Evan Bivins: drums
Matt Bivins: harmonica, mandolin, tin whistle, accordian, vocals
Jay Clifford: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jonathan Gray: upright bass
Ward Williams: cello, lead guitar
The blissfully eclectic quintet known as Jump, Little Children have already built a well-deserved reputation as a truly unique combo, and now, with the brave new “VERTIGO,” they are revealed as one of the most imaginative and talented bands on the American rock horizon. An extraordinary leap forward, “VERTIGO” is the highly-ambitious follow-up to the Charleston, South Carolina-based group’s acclaimed 1999 release, “MAGAZINE.” Breathtaking songs such as the evocative title track or the epic “Mother’s Eyes” are marked by a finely-limned, acoustic-powered soulfulness – a truly mesmerizing and expansive sonic approach where delicate melodies and subtle hooks veer headfirst into cascading riffs and cinematic string arrangements, all tinted by Jay Clifford’s soaring vocal stylings. Produced by Brad Wood (Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair) and Clifford, the dazzling “VERTIGO” finds Jump, Little Children soaring to never-before-seen heights.
Born from an ambitiously freeform musical template, songs like the driving “Too High” and the mindbending “Angeldust (Please Come Down)” evoke a swiftly-turning kaleidoscope of richly emotive hues. The album’s intelligent, deeply layered lyricism and mist-drenched melodies come from JLC’s desire to make “VERTIGO” a truly personal and iconoclastic work.
“With ‘MAGAZINE,’ it felt like we were stretching our legs,” says Clifford, “learning about the studio and learning how to be a major-label band. In many ways, ‘VERTIGO’ is like a return to our very first recordings.”
Jump, Little Children first convened at the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1994, taking their engaging moniker from an old Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee blues song. Their homespun 1996 self-released CD, “THE LICORICE TEA DEMOS,” saw the beginnings of a fervent grass-roots following, while their 1999 release, “MAGAZINE” – including the alterna-hit, “Cathedrals” – found their fanbase spreading across the nation. In addition, the band has won over crowds with their delightfully theatrical stage performances.
“When we’re on the road it’s important that we really reach the audience,” says Matt Bivins of JLC’s loose-limbed live sets. “Some of my own heroes are bands like R.E.M. and U2, bands that do well in creating a full range of emotions on stage. Some songs are fun, but some are moodier and will get a darker treatment.”
Recorded in the winter of 2000-2001 at Supertramp’s Media Vortex studios in Burbank, California, “VERTIGO” is colored by a luminous and imaginative aural atmosphere, courtesy of the combined efforts of producers Wood and Clifford, not to mention the master mixing of David Leonard (Barenaked Ladies, Prince, Santana). As if that weren’t enough studio savvy, JLC were also fortunate to enlist the services of renowned engineer John Porter – best known for his production work with artists ranging from Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music to the one and only Smiths.
“John brought a lot of different guitars into the studio,” says Clifford. “In fact, the Telecaster that was used on ‘Lover’s Greed’ is the exact same guitar that Johnny Marr played on ‘How Soon Is Now.'”
The record’s incandescent sound is underscored by a pervading sense of melancholy, the result of the band members’ own personal trials. Matt and Evan Bivins’s dad battled with cancer just as “MAGAZINE” was released, inspiring the poignant “Words of Wisdom.” On the other hand, happier matters also inform “VERTIGO.” Both Bivins and Clifford note – with no little wonderment – that most of Jump, Little Children have fallen in love in the last year, opening a floodgate of diverse and conflicting emotions that ricochet from ecstasy to agony and back again. The stunning title song was born of these feelings, while a number of tracks, including “Pigeon” and “Lover’s Greed,” began as poems born out of Clifford’s appreciation of such poets as as e.e. cummings and Pablo Neruda.
Judging from the virtuoso vision of “VERTIGO,” Jump, Little Children has clearly been invigorated and empowered by their personal epiphanies. With its dreamy lyricism and star-kissed melodies, the entrancing “VERTIGO” is certain to engender similar responses in anyone fortunate enough to cross its path.