Decadence leaders destined to play together
Jen Gadway and Katy Cole, the two vocalists, guitarists and main songwriters for North Creek-based band Decadence, seem destined to play music together.
The two met while working at Casey’s North in North Creek (now Basil & Wick’s) 15 years ago, shortly thereafter forming Decadence as a cover band. Since then, the only time the two haven’t performed music together was when Cole attended college.
“I’d gotten a scholarship to the College of Saint Rose for classical voice, and I wanted to pursue my studies in that and kind of expand and diversify my voice,” she said recently during a conference call with Gadway.
“It was really hard to sing rock ’n’ roll and blues on the weekend, and then try to pop out some Wagner opera. So I had to be really disciplined and give up essentially what was paying my bills to go explore this other side.”
During those two years, Gadway kept Decadence going under the name Back Talk. But Cole couldn’t stay away for long — by the time she was working on her master’s degree, she had rejoined the band.
“We are like magnets — for some reason, we keep getting attracted back to each other,” Gadway said. “There are times still after 15 years when we’ll hit certain notes on harmonies, and the hair will stand up on our arms, like, yeah, there it is. That’s when we know we’re doing something right.”
In January of 2012, Decadence switched its focus from cover songs to original material. “We got sick of being human jukeboxes,” Gadway said.
Since then, the band — Gadway, Cole, lead guitarist Chris Schempp, drummer Matt Dower and bassist Mick Changelo — has seen its profile rise in the Capital Region and beyond. Tracks from the band’s debut album “Love Loud” (2012) and its follow-up EP “Tales From the Mountains,” recorded in April in Nashville, have been receiving airplay on Exit 97.7, WEXT-FM, and the band has toured throughout the South and Northeast, going as far as Florida. The band’s next performance is closer to home, at Putnam Den on Friday night, opening for North Carolina’s Underhill Rose.
The band’s mix of country, rock and blues has also caught the attention of some of Nashville’s elite. While recording “Tales From the Mountains” with Pat McMakin, whose credits include engineering Steve Martin’s 2009 hit album “The Crow: New Songs For the Five-String Banjo,” Gadway happened to run into Alabama frontman Randy Owen.
“I saw him sitting in the lobby [of the studio] — I was walking in the lobby with our guitar player,” Gadway said. “I’m a big fan, so I introduced myself, and then I had Randy Owen for a good 20 minutes. He listened to all our stuff and he loved it; he said he may try to get us some songs sold. We also met with [country star] Luke Bryan; he was in the studio there, too.”
While both Cole and Gadway were writing songs during the band’s cover days, it wasn’t until Cole brought in the song “Love Loud” that the two decided to turn Decadence into an original band.
“It ended up very weirdly coming through — it’s about death and being reunited in the afterlife, some heavy subjects, how I was coping with the death of a friend,” Cole said.
“My best friend’s father had also just died. It was literally two or three days after I wrote it. . . . I played the song for Jen, and she said, ‘This is so great; why aren’t we doing this?’ We still play a lot of other people’s great music, but the music we’re writing together is pretty awesome and deserves to be heard, too.”
Around this time, the band also revamped its lineup with the addition of Schempp, who had already been playing with Gadway in other projects for about a decade. Dower came on board about six months ago, while Changelo just joined the group.
Gadway and Cole write songs both together and separately, tackling subjects ranging from cheating on significant others to heroin addiction to murder to domestic violence.
“I was a victim of domestic violence for about 20 years,” Gadway said. “My ex-husband — I have to thank him for giving us the ideas. This is really what got me through it, and that’s why I feel these songs can be therapeutic, as crazy as it sounds.”