It’s been 18 COVID-constrained months since Napa’s Mama Said Band has played live before more than a few dozen socially-distanced fans. They will perform this Sunday, July 18, as part of the Blue Note at Charles Krug Winery Road Trip concert series.
On the phone last week from a family vacation in Florida, guitarist Derek Bromley and vocalist Jennifer Knight talked about the band’s navigation through the pandemic months. Their break from performance included the recording of a new album with Jim McGorman, a prominent Los Angeles record producer, and the recent addition of guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Serwer to their now six-member ensemble.
“Once we started settling into COVID, we realized that things were not opening any time soon,” Knight said. “That's when we asked ourselves, okay, how can we keep the momentum going? How can we leverage this? And we just said, ‘Let's go into the studio, let's record some of this stuff.’”
Bandmate vocalist Latifa Reeves reached out to McGorman, with whom she worked years ago. McGorman is the keyboard player for the Goo Goo Dolls, producing some of their recordings as well as recordings by Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne, Poison, Weezer and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He agreed to produce the Mama Said album which was recorded in his home studio in L.A.
“Jim is a great guy, and super talented, both as a songwriter and producer,” Bromley said. “It was great for us because the album is a combination of songs that initially Latifa and I and then ultimately Jennifer, Latifa and I had been writing together, as well as songs that we wrote with Jim. It was a nice kind of blending of both before and with Jim. And he added a lot from a producer's perspective to the layers and the tracks and the parts that went with them.”
“I was like a kid in a candy shop,” Bromley added. “Jim's got about a dozen different guitars on the album, and they're all vintage. There's a ‘62 Gibson SG that's like this epic, awesome riff monster of a guitar. There's a couple of his Les Pauls that I played. It sort of goes on and on, the number of guitars that made it onto each track. Through a Marshall full-stack, we were able to damp it down and crank it up. So it gets that beautiful saturation and distortion.”
“Jim gave us a lot of direction,” Knight said. “He helped us define the sound that we wanted, helped us define the Mama Said sound. We worked hard on that, and that's reflected in the instrumentation, what's there and what's not there.”
“We knew what we had was new classic rock,” Bromley said,” a kind of a throwback or a nod to the Lenny Kravitz, Black Crowes era, that immediate pre-grunge period, as well as the original goodness of classic rock.
“Yes, there's a bit of programming on there, but it's anchored in real drums and acoustic sounds and just drenched in gorgeous, saturated guitar tone and the multi-part harmonies that Jen and Latifa have been able to layer on.”
Voted Best Band by Northbay Bohemian 2021, the full Mama Said lineup is Jennifer Knight and Latifa Reeves on vocals, lead guitarist Derek Bromley, bassist Alan Parks, drummer Joe Shotwell and their new performing member, San Francisco rhythm guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Serwer.
“We felt like we needed to have something else, someone else, to really fill out our sound,” Bromley said. “If it wasn't going to be pre-canned, it needed to be a human who could jam with us and interact with us. There's a warmth and a resonance, both to Jeremy’s voice and to his playing, that really feels like it props up what I do on the guitar and what the ladies do vocally. There's a real merging instrumentally as well as vocally.”
“Jeremy has four albums out and he's been doing music for a long time,” Knight said. “His solo work is really amazing. I've got his albums on repeat on Spotify all the time.”
The band’s new album, their debut LP, is titled “Change in the Weather.” It will be released in the next few months. “Overarching through the music there's a positivity and a hopefulness and an uplifting message,” Bromley said. “It’s not about divisiveness, it's not about the more classic sex, drugs and rock and roll themes. I'm going to sound cheesy saying this, but it’s about the potential or the power of love when harnessed for good.”
“Yeah, love and unity,” Knight said. “That’s been said a million times in a million ways and we're adding our voice to that because it's important. We’re looking for a tipping point for when we can all just be more tolerant, more loving, more unified. We want our music, our art, to reflect that optimism, seeing through differences and making connections, building bridges.”
“And taking that and building on the primal joy that is rock and roll,” Bromley added.
Sunday, July 18, 7 p.m., (doors open 6 p.m.). Mama Said Band. General Admission, $10-$12. Blue Note Napa at Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main St., St. Helena. www.ticketmaster.com. Blue Note box office: 707-880-2300.
Bestselling album from the year you graduated high school
Bestselling album from the year you graduated high school
1956: ‘Calypso’ by Harry Belafonte
1957: ‘My Fair Lady’ soundtrack by the original Broadway cast
1958: ‘My Fair Lady’ soundtrack by the original Broadway cast
1959: ‘Music from Peter Gunn’ by Henry Mancini
1960: ‘The Sound of Music’ soundtrack by the original Broadway cast
1961: ‘Camelot’ soundtrack by the original Broadway cast
1962: ‘West Side Story’ soundtrack by various artists
1963: ‘West Side Story’ soundtrack by various artists
1964: ‘Hello, Dolly!’ soundtrack by the original Broadway cast
1965: ‘Mary Poppins’ soundtrack by various artists
1966: ‘Whipped Cream & Other Delights’ by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
1967: ‘More of The Monkees’ by The Monkees
1968: "Are You Experienced?" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
1969: ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ by Iron Butterfly
1970: ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel
1971: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ soundtrack by various artists
1972: ‘Harvest’ by Neil Young
1973: ‘The World Is a Ghetto’ by War
1974: ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ by Elton John
1975: ‘Elton John's Greatest Hits’ by Elton John
1976: ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ by Peter Frampton
1977: ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac
1978: ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack by the Bee Gees
1979: ‘52nd Street’ by Billy Joel
1980: ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd
1981: ‘Hi Infidelity’ by REO Speedwagon
1982: ‘Asia’ by Asia
1983: ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson
1984: ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson
1985: ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ by Bruce Springsteen
1986:’ Whitney Houston’ by Whitney Houston
1987: ‘Slippery When Wet’ by Bon Jovi
1988: ‘Faith’ by George Michael
1989: ‘Don't Be Cruel’ by Bobby Brown
1990: ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ by Janet Jackson
1991: ‘Mariah Carey’ by Mariah Carey
1992: ‘Some Gave All’ by Billy Ray Cyrus
1993: ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack by Whitney Houston
1994: ‘The Lion King’ soundtrack by Elton John
1995: ‘Cracked Rear View’ by Hootie and the Blowfish
1996: ‘Jagged Little Pill’ by Alanis Morissette
1997: ‘Spice’ by Spice Girls
1998: ‘Titanic’ soundtrack by James Horner
1999: ‘Millennium’ by Backstreet Boys
2000: ‘No Strings Attached’ by NSYNC
2001: ‘Hybrid Theory” by Linkin Park
2002: ‘The Eminem Show’ by Eminem
2003: ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin'’ by 50 Cent
2004: ‘Confessions’ by Usher
2005: ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’ by Mariah Carey
2006: ‘High School Musical’ soundtrack by various artists
2007: ‘Noël’ by Josh Groban
2008: ‘Tha Carter III’ by Lil Wayne
2009: ‘Fearless’ by Taylor Swift
2010: “Recovery’ by Eminem
2011: ‘21’ by Adele
2012: ‘21’ by Adele
2013: ‘The 20/20 Experience’ by Justin Timberlake
2014: ‘1989’ by Taylor Swift
2015: ‘25’ by Adele
2016: ‘Views’ by Drake
2017: ‘÷’ by Ed Sheeran
2018: ‘Scorpion’ by Drake
2019: ‘Hollywood's Bleeding’ by Post Malone
2020: ‘My Turn’ by Lil Baby
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David Kerns is a Napa-based journalist and novelist. See more of his work at www.davidkerns.com.