Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Homemade Jamz here!
With instruments made from car parts, the Homemade Jamz blues band captures their audiences’ attention before even playing a note. Wielded respectively by 18-year-old Ryan Perry and his 16-year-old brother Kyle, the guitar and bass constructed from mufflers and exhaust systems by father Renauld look more like ray-guns from “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space” or some other 60’s sci-fi series than instruments for playing the blues. But play the blues they do.
The group, which also features 12-year-old sister Taya on the drums, formed after Ryan found a Stratocaster guitar owned by his father. Renauld Perry was in the military at the time, and the family was stationed in Germany.
The spark the discovery ignited stayed with Ryan as the family moved to Tupelo, Mississippi. One by one, the rest of the Perry children fell under the spell of the blues and “Homemade Jamz” was born.
The Perrys drew attention from CBS, which aired a story about them on its "Sunday Morning" news show.
In 2007, they became the youngest musicians to ever compete in an International Blues Challenge, winning second place. When it recorded its first album, Pay Me No Mind, in 2008, Homemade Jamz set another precedent by becoming the youngest blues group to sign with a major record label, NorthernBlues Music.
With sophomore outing I Got Blues for You released last year, Homemade Jamz continues to make its mark on the blues scene, playing such venues as the Poconos Blues Festival. In the following interview they discuss playing with family vs. with strangers and their upcoming plans for a third album, among other things:
BBP: Tell me about these instruments you guys are playing because I’ve never seen instruments like that before.
Ryan: Oh man, yeah, they’re something else and they’re made from car mufflers and my dad was the mastermind behind the whole thing. And he built them and they work and they sound really good. Ever since the first time I played it. I never looked back, the crowd loves them every time, and that’s what we do.
BBP: How’d you guys get started?
Ryan: Well we started when we were all in Germany. My dad was in the military and when I was about seven, I found my dad’s old Stratocaster and I learned—just basically picked it up, (learned) how to play it, just like that, and we went to the stage. I kept on growing with my talent, and my brother came shortly behind me with the bass guitar, and my sister shortly after that, hopped up on drums, and there it was—Homemade Jamz!
BBP: (To Kyle) How easy was it for you to learn the bass?
Kyle: It was actually pretty easy, because before that, I tried keyboard and guitar, and fiddling around with guitar got me familiar with the neck and hitting the same strings and all that. Learning bass was pretty simple for me.
BBP: Is it easy playing with your family? I mean you guys must have squabbles as a family from time to time. Does that ever filter into your playing?
Ryan: Actually, it’s better playing with my family than it would be some strangers, cause if we do have any kind of disagreement we can work it out as family. And I think it’s ten times better than just having other people as band mates.
BBP: Who are some of your musical influences?
Ryan: When I first got into it, it was John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughn and when we went to the stage, I started listening to B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix. And now I’m going way back with Robert Johnson, R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough. Every year I have a new influence and it keeps growing and growing.
BBP: (To Kyle): How about you on bass?
Kyle: Oh, basically everything Ryan said. We grew up to the exact same people at the exact same time, so…
BBP: And as a band, who do you kind of model yourselves after?
Ryan: Well for me it would be the Campbell brothers…the Campbell Brothers are an amazing gospel blues band and they’re just an amazing band. Another band would be Buckwheat Zydeco and also Lightening Malcolm and Cedric Burnside, Two Man Wrecking Crew. And those three are one of my tops.
BBP: Tell me about this drummer situation. How long have you guys been together? And what about your first drummer?
Ryan: When we first started out we had a drummer for about—a little bit less than a year. This was, I think when I was twelve, my brother was ten, and I think our drummer was 14 at the time. And we had him for a little less than a year. And we let him go one day and we were practicing, just me and my brother, and one day our sister asked to get behind the drums and we told her “no” she was going to ruin the drums, ruin the music. But our mom forced us to let her play and she was amazing. So at dinner we asked her “Hey you want to be our drummer?” And so she was with us ever since.
BBP: So how did the first album come about?
Ryan: Well, the first album came about when we won second place at the International Blues Challenge in 2007.And we beat out 90—I guess 96, I think out of the 97 bands. And we got picked up by Northern Blues Music out of Canada and there you know within the next year we were recording our first album.
BBP: Was the concept behind the second album different from the first?
Ryan: Well, we basically tried the go the same route with this second one. But…we’re working right now on our third album and we’re trying to go totally different than the first two. Hopefully it will work out really nice. It should be out by the end of this year.
BBP: And when you say totally different, what do you mean?
Ryan: I mean, you know, a different kind of blues, a different kind of feel. A more roots, a more—older, more original type of blues. We’re going to try to go way back on this one (laughs).
BBP: (to Taya) I saw you on drums. Your brother kind of told me the story of how you got into it. But what made you decide to want to play drums?
Taya: Umm, I really don’t know. I mean it came naturally because I had been playing tambourines so I had rhythm and stuff. So we picked up this drum set and I guess, I picked it up from there and that’s when I decided I wanted to become a drummer.
BBP: And how many hours did you have to practice each day to get that good at so young an age?
Taya: Usually we’ll practice one to two hours a day. Or sometimes we’ll practice twice a day. And then, uh, that’s about it.
BBP: What are your rehearsals like? How often do you rehearse and how do they go?
Kyle: We rehearse everyday for about an hour in the evening time, whenever we’re done working outside and all that, and rehearsals are kind of...
Ryan: Our rehearsals are a lot of fun. We just go run through our songs just to keep our minds fresh and we always try to work on some new material, see if we can come up with anything new and if we have any ideas we try to work on that. And just—you know we always try to learn something new every time.
BBP: One more question for the drummer. Who are some of your influences?
Taya: My number one drummer is Sheila E. I also like Cindy Blackman (jazz and rock drummer, played with Lenny Kravitz), Terry Lee Carrington (House drummer on old Arsenio Hall show, also played with Herbie Hancock), B.B.King’s drummer (Caleb Emphrey), he’s awesome, and that’s about it.
BBP: One more question and then I’m going to let you guys go. Most people your age are into hip-hop. Do you ever get flack from your friends about being into what they may see as old folk’s music?
Kyle: No, not as much as, you know, some people would think.
Ryan: We love the blues music and we try to get as many people as we can to at least understand the music and respect the genre of music. And you know, a lot of my friends do respect it. I’ve got a lot of great friends who love blues, and who listen to it with me. And when we were in public school (the two younger children are now homeschooled and Ryan has graduated and is now enrolled in on-line college) a lot of peers, not necessarily friends, would kind of wonder why we’re doing that and stuff like that. And I would try to explain it to them but some people just don’t quite get it. But for the most part all of our friends understand and respect what we’re trying to do, and it’s a great feeling.
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