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Durand Jones Puts Midwestern Soul on the Map - By jessica-lipsky - June 2, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Durand Jones Puts Midwestern Soul on the Map

Credit: Anna Powell Teeter

The gritty, horn-forward soul music of Durand Jones and the Indications comes from far off the musical map. Born in a basement in Bloomington, Indiana with roots that stretch to the bayous of Louisiana, the band emerged in 2016 with a phenomenal debut album that made waves within the music industry.

Released on Ohio’s Colemine Records, the self-titled record is a musical tour-de-force that blends Midwestern funk with a Southern sensibility. In just over 33 minutes, you’ll hear hard-driving funk songs like “Groovy Babe” and sweet, lowrider soul-inspired numbers such as “Is It Any Wonder,” which pair delicate guitar and falsetto vocals with Daptone Records-quality horn arrangements.

“It’s really interesting because soul music doesn’t really come to mind for a lot of people in this area,” Durand Jones says of the band’s Indiana roots. “There were some smaller labels that pushed out soul records in Indiana. …The influence from Michigan definitely trickled down into the Midwest.”

Jones himself followed an unlikely path. Raised in rural Hillaryville, Louisiana — a town with four roads surrounded by sugarcane fields — Jones sang in church as a kid, but didn’t consider himself talented. While most of his classmates and neighbors grew up to work blue collar jobs, he decided to go a different route.

“A lot of people where I’m from, when they finish high school, they would get a job at a plant or go work out on the river on barges. I didn’t really want to do that, so I was kind of going against the grain,” Jones says. “Then, on top of that, going to pursue music academically, it wasn’t a popular thing in my family.”

Jones traveled to Indiana University where he earned a master’s degree in classical saxophone and played with a traveling jazz quartet. During an assistantship with the school’s famed Soul Revue, Jones met guitarist Blake Rhein, who was the Revue’s sound engineer. Rhein — along with fellow students Aaron Frazer (drums, vocals), Kyle Houpt (bass), and Justin Hubler (organ, electric piano) — were in a local rock band called Charlie Patton’s War when they met Jones. They bonded over their shared love of Southern soul music and started recording straight to tape in Frazer’s basement as The Indications.

The result is a raw, heartfelt record bursting with multi-regional influences. The band offers a wide variety of love songs, including their first, mid-tempo single “Smile. “I lay awake at night still fallin’ under your spell / What was a home is again a lonely prison cell,” Jones coos in the track. “Can’t Keep My Cool” is a slow-cooked, organ-tinged ballad, and album opener “Make a Change” is a drum-heavy plaintive tune about life’s hard knocks.

“To me, [‘Make a Change”] hits really personal because I’m from the rural south and there’s no one poorer than the rural black southerner,” Jones says of the opening track in which he pleads for an end to desperate circumstances. “There’s people out here who really wanna make a change in their lives, but they’re really just stuck making change. There’s no outlet for them to go out and do better for themselves, especially where I was from.”

The album’s sweet sound and potent political messages echo that of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On.”

“I think Durand and the guys are in this really unique position to write overwhelmingly positive songs pushing for unity and positive change without being received as arrogant, pompous asses,” says Colemine Records co-owner Terry Cole.

While the band has been playing together since 2012, the seven-piece has been quietly honing their sound before embarking on their first U.S. tour this year. The Indications’ show is a study in passion, precision and the seriousness that comes with defying expectations.

“I think they’re in a position to make some very, very classic, amazing soul music,” Cole says. “They are on the cusp of making an amazing sophomore effort.”

Durand Jones and the Indications continue to pick up musical influences for their second album as they tour the country. The group’s next record will include Latin soul sounds and deep cuts from southern soul label Stax Records, which launched the likes of Otis Redding and Issac Hayes.

“We want to dig a little bit deeper and explore a little bit more what soul music has to offer for the second [album],” Jones says.

Durand Jones and The Indications play at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, June 3, at Milk Bar.