On January 30th, Dayton band Gem City celebrated the release of their long awaited first album REDUX at the Yellow Cab Building. Being released by local independent record label Only WonderUS, REDUX offers a collection of ballads and up-tempo songs that are beautifully woven together throughout. The James Brown-influenced opener “Gotta Get Up (Before You Get Down” sets the down early with a groovy soulfulness to it. Th vibrate, jazzy instrumental “Britney Called” gives way to what could be the John Legend-approved crooner “Jonesin’”. “Turn Up” and “Automatic” showcases each member letting loose, and being unrestrained.
Located on East 4th Street, Yellow Cab was brimming with spectators and a majority of the bands loyal fans; which Gem City affectionately call “customers”. While sitting with the lead singer of Gem City Willie Four and Dave Zupkovich from Only WonderUS Records recently, the two individuals talked vividly about the evening’s festivities. They mostly spoke on what the experience was like to see such an amazing turnout. Zupkovich mentions that with the minimal amount of press on the show, the crowd reached close to a couple hundred.
“It was beautiful, man. It was a lot of fun,” recalls Zupkovich. “That was the first time we ever threw any sort of event like that…especially with little how little promo there actually was.”
“I was getting confused. ‘Are these people still coming in the door?’ (Laughter),” Four said in jest.
“There were people coming when you guys were still playing. That was definitely a grassroots kind of show, which was really cool to see. People who were there told their friends. Also the band’s fan base-they come out.”
The band formed at the University of Dayton back in 2012 when Four and most of the members of the band were students at the school. While performing in the university’s jazz ensemble, most of the members all lived together in the lofts and homes surround the ArtStreet area. When a project came up at ArtStreet, Four and eight others of the ensemble performers thought it would be fun to form a band. The friends/bandmates called themselves the Customer Service and the Gem City Horns at the time and received rave reviews from those that caught the set. Attendees wanted to get their hands on more music from them. People from other music venues soon began sending requests for the band to come perform. What was supposed to be initially started as a project that was designed to be only temporary had become an opportunity. Customer Service had to choose; continue to pursue making more music or just have it be a onetime deal. That response that they got after their first show made it easy for the decision to be made.
Along with trimming down the title of the band’s name and the signing with Only WonderUS, Gem City traveled to Nashville to begin recording REDUX at the Sound Emporium. The large acoustic area allowed the band to record all together, of which the goal was to create retro/soulful sound. Working with a producer that they already worked with before, the studio’s history was also another deciding factor.
“We were looking through the archives-Johnny Cash was there in the 70s, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift did her first record at the studio,” Zupkovich mentions. “It was really an aspiring place to be.”
Production for REDUX lasted a little over a year. A majority of that time involved going back and forth between studios. Vocals were recorded at Eric Suttman’s Farm in Dayton and not at Sound Emporium. A lot of time was also spent on mixing and mastering. Even though the making of REDUX was a long and vigorous process, for Gem City it was all for the best.
“We made sure that we got it right,” Four says
In support of REDUX, Gem City have released a video directed by Marc Robert Graham. Filmed all throughout the city of Dayton, the main story focuses on a young couple who decide to head to a hotel room for a little fun. Along with stunning aerial footage of the city skyline, the video also has scenes of the band performing on top of a parking garage. Filming the core part posed to be a little bit of a hassle in part due some minor delays, Zupkovich and Four mentioned.
“We did not start the camera rolling till 1:30am,” Zupkovich said. “(Graham) got here at midnight, went to a parking garage, and ensemble. Everyone was kinda upset with me. I was upset. It was definitely one of those of things that was annoying that day, but turned out to be a pretty funny story. We didn’t stop shooting till 5am.“
“We woke up at 8am to record the second part of the video,” added Four.
“The product turned out great, though.”
Gem City have been slowly building their status as can’t miss within the city limits and beyond. Infusing elements of rock, funk and some old school Motown; Gem City brings to the table a rejuvenated feel to the jazz scene has been somewhat needing some fresh voices. Their electrifying live performances have captive audiences across the Miami Valley, and places like Detroit, New York. Gem City became quite crowd favorite at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival in Cape May in 2013 and 2014. They have also were named the winner of this year’s Battle of the Bands at The Underground in Cincinnati. Gem City have also been given a “Dayton Original” patent by the City of Dayton.
With the horizon looking as bright as it is, Four says that there’s no plans for Gem City to slow down anytime soon.
“We’ll keep going to we can’t no more.”
REDUX is available on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/redux/id950328764
Gem City can be found on Facebook and on Twitter: @gemcityhorns.
To find out more about the band, click on Gem City’s website: www.gemcityband.com