An Interview with returning artists Jelly Bread

By Ben Olson
Reader StaffJellyBread-WEB-featured

The five-piece funk hybrid band Jelly Bread played the Hive this winter and made such a great impression, they are returning for an encore show Friday, September 11. Led by dual front men Cliff Porter on drums and vocals and Dave Berry on guitar and vocals, the Reno-based band is backed by Jeremy Hunt on bass, Sean Lehe on lead guitar and Eric Matlock on keyboard/talkbox. Recently, I spent a few moments talking with Cliff Porter about the upcoming show: 

[BO]You guys played here this winter. What were your impressions of the Hive?

[CP]Actually, the Hive has been my favorite place I’ve played since I played the Hive. When you first park, the way that they help you and are there, it’s absolutely incredible. From when you first walk into the room, it’s immaculate. They really did a great job on that place. There was nothing to complain about. If you’re the type of person that has to find something wrong and something to complain about, you don’t find it when you go to the Hive.

How long have you guys been playing together?

Me and Dave started playing music together about eight years ago. Dave is the lead guitar player when we started Jelly Bread. We really got serious and started touring really heavy about three years ago. In that time, we started making transitions on players. We’ve had a new keyboard player, Eric for three years, we’ve had our bass player for a year, and we just added a new guitar player who we cannot wait to have you guys listen to when we get up there. So there are five of us now.

Do you tour most of the year?

Right now we’re kind of on a little break, we’re gearing up for our CD release show, we’ve having a big hometown CD release show in October. It’s called “Here, There and Everywhere.” We’ll be debuting some of that stuff at the Hive show.

I see that you sometimes play with a horn section. What’s up with that?

Yeah, when we have big headlining shows, or festivals, we try to bring horns out with us. Actually, whenever we can afford them we bring them. We also travel with our sound man, so it’s pretty expensive once we start paying off the booking fees, our manager and all that. When we can afford horns, we love having them with us.

That’s an interesting point. Once you pass a certain level as a band, playing a lot more gigs in bigger venues, you’re also paying out a lot more. Has that been a difficult transition for Jelly Bread as you grow?

It’s not difficult because it’s what we want. we want to get bigger. We want to get all the way out there, as high as we can go. It’s our lifestyle, it’s what we do for a living. We just suck it up and keep pushing. It doesn’t hurt us, we’re just trying to get better, keep evolving, we don’t want to be stagnant.

I’ve noticed, you have a lot of elements of soul, funk, R&B, some blues. Do you try to adhere to any genre?

We write it as it goes. We never say, ‘Let’s do a song and make it sound like this.’ Most of the songs we write come off of sound check. A groove will come off of a sound check … we’ll sometimes record it and come back later and say, ‘We should really write something to this.’ That’s how our songs are born most of the time.

Do you all write together?

We all write. We take turns. We write what we feel, what attracts us.

What inspires you more than anything else?

Me personally, it’s just life. I pay attention to what’s going on around me. I love capturing feelings and writing about things I’ve experienced in life. On our last album, I wrote a personal song. It was called ‘Bad Man” which was a story of what I went through as a kid.

You play a lot of upbeat, fast paced music that people love to dance to. Does it still thrill you when people are dancing?

We love to have a party and have a great time, but at the end of the day, Dave is a very serious songwriter. I love that about him. He really loves to write songs you don’t get a lot these days. Telling stories and digging deep into your vocabulary.  A lot of stuff he’ll write I’ll say, ‘I don’t know what that means, but I’ll sing it,’ then he’ll explain it to me and I’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful!’ It’s really cool to have a singer songwriter on board like Dave because it opens us up. Even with us being funky, if you just listen to what we’re talking about, you’re going to get something that is a lot deeper than just a funk song.

I’m always impressed when I see a drummer who can sing lead like you do. How the hell do you do it?

It’s really a separation of brain mentality. I used to play in cabaret in Las Vegas and Reno, but when I went to play in Vegas, I had a band that had four guys up front dancing with suits on, Motown type stuff. A lot of times there was one or two of the guys that would be hoarse or couldn’t sing that night, so when I learn music, I always learn the lyrics first because that’s what I get my cues from. So I knew the words, so I’d start singing them, and I didn’t have a microphone, but they heard me covering the notes, so one night, they said, ‘You’re singing tonight.’ That was fifteen years ago now. Ever since then, that’s when I started singing and playing, and it developed. I’m still working it out, but it’s now happening. I’m a lead singer (laughs).

Are you from Reno?

Born and raised.

You probably hung out at Lake Tahoe a lot, too, right?

Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time at the lake.

Do you see any similarities between Tahoe and Sandpoint?

Oh man, Sandpoint is beautiful. I loved it up there. Can’t wait to come back.

We’re looking forward to having you.

Catch Jelly Bread at 9 p.m., Friday September 11 at the Hive in Sandpoint. Tickets are $15 for 21 years or older.

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