By Zachary Corsa
To call the history of music in Memphis ‘storied’ would be a parody of an understatement, but there’s still the occasional sound or approach we don’t often hear from a homegrown artist in the Bluff City. Jombi are a newer Memphian outfit making considerable waves for dwelling at the intersection of not one but two sounds that are fairly novel for the region – cosmic guitar-jam explorations and beguiling indie-pop. With nimble instrumentation and a curious spirit, Jombi are rewriting what it means to be a ‘Memphis band’. Earlier this month, they released their debut album “Jombi Presents…,” which seemed like a great reason to sit down with them to ask five of our burning questions.
What are a few your wider goals concerning Jombi in 2022, and in the future?
We plan to release a second album, get some gigs outside of Memphis, and continue growing our fanbase.
When forming Jombi, did you have a specific direction in mind, genre-wise, to pursue? Or was it designed as an open-ended sonic experiment from the beginning?
When we started the band, we knew we wanted to write original music, but we didn’t know what type of music it would be until we started playing together. Our chemistry and ability led us to pursue a more technical and improvised live show, but we still had to develop as songwriters. That’s the thing we knew we had to work on, and currently we’ve been working on songwriting the most.
Does being a Memphis band, with all the complications and weighty history that descriptor implies, directly influence you as musicians and/or songwriters in any real way?
We would say as musicians yes, but as songwriters not really. Our local influence is undeniable but it mostly comes from our mentors who are involved with the Memphis scene, past and present. Seeing what they do motivates us to go out and do it, but our musical influences range far and beyond Memphis. As for the history, we can only hope to live up to it.
With shows starting to come back as the COVID pandemic gradually winds down, how crucial is live performance to your group personally, and also re: their place in our culture?
We started the band as COVID seemed to be dying down and the rise of a new Memphis scene was coming out of it. After seeing it firsthand, we joined it. We would not exist as a band without live performance. It is everything we do. It’s how we make money, it’s how we gain fans.
Lastly, the term “jam band” is a controversial one, but where do you feel that bands such as yours, who tend to exist in a space where free jazz improvisation meets psychedelic head trips, fits into the wider Memphis music scene?
Our band can be categorized as a jam band in a broad sense, but when it gets boiled down we are a rock band who likes to do live improvisation. Some people enjoy it, some people do not. We try to find a balance with it in our live and studio work but it is never at the forefront. We want to write great songs before we do anything else. If improvisation feels natural inside that song, we’ll go for it.