Photos by Cameron Flaisch
Musicians and their bandmates are often compared to other things that come together to form something new and different. From garden salads and stews, to boxes of crayons and whatever NBA team LeBron James decides to call his new home, musicians get the wrap of being less than whole until they come in contact with a group of others who can fill in the gaps. But one band, composed of lyrically and melodically inclined brethren, is hoping to break the mold. Each talent in Rome’s own Jerry on the Moon (JOTM) is a stand-alone musical meal in his own right, and sitting for a serving of the band’s country-fried, funk-inspired menu fills a listener’s plate. JOTM is not one dish, but a potluck of thoughts and ideas from six strong-willed gentlemen with enough spice to blend in perfect harmony. Let’s eat.
JOTM has seen some personnel changes throughout its evolution. Adam Klingensmith and Jack Moss now handle the guitar duties, Steven Powers backbones the bottom of the register on bass, and Jedd Lovel keeps the jam in time. However, each element of this group brings more to the table than proficiency. Past experiences with other bands, musical tastes that are as different as flip flops and galoshes, and the ability to somehow meet in the middle have helped them gather steam.
“Old Age Comes to Those Who Wait,” their debut album released in 2014, shows the range these guys are able to produce when they sit down to craft a song. But, they did not always have the goal of making music for a living and certainly not with the group they’ve assembled for their recent project.
“I wasn’t really serious about music when I started playing with a group of my buddies,” says Moss. “I was only about 16 when I started writing songs. It was really just a lot of jam-centered stuff. Over time, I picked up a few things on the guitar, and we started to get good enough to think about forming a band.”
Powers says he was listening to a lot of early-90s music, like alternative rock, when he began jamming with Moss. “That’s kind of where we were when we started the band, and that was the influence for a lot of the things we would write,” he explains. “I was listening to whatever was on the radio. I really didn’t begin digging deeper into different kinds of music and bands – like the off-the-grid, on-the-fringe-type artists – until Jedd and Adam joined the band and we starting playing music together.”
Moss and Powers, JOTM’s founding members, managed to stay true to the music they wanted to play early on, while also finding new ways to evolve their talents. Blues, southern rock, funk and jazz were dumped into Moss and Powers’ laps by newfound friends and bandmates, Lovel and Klingensmith, and they liked what they heard. Although they were new to these genres of music, songs by The Allman Brothers, The Band and Phish would influence them to turn their pop music upside down.
Klingensmith and Lovel say they expanded their own horizons after they met Moss and Powers in a battle of the bands in downtown Rome, a competition that JOTM ultimately won, Powers playfully points out.
In addition to a love for the same music, the guitarist and drummer shared many stages before they would eventually settle in with Jerry on the Moon.
“Steven and Jack are childhood friends who became musicians together, and Adam and I are the same in that sense,” Lovel explains. “When I started playing drums and booking shows, Adam was right there with me. Adam; two of our friends, Rob and Cameron; and I started working on some songs, and we had a pretty serious band called Red Eye Jedi. When Jedi started to disband, we both stopped booking gigs for a while. Still, we never stopped wanting to play music together.”
Lovel, who received a snare drum and a hit-hat for Christmas when he was 8, discovered his passion for kick and snares early on. And Klingensmith loved his six-string so much, he learned to play on a guitar made for righties even though he is a “stone-cold leftie,” Lovel says.
So, when he and Klingensmith were no longer playing regular gigs, they sought out other ways to get together and jam from time to time, eventually forming another band with local musician friends just to book a few gigs and nurture the need to groove. But busy schedules and logistics got in the way and the two former Red Eye Jedi members were, once again, without a band.
It was after a chance meeting that Powers and Lovel sparked the flame that has seen a steady burn since they decided to create together in 2009. Lovel would be the first to join JOTM after the group lost a drummer, and when a guitar slot came open, he tapped the person he knew would have the chops to fill that role in their vision for the future of the band – Klingensmith.
