The air is thick and humid. A wet, lung-hurter. As I walk by The Mad Hatter, the club's glass side door busts open. Then skin. A shirtless, rib-revealing-thin guy flies out of the door, landing on the ground. Hard. His bare back breaks his fall. I picture him picking gravel out of his side later. Unaffected by scrapes, led by his fists, he rises and jumps back into the crowd inside, the door magically shutting behind him. Rougher than usual, the adrenaline-soaked club is so loud that the street vibrates.
I smile, feeling like I've been catapulted into a '90s mosh pit. Ah, home.
The club is only warming up before Pop/Punk band Jonuh takes the stage. When I meet Daniel Parsons (lead vocals, bass) and Michael Maher (vocals, drums), they're in no rush. Plenty of time for more sweat-filled falls before Jonuh goes on. Due to hearing difficulties, we cross the street to find someplace less rowdy, hanging out at an ironically quiet and innocent playground with twisty slides, tunnels, the works.
Parson's deep dark eyes stand out, showing a hidden, deep burn, but he seems content holding back, thinking things over patiently, then talking. Not shy, but choosy. From Cincinnati, Parsons began with keys and was later inspired by his older brother (who produced Jonuh's recent CD). With his brother as a band mentor, Parsons strayed into guitars, listening to The Misfits and Bad Religion. Parsons played bass out of necessity, keeping the band a trio, which worked for Punk commercial kings like Green Day.
Parsons says, "Now one of my favorite artists is Prince ... an example of us exploring and diversifying. We realized that you could appreciate a well-written song in any genre."
Hitting skins by age 12, quirky Maher wears 'fro-style big hair. Sporting a lime-green shirt and thumb ring, Maher is mega talkative, energetic and outwardly fiery about music, rhythm and life. Born in California, he says, "I moved around a lot." He's been in Cincinnati since 1997.
The three met in high school, but Maher and Parsons were far from buddy-buddy back in the day.
"We were the ones who fought the most," Maher says. "I think because we're both so passionate about it. We decided to stick together, stick it out."
"It's like a marriage," Parsons says, smiling.
Jonuh formed in 2005, releasing a self-titled five-song EP in October 2006.
"We recorded it in many different basements," Maher says.
They eventually gutted and soundproofed a room and made their own recording space.
Holding true to the style of high-tempo, three-minute rockers, both Maher and Parsons write lyrics and musical arrangements.
"We compose different parts of the song separately, but it ends up becoming a group effort," Maher says.
Parsons says, "We started in Punk, faster, Rock-y music, and then we were able to discover ... we looked at the big bands able to write hit songs (for inspiration)."
"It could be The Beatles or Prince or The Doors," Mayer adds.
Parson's vocals are clear, crisp and less melodic and rough than old-school Punk singers like Glenn Danzig. More modern, Pop and straight-up. Although Jonuh's sound doesn't hold the trash-compactor grit of The Ramones, the overall feel is tight, energetic and catchy, giving a shout to early '90s California Punk bands like Blink-182 and The Offspring.
Band's name? Yes, a reference to biblical Jonah who had a hell of a time getting God's message, but he eventually pulled through.
"I think the reason we're so successful now is because we did stuff so wrong for so long," Maher says.
He mentions the endless learning involved with band life — the necessary process of discovering how to get along, book shows, write, etc., a drawn-out growth process that audiences might not realize when they view a band on stage.
From here, Jonuh plans to tour and seek out an Indie label.
"On the road, you leave everything at home," Parsons says. "You wake up and drive with your best friends. It's so open. Anything goes."
"I love sleeping in the car and eating Ramen noodles and PB&J," Maher says. "You never know what's going to happen. It's only gonna get better from here. I think the next year's gonna be very pivotal for us. We're obviously committed."
And if you're in this audience, get ready to lose money, shirts, shoes and hair.
JONUH (myspace.com/jonuhmusic) opens for The Ataris at The Poison Room Thursday.