While sophomore Melissa Davaz’s story of how she met her bandmates is unlikely, it does indicate the whimsy in this band.
“I remember we went to the beach last year, and Jesse just sort of appeared out of a cloud and things since have just been a wonderful mix of Bob Dylan and beards,” the pianist and singer said.
Jack Ruby, a band formed by sophomores Jesse Hughey, Melissa Davaz, Chris Hernandez and Kyle Helm, has been performing all over campus in the past months. They have shared their jamming psychobilly folk rock at three CatCabs this school year, as well as headlining an event for the environmental club Greenfield’s “Focus the Nation” weekend.
Even if the band’s formation was more prosaic than Davaz claimed—Hernandez recalled simply getting together to jam at Hughey’s invitation—the band is intent on having a good time and sharing experiences through art. They aren’t limited to on-campus gigs. Hughey said they have also played at Portland coffee shop Anna Bannana’s.
“We got paid in beer,” he said. “So, I guess that means I got paid in beer.”
He is the only member of the band who is over 21.
Frontman Hughey, guitarist, vocalist and writer for the group, cited his onstage experiences as his artistic drive.
“As a musician, when everything comes together, heaven is open for a moment, and it feels like real art,” he said.
The idea that people are getting something from the musician, that they understand even a little bit, is central for him.
Hernandez, who plays guitar and mandolin as well as singing and writing songs, remembered the band’s last show for “Focus the Nation.”
“There were people we didn’t know there, not just friends and people we had dragged to the show,” he said.
The band is doing well with their artistic progress and fan base, he said. While the band members mocked themselves for having more than 200 plays on some of their songs on the Internet site Myspace, they are happy to have sold all the copies of a self-recorded EP at their past few shows.
Priced at only $5, the CDs are packaged in homemade cereal box cases. Though currently sold out, the members plan to make more. Look for a merchandise table at coming shows.
While Davaz has played piano for many years, her first experience with the harmonica was onstage during a CatCab performance.
When a show looms, the band practices every day for several hours. The members cite folk music, Bob Dylan, Charles Mingus and 90s pop as influencing them musically.
Hughey said the most impressive moment with the band so far was singing the Bob Dylan song “God on Our Side” in Ice Auditorium.
“There is just something about a message that strong in a room like that,” Hughey said. “It was an emotional high point.”