna say anything interesting, I’m just going to see if theres a riot of some kind.” says guitarist Joe Narducci. 

“Yeah man that’d be awesome, to see people do something, anything. Instead of just, sitting around and complaining… even if I think that violence against someone is kinda bullshit and just doesn’t make sense. Just, let him talk and if you disagree, don’t listen to him. Do what ya do” Jacob Tessier, JIMBO’s drummer thinks. 

Then, we started the interview. 

When you watch them perform, you can see how much fun they have doing what they’re doing, whether its delivering a chugging chorus or a face melting guitar break. And they stick all the pieces of their songs together with reverberating, precise transitions into progressive breaks. Their music is complicated, huge and heavy, but through it all they’re loose, and comfortable… just good friends, bonded by music. They’re easy to talk to and personable.  If you want to know what JIMBO is about, take Joe Narducci’s word for it “We really love rock and roll, and we want to kick ass.”

Throughout our chat, we stopped and laughed ironically when Joe started writing a setlist of classical symphonies on the whiteboard behind him, on which the other bands that also rehearse here have written their lists of songs. We reminisced about some of the band’s strange and hilarious moments, like when the guy in charge of the sound at an empty bar played an arena style goal horn every time he liked one of their songs. Or the time they bought chocolate genitalia for their bandmate before a show. We even got to talking like good friends about music, like Greta Von Fleet sounding just a touch too much like Led Zeppelin. 

all images via JIMBO

Tell us about yourselves, guys. Where are you all from? 

Joe Well I’m Joe, and I’m from the GTA, around Vaughn and Woodbridge.

Jacob I’m Jacob and I’m from this really small town called Port Perry.

Alex I’m from Barrie. We all live pretty close… well, close enough to play together.

How did you meet? and when did you decide to become a band?

Joe I met Jacob in this group called Qbusk, and we were both really driven to start bands. We like the same kind of music and wanted to rock out, so naturally me and him started to play together. We were in another band for a while that fell through, and we formed a new one that Tim was in. The bassist for that group eventually dropped out, so we asked Alex to join, who we also happened to know from Qbusk.

Jacob And then Alex volunteered to sing and that saved us from Joe’s Vocals, although we still use [Joe] when we think it fits better in the song. Like that cover we’re gonna do…[Looks at Joe] you should definitely sing the verses.

What cover is that? 

Jacob I definitely think that one should stay a surprise, because we’re definitely going to play it at our next show and I think people will be really excited this way. It’ll be better as a surprise.

You guys have really good chemistry together. How did that happen? Was there a defining moment when it all came through, or did it happen more over time?

Jacob As much we love to joke around and have our fun on stage and even when we’re just jamming together, I do feel like we take this thing really seriously.

Joe And I think we all have the same values and we’re in it for the right reasons. Plus, I feel like when we go on stage we want to show people the same thing.

Jacob We want to get wild, but we want [the audience] to get wild with us.

Joe And also, we’re not like ‘Yeah we’re rockstars!’ and everyone bows down. It’s more like we’re kids and we’re showing you our favourite toy, y’know? We’re innocently like ‘Hey check out the cool ladder on this firetruck!’, except with our music. And we’re so excited to share it with you because our music is so heavy, but our demeanour is like a child having fun.

Jacob We just have so much fun jamming to the songs… I feel like some bands are a group of friends that decide to become a band and that works for them, but we’ve bonded over this music and from being in a band. Music first, man, and that’s where the benefit of playing originals is. I really feel like these are our songs, and like [Joe] said, we just want to show everyone our “favourite toys”. With covers, its like someone showing you a picture of someone else’s toys. These are our toys.

When I listen to you guys, I hear Monster Truck and Royal Blood stirred into a bowl with Rage Against The Machine, and it creates this lovely kind of “complicated Nirvana” sound. But I can only hear it and tell you what I think I hear, so I’m curious as to who you guys list as your big influences?

Jacob Well it’s different for each of us and I think that might be why you hear that “salad bowl” sound you’re talking about. Which… I think thats the right way to do that.

Joe For me, its probably Soundgarden and the Smashing Pumpkins. I really like Black Sabbath too, but I think ultimately my sound for JIMBO is definitely a mixture of those first two bands. 

