Friday, March 15, 2013

Chicago band Jackpot Donnie bringing vibrancy to music scene


All bands should play with as much vigor as Chicago band Jackpot Donnie does on its new EP, "Mayday!"

The band,, is likely to gain new fans with its charged-up blend of rock, blues, funk and reggae. "Mayday!" was engineered and produced by former Filter drummer Steve Gillis.

Jackpot Donnie will perform March 29 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago, as part of a CD release party.

The Future Laureates, Molehill and The Scissors also are on the bill. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $14 in advance, available at

I had the chance to talk to Jackpot Donnie frontman Matt Love about the new EP.

Q - In sitting down to make "Mayday!," what were the band's goals and do you think you achieved them?

We wanted to progress with our songwriting. In particular, we wanted to record really crisp, fun, catchy songs that we hoped would be accessible to the casual listener on the radio. 

But on the more emotional side, our drummer had just returned from a year-long hiatus, and we were really happy about that, so that lead to songs that we were really excited about, which we wanted to share with our fans.

Q - Steve Gillis produced and engineered the album. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table?

We were introduced to Steve through our good friend Tate, of the band How Far to Austin. They had just done a full-length with Steve, and it sounded great to us, so we were curious to see what Steve would do to help us polish our sound. 

We met him, talked to him about what we wanted this EP to be, and he came out to a couple practices and listened to the songs that we were thinking of putting on the EP. Once we had all agreed that it was a good fit, we moved forward. 

Not only is Steve a really smart engineer, but he's also a talented songwriter. He really helped us craft what were, originally, really just rough ideas that we thought we were ready to record. 

He pushed us to do things that we hadn't thought to do before, which in turn helped us to do a bit more on this EP in terms of showing people what we are capable of. The end result is a 5-song EP that's better than what we had originally hoped for.

Q - You've probably heard the band's music described in many ways. How would you describe the band's music?

We've always fallen back on the "rock-reggae" term, which I think suits us fairly well. But really, we're just a rock band. We love playing music that makes people dance, bounce up and down, and just have a good time.

Q - Your music has been featured on both television shows and in film. Do you view that as just another way to get your music out there?

Absolutely. The more people that can hear us, the better. But we're also creative guys, so it's a lot of fun to be able to combine what we do to other forms of artistic media.

Q - The music business has changed drastically over the years. Do you think it is harder or easier to be a band these days?

It's never really "easy" to be in a band. There are lots of different and passionate personalities, schedules, and individual goals that all need to be integrated. 

But if you're lucky, which we are, then you end up just playing music with your friends, which doesn't ever suck. In terms of getting noticed, that's always been the hardest part for any band. 

It's not just about getting your foot in the door, but having the door open up for you in the first place - that's the trick. Until that happens for us, as we said 10 years ago when we started playing, it's always been about making and playing music with your friends, and having fun doing it. 

As long as we're still having fun, being in the band will always be easy.

Q - How do you think the band's music fits into the Chicago music scene?

There's not a lot of original rock-reggae bands in Chicago. Right now there seems to be a lot of folk-rock, cover bands, or metal bands playing around the city, so we're happy to have a slightly different sound. 

Overall, the music scene in Chicago is really thriving. People in this town love to see a good show, and that's always been our #1 goal - to put on a good live show. 

We've been playing in the city for most of the last decade, so I like to think we've been able to create a niche for ourselves in Chicago music.

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