Published on September 6th, 1998 | by Gerry Galipault0
Jump, Little Children jumps to it
There’s nothing conventional about Jump, Little Children, a young Charleston, S.C.-based quintet signed to Hootie and the Blowfish’s Atlantic-affiliated Breaking Records.
The group’s debut album, “Magazine” (released Sept. 1), has a supply chamber full of power-pop, ethereal alternative rock, acoustic-tweaked funk, ballads and hints of hip-hop. That’s a musical grab bag, but it’s light years away from the band’s initial sound.
Singer-guitarist Jay Clifford, cellist Ward Williams and brothers Matt (multi-instrumentalist) and drummer Evan Bivins teamed at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where they discovered a common boredom with their classical music training.
“My roommate at the time, who was from Ireland, and I started playing traditional Irish tunes and American country blues songs,” Matt Bivins said recently, “and at the same time, Jay and Ward were playing original folk songs and covers of James Taylor, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and we just kind of met up.
“We were really an Irish-blues band for a few years. We didn’t have as much direction; Ward stayed in school and graduated, but the rest of us quit school to go to Ireland to study. By studying, I mean going to a pub every night and sitting in on the sessions there. Then we came back to America and moved to the place that was the most Irish-American, which was Boston.
“By then, Evan had quit his visual arts studies to join the band. My friend, the one from Ireland, quit the band and then we decided it was time to sit down. We said, ‘This is all well and good, but we would like to be on David Letterman.’ We started writing our own songs.”
They also reintroduced themselves to rock ‘n’ roll, but they didn’t let their rock-novice status get in the way, Clifford said.
“The whole rock ‘n’ roll thing is fresh for us,” he said. “The electric guitar, for me, was introduced to the band two years ago and now it’s obviously a full-blown, big-ol’-fat-amp experience. In learning songs and playing songs, we really don’t have any preconceived ideas on how rock should be, because we learned a lot of songs that sort of defined rock 10, 15 years ago.”
They left Boston and, in a roundabout way, settled in Charleston, where they reunited with Williams and friend Jonathan Gray (upright bass).
“Our father was restoring St. Michael’s Church in Charleston,” Evan Bivins said, “and he needed a bunch of grunts to do all the nasty, dirty work. In the meantime, after our shifts were over, we would go busk on the corners on Market Street or play at this jazz club upstairs or a coffeehouse.”
Jump, Little Children, named after a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee song, released its first indie album, “The Licorice Tea Demos,” in 1996. That CD and a follow-up live EP, “Buzz,” sold a combined 29,000 copies. Breaking Records swooped in on the new hometown favorites and paired them with producer Brad Jones (Jill Sobule, Imperial Drag) for “Magazine.”
The album incorporates haunting balladry (“Cathedrals”) and energetic rock (“Not Today”) with ambitious pop sensibilities. Evan Bivins said they’re just trying to be truthful to the songs.
“We kind of get bored writing the same kind of song over and over again,” he said, “so we get excited when the band comes up with ballads or power-pop songs or ethereal pop songs or whatever. When we were recording the album, we just wanted to be truthful to the emotional core of the songs. It made it a really diverse-sounding album. It’s pretty different than a lot of other bands.”
ON THE WEB: www.jumplittlechildren.com.