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Jump Castle Riot bands together to find their sound

Leaps and Bounds

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There's no shortage of musical rites of passage for a band to push through. There's the jubilance of the first song, the anxiety of the first gig, the sleep deprivation from weekend tours — and that's often just in a band's infancy. Local concertgoers have seen rock outfit Jump Castle Riot go through their share of growth and accomplishments in the last two years, and they're topping it all off with another rite of passage, this time in the form of their first EP Glitter and Gold.

For a band that gets as much attention as Jump Castle Riot has, it's surprising that a record didn't come out sooner. The project may have taken the band longer than others to produce, but it was for a good reason, according to Jay Van Raalte. "We've been together as a band about two years now and we really wanted to take the time and get a sound that sounded like us before we recorded anything," says Van Raalte. "We really wanted our songs to be road-tested and things we were really proud of."

Glitter and Gold kicks off with a prime instance of the sound the band was searching for, with the song "Dance With Me." There might be hints of other genres shining through the cracks (a little post-punk inflection on the guitar, a little blues on the vocals), but it's a rock tune through and through. Everyone in the band has very complementary roles. The lead guitar's forlorn refrain plays off of singer/guitarist Nina Murchison's desperate lyrics in the chorus, while Richard Hartnett's up-and-down bassline reflects off of Bradley Palles' calm-and-cool drumming. "Everybody is contributing to that one sound instead of every individual trying to do their own thing," says Hartnett.

EP closer "Tatts and Tanks" puts Murchison's acoustic guitar to work in a strummy rhythm section, giving Van Raalte's lead a greater chance to run free. The tune lives by its mild Spanish gallop in the background and finds its identity in the melody of the electric guitar.

In the recording process of their debut, Jump Castle Riot and producer/engineer Thomas Champagne moved into a marsh-front house and lived together for a month. "I think we had a lot of fun and I think you can really hear it," says Palles. "A lot of the changes we made in recording, we've now incorporated in our live shows."

According to the band, Champagne's influence is seen most in the direction he gave to the vocals and harmonies.

For the members of JCR, Glitter and Gold represents different stages in their continued growth. "You can hear in the EP, it's almost an evolution," says Van Raalte. The songwriting is one of the best examples. Murchison and Van Raalte used to write songs by themselves and bring them to the practice space to be worked out by the band. That's how "Johnny" and "Tatts and Tanks" were written, while "Dance With Me" was the first song that Van Raalte and Murchison wrote together.

The EP's namesake song was the first tune that the band wrote with the full current lineup. The titular track is Jump Castle Riot's "watershed moment," says Hartnett. "That's where the band really sounds like itself." The sound difference is subtle, but "Glitter and Gold" does reflect on each member's strengths and compiles those strengths for the benefit of the song.

The members of Jump Castle Riot believe that there will be more moments like that as they progress. "Our level of maturity and capability increases as we play together," says Murchison. "So the newer the songs, the better they end up." Now that the band has found their sound, it's time for them to jump into the future.

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