All indications point to the same inevitable conclusion: Durand Jones & the Indications are the real deal.
The five-piece soul band from Bloomington, Indiana, is in Salt Lake City next week for a sold-out show at The State Room. The group has been winning over fans and critics alike with their tight-harmonies and a rhythm section that sounds like it comes straight out of a 1970s vinyl soul record.
In a telephone interview with the Standard-Examiner, frontman Durand Jones remembers vividly the night he and his bandmates finished a rough edit of “Giving Up,” their first tune recorded together.
“I remember being in the car, listening to a burned CD of the song, and pulling over to the side of the road,” Jones recalls. “I called my brother, turned the music up and said, ‘Dude, you have to hear this!’ I’ll never forget that night.”
Since that fateful day, Jones has believed he and the Indications have hit on something special.
“From then on, I felt this band had the potential to do things,” he said. “It still catches me by surprise sometimes, but at the same time I’m not surprised, if you know what I mean.”
The band got its start at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where a shared love of classic soul music drew the five now-twentysomethings together. With lead vocals split between Jones’ soulful power and drummer Aaron Frazer’s dreamy falsetto, the band is rounded out by guitarist Blake Rhein, bassist Kyle Houpt and keyboardist Steve Okonski.
Their 2016 self-titled debut was a low-budget affair, widely reported in the media as “recorded for $452.11, including a case of beer.”
“Well, probably a couple of cases of beer, in truth,” Frazer tells the S-E. “We recorded it in my basement and it was just a matter of hanging out, listening to records, and then going downstairs to see what we could churn out.”
Oh, and one more great “In the Beginning” story from the band: Rumor has it they recorded songs for that first album on an “American Idol”-branded microphone.
Incredible but true, Frazer admits.
“It was my high school sweetheart’s,” he said of the mic. “I took it out of her house — it was part of a karaoke machine. I don’t think Melanie reads these, but I’m sure she doesn’t even remember it.”
Frazer says they broke up long, long ago.
“But it wasn’t because of the microphone,” he assures.
Earlier this month, Durand Jones & the Indications released their sophomore album, “American Love Call.” Of the new album, the British newspaper The Guardian writes: “There simply isn’t a weak or even middling track, and the strongest can go toe to toe with the best of Al Green or Bobby Womack.”
Frazer said the band is keeping incredibly busy with the current tour in support of the new album.
“This is the busiest tour we’ve ever been on,” Frazer said. “We’ve never done a tour with an album rollout, and it’s been three weeks since the record came out, so it feels like a great time to start the tour. But there are lots of things to balance, including honing our new set.”
Frazer describes the new album “like the sound of lessons being put to work.” He said their first album involved a lot of experimentation and learning, and he believes the band successfully synthesized all that and put it into practice on “American Love Call.”
Nowhere is that hard work more evident than in the album opener “Morning in America,” with its somber lyrics: “It’s morning in America/ But I can’t see the dawn.”
Although Jones says he wasn’t involved in writing the lyrics to the song, he certainly identifies with them.
“Here it is, 2019, but at the end of the day we have more black people in jail than we had slaves in this country,” Jones says. “To me, the older I get the more I see what it’s like to live in this country as a black man and what that entails. It’s something no one can prepare you for fully, and it’s a learning experience every day navigating through this world in this body.”
Whenever he sings it, Jones says the song “sends me to a really dark place.”
“We understand that people are there to party and have a good time,” he said, “but we also try to get them to empathize with others.”
Frazer says the band tries to balance the kinds of songs that they perform.
“That’s the beautiful thing about soul music, it’s a great delivery system for a lot of things — partying, soft and tender, songs about political fury,” he said.
And while that political fury is an important component, Frazer says you also need a helping of songs about relaxing, or celebrating, or falling in love. Otherwise, he says you can risk “activist burnout.”
“In truth, people are becoming so politically activated,” Frazer said. “If you are just fighting and struggling and raging every single day, you’re going to burn out.”