Tuesday Feb. 16th, 2010

It’s Simple When It’s Right

Zach Morris

I try to enjoy a meal at the Co-op every now and again not only for the food, but also for the relaxed air that lingers while you quietly lounge up in the loft and gaze out towards the grandeur of the Bridger’s, watching the bustle of main street down below. It’s a very comfortable setting, and it’s even more comfortable when Little Jane and the Pistol Whips are there gracing you with their music, or simply their presence. Although this time I met with them to chat about music, they do happen to play there about every month or so, and it’s always a soothing way to spend the dinner hours on a quiet night.
Now, if you haven’t heard of Little Jane and the Pistol Whips, (first get out on the town a little bit more), they’re an alternative/contemporary country band that incorporates a lot of folk and bluegrass. More or less, they like to consider their sound, Americana, however, don’t let one word lump them into a mold of just one genre. They mix it up, slow it down, and at the end of the night just hope everyone enjoyed themselves and got a few dances in.
They’re comprised of four string instruments, however, they just recently added some percussion. Paul Decker, the owner of Music Villa, has started playing drums with them, which is a great aid for Russell, the bassist, on the rhythm section. It’s an exciting addition to their sound and it is beginning to open up a few new creative avenues of their music. Marcus, Little Jane’s lead guitarist and husband of Jody, the mandolin player, has recently begun to play electric at times, a new exploration of the band’s constant progress. However, whichever guitar he decides to play, he never ceases to beautifully paint the fret board with his fingertips, exercising melodically clean solos and fills, giving the band their Little Jane sound.
Although at times Marcus adds some flair to their music with his axe slaying abilities, for the most part they like to keep everything pretty simple. “Simple works for us”, Russell said. “We’re kinda mellow. We’re not a rocking bar band. We can rock, but we like to mix it up.” In one minute they can take you from a jiving bluegrass tune and in the next hit you with a calm folk song that’ll slow up the mood.
The ability for the band to fluidly move from one sound to another has much to do with how the band came to be. Although they all already played instruments before, they also each picked up a new instrument when they got together. Russ learned the stand-up bass, while Jody learned the Mandolin at the same time that Marcus was learning the Dobro, and Ashly, the lead singer and main composer of the bands music, was learning the accordion and the fiddle. It’s like the story of Ween, and it sheds light on why they are so comfortable on and off stage together. “We grew as a band with our instruments,” Russell told me.
The connection that they have formed through the creation of their music prophetically explains how they look at their music as a whole. They are an incredibly personable band that likes to get off stage and interact with the crowd. As Ashly puts it, “We’re like a little family.”
Although this little family has been consistently playing out in the Livingston, Bozeman, and Belgrade area, they are also looking towards the idea of getting into the studio. Last April they came out with their first EP entitled, Room to Roam, which released the bands simple and comfortable style; “Honesty” and “Muddy Water” are a must listen. Although their EP was a good release for them into the local scene, they are hoping to get in the studio this year to record a full-length album. They have been working on a lot more material lately and they are excited to put it to work. They plan to record on their own, however, they will also utilize some other people throughout the process. Mostly they are just looking to have the freedom of recording at their own place where they can work with their own creative style without having to feel rushed and on a time constraint.
The constant addition of new material for Little Jane and the Pistol Whips is a product of Ashly’s incredible songwriting ability. Most are about love and the trials and tribulations of relationships, but beyond that she simply tries to get at the rawness of living through experiences. Her lyrics are incredibly rich and the passion she sings with gives her voice a powerful and soulful sound that harmonizes beautifully with Jody’s. Because their voices are both so powerfully expressive, they have the privilege of being able to switch up who takes lead and who takes backup with seamless ease. However, although Jody and Ashly take care of most of the singing, Russell dips his hand in that honey pot as well. With a strong yet soothingly soft voice, Russell helps back up the girls and sometimes even takes lead himself. They’re a band that really likes to switch things up throughout the show. Whether it’s the vocals, the instruments, the mood, they constantly try and mix it up. Yet, even though they like keep things different, they still like to keep it simple, they don’t ever want to complicate the process. Like Ashly told me, “Simple is better, simple is way better.”
So, if you haven’t gotten a chance to check them out, or if you have, and you love the music their making, either way its good upcoming month. As of now, there are five chances to check out Little Jane and The Pistol Whips this February. On Thursday the 4th they will be playing at the Mint in Belgrade from 7-9 pm. The Mint is a great place to see them because they play there often and they really dig its vibe. Also that weekend they will be playing at Rio Sabinas restaurant in Belgrade on Saturday the 6th at 8:30 pm. Mid-month they will be playing at the Murray Bar in Livingston on Friday the 19th from 9:30-11:30 pm. At the end of the month you can check out Marcus and Ashly playing together at Teds Montana Grill on the 25th from 6:30-8:30 pm, or the next day on the 26th grab dinner at the Co-op and listen to them from 6-8.
Check out Little Jane and the Pistol Whips, support your local musicians.