“Jedd called me up and asked me if I wanted to play some guitar,” says Klingensmith. “I hadn’t played in forever and I needed to play. I had one gig a year at the River Revelry from about 2006 until 2012. I would go sit in with folks and play, but I never really had an outlet. I saw that potential in Jerry on the Moon.”
All that was left to do was develop a catalog of music they could play when they booked shows. JOTM members worked to spin covers in a new and fresh way, while Powers and Moss introduced some of their songs to the new guys. But something was missing. So, the foursome reinvented the band, penning new, original songs and composing music that was shaped by everyone from 311 to Bob Dylan.
“The music we are writing now has shifted from the reggae to more of a random sound. I’ve always credited our approach to writing a song to whatever music Jack is listening to at that point in his life,” explains Lovel, who partnered with Moss to write many of the songs on “Old Age Comes to Those Who Wait.”
But perhaps one of the most unique things about JOTM is that there is no lead singer; they all sing, allowing each member to open up their lives to their fans through music.
“We listen to our favorite musicians and we will write a few songs to, kind of, celebrate our love for that particular type of music,” Lovel says. “We really don’t want to be a band that is genre specific. We just like to play music that sounds good and feels good.”
To add a different dimension to the group, JOTM has enlisted John Pollard on saxophone and Anthony Avitollo on trombone. Now, they are able to further explore the realm of the funk, a style of music they all love.
“I’ve always been a part of Jerry on the Moon in my heart,” Pollard jokes. “I mean, I used to look up to these guys.”
“Even though you are older than all of us put together,” laughs Powers.
“Seriously, though, Jedd would ask me to sit in with the band on some gigs, and I would bring my horn and just play along with them on a few tunes,” Pollard says. “Then, they asked me to play on the album because they really wanted some horn parts. I rode around in the car with Jedd and wrote down some ideas. The rest is history.”
Avitollo, a transplant to Rome by way of Philadelphia, was introduced to the band by Pollard. “John and I played a show together called ‘Ain’t Misbehaving,’ put on by R.O.M.E. [Rome’s Own Musical Ensemble]. It was a stage show and we played jazz, which is how I met John,” Avitollo recalls. “He came to me and told me about his friends in a band and that they needed a horn section for their album. In the 90s, I played with ska bands and rock bands, so I told him to count me in.
“I’ve played for symphonies, musicals and in a lot of other professional settings like that, but there is nothing like an audience’s feedback from a Jerry show,” Avitollo continues. “I’ve never seen so many people stand up and get all crazy because of a trombone solo!”
The horns are now a permanent fixture in JOTM sets.
As the band continues to grow together, their sound is being recognized for its fresh take on the “jam band” and has inspired quite a following. Currently booking shows in and around Northwest Georgia, JOTM has opened for notable acts like the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Tauk, Dopapod, Flow Tribe and Copious Jones.
More recently, JOTM connected with up-and-coming band CBDB, who invited them to perform at a record release party at downtown Atlanta’s Terminal West. You can also catch JOTM at Smith’s Old Bar in Atlanta on a regular basis and, of course, here in Rome at local night spots on Broad. Last month, Jerry on the Moon performed a set on one of the main stages at Counterpoint Music Festival.
Through all of the band’s transitions, they have managed to remain a family first and always give thanks to those who helped them find their love for music.
“My dad is one of the biggest Elton John fans I know. When I would ride in the car with him as a kid, Elton John was playing for sure,” Moss recalls. “We would also listen to John Denver, Jim Croce and Neil Young. My dad also really like all of the Motown stuff, like the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. They are all great song writers and I grew up listening to them.
“But I noticed all the great song writers were able to give me a feeling when I listened to their music, you know, and that’s how we approach all of the songs we write,” he continued. “These guys have become my brothers over the years and as long as we are together, we have all the material we need to make music people can enjoy.”
For more info about the band; their album, “Old Age Comes to Those Who Wait;” and a list of upcoming concert dates, visit jerryonthemoon.com.