When he picks up the phone to chat with The Bulletin, Dave Berry is somewhere between Naches, Washington, and Portland, navigating the tail end of a six-week national tour with his band Jelly Bread.
It has been a grueling but fun first push by the Reno, Nevada-based funk-rock band to expand its territory east of the Rocky Mountains after years of crisscrossing the West.
“There are a lot of festivals we want to be considered for … back east, so we’ve got to work on getting our name out to those areas and just expanding the base,” said Berry, Jelly Bread’s guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter. “When this is your full-time job, as many markets as you can build, the better.”
Sounds pretty gung-ho, right? Rest assured, it took some work to get to this point. First, the band’s previous bass player bailed last spring after seeing Jelly Bread’s ambitious summer tour schedule.
“He said, ‘Yeah, guys, this isn’t going to work for me. I’m not planning on sleeping on couches and floors for two months and not knowing if I’m making any money or not,’” Berry said. “Which, hey, you know: Thanks for the heads-up instead of just not showing up on day one.”
The rest of the band had their unsure moment, too, he said.
“There was some hesitancy, for sure. About three months before (the tour) we were like, ‘You know, maybe we should put this off till spring,’” Berry said. “We got a little gun-shy. It’s a long time (with) new markets and not a bunch of (guaranteed performance fees). But we took a shot in the dark and said, ‘Let’s make it happen.’ To hell with it. See how it goes.”
The men of Jelly Bread — Berry, plus drummer/vocalist Cliff Porter, bassist Jeremy Hunt and keyboardist Eric Matlock — were perhaps bolstered to take such a leap because of the success they’ve found in towns like Bend, where they’ve played several times over the past few years, and will do again tonight (see “If you go”). The band’s hefty combo of deep-groove funk and grizzled roots-rock is tailor made for an evening in the club spent dancing and swaying the night away.
Jelly Bread was formed about five years ago by Berry and his childhood friend Porter, who grew up together in Sparks, Nevada. After a few years spent in the Southwest, the two ended up back in Reno and looking to start a band.
“You get those combinations of styles and mindset and drive and priorities. You’ve got to find people who are on the same page as you, and Cliff and I have always been that way,” Berry said.
“It’s been a process of finding the guys who fit with he and I.”
Matlock joined the fold a couple years ago, and Hunt earlier this year. The band has two albums to its name, and its most recent release is this year’s “Lessons Learned” EP, a five-song collection that showcases Jelly Bread’s stylistic range. Songs like “Soundcheckin’” and “Diggin’ On A Groove” are upbeat, funky party-starters, while “Bad Man” has an old-school soul vibe and “Home” is a slow-burning twangy number that could slide into country radio playlists.
Berry only started playing the electric guitar three years ago; before that he was an acoustic singer-songwriter with Southern connections. Porter, on the other hand, is a high-energy “beast” on the drums who can “sing his ass off,” Berry said. He injects Jelly Bread with a healthy dose of funk.
“We cover a lot of ground, and I think that’s cool about what we do. We have a lot of different influences. We all bring different things, (and) what we do together, it covers a lot of ground but it’s all a part of us,” Berry said. “We throw everything in one pot and hopefully a good gumbo comes out.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0377, email@example.com