This Friday will see both the official release of Mama Juke’s album Live from Unit-J, as well as an album release show at Rockwood Music Hall. When asked as to why the band had chosen to make their debut album a live-in-concert LP, founding member Amos Rose explained it as such: “We wanted to broadcast this album into outer space to let life on other planets know that there’s life on Earth, and it’s at Unit-J.”
In all seriousness though, anyone who has ever seen Mama Juke play live will attest that they’re first-and-foremost a live band. Unit-J (a snug studio apartment nestled near the east-end of Bushwick), has been the band’s home base since its inception, and has performed shows that are as raucous as they are invigorating. All of their performances there were conveniently recorded, and one in particular stood out as a great portrait of the band’s vibrancy. “We weren’t even really influenced by other bands that recorded that earlier albums live,” explains Rose. “But we did find a striking similarity to The Wood Brothers.”
The band’s current line-up consists of Amos Rose (electirc guitar and vocals), Eli Bridges (acoustic guitars, harmonica, backing vocals, percussion), Pete O’Neil (background vocals), and Jon Wert (Drums, Percussion), who had all come together about two years ago. Rose and Bridges had been playing for a while together, but they reached their current rasta when they started playing at East Village Social, and enlisted the help of Wert and O’Neil for a gig, and then it quickly came togeather.
After they formed as a quartet, Mama Juke found itself having more exposure and business than ever before. “We were a band for about 8 months before the summer of 2016,” says Rose. “That summer was insane. Just magical.” The whole band attests that their schedules became even more manic in the year following, including a tour that took them to Nice, France, as well as an unaffiliated artist showcase in Austin, Texas during last year’s South by Southwest Music Festival. Pretty good, for a band that in some ways is still trying to figure out what its sound is
Although Mama Juke is sometimes referred to as a folk act, the band denies such a label. “We’re not a folk band,” says Rose. “Although we do play folk.” The band also takes equal influence from Latin Rhumbas music, even if they ultimately go for an American groove. “There’s no pin-point for our sound,” says Bridges. “We just want to play the music we love, which can change over time.” Still, the band make note that there is a continuity in their sound that they feel reflects their growth and maturity as artists.
For Friday’s show, the band will be playing at late show at Rockwood Music Hall’s stage 2. Starting at 11:30 (and generously holding no cover at the door), expect the band to play a similar set list as that of Live From Unit-J, which consists of both covers and originals. Rockwood Music Hall has high credibility in the music landscape, with Eli even calling it the “epi-center for New York and outside New-York bands.” The band has also hinted that they might premiere some new songs at the show.
Live From Unit-J, however, is really just the start of Mama Juke’s story. The band claims to be about 65% done with a studio album that will be composed entirely of original songs. They also plan to go on a new tour in 2018, which would include a return to South By Southwest, and they may even return to Michigan sooner than that. Mama Juke is yet another case of how a contemporary Brooklyn musical act can come off as both retrospective and modern, and their success (be it in debt to luck or talent) should certainly encourage like minded artists. For more information, click here.