Courtesy of Jimkata's Facebook page

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Jimkata – Russ and Evan Friedell

Jimkata is a nationally touring electro-rock band based out of Ithaca. After touring in support of their crowdfunded 2012 album, Die Digital – which capped off with a New Year’s Eve hometown show at The Haunt – Jimkata are gearing up for their next tour and next major release.

We talked with the Friedell brothers – Evan (lead singer/guitarist) and Russ (band manager) – about how they came to call Ithaca home, growing up in a musical family and making a career in music. We chat about Jimkata’s new album, and also talk some of the business behind the music: crowdfunding an album, Russ’s new role in expanding Ithaca’s music scene and a great rant about Spotify and the music industry in general.

If you want to support Jimkata’s next album – and get some exclusive rewards – check out their PledgeMusic campaign!

Below are 4 interesting snippets from the interview:

1 – What were the Friedell brothers’ early experiences with music?

Russ and Evan come from a very musical family. Their mom was heavily involved in musical theater, and they have a cadre of uncles and cousins who they call “brilliant musicians.” “It’s to the point where every holiday season we get together we’re forced to rehearse and there’s a recital,” says Evan.

Beyond being immersed in music, the brothers also got accustomed to “band culture” at an early age. Evan fondly recalls riding around in an uncle’s band van, goofing on broken signs or other curious sights – which mirrors the touring experiences of his adult life.

The brother’s relationship today also mirrors their youth, with Russ taking the “producer” role. He says, “When we were kids, we enjoyed putting together these plays and putting them on for our family. I was usually the one holding the flashlight and running the tape player, and Evan was the one on stage. And here we are now, it feels totally right.”

2 – When did they realize they could make music their career?

“Uh, yesterday?” Evan jokes. Music being their full-time careers is something the band is only just starting to make a reality – only in the past few years did they actually start to pay themselves. Russ adds, “You spend a lot of time seeking validation. Let me tell you, the money isn’t good. It’s a long-tail career… you have to learn how to manage money. That’s one thing nobody tells you when you start a band – you’re actually a small business.”

For Evan, his realization came from hanging out with other bands who were on or just above Jimkata’s level. “They had real fans… every night there were fans there to see just that band. Things start to shift when people are there to see you. It became a reality in our minds and now it’s starting to happen for us. First time through a venue, we’ll still have fans, even if it’s just 60 people, it’s Jimkata fans.”

Courtesy of Jimkata’s Facebook page

The brothers aren’t resting on their laurels, however. Russ says, “The validation [from Jimkata’s success] led me to realize I could take on another band. The time is right for me to start my own management name – Levitate. I started managing Big Mean Sound Machine, who are an incredible band.” Russ also signed on as director of marketing and promotions for both The Haunt and The Dock, where he’ll be bringing his 8 years of experience making Jimkata shows the best they can be to these venues.

3 – What are Evan’s favorite fan moments?

When it comes to fan experiences, Evan has lots of stories “Talk about validation,” he says, “that’s the juice.” One fan gave them a guitar customized a collage he had made. “He told us how he’d been struggling with cancer and how our music really helped him through.”

Another story: “First time we went to Cincinnati, I had never even been there before, I didn’t know anybody there, and somebody came up and said how one of our songs helped get him through addiction. There were only like 10 people at that show, but to see that guy come out to see us… that’s powerful stuff. That’s why I do it.”

4 – How is the new Jimkata album coming together?

“We have two new songs that we’re currently playing live,” Evan reports. “We have a lot of stuff. A whole bunch of demos, I think we counted like 20-something. We’re going to have to sort through a lot. We’re just getting started, but it looks promising.”

Russ adds, “Everyone lives in different cities… technology has evolved to the point where all three of them can feel comfortable writing an entire song on their computer.” The bandmates will send their ideas to each other to collaborate and flesh out the songs.

Evan is quick to note, however, that Jimkata really comes to life in the band room. “There’s a feeling you get from playing live with each other. Something might arise, you say ‘This should be longer, this should be shorter… what if we try this?’

5 – What’s next for the Friedell brothers?

Much like Jimkata’s music, both Russ and Evan are “go with the flow” types. They’ve tried to get on major labels, but when it didn’t work out, they pressed on and found their own way. It’s clear that both are ambitious, but they have a simple philosophy. Russ puts it this way: “It’s the same as it ever was. You write great songs, you go out and you hit the road, play a lot of great live shows, and get better and better at what you do, you will gain fans.” Beyond that, he says, “It’s kind of out of our hands.”

In the meantime, the brothers and the band at large continue to grow musically and as career musicians – exploring new sounds and embracing new avenues to create and deliver their music to the world.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.