Blue Jean Committee Sails Again with Catalina Breeze

BlueJeanCommittee_CatalinaBreeze_CoverBlue Jean Committee

Catalina Breeze

(Drag City)

Release date: 11/20/15

In November of 2011, the national entertainment spotlight turned its eyes towards Northampton, Mass. The reason for the attention was a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Featuring actor Jason Segel and then cast member Fred Armisen, the bit was a send-up of a “local” band called the Blue Jean Committee. All long hair and denim attire, the group got some laughs in the Western Mass press at the time, but few could imagine what would come next.

Just last year, the Blue Jean Committee was resurrected by Armisen, along with their “hit” song “Massachusetts Afternoon,” which the actor showcased as the first in his series of “Hometown Heroes” single releases for Drag City Records. Then in September, Armisen brought the band to life again (trading Segel for fellow-SNL album Bill Hader), reinventing its origin story (no more Northampton reference, the boys are Chicagoans through and through) and telling the tale behind its meteoric rise and fall on his IFC show Documentary Now!.

A focal point of that story is the fictional group’s breakthrough 1974 album Catalina Breeze. Described by writer Chuck Klosterman on Documentary Now! with the words, “Every song was a single, and every single was great,” fans can now experience every hit with Drag City Records official release of the soft rock classic.

Opening with the appropriately laid back title track, it doesn’t take long to notice that Armisen has done his homework. While the Portlandia star’s music doc history of the Blue Jean Committee was done for comedy, part of the fun was reveling in all the details that Documentary Now! used to portray the band. Subtle nods to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, episodes of Behind the Music and director Alison Ellwood’s 2013 film History of the Eagles Part One, were all incorporated, and “Catalina Breeze” is the product of another mixed bag.

Watch the Blue Jean Committee perform “Catalina Breeze” on Late Night with Seth Myers here:

Armisen talk-sings about being “a barstool intellectual with a master’s degree in small talk” and “going to the movies,” but the music is all California sunshine with cooing background vocals and strategically placed percussion. “Catalina” is also the album’s longest song with a running time of a mere two minutes and 15 seconds.

Yes, sadly, even for a joke record Catalina Breeze is brutally short. Seven songs go by in just over 10 minutes. But that’s still enough time for era-specific gems like “Gentle and Soft,” which pairs shared vocals with bat-shit lines about Captain Tom pointing “his compass towards the sun,” and “Mama You’re a Dancer,” which merges a disco beat to a stirring guitar lead with catchy results.

In fact, even the other songs on the record that more closely resemble half-finished ideas or aborted attempts at complete tracks are just as likely to end up as your next ear worm. “Freeway Song” just features the lyrics “freeway riding along” repeated ad nauseum for 53 seconds, but coupled with a driving beat and some propulsive bass runs the song might still tempt you to push the pedal down and sing along. “Mr. Fix-It” begs the question of what if Armisen had actually finished writing the number. It’s a promising story-song that builds nicely, but missing a complementary chorus (or any chorus actually) it simply fades out without reaching its full potential.

In a nutshell, that’s the story of the Blue Jean Committee as a whole. Documentary Now! showed the ups and the downs, but the music speaks for itself. Local boys done good? One time kings of the soft rock revolution? Or funny men making fun music? The answer might be all three. Catch the wind and sail along.

For more information on The Blue Jean Committee please visit

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Game for a Throne: Northampton’s Jesse French Dreams Big as King of Nowhere

King of Nowhere 3 (Photo credit Georgia Teensma)

Jesse French aka King of Nowhere (Photo credit: Georgia Teensma)

Jesse French is not your average gardener. Though by day, the Hampshire College graduate works for the Trustees of Reservations in Holyoke, Mass. doing landscaping and maintenance, by night the musician inside French comes out to play.

From jobs doing live sound at local clubs to his membership in Pioneer Valley bands like Young Tricksters, Ex Temper and The Hampshire College Grateful Dead Historical Society, French has found no shortage of outlets for his budding musical talent. But recently, the Northampton resident decided to add another project to his already crowded schedule.

Under the name King of Nowhere, French has launched his artistic canoe into fresh and more personal waters. He’s already recorded an album, Becoming, under the new moniker and hopes to push the boundaries of rock and folk music with a still evolving style.

“[Becoming] really marks the beginning of King of Nowhere as the identity for my artistic output,” French says. “It feels good to move forward with a name that can encompass the contributions of others and feels less centered around me.”

While Becoming does features contributions from other musicians like Becca Malin (vocals), Aaron Noble (drums), Lucy Hollier (viola) and Abigail Hobart (violin), the end result still resembles a glimpse into the private thoughts of French, who plays guitar, bass and sings throughout. Songs like “Beverly Hospital” and “Domestic Policy” seem to illustrate the struggles of knowing how to love or be worthy of affection. And “Meltdown” employs quiet and loud passages to paint a picture of an individual dealing with undisclosed personal problems.

King of Nowhere 2 (Photo credit: Georgia Teensma)

(Photo credit: Georgia Teensma)

French says, “The most challenging thing for me was putting out these songs that feel very naked and revealing. The most personal songs in the batch of this time period didn’t make the album, but there are still plenty of things dealt with in these songs that I would find difficult to talk about. Fortunately, no one ever seems to understand the lyrics.”

Listeners will get a good chance to catch every one of French’s words as he plays upcoming King of Nowhere shows solo, using looping technology to recreate the sounds and textures of Becoming.

“If people spend time with these songs, I think a lot of parts of me come through quite strongly,” French notes. “I’ve explored experiences and characteristics of myself, but this work is also a lens through which to view the things going on around us. Finding bands when I was younger that had a particular message and view of the world was hugely important in my development into the person that I am, and I hope that people can share a little bit of the way I see things through these songs.”

For more information on King of Nowhere and to listen to “Becoming” please visit

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