Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jonas Brothers' Favorite Artists

Why I love… Brad Paisley, by Kevin Jonas
“I’m a huge country music fan, always have been, and American Saturday Night is an incredible record. Most of his records have a feeling of old country, but then you get the taste of the new—and the new is definitely progressive. This record really takes leaps and bounds; there are blues songs on there, there are a couple of piano songs, there’s a four-piece string and jug band… So there’s an eclectic sound, but the storytelling and the songs are incredible.”

Why I love… The Zutons, by Nick Jonas
“We were over in Europe touring with Avril Lavigne last year, and their album had just been released. We were jet-lagged, falling asleep. We had the TV on, it was a music special, and the Zutons were playing live in a studio—and they were just incredible. The album really inspired the sound for our next record, because of the girl who plays sax. It was one of those things where it was kind of…off? But it was great. I think the kind of late-’60s rock sound they have going on really is awesome, the vocal sound is great. For top picks, there’s a song called ‘Bumbag,’ which is great. ‘What’s Your Problem?’ and ‘Little Red Door.’ You Can Do Anything is definitely one of my favorite records, ever.”

Why I love… Green Day, by Joe Jonas
“I definitely thought it was going to be really hard to top the last Green Day album, ’cause American Idiot was so massive, you know? But 21st Century Breakdown is really consistent. It’s not so political; I mean, there’s small things in there, but generally it’s way less so. Like, ‘Know Your Enemy’ could be the guy at the 7-Eleven who you just can’t stand. As songwriters, we don’t like to get into too much politics. But some bands do it well, and Green Day is one of those bands.” Kevin: “And remember that kids are going to be listening to it.” Nick: “That’s the thing: Our little brother’s eight years old and he loves Green Day. He just thinks they’re awesome. They’re this generation’s rock band.”

Source:Time Out New York

So why did we do it? Why did Time Out New York invite the world’s most prominent boy band to edit our Music section? Is this some kind of joke?

Well, no. We invited the Jonas Brothers to TONY because we wanted to see how they (and you) would respond to being taken seriously. Having read some of the million-odd interviews floating around Planet Media, we always noticed moments—between questions about Nick Jonas’s relationship with Miley Cyrus, the boys’ vows of chastity and so on—in which the brothers lit up when asked about music.

Even if you’re oblivious to the JoBros’ four albums (the new one, Lines, Vines and Trying Times, entered the charts at No. 1), you may have caught Nick’s encounter with his hero Elvis Costello in the pages of Rolling Stone—Costello described the 16-year-old as “thoughtful and curious”—or watched the JBs sing with Stevie Wonder at the Grammys, during which Nick got so nervous he forgot the words to “Superstition” (“Poor Nick,” wrote one Jonas fan on YouTube, “he fully, like, shit himself.”)

Our premise was simple: The boys (from Wyckoff, New Jersey) would lead the Music team in an editorial meeting, choosing the shows and records that would make up this week’s section. The reality, of course, is far more complex and surreal. We send them a slew of CDs and release dates a week earlier. And two hours before the boys were to set foot in the office (arriving straight from a Letterman taping), a huge, handsome FBI-type security man checks out the building. Stylists arrive, the rider arrives, more security arrives. Even Big Rob, the JB’s plus-size rapper and bodyguard, is here. A publicist ushers our writers into our conference room, and there—tanned and visibly tired—are the Jonas Brothers: curly Kevin, the eldest at 21; Joe, the 19-year-old, heavy-browed middle Jonas (star of Camp Rock); and Nick, the youngest Jonas and the band’s principal songwriter.

“Hello, sir,” Nick says to Music editor Steve Smith, standing up to shake his hand. This is your section this week, we tell the boys. “Cool,” Kevin nods. Then it’s down to business.

What they want from their TONY music section

“I think the important thing, especially in New York, is you always wanna know who’s playing, what’s happening in your area,” Kevin says. “And the exciting, random events too, like the air-guitar tournaments.” So you want coverage of the big shows, and also more obscure stuff? “Yeah, from—what’s the up-and-rising neighborhood in Brooklyn? Umm, Williamsburg? From Williamsburg to downtown.” Given that the JBs have been touring the world for about four years now, we’re impressed that the nabe that spawned TV on the Radio and drunken kickball is on their radar.

Do the boys ever get to see shows? “When we’re together it can be a little crazy,” Joe says. “When we go separately…less so.” Nick recalls being blown away by a Rolling Stones gig at Madison Square Garden four years ago. “I was probably 10 or 11,” he says.

What they want from music reviews

“First you look at the number of stars,” Joe says, laughing. “I think for us it’s interesting when you have a guy that loves the Rolling Stones and he’s reviewing a Kanye West record. You gotta get the right people to review things.” In relation to the band’s own oeuvre, Joe is pragmatic. “I know you can have a very eclectic field of music, but someone who loves underground hip-hop is not particularly gonna love our album.” Our music editor Smith, a hip-hop lover, metalhead and unabashed Miley Cyrus fan, mildly clears his throat. Still, the Jonases are quick to admit that they do have something to learn from the critics. “Totally!” Kevin concedes. “I recently did an interview with [country star] Brad Paisley, and he said, ‘I hate it when they’re right!’”

