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Though they have been making music since they were teenagers, brothers Luke and Adam Jones founded ESBERN SNARE in their family garage, which was converted into their dad’s office. In that space, the beginnings of their six-piece band began to take shape. With both brothers being skilled at piano, Luke took the lead vocal responsibilities, while Adam took to synthesizers and percussion, and the duo eventually brought on their mutual friend and guitarist Joe Brockman. Since then, their lineup has expanded to also include guitarist Andrew Montgomery, drummer Carter Mahnke, and bassist/backing vocalist Josiah Crumrine. Based in the Norfolk area, the band released their debut album A Violent Peace in March 2014. We spoke with the Jones brothers, as well as Brockman about their love for grilled cheese, their music’s connection to their personal and family history, and their goals to tour more in 2015.

Your band originally began with two brothers — Luke and Adam Jones, and then over time it evolved into this bigger project. Can you tell me about why you chose to expand it into what it is today?

Adam: When the band started, it was just Luke and I, and we were recording on Garage Band, midi kind of stuff, on our dad’s computer in his office in the garage of our house, and both of us started picking music up at the same time. We had both been involved in it earlier in our lives, but it started to become a real influence on us around the same time, I guess when I was about to go away to college, so we were like 17. We started writing all this music together as a brother collaboration, and it eventually got to a point where we felt like the songs would benefit from other perspectives and other people coming in and giving their influences, [as well as] helping to shape the way that we were writing. [Luke and I] both think very similarly. So at that point, we started looking elsewhere, and I guess Joe … was the first person that we brought on board. From there, he brought a couple people that he knew that he thought could help expand on the musical ideas that we were creating. It just kind of grew from there.

A couple weeks ago, you guys played a pop up show for at The Parlor on Granby with Ben Hardesty of THE LAST BISON. How did that go?

Luke: That was a really fun show actually. We had played a show with THE LAST BISON a few weeks before that at The Norva, and we’re known those guys for quite a while, especially through high school. Our relationship with Ben Hardesty has been there for a little while, and it was cool to have that Norva show with him. After that, I think he asked Adam if we wanted to play with him at The Parlor, so we got that together.

Adam: It was a fun deal because with The Grilled Cheese Bistro, The Parlor was happy to help local business. They were having problems because their pipes burst, so they asked us to come play a show that was basically a benefit for this new business. … But that’s kind of the beautiful thing about Norfolk. You find different businesses helping each other out, … and it’s kind of the same way in the music scene. It was a good show.

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How do you take your grilled cheese?

Luke: I’m extremely boring. I just do the quickest way possible.

Adam: I take it as cheesy as I can get. Throw in some strong cheeses, any menagerie of cheeses you can find on it, and I’ll be happy. I’m a cheese head (laughs).

Joe: The best type of grilled cheese is when you bring in other things. The place I work, we have a basil grilled cheese, which is two pieces of provolone, feta cheese, basil, tomato, and balsamic glaze, and that’s awesome. My favorite is tomato, cheddar cheese, and ham. You should try it.

That sounds really good actually. Just this last March, you released your debut album A Violent Peace. Are there any common, overarching themes on the album that are significant to the meaning of the title?

Luke: Overall, the short version of it is it was an album of homesickness because we had grown up in another country, for the most part. … We went to Kazakhstan when I was about five-years-old and spent about four years there. At that age is when you come to recognize the things around you, and your environment is what dictates your life at that point and how you grow up. … When I came back here, I realized that I really missed that place, and that almost felt like home more so than the United States did. In short, that’s kind of the theme of the album, trying to deal with the homesickness and being far away from some place that meant a lot to you. The title A Violent Peace is a lyric on the last song on the album, but I think that has to do with me coming to a place in my life where I was just at peace with what had happened in my life and knowing there was a reason for all of it. I was there for a time, and I came back here because there was a reason I was supposed to be here. So I think A Violent Peace was the best way to sum all of that up in an album.

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In light of recent events in the media, do any of the songs on the album have any political or cultural significance?

