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It’s Wednesday night in Fountain Inn at Jake Garrett’s house. Fats Domino is playing on vinyl in the back ground, the air is thick with smoke, and everyone’s glass is filled with whiskey. This is an average Wednesday night for Mason Jar Menagerie before band practice. Members Jake Garrett (lead vocals and guitar), Susan Garrett (drums and vocals), and Ameer Raja (bass and vocals) let me sit down with them and ask all about the band.
I’ve known Jake and Susan since I was a child and met Ameer about 4 years ago. Needless to say when they decided for form MJM I was excited. I had seen all of them play music separately, but never together. When they took the stage for the first time I instantly fell in love with the sound. It also helps that they have an attractive girl drummer that makes everyone take a second look to see who is behind that throbbing bass and popping snare. Jake is a mad man on stage. If he can’t find his slide (which lets be honest that will happen once every show) he’ll grab his beer bottle to wail on the slide guitar. Ameer is always finding new ways to make the bass sound even more intense, from playing it with a bow or beating it to death in the name of Rock N Roll. You will not be disappointed when watching this band live.
Ashley Cooke: For a band that just started in January 2011 you all have played a good many places (Charleston, Columbia, Johnson City, and Greenville) and even had the opportunity to play at CMJ Southeast Showcase in New York. Tell me a little on how Mason Jar Menagerie came together.
Jake Garrett: Well really it started with Ameer and I playing in another band called ATF with Ameer’s brother, Kamran Raja. We were trying to find an outlet for all these songs I had been writing that wouldn’t fit with my other band Blueroots. Kamran had just gotten a new job and couldn’t be in a full time band. We asked my sister, Susan, to jam with us and it all kind of came together from there. We started playing shows at Karma then moved to Columbia and so on.
AC: Jake, you have become known as that guy from Fountain Inn that’s in 20 different bands (its only 12 you guys), but Susan and Ameer you both are in multiple bands as well. How do you make it work without mixing genres?
JG: Actually that’s a good question. It’s very delicate. Mason Jar Menagerie is the easiest.
Susan Garrett: That’s because it’s so different from the other bands we play in.
JG: Yeah, usually when I write a song I know exactly what I’m writing for. The songs that I just write go to John The Revelator (solo project) but when I want to use them for another band I have to morph them to fit the other genres. Usually right off the bat I know where I want the songs to go.
AC: How would you describe MJM’s sound to new listeners?
SG: Shit that your mama told you not to listen to. Like back in the 60’s and 70’s when they were like don’t you go listening to that rock n roll music! I think we sound like the way rock’n'roll originally was, that old school sound.
JG: Raw riff rock with blues influences.
AR: Music for the soul.
AC: If you could play with any regional band who would it be and where would you want to play?
SG: Shovels and Rope at the Pour House in Charleston. I just really want to play there.
JG: I would like to play at a small festival where the people came there to see music not just a random bar they happened across. We’ve played with them before but the Long Canes a 100 times over.
AR: Jason Waller at the Grey Eagle.
AC: MJM shows always get rowdy. What’s the most interesting moment you’ve had on stage?
SG: Our friend Greg Porter doing ninja rolls in front of the stage is always awesome. The Long Canes jamming out at my birthday bash at Chicora Alley was pretty great. I got knuckle blood all over the snare from that show. Oh! There was that one woman in Charleston that kept asking us to play all those Karaoke songs like Free Bird.
JG: I told the crowd at 5 Points Pub that I has Aspergers and never mentioned it again.
AC: You guys just had your cd release show for “Life Of Sin” last month. What do you plan to do next?
JG: Dables is releasing a split EP with us coming up soon. Then we’re going to go to a studio to record the next album.
AC: Care to share any insight to what that will sound like?
JG: Nahhhh not yet.
AC: What’s something you absolutely need before you go on stage?
SG: A beer and a cigarette. My friend Rebecca and I will do yoga stretches before shows to relax.
JG: I don’t need anything.
AR: Working equipment. We are the Queen and Kings of technical difficulties.
You can check out Mason Jar Menagerie this Saturday at Gottrocks with Italo and The Passions. Its $5 at the door and the music starts around 9 pm.
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