The Lion’s Den is probably the last place one would expect to find any of Savannah’s alternative rock bands hanging out at 1 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon.
The dim, lush environs of this conservatively decorated lounge inside downtown’s Desoto Hilton might strike some as being at odds with the image of debauched excess that’s often associated with young, underground musicians.
And yet, here we sit — 3/4 of Jeanne Flight and myself, drinking and chatting in a back corner, surrounded by hundreds of shelved, leather-bound volumes of who-knows-what.
In all fairness to the band, it was I who suggested this destination — and most of them profess to be unaware such a place even existed, despite the fact that they’ve all been matriculating at the Savannah College of Art & Design for years, and have likely passed this low-key establishment dozens of times without a second thought.
As at least a few of us are nursing hangovers —or merely suffering from too little sleep— we sink back into overstuffed chairs, sip our drafts (or our waters), and at least a couple of us methodically gobble down copious amounts of fresh popcorn in an effort to placate our angry stomachs.
Never heard of Jeanne Flight? Don’t kick yourself. Although the quartet has been together for almost 2 years, they are barely known outside of their core following — a following centered around SCAD.
That may change soon, however, as all the members are set to graduate at approximately the same time, and upon finishing school this Fall (with degrees in a variety of different majors, including Sound Design and Industrial Design) they look to remain in town through next Summer, woodshedding before a planned move to Philadelphia in search of greener pastures for their challenging, indulgent music.
Why Philadelphia? Keyboardist Kyle Fisher chose the destination. He says matter-of-factly, “Philly just seems like a good city for us,” and he’s originally from central New Jersey, so he should know.
“It’s large,” he continues, “but not like New York City or Chicago. A lot of it’s guesswork, but I’m fairly familiar with the mood of the town, and from what I’ve seen there, I think we’ll fit nicely. There’s a fairly strong punk aesthetic at work there, and there will be lots of places for us to play.”
Drummer Matt Sirois and guitarist Shawn Northrop (bassist Steve Speir was absent) agree that being based in a town with only one venue (The Jinx) that’s receptive to their music is more than a hindrance. If anything, it’s downright demoralizing to a young band.
“Touring is a big deal to us,” offers Kyle. “We really want to get out and get in front of as many people as we can. That’s more important to us than selling a lot of records. If we didn’t have these school obligations hanging over us, we’d drop it all, buy a van and hit the road tomorrow. We’d play every night if we could.”
Shawn agrees, adding that the shared love of what they’ve created together is what bonds the (admittedly dissimilar) bandmembers together.
“We all love and believe in this music and want to make it work,” he declares.
The group used to perform frequently with another young SCAD-based act, Technicolour Stallion. But, says Shawn, “Once they moved away, we haven’t been able to find anyone else that fits our style. Not having another local band to tour and play with regularly makes things difficult.”
It also doesn’t help matters that their music is by no means easy to swallow.
“People often tell us we’re difficult to classify,” says Kyle, “but we’re not that eclectic. We have a recognizable style.”
Dark, moody, disjointed and chaotic, it’s an unsettling blend of emo angst and the kind of trippy, meandering sonic explorations one might expect from prog-rock revivalists like Spock’s Beard or a certain other experimental, punk-tinged band.
“I’m not gonna lie,” says Matt with a hint of pride. “We get compared a lot to The Mars Volta — which we’re fine with, because we’re evolving all the time.”
“As far as a concept goes, we’re basically trying to construct images out of the sounds,” offers Shawn.
“We’re all visual artists,” Matt explains. “So, we all think very visually. And that’s everyone’s dream, man! To help someone create pictures in their head through your music? I mean, come on.”
Jeanne Flight plays The Jinx Friday. Columbia, S.C. indie-rockers Hungry Models and Philadelphia’s bombastically atmospheric Zelazowa open the 21+ show at 10 pm.