Adam: I think some of them can definitely have a commentary on them, but a bit of a more broad sweeping cultural commentary than anything specific. I wouldn’t say we are really specific in what we comment on with our music, but it definitely plays into what we write.

Joe: I know “The Rains” has something, but I don’t know too well. It seemed like a lot of the lyrics were mostly extremely personal.

Luke: Yeah, “The Rains” is probably one of the most different songs on the album. Every other song on the album was more of a personal feeling thing, and “The Rains” was less so that and more of a commentary on the life I was observing here in the United States that had become the norm that I wasn’t completely okay with.

Has your songwriting changed in any ways since your former drummer Eric Dryfka left the band and Carter Mahnke joined on in his place?

Joe; Yes. Extremely so, really. But I think it’s in equal parts to Carter being the new drummer, and also us having matured. We all kind of developed a dynamic that was really starting to mature and be very reliable. We were all really [understanding] our place. After Eric left the band and we took on Carter, what was interesting about that was that Carter and Eric played similar beats, but their temperaments are very different. So there was definitely a shift, more toward energetic songs because that is definitely what Carter brings to the table, which is a really strong, forward-moving energy, and that’s been a lot of fun.

Adam: It creates a different dynamic for sure. It stretches us as musicians, and it has helped to provide perspective. We’re not writing from the same place that we were when we did A Violent Peace. That makes it more exciting, but at the same time, it is something we had to settle into. Eric Dryfka. We’d known his role wasn’t for the long haul; he had his own aspirations that were taking his life in a different direction. Beautifully, we’ve been blessed with a new drummer and dear friend, Carter Mahnke.




I saw that you posted a video from a basement show in Richmond where you performed your unreleased song “Macon.” Can you tell me what that song is about?

Luke: That song has a lot to do with in regards to my mom’s side of the family. I had lost an uncle a few years back, and that was kind of a song written about that time when our uncle had been killed and making a drive down to our grandparents house. … It’s kind of this memory that’s engrained in my mind. It was such a weird experience having to be in the car and make a two-and-a-half hour drive in preparation to tell them this news that we had lost our uncle.

Adam: The name of the song comes from the county in North Carolina that our grandparents lived in. So the drive was to Macon County in North Carolina. We had to actually break the news in person because it felt wrong to tell our grandparents, “Your son has died,” over the phone. So we wanted to do this drive, but it was to a place that we usually have vacation, where we normally would get a reprieve from normal life, … which kind of explains the dynamic of the song. It starts off with a kind of gentle, kind of groovy feel, and then by the end, it becomes heavy and chaotic, and a little bit dissonant in a way.

I completely agree, and I love that about that song. Do you have any other new songs in the works that have not yet been performed and/or recorded?

Adam: We’ve got one that we’ve been working on that doesn’t have a name yet, and then another one that might see the light of day a little bit sooner. It’s a little bit more fully fleshed out, called “No Measures,” which we have been working on.

Luke: We might be trying to do a video with that [song], I think.

Adam: Yeah, we were thinking about getting into a studio or a space with just a piano and a video, and doing some type of acoustic session. So if that actually comes to fruition, there might be one, or two, or three news songs that aren’t on the album that we haven’t performed live that might actually see the light of day.

What are your goals for the band in 2015?

Luke: Tour.

Joe: Lots and lots of tours (laughs). We haven’t done that yet.

Adam: We definitely want to get on the road. Like you said, we did that one show in Richmond, which was a basement house show. But besides that, we haven’t done too much touring wise. A big goal of ours is getting back out there because even through that one small basement show we did, there was a really positive response from the people that came out and are trying to get us back up there again. We’re trying to get the right vehicle for it, find the right locations, book bands to play with, and really get out on the road and hit Charlottesville, Richmond, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, all these places that we really haven’t been able to break into yet. So definitely getting on the road is a big deal for us.

For more updates on ESBERN SNARE, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and listen to their music on Bandcamp.

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