Jacob For me its kind of similar, I really like Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins). But I also really like Tool and sort of other heavy rock bands. But also, and this is something Joe isn’t really a fan of, but I listen to a lot of punk. I really love drumming punk, and every now and then I’ll just slide in a little punk beat here and there. 

Alex And it works. 

Jacob Yeah exactly! And I feel like your influences are just how you approach your instrument.

Alex I definitely bring the Rage against the Machine. I think it’s the best bass tone in the world but it also gets funky. And I also really like Zeppelin. 

Your new album, self-titled “JIMBO”, really blew me away. What went into this album? 

Jacob We started in like, November, and when we released it was when we finally mixed and mastered these songs. They were kind of our best three songs out of our setlist and we thought they were cool, so we recorded them. 

Joe We also played them for a while before. “Manpower” and “Castle Bravo” are ones we had both played over the [last] summer, so they were road-worn. “Thunderbird” though, wasn’t written until frosh week. 

Jacob Also, on “Thunderbird” especially, it was just one great phrase after another. Like [Alex]  came in with a riff, and then Joe was like “Yes we’re doing this!”. On that first beat I was actually putting the butt of my stick into the middle of my floor tom and pressing down in the centre to get that higher tone you can hear. [Mimics beat then laughs] Sorry… I thought it was kind of cool. 

It was cool! What are the songs about?

Joe Well, “Castle Bravo” is a about this one time I was in Lazy and I was watching CNN… the song is originally called “April 15th”, because the date that day was April 14th, and April 15 is a big holiday in North Korea. CNN was talking about how the world was on the brink of nuclear war. And I was thinking like, if we went to nuclear war… that would be the date. And the news just pushes that fear, so for that song the chorus is “we want war”. The reason the chorus is “we want more war” is  because I believe war drives society and because a lot of other bands in respond to world events with  lofty, empty sounding songs about peace and love just to get likes. Well… if other bands are gonna do that then JIMBO is gonna chant the opposite.

Alex “Thunderbird”… is about, kind of, how the natives got totally f*cked over. The first line is “From a crown fashion a cage from the thunderbird”, because I had met this guy when I was in Montreal, and he had moved all the way from BC to Montreal because he said that he had to leave his reservation. He had said that people were angry, and fed up with how they had been treated the entire time. I’m not native, but his tribe honoured the thunderbird symbol. So, “from a crown” is like, British colonists and colonization and fashioning a cage for this whole tribe. I just wanted to comment on it, and how their story has been completely buried, and there’s like nothing left of their culture. 

Jacob And then “Man Power” is like, about working in a factory. We’ve all worked in factories and know how it is. 

Alex Yeah, its about factory work. The name itself comes from a subcontracting thing in a factory I was working in. There was this older man whose job it was to pick up four pieces of foam, and move it. Every minute. And he would do that for like, eight hours a day, every day. And his uniform said “Man Power” on it and I was like, “wow, we’re really putting this guy to good use? Thats the best thing we could have this guy doing?” I don’t know, it would make me feel useless. 

What does the immediate future of JIMBO look like?

Joe Wellour next show is on March 10th at the Mansion, but we’re really trying to get “Mean Gloss” off the ground. “Mean Gloss” is a new collective, that consists of three bands. Us, The Paper Ladies and The Meringues. What we want to do is a lot of tours, some shows… and with three good bands that do all originals, we hope we can reach some people who would really want to hear some artistic, original rock. And if we’re all under one name, hopefully we’ll all be easier to find, and can draw some bigger, excited crowds. 

Jacob We’re also doing a new song that we were recording over reading week. We’ve got a new music video coming out… There’s all kinds of stuff. 

What does JIMBO want to do? Is it a chance to have some fun and play some good music, or is playing music professionally and end goal for you guys?

Joe I want to do it forever. 

Alex As of now, this is all I have. Like, I don’t have a career… I just have this band. If this falls through I guess I’ll have to try and find a career later, but if this doesn’t fall through then, that’s awesome. 

Joe Joe Rogan says that comedians don’t make any money for their first two years- they’re a wash. I think the same goes for bands, and if you’re sort of playing those two years, you’re building a following. And I think if we can get these two or four years out of the way now, we can kind of get two birds stoned at once. [Laughter] No but seriously, I also think everyone thinks that you have to get like, your hit and then you’ll make it, but I think if you’re just a band long enough it’ll become a career.