The situation I'm sitting in a booth at Capitol Hill's Six Arms on a recent rainy evening with Jacob James, frontman of the pop-rock band Ships, his charming wife and bassist Laurie Kearney, and keyboardist Chase Forslund. The band's drummer Garret Lunceford breezes in late, bearing an apple pie which he yoinked from his school's potluck. We eat it with beer and tater tots.
How They Got Here Kearney is the founder and curator of the nearby Ghost Gallery. The rest of the band spends their days with kids--not their own. Lunceford is studying for his teaching certificate and bachelor's in education at Western's Seattle satellite campus (thanks for the pie!). James--a self-professed "super classical-music nerd"--teaches at the School of Rock.
"The Rock School is awesome 'cause they expect you to be a little off, a little weird," he says. "If you're super-normal, then the parents are like, 'Can we get our kid a real musician?'"
Forslund is the first manny I've ever met. "We're a rare breed," he says. He spends afternoons tending to a 7- and 4-year-old. "I play a lot of Legos and Lego Star Wars." Forslund also dabbles in art--painting, sculpture, duct tape. Kearney recently sold one of his pieces at her gallery, a portrait of Anna Nicole Smith rendered with highlighters.
Shop Talk Ships' first full-length is called Compulsory Listening. The pop songs are at once airy and precise, with bright, easy melodies. You can tell these are all veteran musicians, and James has a smooth voice that lends itself well to the breezy tunes. As for an official release, James says he's mostly concerned with whether people can listen to the music (which they can now; it's available for download in its entirety on the band's website), and doesn't want a traditional release for the record.
"I really only just want to do vinyl," he says. "I don't like the idea of our music being on plastic."
BTW This is a busy band. Lunceford, for example, goes by the alias DJ Nitty Gritty ("After the Shirley Ellis song, not the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band") and spins '60s soul every Thursday at Havana.
"We're collectors," says James. "Laurie's the artistic hub, Garrett is the soul music hub..."
"Then I get to be the space, futuristic hub," says Forslund.
I allow that it's possible to have more than one hub.
"And if you have a car, you can have four hubs," says Lunceford, helpfully.
James gets back to the point. "It would be very easy for me to write a record and record it all myself and do a weird one man band thing," he says. "But why do that when you have the most free-thinking artists around you?"
[Speaking of funk and compulsory listening, here's a hot cut Ships wants to introduce you to. This original track, called "Funk Guitar," is a favorite of Lunceford's right now. "How can't you not, not dance to this?" he asks. The artist is, unfortunately, unknown.]
Ships are playing the Comet Tavern this Friday, March 18 with Sports, Surrealized, and Jupe Jupe. The show starts at 9 p.m. and the cover is $7. And for you kids, the next night, Saturday, March 19, they'll be headlining an all-ages show at Healthy Times Fun Club with Kids and Animals, Candysound, and The Mission Orange. 9 p.m., 6 bucks.