By Izzy Yellen
Aminal—a heavy hitting and hard grooving rock band made up of conservatory students—is quickly developing their sound with a main goal of getting their audience to feel good with their music. The band consists of sophomore Nathan Montgomery on guitar and vocals, sophomore Matt Blair on keys, sophomore Sam Genualdi on bass and sophomore Jeremiah Lemke-Rochon on drums. The began to play together last year, and gradually created the band after various jam sessions.
“We’re all best friends,” Blair stated. “We have good communication, on and off stage.” This communication is vital to Aminal’s sound, as they constantly try different ideas out live but still achieve a tight and well-rehearsed sound. The communication also applies to when they compose songs. Instead of having one of them bring in a song for the rest to learn, they all bring in ideas and let them naturally come together.
While they all have jazz in their backgrounds, each member’s musical background is unique. Despite this, they find common ground beyond jazz. “The foundation of everything we do has to come from the soul,” Genualdi shared. While there are countless genres of music, and a plethora of influences Aminal brings to the table, they all play with this philosophy. Their music is honest and rich with feeling.
They validated all of this during their concert at the McCarthy Co-op, opening for jam band Evergreen. Right away, they started using their music as an outlet for their energy, producing a very raw, but full sound.
This was most evident with Montgomery’s vocals. More often than not that singers tend to hold back, most likely because they are afraid of making a mistake. However, Montgomery was able to perform with no inhibition, making the vocals and the music exciting and wild.
His vocals were unbridled and soulful, but would not nearly be the same without the sound of the other instruments. Each had its own unique style and techniques, so that when everything came together, the band produced a complex sound that really grooved.
Montgomery’s guitar playing was often quite frantic and exhilarating, and in a way, echoed his voice. Unlike his voice, his guitar playing was more rhythmic-based, often adding an interesting layer to the texture.
Similar to the frantic nature of the guitar playing was Blair’s piano playing. However, it was more free and fluid, akin to free jazz pianists such as Cecil Taylor and Muhal Richard Abrams. Frequently, Blair did not play in just one key—or sometimes any at all—making those moments stand out harmonically.
At a completely different end of the spectrum was Genualdi’s bass playing. His bass lines were hip, groovy and typically laid back. A main bassist influence for him is James Jamerson, the bassist who appeared on most of the Motown Records releases. It didn’t take much time to hear this influence and bob your head to it.
Lastly, there was Lemke-Rochon’s drumming, which, along with the bass, provided a sturdy and driving backbone to the whole unit. It was a perfect mix of rock drumming and jazz drumming. Lemke-Rochon has played drums in a rock band since he was a teenager so playing in Aminal was a natural progression. But because of his knowledge in jazz, he was able to add in more interesting techniques such as melodic playing or comping, not just keeping time.
Together, all the members were able to create an ever-changing texture and dense sound that complimented the music choice. In addition to their original songs, which contain influences from jazz, math rock, avant-garde music and various other genres, they played fresh renditions of other artists’ works such as “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix and “The National Anthem” by Radiohead.
Aminal concerts are full of all sorts of energies, a wide range of music, dancing, incredible talent and overall, a great time. You can find Aminal on Facebook where they will post about upcoming shows and in due time, live and studio recordings. Aminal will be playing again at McCarthy Co-op tonight, Friday Jan. 13.