The young men of Jazz do not seem like troublemakers. The four young local rockers who make up the band, in fact, seem normal in the most conservative sense of the word. They shake hands over introductions. They thank me several times for writing about them. And in a group interview, the four teenage boys from North Spokane are friendly and polite, never interrupting each other.
They are only slightly scruffy and unkempt, but hardly the type that would cause you to lock your doors if you stopped next to them at a stoplight. In fact, you might not even notice them.
And yet, onstage, you can’t miss them. The year-old band transfixes audiences. As musicians, they take risks — experimenting onstage, flirting heavily with messing up in front of a live audience.
Though they’re limited by their age to playing only all-ages shows, as a band they give Spokane’s rock scene some of its most interesting, emotional performances.
At a show in mid-November, the young group — hands covered in big black Xs — built a loud sonic wave of upbeat noise. And then, suddenly, Ramsey Troxel, the band’s bed-headed singer, opened his mouth wide and shrieked a battle cry into the mic. It was a perfectly timed yet totally unexpected yell that could wake ghosts.
Behind him the other members — bassist Alex Paul, guitarist Adam Price and drummer Ben Smith — seemed to have a sense of the direction of the song, but allowed it to meander freely just long enough for it to seem obvious that it’s not scripted.
They claim that Jazz is just a funny name, but maybe they knew more than they realized about their freeform style when they choose it. Their sets occasionally feel like instinctual explorations of sound and noise, each instrument winding its own path and then, occasionally, colliding with the others into unconventional, swimming harmonies.
But it’s a young band, and sometimes that leads to hiccups.
“If someone messes up, we just roll with it,” Smith says. “We do different intros. Different outros.”
“Sometimes it sounds twice as awesome, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Paul says.
“There was definitely a time where there was this one part that we got off, and we kept compensating for it and it got worse and worse,” Troxel says. “But you just kind of play it off.”
Troxel, a Whitworth University theater student, is no stranger to the spotlight. The 18-year-old Spokane native acted in plays at his high school, taking lead roles in Rebel Without a Cause and A Few Good Men. He says that he’s not acting when he sings in Jazz, but he definitely wants the show to be interesting to watch.
“Stage aesthetic is really important to me. I know it should be about the music, but I think the performance is just as important,” he says. “I remember back when we were 15 or 16, there were all these local bands with these super intense performances. And then everybody broke up and moved away.”
Troxel says those bands from his youth affected him. And he wants Jazz to be that way for new listeners.
“I want our music to be
important to somebody else,” Troxel says. “I want it to affect someone
like so much has affected me. That’s what I would want out of the band
... to inspire somebody.”