Japhy Ryder Steps It Up
It’s been a good year for Will Andrews, Jeremy Kizina, Patrick Ormiston and Jason Thime. The four members of the Burlington-based Japhy Ryder have released a new album, signed a deal with Ropeadope and recorded a live album at Nectar’s. And they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
It all started at St. Michael’s College, where all four men were attending school. They were each studying different things, but they all had one thing in common: a passion for playing music. They grew up listening to everything from The Band and Led Zeppelin to Gangstarr and Broadway music, but their music has a jazzy, jam band feel to it. According to guitarist Jeremy Kizima, they would practice on weekdays and play shows wherever they could during the weekend. The parties at townhouses 325 and 218 were host to most of Japhy Ryder’s first live shows, along with Eddie’s Lounge, a student-run space at the college.
In order to book their first real show, the guys needed a name. The name Japhy Ryder comes from the lead character in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. Japhy, in the novel, is based on the life of beat poet Gary Snyder. While the band members admit to being Kerouac fans, they say that they agreed on the name simply because it was better than all of the others on their list, Kizina says. If things had gone differently for Japhy Ryder five years ago, they could have just as easily been booked under the name Dysfunktion, he says.
“We had gigs already booked so we needed a name,” Kizina says. “[Japhy Ryder] kind of just stuck.”
The band’s first album, Verde, came out in April 2006 but the guys say they’ve come a long way since then. After graduating from college, they have been able to spend more time focusing on the band and becoming better songwriters and musicians, Kizina says.
The guys started paying more attention to writing and “cut out a lot of the bullshit,” according to drummer Jason Thime.
“I know that we don’t ever listen to what we started playing,” he says. “We’ve absolutely all progressed as musicians and songwriters incredibly in the past couple years”
The band’s latest album, No Consequence, is definitely a step in a new direction for Japhy Ryder, says Kizina. Recorded near trumpet player Will Andrews’ family house in New York, the band commandeered a house and set up shop there to finish the album. The new CD is filled with more mature songs, better songwriting and a new producer, Andrews says.
“[No Consequence] is light years away; just the recording process was a lot easier than the first album,” Kizina says. “It was very relaxed.”
Their hard work paid off. After receiving rave reviews from Seven Days and State of Mind, the band signed a digital distribution deal with Ropeadope, a self-proclaimed “funky jazz label” whose family includes artists like DJ Logic, Medeski Martin and Wood and Mike Gordon. Ropeadope will now sell No Consequence online and hopefully help with promotions and sales, Andrews says. Also, being a part of Ropeadope will help the band make valuable connections with artists that they have admired and grown up listening to, he says.
Just last month, Nectar’s invited Japhy Ryder to play four consecutive Thursday nights and use those shows to record a live album. The Nectar’s crew did all of the recording and the band will choose all of the tracks that will be included on the record, says Ormiston.
“We’re a consistent live band…hopefully that will come through on tape,” Kizina says.
The concerts at Nectar’s were well-attended, bringing a good mix of friends and fans. Unlike their days at St. Michael’s, their shows aren’t just attended by familiar faces. The band is proud that they no longer know everyone that’s watching, Ormiston says.
For now, playing in Japhy Ryder is a part-time gig for all of the members. They have 30-40 hour a week jobs and work as much as they can when they aren’t performing. Fortunately, they all have flexibility and are able to fill in working when they aren’t on the road and playing shows. But it’s not always easy, Thime says.
“I get up at 6 a.m. all week and I go to bed at almost 6 a.m. all weekend,” he says. “Physically it gets challenging after a while.”
Ultimately, however, the goal is to make Japhy Ryder a full-time job. But without the money, a constant touring schedule and the presence of a booking agent, the band doesn’t have the resources to rely on just the guys’ salary quite yet.
The band has played in 11 different states, making it as far as West Virginia. They have also performed with artists like Femi Kuti, The Roots, Tea Leaf Green and Lotus.
“You definitely learn a lot from those gigs, just to meet some of those musicians is really nice,” Kizina says.
Recently, the band purchased its own touring van and is now a tax-paying entity. They are one step closer to achieving their dream, Kizina says.
“It’s definitely a goal and we get closer and closer to that goal the longer we do it,” he says.
As for the future of Japhy Ryder? The band says that they will just go with the flow. The bands short term goals are simple: They are going to branch out, work hard and keep playing honest music.
“There isn’t a single second that there’s not a song in my head. It’s been like that since before I played instruments,” Ormiston says. “I can’t think of any other way to live my life aside from hummin’ along to what you’ve got going at that specific point.”