Montreal natives, The JEM, made up of Jonah Carson on lead vocals and dJEMbe (their name works on so many levels), Elijah Fisch on bass guitar, and Macleod Alan Truesdale on lead guitar and trumpet, are a rare breed of band. These local boys, all long-time friends, share a singular, yet expansive musical vision. At first look, their setup may seem simple, but rest assured they’re capable of channeling the sounds of prog heroes like Tool, and King Crimson. With three records under their belt, they’ve honed the craft of writing groovy, catchy acoustic hard rock.
So, what does a band do when it’s trying to stand out in an era where anybody can release a song and listen to it for free? The answer seems so deceptively simple; write a rock opera to showcase the character of your music. Enter Johnny Legdick: a story of an unfortunate young man born with a leg where… ahem… his dick was supposed to be. The story sees Johnny forced into a life at Suckadecocka circus, where he meets the lovely Hannah Handvag, who has a hand where… Well, look, you get where they’re going with this, right?
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.
It’s as ridiculous as it is heartbreaking. Johnny Legdick is a rock opera that has as much heart as it does dick. The characters are as relatable as they are vulgar. The story as human as it is downright impossible. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to. But, believe the run it’s had; over the last year and a half, Johnny Legdick has received rave reviews from appearances at the Mainline Theatre, the Montreal Fringe Festival (where they, along with production company, Playwright Hero, won the Segal Centre award for most promising English company), and Place-Des-Arts. Not to mention a recent month-long run of shows as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival where the JEM ran back and forth between performances of the play and more intimate bar sets of their album material.
The boys aren’t letting up either.
In the near future, we can look forward to a new single release, and a music video as well as multiple performances around Montreal. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re hard at work on a new theatre production that promises to be even more innovative than Johnny Legdick. If you missed its initial run (and shame on you for that), you can buy the entire soundtrack on their bandcamp. And if you want to hear a more serious side of the JEM, you can check out all of their stellar releases on their website.
To hear more about the band, their inspiration, and a place called Dickhouse, you can check out my interview with Jonah himself.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy