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Georgie James: Raised on Radio

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Nov. 7, 2007

Georgie James
w/ Aqueduct, Kite Pilot
Thursday, Nov. 8,
9 p.m.
Slowdown Jr.
729 No. 14th St.

The music of Washington D.C. indie band Georgie James is truly a product of its environment. Not D.C. punk, but something much… lite-r.

The band's music is the result of a life spent listening to FM radio by a self-described lover of "lite rock." That's right, Georgie James singer/songwriter John Davis can't get enough of that peaceful, easy-feeling he grew up listening to while bouncing around the country with his family from one radio station to the next.

"My dad was in radio, so every year he had a new job working his way up the ladder," Davis said from his Washington D.C. apartment where he was taking a much-needed break from touring. "We lived in Michigan and Nebraska (station WOW FM) and Illinois and finally settled in D.C., where we've stayed since 1981."

Having dad, Don Davis, in radio had obvious benefits. "Well into my teens I would go to my dad's radio station and search through their albums to make my own mix tapes," Davis said. His love for lite "taps into the fact that in the '80s and '90s, my dad was general manager at a lite rock station in D.C. I definitely have a thing for soft rock, I guess. I don't know too many people who would admit that."




That love for FM seeps through tracks on Places, Georgie James' recently released full-length debut on Saddle Creek Records. From the bouncy Squeeze-style opener "Look Me Up" to the Seals & Crofts-flavored "Need Your Needs" to the jaunty, piano-driven harmonies of "Henry and Hanzy" to the earthy, rocking ballad "You Can Have It" that recalls Gerry Rafferty's finer moments, Georgie James' music would fit nicely on your favorite E-Z Listening station. And Davis couldn't be more proud.

He said he and the other half of Georgie James -- singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn -- count The Zombies, The Beach Boys, Richard and Linda Thompson, The Flaming Groovies, The Jam and Elvis Costello among their favorites.

"Laura and I certainly share a love for a lot of those bands," Davis said. "That era is an influence, whether it's The Kinks or Bread or Andy Williams, not just rock-canon bands. It's music that I love that makes its way into what we do. Afterward, it might remind you of something you've heard before, but we never try to emulate anyone's sound."

Bread? Andy Williams? Davis' career certainly didn't start that way. His last band, the buzzing, angular punk outfit Q and Not U was known for its jet-fueled indie rock. That band became a staple on the indie circuit in the first half of the decade, releasing a handful of albums on Dischord Records including the seminal No Kill No Beep Beep that re-invented the D.C. punk that Davis thrived on after he left dad's studio behind. "I started going to shows in '91 or '92 when I was 14 or 15," he said. "The music scene at the time was Fugazi, Jawbox, Nations of Ulysses, those bands are hard to beat."

Q and Not U thrived until a need to change direction caused the band to split in September 2005. "Most bands break up because they hate each other," Davis said. "It wasn't like that at all. We did it for seven years, which felt like a long time. We all wanted to do things apart from each other and not have to compromise. We could have just taken a break, but we wanted to move on. I'm still friends with those guys and intend to make music with them again, just not as Q and Not U."

After the breakup, Davis began working with fellow FM music-lover Berhenn, and together they self-released Demo at Dance Place in 2006, produced by Beauty Pill's Chad Clark, who also co-produced Places. When it came time to shop the full-length, Saddle Creek Records was on top of the list.

Davis had discovered Saddle Creek's music years earlier while putting together a fanzine. He eventually worked as a press agent for a number of Saddle Creek bands -- a relationship that would eventually help get Q and Not U on the road with The Faint.

"I kind of knew the guys at the label and respected them," Davis said. "When we sent out the Georgie James record, (Saddle Creek executive) Robb (Nansel) got back to us and said he liked it. I figured we would be a good fit, and they agreed. I like the way they do business, balancing good taste with getting music to people. I like how they've looked beyond Omaha to broaden their roster, which has worked well for us."

So what's Davis' dad think of Georgie James? "He likes it more than any band I've been in, which makes sense since it's the most accessible," Davis said. "He definitely thinks we have potential."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Nov. 7, 2007. Copyright 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.







"I definitely have a thing for soft rock, I guess. I don't know too many people who would admit that."