The Hamilton-based band Of Gentlemen and Cowards has been jamming together for almost six years, but they’re now finally putting out their first full-length album, Modern Jukebox.
The four-piece – featuring Josh Dawson (bass, vocals), Simon Edwards (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Christian Fedele (lead guitar, vocals) and Jake Warren (drums) – had early success in 2012 after they won the Red Bull Soundstage Audience Choice competition.
Their prize was a chance to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York City.
Since then, however, the four McMaster University graduates had to sail through some choppy waters in order to get their record out.
Edwards said that in March 2014, the band flew to the Bahamas on a 6-1/2 month contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises. They figured they’d have lots of time to work on the album while playing on board a ship.
After learning about 150 cover songs, they performed 42 shows within a two-week period. But then everything ground to a halt: they were sent home because Royal Caribbean had meant to hire a jazz band.
They all moved back in with their parents, and some band members, including Edwards, pursued graduate education. He, for instance, got a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto.
He looks back on the whole debacle as a learning experience and says the covers they practised were helpful when they were putting together Modern Jukebox.
“Without a doubt there was no way we could have written those songs before we went on the boat. We just weren’t good enough songwriters,” he says.
Edwards cites Motown greats such as Stevie Wonder and even the Jackson Five as inspiration, along with the Beatles.
“The Beatles are the kings of simplicity,” he says. “And so to find the genius in simplicity was really something that we kind of forced into our hand while songwriting.”
While improving their songwriting skills, the band came up with about 30 different original pieces before whittling their repertoire down to a 10-track album.
“The order of this record was very specifically chosen, because we wanted to create something that was more than just a list of 10 songs,” he says. “Ultimately we wanted to create an album.”
The result is a record that’s fun to listen to. It reflects the experiences of a group of 20-somethings and sounds like what you’d want to play on a relaxing summer day or a road trip.
Edwards credits his Jewish upbringing with not only pushing him to get a graduate degree, but also for his band’s approach to the music industry: they look at it from an academic perspective and analyze data before making any major decisions.
He describes it as “pursuing music in a way that is kind of like getting a PhD in being in a live band.”
To promote Modern Jukebox, for instance, they focused on digital marketing. And instead of hosting an album release party at a music venue, they debuted Modern Jukebox on Jan. 26 via Facebook Live, a live streaming platform.
“What we want to do is still find a way to make it seem like we’re still playing to one person,” says Edwards. “And that’s just the person on the other side of the computer screen.”
Now that Modern Jukebox is out, Of Gentlemen and Cowards plans to tour it at music festivals this summer, and they’re excited, if a bit nervous, to finally present their first full-length record to the world