It’s easy to find yourself entranced by James-Alphonse’s cabaret-seasoned jazz tunes. As the solo act of up-and-comer James Gould (lead singer of award-winning band Allotrope), this combination of jazz, blues and folk grew in Hamilton and is beginning to take the Canadian indie scene by storm. Raz Mataz gets James-Alphonse’s take on forging this craft – which isn’t always the go-to genre by indie bands.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): Indie bands tend to favour punk, pop, or rap – what made you take the jazz, blues, and folk route?
James-Alphonse: I favoured the jazz, blues and folk route because, although other genres tend to be more popular in the indie realm, these are the ones that inspire my writing the most. I’ve tried studying what sort of genres are successful but one of the most important things I heard was that, if you try to catch the tide you’ll miss it and just be hit in the back by the next. Therefore, I figured I needed to go with what makes me happy and passionate rather than what’s working. Furthermore, just to speak more towards my interests, my father used to play me folk, country and blues while my brother and I went to sleep as children. I tend to absorb styles of music and these ones are always affecting how I look at music because of the sentimental role they play in my life. And jazz… jazz is so calming… I played the barry saxophone for all of my school’s bands in high school but playing in jazz band was when I really felt alive.
RMM: Where do you generally draw your inspirations from?
JA: I generally love all music. All of the above: jazz, blues, folk, country, rock, metal, electronic music (including all the sub-genres), pop, etc. I can’t really separate myself from any of them so I’ve actually been a part of a lot of bands in the Hamilton region including: Allotrope (rock), Brannigan (ambient/alternative rock), Ash & Ember (folk/duet/acoustic), and the T-rex Cineplex (indie pop rock). If I were going to go to the times where I got into music, I would without a doubt say that Led Zeppelin was a huge inspiration. Jimmy Page never conformed to specific styles of music. He was a monster that let the emotions flow and his guitar sing. A more contemporary writer that has been influential would be John Mayer!
RMM: How do you think being from Hamilton has influenced your musical style?
JA: Hamilton has been said to be an area where people make music as genuine as they possibly can and I’d like to think that I do the same. At the end of the day, we just hope to create some easy-going homegrown fun! If people come out, laugh, sing and dance, we’ve done our job like a true Hamiltonian would.
RMM: Your distinct voice has turned some heads in the community – how did you develop its sound?
JA: My voice was probably developed as a youngster yelling at the top of my lungs to songs that my mom would play in the car. After hearing my cousin Stacey Eccles sing, I was inspired to make my yelling turn into singing. She was trained in more of the classical sense so I started with fairly practical goals but singers like John Mayer, Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Jack Johnson were the ones with a true hold on my heart. I didn’t want to replicate them because, well, we’ve already got them; however, using them as my teachers has been a true gift.
RMM: There’s a certain classic cabaret suaveness to some of your tunes, how did you decide on this style and shape it?
JA: Some of my favourite movies are any in the Bond series. This sort of image inspired our songwriting because we wanted to be “classy”. Additionally, as I said earlier, John Mayer, Michael Bublé and Sinatra were some of my big influences and those jazz cats are the pinnacle of suave. Hopefully we can be even an ounce of the amount of suave that those artists are. Furthermore, I was just coming from a band called Allotrope that plays some very edgy rock music. In the interest of rebranding, I wanted to make a very distinct image so that’s why our photo shoot involved suits and the amazing fashion photographer Paul Iacoviello. He just knows what’s chic!
RMM: Acoustics and traditional instruments tend to be your strong suit. Do you ever see yourself breaking out of that and experimenting with other styles?
JA: I certainly do see myself breaking that mold. I’ve already looked into dropping hooks on a hip-hop album. The tracks are on my computer, ready to go! The next steps involve looking out to more artists for collaborations. I love to work with others!
RMM: What can fans expect from you in the future? Any upcoming albums?
JA: We have already created four to five new songs that will be played live at shows! They are more reflective of a ’50s rock era but they’ll definitely have everyone up and dancing. In the winter, we’ll be looking into finishing the writing process on the production side, and spring is looking like it has potential for recording. However, each song will be regarded as a single, so unlike the 12-track debut original album, we will be putting out one track at a time starting around next summer/fall. Lastly, shows will be played all around the southern Ontario area so make sure to keep an eye on our social media pages!
Fall and Winter Concert Dates:
Harlem Underground – Toronto – September 25
Royal York Festival – Etobicoke – September 26
Monforte on Wellington – Stratford – October 3
Piston Borke – Brantford – October 10
The Central – Toronto – October 16
Melanheads – Toronto – October 17
Coach and Lantern – Ancaster – October 31
Abe Erb – Waterloo – November 7
Bier Market King West – Toronto – November 12
Abe Erb – Waterloo – November 21
Hugh’s Room – Toronto – November 22
Corktown – Hamilton – December 5
Hard Rock Café – Toronto – December 6
Abe Erb – Waterloo – December 18
The Casbah – Hamilton – December TBA