Jelly Bread breaks out new, tasty jams

Photographer’s notebook: It’s a familiar phenomenon. A couple-dozen concertgoers mill around the Crown Room as the band begins to play. By the end of the first song, the place is packed. There was little doubt there would be a large turnout for the “Lessons Learned” EP release. If Jelly Bread was crummy it would have been toast a long time ago. Instead, Jelly Bread is the toast of the town. Someday soon I’d love to see Cliff Porter, Dave Berry, Eric Matlock and Dante Orlando rolling in the dough, playing full-time with a horn section, which was the case at the May 9 show in the Crystal Bay Casino. Alex Canales, Jesse Steele and Tokyo-bound Tristan Selzler added layers of funk with their trumpet, saxophone and trombone. Guitarist Spencer Kilpatrick joined the fun for a couple of songs and rapper Tony Walker was onstage for the final encore song during two fast-paced sets. We even heard from Ray Charles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Digital Underground and the Temptations. But the featured attractions were the five songs from the solid EP “Lessons Learned.” The recipe for the elusive hit song is ambiguous. However, Porter’s “Bad Man” and Berry’s “Home” are delicious, so who knows? The contrast of the two songs – one soul, one Americana with a twang – highlight the band’s two distinct styles. Porter’s goal is to not let Jelly Bread be categorized. Mission accomplished. I love both sounds, as did an estimated crowd of 350. Something else going for it is that each member of the quartet sings. Matlock revels with his talk box, the lead vocals for “Diggin’ on a Groove.” Orlando, the new bassist, was the featured singer on a song. And during the hypersonic version of “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” Berry’s falsetto on backing vocals caused me to paraphrase the former basketball star: “Holy shit!” After Porter played a tune with a towel over his head, he took a photo of the jovial crowd, an image of Jelly Bread on the rise. – Tim Parsons

This Jelly Bread is fresh and it doesn’t fit in a box.

A quartet from Reno, Jelly Bread broke out a new EP May 9 at a free Crown Room performance. It was sandwiched between local accoutrements Thick Newton and the Red Room Ramble.
The album’s title,“Lessons Learned,” is the theme of the highlight song, “Bad Man,” one of five solid, unique tracks. There’s soul, funk, R&B and a country twang. Each member contributed to the arrangements.

“We have many different layers and flavors, and we want to make sure that’s always dominant in what we do,” said drummer and vocalist Cliff Porter. “We don’t want to sound like anybody else and we don’t want to be put in a box.”

However, putting “Lessons Learned” in a box of CDs is recommended.

“I think the band is pretty diverse and we come up with a pretty broad range of ideas,” said keyboardist and talk box singer Eric Matlock. “Those were some of our favorites that we really wanted to lay down and get to everybody as soon as possible.”

Jelly Bread is rising so quickly and plays so many shows, it wasn’t realistic to put together a full-length follow-up to 2012’s “No Dress Code.”

“Our plan is to record a handful of songs at a time to get new music out to people more often,” said guitarist and singer Dave Berry. “I think that will keep it fresh.”

The band recorded the tracks in October at Tom Gordon’s Imirage Sound Lab in Sparks, and, as it did with the previous record, had the horn lines written and recorded at a Los Angeles Studio. New bass player Dante Orlando added his tracks in February.

Sergio Rios of Orgone mixed two of the tracks. Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

Sergio Rios of Orgone mixed two of the tracks.
Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

Sergio Rios of Orgone mixed the songs “Bad Man” and “Home,” and Matlock the other three, “Soundcheckin,’ “Diggin’ on a Groove” and “Personal” at his Truckee studio.

“I still love the album idea and I still know we’re going to have an album out in the near future,” Matlock said. “But in this day and age with all the digital downloads, I think the whole culture of what an album is, it’s almost too much for people to absorb these days. I know people who will download an album and pick three or four songs that they really listen to but it will just end up in their playlist among everything else. You put out five songs at a time you get a better chance of everybody really hearing what you are doing.”

There are no “filler songs” among the five on the EP.

“I put it in my kids’ ears first,” Porter said. “I have 15- and 16-year-old daughters. If I get them to dance to our music, being it’s not your normal top 40 stuff your kids listen to, then I know it’s pretty good.”

“Bad Man” is a 1970’s flavored soul song. Matlock has had the groove for a while when he and Berry refined it during a tour. Porter, who sings the tune, wrote the poignant words that inspired the title of the album.

“To me it was a cool groove, but when Cliff brought those lyrics, I said, ‘Holy shit, I love this song,’ ” Berry said.

Berry wrote another emotional song, “Home,” which features his lap slide guitar and could be considered country.

“Everything I’ve ever written has come from instances that have happened in my life,” Berry said. “I wrote ‘Home’ after getting divorced and losing my kids. It has significance now because with the band we’re on the road so much. It’s what we do and we love getting out there and doing it but there’s a lot of sacrifices. Dante can tell you about that, he’s got kids at home. It’s tough. Sometimes you are on the road digging what you’ve got to do, but you can’t wait to get home.”

“Diggin’ on a Groove” is the tune most likely to stick in the listener’s head. It starts with an a cappella chorus and builds into a signature Jelly Bread funk song which features Matlock on the talk box.

“I’ve been waiting to lay down talk box on an actual record for a long time,” Matlock said.

“Personal” has visceral lyrics and started in a song in the style of a ’90s grunge band, Berry said. But the final arrangement with horns is in upbeat, Jelly Bread style.

“I couldn’t be in a rock band,” Berry said. “I don’t have a voice where I can scream and holler and sound angry.”

The EP opens with another fast, upbeat song, “Soundcheckin.’ ”

And while the groove was spurred at a soundcheck, the lyrics came from a life experience.

“It was a dating situation that I had that didn’t go so well early in the date,” Porter said. “…Don’t just jump all the way in both feet without knowing the situation.”

The situation Friday included Jelly Bread’s cadre of friends and fellow musicians. The band was accompanied by a three-piece horn section: Alex Canales, saxophone, Jesse Steele, trumpet; and Tristan Selzler, trombone.

The after-party featured the Red Room Ramble, which has keyboardist-singer Tina Fink and drummer Tyler Cravines, who both play in Orland’s blues band, Moses Malone. Mama’s Cookin’ Steve LaBella played bass, and Reno gunslinger Spencer Kilpatrick (Failure Machine) was on guitar.

Here is an early, live version of “Bad Man,” featuring vocalist and drummer Cliff Porter. He is accompanied in this October 25, 2013 performance at the Crystal Bay Casino by the band’s former bass player Brady Carthen.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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