“I enjoy writing reviews,” Nick says—quickly, seriously. “I do it, like, for fun.” When he was being homeschooled, he explains, he wrote music, movie and TV reviews for extra credit: “There was a show called Kid Nation where they sent 50 kids out into the wilderness to try and survive. It got shut down for legal reasons—I don’t know how it was ever on TV—but I was so amused by it.” He pauses. “There was this kid who just drank a whole thing of, like, Clorox and… So I would write up these reviews, and hope to go to college one day to study English literature.”

How they hear new music

“A lot of our friends pass bands along to us, and we check ’em out, and obviously iTunes is a big one,” Joe says. “Genius sidebar!” his big brother firmly asserts. Then Nick: “I’ve always said that it’s important as an artist to go on a musical journey and discover what you like and you don’t like. And the Internet’s a good way to make that happen—but also, growing up in a musical home introduced a lot of different styles to me.” Ah yes, the Jonas parents: Kevin Jonas Sr., then a pastor, and his wife, Denise, were traveling musicians, and the brood spent a good deal of their early life on the road as their folks spread the word through music. Kevin remembers their dad playing them Carole King’s Tapestry and getting them to listen for a bum note in one of the songs. “Like, ‘Listen to this, riiiiiiight…now!’?” Nick explains. “My dad pointed out to us that’s kind of the beauty. They didn’t have Pro Tools back then, but then you think about it, and the fact they kept it in keeps the song pure.”

How broad are their tastes?

“If it’s good, it’s good,” Nick says, “Rock, pop, hip-hop, whatever it is.” Kevin agrees: “You can listen to a Shania Twain song produced by Mutt Lange, and then you can listen to any of his other bands and the production aspect of that is so incredible. You can’t deny the power that is Mutt Lange, his vision—from power pop to heavy metal. That’s a man who has an open mind to music.” The band’s current shared obsession is the Zutons (see “Why I love …” later in this section), with Phoenix (“impactful,” Joe says) and Kings of Leon also earning the thumbs-up. “I’m also a big fan of Minneapolis funk,” Nick says. “Love the funk,” he affirms, smiling shyly.

So playing the Grammys with Stevie Wonder must’ve been pretty great then. “Oh, awesome,” says Nick. “It was an amazingly cool experience.” The JoBros rehearsed for three nights, Joe explains, the first night on their own, and the next two with Wonder. “And when he arrived, he left to shave and clean up,” Joe recalls. “But he didn’t come back for an hour or so, and we’re thinking, Is something wrong? Then he came back and we played music for four hours with him.” Wonder wasn’t scheduled to rehearse with them the following night, but insisted. “We played [the Grammy medley] three times, but mostly it was just us playing random songs; he’s like, ‘Oh, let’s sing this song! I wrote it for Michael Jackson!’?” Which song? “It’s called ‘No News Is Good News’?” Nick says. Joe starts singing: “No neeeeeeeeeeeeeeews…” with Kevin joining him in falsetto. Joe says it was a relief that Wonder couldn’t see the incredulous looks they were shooting one another. “We were freaking out! It was pretty exciting.”

“Maybe that’s what Stevie was thinking, too,” our music writer Jay Ruttenberg ventures.

So who are we covering this week?

Wilco makes the grade, as do Stellastarr* and reissues from the Rolling Stones and the Beastie Boys. We’re intrigued, though, that the JBs choose to cover Matisyahu—in Joe’s words, “a Hasidic Jew reggae guy,” whom the band collectively loves. “At first you’re thinking, Is this a gimmick?” Joe explains. “But he’s really passionate. And live, we saw a similar energy to what we like to have onstage—where you can’t control it, and you’re just jumping up and down having fun.” “He, like, crowd surfs,” Kevin adds.

Ruttenberg frowns. People regard reggae music as having a certain spirituality, he suggests; if a white person does it, an audience wants them to be somehow “spiritual.” How does this play into the way Matisyahu is received? “I think he’s a spiritual person in his own right,” Kevin says. “I think it’s a true heart, it goes past practical religion. Compared to just, ‘I go to church, I do this and that.’?” And, Joe adds, reggae artists have a story to tell—“and he has a big story to tell, how he came into the Hasidic world.” It goes back to that truism, says Kevin: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

By the time a frantic publicist signals the meeting’s end, it has become less easy to judge the Jonas Brothers by their teen-magazine covers. As they refer to themselves repeatedly as artists, we could only wonder how long the family act will be able to keep its members creatively fulfilled. “Me personally, I hope to do more acting,” Joe says. “We’ve done a television show and a movie, and I think it’d be cool. Nick, he wants to do more music throughout his life. And Kevin, I think he wants to get into directing.” “I like the other side of it,” Kevin confirms. “I like analyzing, that whole thing.”

“Our audience is growing up with us, but we’re always open to having new listeners,” Joe says. “Even now, people are like, ‘Oh, dude, you’re at the top’—and we’re like, ‘Ahhh, we just started.’?” The funny thing is, it might actually be true that these young men are just beginning to come into their own identities—something we’d like to have explored in more depth. But we’ve already exceeded our allotted time with the boys, and the three Jonas Brothers are whisked through the door to meet an Access Hollywood TV crew, which will accompany them to a fans-only gig at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza. As they leave, Nick turns around to express his gratitude: “It’s always nice to have an intelligent conversation about music.”

Source: Time Out New York