One Hundred percent fun is what the men of James and the Ultrasounds say you can expect from their debut; studio album Bad to Be Here, and with crowd favorite songs like “Party Dracula” – they deliver.
The album was produced by Mark Edgar Stuart and released by Madjack Records earlier this year. It spawned from the idea that making it was both the greatest experience ever as well as the hardest–they had some of the best days of their lives, but they also just wanted to go back home.
The sound is reminiscent of what the Ramones might have sounded like had they been from the Delta instead of New York City, with fast, high energy beats and guitars in songs like “Sleep Cheap” and “Fran Got Sectioned.”
Somebody once referred to the band as “booze-soaked rock ‘n’ rollers,” says James Godwin, and Bad to Be Here is definitely a rock ‘n’ roll record. Even when they slow it down like on tracks like “Streets Get Slick” and “Letters in a Box,” there’s still enough there to party and have a good time, too.
It’s undeniably Memphis with a little bit of soul, a little bit of blues and a little bit of punk. Perhaps one of the most quintessential Memphis sounding songs on the album is “Ballad for the Man,” which features strong, blues riffs. “All the Sun stuff, Stax stuff, all the old Big Star stuff and all the other little bands that were in between that – there’s no way you can play music in this town without absorbing all the stuff before,” says Godwin.
He wrote most of the songs by himself and finds inspiration in people watching and going out. He says songs are everywhere, and you’ve just got to grab them before they get away. There isn’t a method to his madness when it comes to creating. “I’m a mad man just scribbling on walls with crayons. I open my mouth and hope for the best,” says Godwin.
Although the songs are his brainchildren, their life and character is a collaborative effort with his other band members: drummer John Argroves, bassist David Johnson and guitarist Luke White. “James writes stuff and brings it to us. Sometimes it changes throughout its interpretation playing it. If it doesn’t, who cares? It didn’t need to change. I think everybody just tries to bring enough of their own personal interest to the project, and back up what James is trying to do. If we didn’t like it from the get go, none of us would be doing it,” says Johnson.
Godwin’s hope for the best attitude also translates to the band’s approach to practicing. People say practice makes perfect but perfect is not what these guys are going for. They are here to have a good time and make some good music while they are at it. The band has played ten times more shows than they’ve practiced because so many practices...morph into shows or garner an audience. Johnson says he’ll sometimes get nervous, but that the pressure of playing live makes you good. “It’s sink or swim,” says Godwin.
Next on the horizon, the band should get plenty of practice touring this spring and summer. James wants to start writing some more songs to get ready for the next record and maybe release more singles. Johnson, a former Hernando resident, says he will be releasing his own solo album in the near future under the name Tall David. “It’s totally different – that’s part of the Memphis thing. There’re so many different styles herecurrently that’s happening. There’re not two bands that sound the same here now that I could think of,” says Johnson.
Ultimately, James would like to take the band on tour inEurope. “If we can survive four weeks in Europe together, we’ll be around for a few more years. It’s fun on wheels while we still can,” says Godwin.
Dracula and Rock ‘N’ Roll
James and the Ultrasounds release their album, Bad to be Here
Story by Mary Eckersley