By: Erin Callahan – Chief A&E Writer
What started as a simple project to help a few students get into the living community at ArtStreet has now grown into a band that recently produced their first full-length album.
Gem City, which includes four UD alumni, will host a release party for the new album, “REDUX,” at the Old Yellow Cab building Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. The event will also feature acts from Dayton’s The Leap Years, Cincinnati’s Cream & Sugar and St. Louis’ LOOPRAT.
Gem City features 2013 graduates Willie Four as front man and on trumpet, David Watanabe on keyboard, Peter Mills on bass, Matt Schroeder on tenor saxophone, 2014 grads Dillon Corrigan on drums, and Mike Francis on trumpet, 2014 UC Berkeley grad Zack Lemons on guitar and 2015 Wright State University grad Terry Staten on baritone saxophone.
Four, Watanabe, Schroeder and former member Jordan DeLeon, also a 2013 graduate from the University of Dayton, were challenged with the project their junior year, Four said. They met it with a band and a well-received performance. After receiving positive feedback from friends and audiences, they chose to continue.
They played gigs at UD while they lived close and had time to rehearse. Since then, they’ve developed what Four described as their “recipe” of sound.
“Our main recipe is funk with R&B influences and a flavor of jazz,” he said. “[Every member] has different influences, but as a whole we relate most to Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Motown – depends what we’re listening to at the time.”
While they’re Dayton-born and have remained faithful for a year playing local shows, Four said they have started traveling to neighboring Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and most recently, Detroit.
They traveled as far as Nashville to record “REDUX” at the Sound Emporium in February 2014. Due to a few lineup changes, Gem City finished recording at late professor Eric Suttman’s studio in Dayton and ArtStreet’s recording studio, StreetSounds. A professional in Tennessee mastered and mixed the music, and the band covered marketing and digital design to complete the final product – a mix of funk, soul and jazz with a story behind it.
“The album flows well, and I think it will be good to listen to more than once,” Four said. “You’ll catch something new every time you listen.”
In contrast to their extended playlist, “Highlights,” which was released in 2013, “REDUX” was recorded in a new, more challenging way.
“We recorded everyone playing at the same time,” Four said. “Every morning at 7 a.m. we would practice for two to three hours for three weeks before recording started. If one person missed a note, it would throw off the whole band and we started over. It was hard and we had never done it that way before, but it was pretty successful.”
You’ll get a chance to hear it for the first time at the release party. The band promises a long night of great live music close to the UD community – what Four calls Gem City’s main demographic.
The album will be available Friday on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play. For more information on Gem City, please visit gemcityband.com.