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Headband Jack pushes past tradition

‘Throwback’ band is still original

Thursday, June 28, 2012
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Headband Jack — from left, Colin Hunt, Judson Rudgers, Mark Retajczyk, Bryan Hogan, Zack Hay, Abigail Stone and Heather Bisch — will play at Jillian’s in Albany on Friday. (photo: Red Cape Dream Productions)
Headband Jack — from left, Colin Hunt, Judson Rudgers, Mark Retajczyk, Bryan Hogan, Zack Hay, Abigail Stone and Heather Bisch — will play at Jillian’s in Albany on Friday. (photo: Red Cape Dream Productions)

The members of Saratoga Springs’ Headband Jack proudly consider their music “a throwback.”

“The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon and Garfunkel, The Allman Brothers Band, Van Morrison, The Doors, Zeppelin — I mean, a lot of these influences sound clichéd,” Judson Rudgers, the band’s vocalist, keyboardist, saxophone and harmonica player, said recently during a practice at the band’s rehearsal space in Ballston Spa.

“I think a lot of bands will say they have these influences, and you can’t hear it at all on the album, but our music’s really a throwback. I think it’s really a throwback to styles that were popular in the golden age of music, when AM [radio] was switching over to FM, when vinyl was switching over to cassette tape. All these things we grew up with, and it’s a part of our life, it’s a part of our hearts and it’s a part of our music, too.”

Don’t take this the wrong way though. The roots rock septet — also featuring drummer Bryan Hogan, lead guitarist Mark Retajczyk, bassist Colin Hunt, vocalist and guitarist Zack Hay, trombonist Heather Bisch and trumpeter Abigail Stone — plays all-original music that blends country, folk and classic rock with modern touches and strong storytelling elements that push the music beyond traditional sounds.

“It’s not to say that everything’s been done before, because it hasn’t — you can still go out there and do really original stuff,” Rudgers said.

Headband Jack

with Jamie Kent & The Options

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Jillian’s, 59 N. Pearl St., Albany

How Much: $5

More Info: 432-1997, www.jilliansofalbany.com

Total palette

“But as we’ve seen, it happened in the ’90s, where there was like a boomerang effect — you have the ’60s, which are different from the ’70s, which are different from the ’80s, and then in the ’90s you started seeing this throwback where people started wearing bell-bottoms again, and then in the 2000s, the ’80s got really popular. And I think now when people listen to music and they consider the music that they like, they’re not just thinking about what’s popular today; they’re not just thinking about what they liked when they were just getting into music in fourth grade — they’re looking at the total palette of all the music that’s out there.”

Since debuting at last year’s Battle of the Bands at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Headband Jack has become a staple on the local roots rock scene, playing at last year’s Saratoga Brewfest and Oktoberfest. They are also regulars at the Putnam Den (one of their favorite venues to play), and have so far played as far out as New York City. On Friday night, the band will play at Jillian’s, alongside Massachusetts band Jamie Kent & The Options.

The show kicks off the band’s summer, which includes further gigs at Putnam Den in July and August and another August show at the Bayou Cafe in Albany. Three gigs may not seem like much, but even getting the band’s seven members together for that can be a challenge.

“We’d love the opportunity to — I mean, we could pick up a lot more gigs this summer, but this is really all we have time for at this time,” Rudgers said. “We’ve got some people in the restaurant industry, so when track season comes up, it’s really busy. It’s hard to get out.”

The band is also busy finishing up its first full-length album, “Big Dipper,” which they hope to release by Labor Day. After that, the live schedule should pick up, with a planned gig in Boston, also with Jamie Kent & The Options, and others.

Recording for the album began in late April at Edie Road Studios in Argyle. The studio’s owner, Marc Fuller — who was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Kanye West’s 2005 album “College Dropout” — is producing the album and has helped the band achieve an older, analog sound.

“It’s good to work with a guy that’s got that kind of passion,” Rudgers said. “It just makes doing this project so much more fun and so much easier.”

The 11 songs on the album were primarily written by Rudgers and Hay, who, along with Hunt, went to high school together in Burnt Hills. Hay primarily wrote the music, while Rudgers focused on the lyrics — although both wrote complete songs for the album as well.

Songs fall into place

“We [have] pretty bare-bones acoustic songs that we start out with, not necessarily a full vision for them,” Hay said. “We kind of just sit out with the band and they flesh it out, and usually we keep the first thing that the guys are playing. It just tends to kind of fall into place.”

Their chemistry works so well, in fact, that the band is already looking ahead to its next album — and quite possibly the album after that.

“If we’re playing a full headlining set, we’ll do two sets, about 12, 13 songs apiece — so [we have] two hours of music at this point,” Rudgers said. “We’re pretty happy with the progress we’ve made — it’s been a year, a year and two weeks.”

 
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