Having been born on the fertile soils of Friday Harbor the members of the
Jesus Chords have finally made their way to the mean streets of Seattle and
Gabe Keenan (guitar/vocals), Jonas Haskins (bass), Greg (guitar/vocals) and
brother Eric Irving (drums) are playing music whenever and wherever they
can. In an age when the term "country" gets thrown around in such defined
genres as Young Country, Alt-Country, Country Rock and American Music the
idea of what country music started out as seems to have been lost, which
was the song: simple and pure. Spawning from punk, noise, country and
bluegrass roots, the Jesus Chords have used their collective influences and
understanding of music to rediscover the principal of the simple. I sat
down with Jonas and Gabe to talk about what they're all about.
Tablet: How'd you come up with the name the Jesus Chords?
Jonas Haskins: It came from a joke some friends and I had. We called camp
songs Jesus chords - the first edition chords that you learn when you first
learn to play guitar. so you can play 'Kumbaya' and songs like that. All
the Jesus songs. Basic chords, I guess. The first songs that we wrote as aband were all like that so I said, "Oh, these are Jesus Chords."
Gabe Keenan: There is something funny that happens because of playing all
those first position chords. Sometimes we hear another instrument. All the
guitars, just like a chorus, add up to more than the sum of its parts. But
about the name... a lot of times people think we are a religious band, but
Tablet: Who are your biggest influences?
JH: I think we have a lot of different influences. We listen to a lot of
old school bluegrass and country records: Mississippi John Hurt, Johnny
Cash, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, lots of punk/garage music.
GK: But I don't know how direct those are. Usually we're just trying to
write simple songs, but somewhat interesting. Keeping simple chords but
maybe making the structure funny. But all of our songs are usually about
two minutes long.
Tablet: Is there a reason they are only two minutes long?
GK: No guitar solos.
Tablet: Do you think you guys now have the same musical vision?
GK: Personally, I think about making songs that are good the first time
people hear them. Really simple lyrics that are clear, but convey some sort
of meaning at the first listen. I think we're pretty much the same in the
vein of how we write songs.
JH: We also don't only do country songs. Our songs have a lot of differentGK: We're a monster with four heads. We're starting to understand how we
all function as a unit. We change things around a lot. Greg can play
trumpet. Jonas and Greg switch around, and everybody sings. There are no
taboos for us. Through this, I think we've finally found the simple song.
That's what we are working on. We're just trying to build on that and find
out what you can do with it. As it turns out you can do a lot. To make the
music float and to make it happen, fuck man, that's Jedi. To get like that,
I think that's really the goal, just to get there. Wherever the fuck that