Described as “a 15 piece rag tag group”, Jesus on the Mainline has certainly been living up to the hype since 2012. The Wisconsin-born, turned New York City transplants have been heating up the Big Apple’s clubs with their soulful menagerie of talented musicians. This Thursday, May 5, they’re bringing the pomp and funk to the legendary Grog Shop, playing alongside Cleveland’s own rockers, Seafair and the Ohio Weather Band, as well as The Kickback out of Chicago. Judie Vegh interviewed JOTM’s singer/songwriters, Andrew Neesley and Tim Emmerick about the band and their debut self-titled EP.

1. There are a lot of people in your group! So I have a lot of questions about this. Why so many band members?

Tim Emmerick: It’s two-fold. First and foremost, we need that many people to play the music we write. It’s also super powerful live and is different from most bands.

Andrew Neesley: I naturally gravitate towards large ensembles. I grew up playing in huge ensembles; my family plays in large bands; I write for big groups. More friends to rock!

2. Was it hard recruiting everyone?

TE: Andrew is plugged into the jazz scene in NYC and there was a lot of interest from other musicians from the start.

AN: That was one reason the band grew. More people wanted to join. I couldn’t say no.

3. How does each person contribute to JOTM?

AN: Everybody contributes in their own way. It could be the color of their voice or the rage of their guitar. There is a method to the madness.

4. How are they going to fit on the Grog Shop stage?

TE: I have actually played the Grog several times with other bands and, shockingly, JOTM has played much smaller stages in NYC! We’re pros at squeezing.

5. “Jesus on the Mainline” is a classic song that has been covered by a multitude of artists over the years. What was inspiring about this song to name the band after it?

TE: It’s one of the greatest American songs, so that helps. It definitely draws a direct connection to a certain kind of music, but it’s also an interesting image for people that don’t know the song.

AN: I was surfing SoundCloud one day. Before I knew it, many different versions of the song “Jesus On The Mainline” played, one after another. Aretha, Mavis, a Brooklyn indie band. The list went on. The words just stood out to me. Nowadays, the title of the band means many different things to many different people. I’m consistently surprised about what it means to new fans.

6. You are a songwriter, producer, performer all rolled into one. How do you manage wearing so many hats?

TE: I think that’s necessary to be a successful songwriter these days. It’s expected that you hand people professional, polished music every time and then play it like it sounds. It’s just survival!

7. What role do you get the most satisfaction from?

AN: The whole package is what rolls my socks up and down. My creativity best speaks when it comes from a variety of sources. Though in the end, I enjoy the performance (or the mastered recording) the most, as it’s the culmination of the many hats. How I handle it? Barely. It’s hard to juggle everything that’s for sure.

8. What is it like writing music for so many members? How do you coordinate who plays what piece, or is it very collaborative?

TE: We write with the whole ensemble in mind. I tend to handle more of the guitar and bass stuff; Andrew always writes the brass charts. We develop the drum grooves and feels together. Then we demo everything.

AN: Tim and I have been writing like mad together. We’ve developed a sound, but happy accidents happen all the time, and I welcome them.

9. Your self-titled debut EP came out last year. What’s next? Are you working on new material?

AN: We are! We’re playing new material for the first time in Cleveland. We’re over half done writing our debut full length album, and will be recording that this summer. We’re also hitting the summer festival circuit!

10. You play primarily in NYC. Why Cleveland this time? Are you looking to go on a larger tour?

TE: We’re good friends with Cleveland’s own Seafair and teamed up for a show swap. They’re coming to play with us at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on May 7! I also just personally love playing in Cleveland, such a great music town. We’ll be touring more extensively with our new album.

11. How would you describe your live show, and what people can expect in 5 words or less?

Power, beauty, chops, wiggling butts.

Catch Jesus on the Mainline perform Thursday, May 5 at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased here. The all ages show starts at 7:30 p.m. 

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