When mainstream music fans hear the term “jam band,” they usually associate the music with something along the lines of ramen soup – all noodle and no substance. This, however, is not the case when it comes to Chicago-based band Nebulous. What they hope to do is bridge the gap between jamming and pop music with a blend of jazz and Americana-based improvisational rock and roll. With their second appearance at the Canopy Club occurring tomorrow night, Nebulous hopes to gain new fans with their highly-focused live performances.
Before joining the band, guitarist and vocalist Jared Rabin spent his time on the West Coast. After studying guitar at the University of Southern California’s prestigious jazz guitar program for two years, Rabin realized California didn’t hold the musical outlets he had hoped for.
“I found when I went out to L.A., I wasn’t really interested in what was going on out there,” recalled Rabin. “L.A. is very into record labels and shopping your band around.”
This realization prompted a return to his hometown of Chicago, where he resumed his studies and eventually met the members of Nebulous, who had been struggling to find a guitarist for some time. With Jared as their lead guitarist, drummer Drew Littell, keyboardist Nick Gutierrez and bassist Ben Stone had officially formed Nebulous as it is known today.
“Chicago has provided a perfect outlet for the band to perform live,” said Rabin. “In Chicago, you can lay back. There are lots of bars that want to have good music. It’s a much easier place to be really active in a live music scene.”
Last winter, bassist Ben Stone decided to leave Nebulous to pursue other endeavors. Thankfully, the remaining members found a new bassist, Pat Dinnen, who fit perfectly with the sound they had already established.
“We were really lucky,” remarked Rabin. “Other groups who have lost members take a really long time to get back up to speed, but Pat has caught on really nicely.”
With all four members of Nebulous having formally studied music in both jazz and classical genres, it isn’t surprising that the band would draw inspiration from a wide array of artists and performers. Collectively, though, Nebulous claim the Grateful Dead as their biggest inspiration.
“As a concept, we look to the Dead in how to not only to have a band, but how to approach live performances,” stated Rabin.
Musically, their sound is much more varied. While they do cover the Grateful Dead frequently in their live shows, Nebulous’ own music is much tighter and cohesive.
“We don’t delve into noisy improv,” explains Rabin. “We try to play something that is attractive to people and keeps them focused, but at the same time, we try to maintain a higher level of improvisation and interaction between group members.”
While they may be categorized as a jam band, Nebulous tries to avoid the potential negative connotations that can come from that genre.
“We aren’t a stereotypical hippie jam band that gets onstage stoned and plays for hours on end,” warns Rabin.
While they wouldn’t necessarily classify their tunes as pop songs, Nebulous does effectively combine elements from pop music with their jam band influences to create some truly engaging music.
As it is with any band that thrives in its live performances, enticing fans via the Internet can be rather challenging. With songs usually clocking in at around eight minutes, it can be difficult for music fans to sit patiently online before deciding whether or not they enjoy what they are hearing, but Nebulous has had no problem. While the band is not actively seeking out radio play or a record label, Web sites like MySpace have provided Nebulous with the perfect way of getting music to the fans.
“We aren’t really looking to make a record we are going to sell to people,” claims Rabin. “We are down with giving it away for free. We just want to play shows with lots of people who dig our music.”
For now, Nebulous is perfectly content with recording music in their living rooms and getting their music to the fans free of charge.
While some fans of the genre may prefer the substance-less jams full of noodly guitar solos and atmospheric space, Nebulous plans to serve up a hearty set full of good old fashioned American rock n’ roll.
Nebulous will be playing with The Fuz and Family Groove Company tomorrow, April 6, at 9 p.m. The show is 18 and over, and costs $5.