Jake McKelvie and the Countertops has had plenty to celebrate – the release of their second CD, 100 shows throughout New England and New York, inclusion on a compilation cassette release from Sad Cactus Records, and a new recording project in the works. Not bad for a band that formed three years ago.
The Countertops is Jake McKelvie who plays guitar, writes the songs, and sings lead vocals, Nick Votruba on bass and backing vocals, and drummer and backing vocalist Matt Bacon. The band plays indie / alternative rockand the music is catchy and accessible; the delivery heartfelt. The songs use gentle, self-deprecating, clever, and sometimes sarcastic humor mixed with a touch of melancholy, such as: “And it isn’t as if I took the apple from your eye /And I bit it just to quench my own thirst” (Getting Work) or “I never thought I’d lose tenure in the front of your brain” (Fingers). The rhythm of the lyrics goes beyond the musical phrases in some of the songs, giving them an unconstrained feel, as in the song Aside From Your Hair, for example, which you can see a performance of here.
I asked Jake about his writing: “I always appreciated sad songs and throw in a couple of quirky, sarcastic phrases to lighten it up. I like the tongue in cheek effect. My writing isn’t calculated, I don’t have a specific intention in creating my songs. “
Growing up, Jake listened to indie bands like Pavement and Grand Daddy, and singer-songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Michael Hurley. He started playing guitar at the age of 12 and writing songs in high school. When writing for the band, Jake starts with the basic melody and guitar parts and shares them with Nick and Matt, who write their own parts. “Sometimes the music changes as we start playing it together,” said Jake.
Jake McKelvie and the Countertops released their first eponymous CD in May 2012, and Solid Chunks of Energy two years later. A turning point for the band was their first gig at the Firehouse in Worcester late in 2013. “We played in Nashua with Speaker for the Dead,” recalls Jake, “and one of the members, who lives at the Firehouse, invited us to come play. We’ve had many return trips since then, and our fan base continues to grow.” Highlights for the band include a show at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton and their show last month at the Firehouse, which had an audience of more than 300. Right now the band is working on a release with Worcester band Uh-Huh. “We played a few showstogether and became pals with them,” explained Jake. “They mentioned they were looking to record and asked if we wanted to do a split 7” 45. It’s pretty common in the DIY scene; each band gets a side. We recorded a couple of extra songs while we were doing Solid Chunks of Energy and those will be on this EP.”
Jake McKelvie and the Countertops will be at the Wreck Room in Peterborough with TheColorOrange, Llua, the Honeybears, and Theater Queers on January 17. “It’s a new place and I’m looking forward to it,” said Jake. On February 13, they return to Fritz, the Place to Eat in Keene, and have many shows around New England in between.
You can purchase the band’s CDs on their website. Prickly Pear, the compilation cassette that includes the song Wristwatch is available at Sad Cactus Records. For more information about Jake McKelvie and the Countertops, including upcoming shows, visit jcmandtops.com.
What is Monadnotes?
Monadnotes promotes live music opportunities in the southwestern New Hampshire area. We list musicians, venues, community ensembles, and events in Keene, Milford, Peterborough, Henniker and surrounding towns, as well as in the greater Connecticut River Valley and Pioneer Valley regions. Monadnotes has the most complete calendar listing of events and continues to expand. Contact us to be listed on our website.