Jake Gillespie (bass), Jose Badilla (guitar), Zach Lawson (drums) and Kay Bontempo (vocals/guitar) are Bon Tempo. They apparently started out as a bar band and got a following for their shows. The band recorded a five-song EP entitled Flyover.
They certainly do have a bar band type vibe and I don't say that as a pejorative. It's hard to deny when they include two of the most popular bar songs in existence. I have heard “Santeria” by Sublime and “American Girl” countless times in bars from either a band playing the song or someone playing it on the jukebox. In fact three of the five songs are covers to my knowledge. I couldn't find evidence that “Eat Your Drugs” and “Back To You” are cover songs as well.
I’ve seen cases like this before where bands play covers for years and try to mutate into playing original songs. The band almost always sounds exactly like the band they cover. It's not an easy transition but may take some time. My point is that Flyover could be a transitional EP. One dead give away is that band plays the covers like the songs were originally played. It’s not like “American Girl” is done in a dub-step style or “Santeria” is remixed to sound like Four Tet smothered with inventive beats. They do three cover songs including “Helter Skelter” justice.
The vocals are great and the band is tight. On that note there is nothing within the cover songs that gives you much of an idea of what Bon Tempo’s signature sound is or an element that unifies the sound of Bon Tempo. That really gives me two songs for an idea of what type of sound they are going for as an original band which i believe is where the band wants to be headed.
First up is “Eat My Drugs” which sounded like I was in junior high again. The Black Crowes and The Spin Doctors were hugely popular in the early ’90s. It was a nostalgic song for me because of that. The band sounds good but the style is undeniably dated. However, sometimes music style is cyclical so maybe it's about time for a resurgence. Up next is “Back To You” which is has a slightly different feel. The song didn't have many distinct features. It felt like a very general ’90s alternative song for better or worse.
I like the band and am rooting for them. If their goal is to shed their former selves and focus on originals they have some work ahead of them. They are going to need to find a way to make that happen. Ayahuasca? Study free jazz for seven years? Ok maybe not that extreme but you get my point.
There simply isn't enough original material on Flyover to really get an idea of what they are going for stylistically. My advice is to find a niche and discover their sound whatever that may be. I understand that is easier said than done but I have faith in them. They have the tools but are going to need to dig a little more to make a mark with original material.
Overall, Flyover is an enjoyable listen. The covers capture the spirit of the originals and the originals may be indicative of future work. I’m very intrigued to see where the band goes from here.
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