Jascha, a singer-songwriter unafraid to reveal his emotions but protective of his last name, kicked around the Indy scene for six or seven years before he found himself a more permanent band. But he took that first step towards attracting followers by presenting himself as a singly-named performer.
Was Cher the inspiration? "I was going more for Charlemagne, or Jesus," Jascha humbly explained to NUVO during a practice last week.
A March 2009 gig with Bowerbirds found the songwriter assembling disciples: Jascha on guitar and vocals, guitarist Jordan Updike and accordion/keyboard player Lauren Moore.
"I went to Jascha and said, 'Man, you're a great artist, but you're a terrible businessman,'" Updike said of his first meeting with the singer-songwriter. "So we kind of put together a plan for what we'd do that summer, which included putting out an album."
The first three then recruited friend and songwriter Nathan Lucas to play bass, an instrument he learned while on the job, and found drummer Bryan Unruh on a craigslist.org personal ad. The resulting album, There's Nothing Like Love for Making You Miserable, was recorded in Jascha's house and self-released (under the slightly altered full-band name of jascha.) in Oct. 2009.
Since then, things at the jascha. camp have changed considerably. Moore has since departed, but the remaining four members have solidified into a songwriting team. The four tracks on their upcoming 7" EP for Standard Recording, At the Mouth of the Well of the Twisted Serpent/Indianapolis: The Paris of the Midwest, were written by the group as a whole. Recorded at Snapjoint Recording Studio in Broad Ripple, the record has more of a rock-oriented sound than the band's debut.
"I think the sound of the record reflects [the group songwriting process]," Updike said. "This time we were there from the ground up, and I think you can really sense that. And we've grown together as a band — not only musically, but personally as well."
That change is immediately apparent in lead-off track "The Devil's Own," which sounds like Jim James jamming with Crazy Horse. To help flesh out this new sound, the band brought in local singer-songwriter Kate Lamont, who adds backing vocals to every track. Lamont will join jascha. onstage, and play a set of her own, at an Aug. 28 album release party at Radio Radio, which will also feature local band Everything, Now!
"We've got some surprises cooked up," Jascha said of the show, which band members promise will feature more than 20 musicians. "It's going to be a good night."
The first half of the EP's title refers to the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl, whose name is also used for the album's second track. And title's second half quotes a review of the band from My Old Kentucky Blog.
"There's a lot of culture here in Indianapolis," Jascha said. "So we wanted to do something that kind of reflected that."
Outfits like My Old Kentucky Blog helped to launch jascha. — and plenty of other bands, according to Updike.
"You can't underscore enough how important a lot of the local groups have been — MOKB in the last two years has completely changed the scene," Updike said.
The recently-formed promotions company Uptown Locals is also helping to sell jascha. to the world. Comprised of three "young professionals," the company's members use previous experience in marketing and communications to promote, book and manage up-and-coming local bands.
"It takes so much time and energy to do [promotions and booking] and a band should be worried about showing up, playing music, and that's it," Updike said. "To have a group like that to come in and be able to support us is just amazing."
The Radio Radio show will kick off jascha.'s first tour as a band, which will take them around the Midwest and up to New York. Their next planned release is another four-song EP, this time a collection of country songs.
Though attached to the Indy scene, the members of jascha. have their sights set on expanding beyond the Midwest. Like most members of local bands, they each have day jobs (Unruh works for a newspaper, Jascha a daycare, Lucas as a network engineer for a university and Updike is executive director of the Earth House), but hope to make jascha. their chief source of income.
"We all have the same aspirations of any band, I think," Unruh said. "We'd like to be able to make enough money to make a living on making music and quit our jobs."
And despite the emotional and musical complexities of his songs, Jascha is a man of simple needs.
"I would like to make enough money to pay my rent and buy myself a bottle of whiskey a week," Jascha said.