I Am Love: Doing More, With Less
There are four things crucial to the survival of a culture: metamorphosis, growth, ascension, and movement. Even if that culture lives within a band.
“It is necessary for survival,” says Kris Jackson of I Am Love.
The band has gone through more than its share of changes since Joshua Christopher started it as a singer-songwriter project in the countryside just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The area is deeply rooted in the earliest days of American culture.
“This is where many of our founding fathers lived when they birthed this great nation,” Christopher explains. “The countryside has a strong influence on our style of living, as well as our music. I sing a lot about overcoming difficult times, but with an overall sense of hopefulness. I want to make music that will generate good feelings.”
While he wanted his music to give people good feelings, it took recovering from an accident that nearly killed him for ideas to start coming to him.
“I ran into a tractor trailer and spent 12 months convalescing from the crash,” Christopher reveals. “I didn't listen to any music that year, but I wrote myself back to life with these songs.”
He'd sit and meditate while strumming his guitar, and the lyrics and melodies would just start coming to him out of nowhere.
“Life has been difficult for me at times,” he says. “But there is a sense of spirituality that drives me on to continue.”
He started fine-tuning the songs which would become the first EP with his longtime friend William Whitmire, who would eventually become the band's bass player. They then went into the studio with seven other musicians who played various instruments that could help Christopher achieve the kind of music that he wanted to represent I Am Love.
The group, Whitmire, and Christopher eventually formed into a band after he let each person have a little creative freedom for their parts. Since he was used to making music on his own it was a different process for him, but started to pay off soon.
“The other players often knew what to do without being told; we quickly became a band, not a singer with backing musicians,” Christopher explains.
In addition to Christopher and Whitmore, the band now consisted of seven more members: Jamie Cramer, AJ Thomas, Kaitlin Burhman, Crystal Brulatto, Kelcie Hillard, Horseman Jacque, and Tom Zartler. They cut the EP, called Starting Over, at Woodcrest Studio in West Chester, PA with Tom Zartler pulling double duty as musician and engineer.
The band's warm and open sound comes through in the recordings, and the arrangements allow each instrument shine as their meant to. The EP featured three chord rock with a cello mixed in on the title track inspired by a visit to Haiti, “Trumpets and Cliffs,” which would've fit perfectly for the Occupy Movement, and a very complex musical arrangement on “Truest” which talks about the often contradictory feeling when one starts a new relationship.
After the release of the EP in January of 2012, the band kept playing live and cutting more demos. The shows varied in styles, and the demos never seemed to have a clear direction. So a change was needed.
The band was whittled down to three members which included original members Joshua Christopher and Will Whitmire, and the addition of Kris Jackson. The three bring the same kind of intensity, but with a clearer vision of what I Am Love is.
“Before with the larger band it took more energy to construct the right sounds at the right moments,” explains Jackson. “Now we just dive into any riff or lick that sounds good, and develop it into a soaring moment that comes from the distinctiveness of each of our styles.”
Yes, the band has a new sound. But that's due to the three drawing from their favorite styles of music, and making their own unique musical identity.
Josh Christopher's musical tastes lean towards the theatrical, classic indie music, and vaudevillian. Will goes for the heavier stuff like grunge and psychedelic-surf rock, and Kris' tastes venture into the spacious, melody-driven, rhythmic, and anything psychedelic. The band's sound is defined by the interweaving of all those genres.
“We definitely write songs with a pop/rock formula,” Kris explains. “But the songs themselves are collages of every style of music that we love.”
The three have known each other for a while which has resulted in them forming a very brotherly love for each other. Before, I Am Love was a big folk-gypsy band, but turned into something that can do all of that, and more, with less.
“What we're doing is weaving a web of genres that blends innovation through classic styles and movements with the game-changing cutting-edge of the modern world of music,” Kris explains.
They released an album featuring their revamped sound in the beginning of 2014, and have been touring throughout the year which included SXSW, NXNE, CMJ, and the Brandywine Folk Festival. They'll continue to tour the country throughout the beginning of 2015, and then bring their music across the pond into Europe.
In the beginning, I Am Love was a big folk-gypsy band. But now it's turned into something that can do all of that, and more, with less.