The show started out with a stunning smile during a dutiful sound-check from the handsome Travis Hoard, who I have previously gone on gushing about (https://sarassoundcheck.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/down-on-main-street-where-live-music-lives/#more-517). “Who wants to give me a ride to my house?” he asks, as he forgot his saxophone strap. I offered and received the reward of a personal two-minute tour of the town with Travis. During the show he showed off his sax skills, which were smooth and provided a sundry sound to stew over whilst seeing a show. The other band members made just as big of a first impression as Mr. Hoard had.
Aside from Travis and his sax, The Trainjumpers feature four other fabulous musical minds: Matt Heusel on vocals and guitar, Brian Gorby on drums and vocals, Scott Harkness on bass and vocals, and Clifton Landis on guitar. Even that’s not enough of a tribute to their talent as they also touted tambourines and a maraca during their musical medley. With the talent of the boys in the band the place should have been packed, there shouldn’t have been a seat left to sit in and those standing should have been sardines, fans should have filed in on a Friday night. The Trainjumpers were the perfect pre-holiday present!
Every member of The Trainjumpers is wonderful to watch. During “That’s a Shame,” their “ode to Keith Richards,” Matt pointed out that Clifton was “communicating with the high-flying birds” on guitar. This is a shallow segment, but I would just like to add that he also has amazing hair! Scott, in overalls and a toboggan, had bass beats that stayed stuck in my head even after the songs had stopped. Brian was inescapably efficient and Matt flawlessly flexible, making the entire experience enjoyably entertaining.
The Trainjumpers are a better blend than your barista makes you in the mornings! They offer a melodic mix of music not just for your mornings, but your mananas, too! They let the music talk and it has a very versatile vernacular. The Trainjumpers pitched their talent tent and ignited a fire with many flames.
Sara Fincham: When you were bringing the band together, when you form a band I assume you seek out similarities? This band is so musically flexible. Was that intentional, how did that happen? And how does that help and/or hurt you?
Matt Heusel: The drummer and I, Brian Gorby, have played for like 15 years together (we were with Bri Litman in Humble Sacrifice), and that really helps because intuitively we know where each of us wants to go. The band is on the same page because we’ve spent enough time practicing in a room together and playing live, that we have a group feel for how to make the music rise and fall. Clifton Landis, guitar, Scott Harkness, bass, and Travis Hoard, sax, are all great players who really listen well, instead of just playing whatever they want to play, they respond to what you are playing. The flexibility of the band helps us greatly because I, like the other members, have varied musical tastes. We don’t want to play the same things all night, and I only write what I’m inspired to write – it may be a reggae thing, or an Americana-sounding thing, funk, whatever – the guys all like to hear and play different things as well, we respect all music that is real and comes from the true.
Travis Hoard: I’ve played saxophone in cover bands and jazz groups but this is the first in which all of the shows have been focused entirely on original music. I don’t know many bands that still use a horn player and I enjoy playing parts that serve the song. I love when the band lets me cut loose on a solo: I have a great time improvising/trading licks with Clifton and it’s a total blast being in this group. I love the words on the new record.
Matt’s lyric-writing really taps your heart and gets your soul on straight. Brian is one of the metronomic and enduring drummers I’ve ever heard, and Scotty’s groove is unrelentingly funky. It was The Trainjumpers that gave me my first full-length album recording studio experience. It’s a privilege to be on a professional CD (in an environmentally-friendly case) and I hope our reach continues to grow.
SF: You played an “ode to Keith Richards.” Are there any other musicians that you pay tribute to, not necessarily that you dedicate songs to, but that you mold your sound after, that have influenced you?
MH: I try not to consciously mold our sound after anybody, but there are several musicians who have influenced me – the main ones – Keith Richards for the rock’n’roll rhythm guitar, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Joe Strummer, Jerry Garcia, Sly Stone.
SF: I apologize for taking so long to interview you. Wheeling has more music than I initially thought! What are some of the pros and cons of playing in this place?
MH: The pros of Wheeling are the good people, the cons would be that original music is not sought out by many folks or supported, cover bands are the accepted norm.
SF: Scott – when you play it seems like you go to some place. I know it may be impossible, but can you describe that feeling – is it freedom – that you escape to? Or is that a complete misjudgment?
Scott Harkness: The mindset I am in when playing music is similar to doing any task that is productive. I am basically affected by joy in knowing that what I am doing is making other people enjoy their night. The place I get to (when the band is interacting well) is really akin to eurhythmics, meaning not so much freedom as camaraderie.
SF: Is there a story behind the name The Trainjumpers?
MH: The story is that Brian and I lived with some Trainjumpers in Charlottesville – our buddy Art would take trains all around the country, go wherever he wanted. I like that sense of adventure in the name.
SF: What is the future for The Trainjumpers? Are you all working on individual elements, will there be a bit of a break or will you be back to making music soon? Any upcoming shows you’d like to promote?
MH: The Trainjumpers are going strong, have some shows coming up in early February in Columbus, Erie, Pa., in March. We’re building up a good following in the Columbus area.