Locals Only: : Shoeless Joes

Traveling Barefoot explores the "darker, more psychedelic side" of the Jam genre

Jan 14, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Traveling Barefoot

Despite the popularity of the Jam-band genre, there are relatively few Jam acts in the Cincinnati music scene. True, the regional up-and-comers are regularly making stops in town, but locals in the genre are in the minority.

One act of the Jam-band persuasion gaining popularity locally is Traveling Barefoot, a diversely talented group, rich in the experimental elements that characterize their craft. Don't be fooled by the name, these guys do wear shoes, at least most of the time. To clarify, we spoke to the quartet, comprised of Mark Dempsey (keys), John Jacobs (bass), Ryan Hackworth (drums) and Kyle Stivers (guitar).

CityBeat: We mentioned that the band's name shouldn't lead people to believe that everyone in the band plays barefoot. So what should it lead them to believe, and/or what is its significance?

Mark Dempsey: Traveling barefoot is a state of being, a level of social status if you will. If you're traveling barefoot, things probably aren't going your way. You might even be looking for your next meal.

John Jacobs: To me, "traveling barefoot" is not just a low social status, but also a lifestyle choice. A rebellious philosophy that shuns the greed of materialism and raises the proverbial middle finger at the direction of the status quo.

CB: However ambitious it might be for a band to cover a song like Pink Floyd's "Time," you guys pull it off with unmistakable flawlessness and authentic flair. How hard was it to decide on "Time" as cover material?

MD: Around the time we picked "Time," we wanted to do a Floyd song, but we weren't sure which one to do since there are so many great songs. Some of us were more into Floyd then the other members, but "Time" was a tune we all could agree on.

CB: With such a large number of bands (regionally and nationally) doing the Jam-band thing now, how do you think Traveling Barefoot succeeds in exceeding the typical Jam-band sound?

MD: I think we touch the darker, more psychedelic side of improvised music more than most Jam groups, both in our music and lyrics. Sure, we have our major 1-4-5 happy songs, but the meat of our sound is in our more somber sounding tunes. We feel our lyrics are more deep and meaningful than what most Jam bands have to offer today as we express personal thoughts and experiences that we feel people can relate to in some way or another.

CB: More generally, what does music itself do for, or mean to, the members of the band?

MD: To me, music is more than just a collection of sounds set to a beat. Music is an outlet for my thoughts and feelings, a shoulder for me to cry on when I'm down and a faithful companion when I'm flying high.

JJ: The rhythms that move our bodies and captivate our spirits pulsate in our subconscious, directing our moods and our emotions — just as our hearts direct the flow of oxygen in our blood. (It's) often unnoticed on the conscious level, but always hard at work beneath the surface. Music will inspire action from the docile and soothe the savage beast.

CB: In what ways has the Cincinnati music scene been welcoming to Traveling Barefoot, and in what ways, if any, has it not been?

MD: The Cincinnati music scene helped form Traveling Barefoot; we are the product of a CityBeat musician's classified ad. John and I are both from out of town (North Carolina and Maryland, respectively), and without CityBeat we would have never came in contact with Kyle and Ryan. Without the help of other bands and venues by giving us advice to help us grow, things would be much different.

CB: What goals does the band have for the future, and how do you hope to achieve them?

MD: Our immediate goals are to continue to tighten our current material while writing new songs from time to time and learning covers to keep it fresh. We plan on recording an album sometime this winter or spring, and hopefully a Midwest tour will be not too far in the future after that.

TRAVELING BAREFOOT (travelingbarefoot.com) performs at the BarrelHouse on Jan. 30 with the Funk Band of Doom.