AVJ Gets to Know Asheville’s Own Jahman Brahman

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Interview by Breanne Smith

If there’s ever been a story of brotherly connection and music partnership then it would be of Asheville’s own Jahman Brahman. They are a tight knit group of five talented musicians that came, consciously as a group, to the mountains of Asheville. Hailing from Columbus, Ohiowith an already developed fan base, they took a huge chance on this city and she seems to be rewarding them slowly but surely. They took the stage at The One Stop Deli and Bar Thursday night and lent me some of their time to answer some questions.

The Brahman is Nate “Brother” Brown on bass who is well known for his fresh, grooved out tunes on the low end. Layered on top of that is Josh Loffer’s keystrokes and the plethora of effects he uses. Justin Brown’s lyrics aren’t the usual jam band vocal hoopla. He says, “We have this idealist vision of music being something that can inspire people to act differently or come to a realization. We write conscious subjects, social issues, different ways to live your life which is all just a matter of our own opinion but we think it’s the right opinion.”
Rowdy Keelor on drums provides the band its backbone that is unlike any other. His giant stature gives off a giant pulse of beats that are just the beginning of talent in this band, which is not to mention Casey Chanatry’s amazing guitar work.

I asked a simple question, “Why Asheville?” Rowdy says, “We originated in Columbus, Ohio. Asheville was an enticing town for many reasons. It’s a great hub for touring. There are so many markets within 3 to 400 miles. It’s also not too far from Ohio where we like to play often and see family. Asheville also offered a side of nature that Ohio doesn’t offer and all kinds of people that Ohio doesn’t offer. Although we love the people in Ohio very much, Asheville is just a very conscious and aware town. Personal growth was important for us too. You can see that because it’s taking us a while to make a splash. When we got here we didn’t care too much about the scene, we just wanted to tour. Now we’ve grown a passion for wanting to play here and being a part of this awesome scene as well.
The band collectively decided to come to Asheville after a meeting in a backyard in Columbus.

They passed a stick around, each one able to say their piece about where to go. The choice was clear. “We are happy with our decision. There are times we missOhioand sometimes think it was a bad business move but for each of us individually we are pretty happy here. We had to start over in sense as a band because we hadn’t started touring yet. We are finally starting to get a posse of “Brahman’s” and it feels good. Justin Brown says, “I really didn’t wanna get stuck inColumbusplaying for the rest of our life while getting too comfortable. I feel like it’s shaped us into better musicians coming down here while risking more.”

Their interesting name came from a discussion while the 5 were in an Asian Philosophy class atOhioState. Casey Chantary says, “At that time our minds were very open and receptive to new ideas and Brahman was discussed a lot. It’s a Hindu philosophy; the simplistic explanation meaning is “all is one”. It’s a collective consciousness type of thing. Jahman is a play on words. We were sitting in class and realized it worked. When we are playing together we call it “Jahman”. “Rowdy chimes in; “It’s funny how it’s grown into more than it was meant to be. A lot of people think our name is a reggae name which is a common mistake. We understand. We aren’t reggae though. This concept of “one” universal soul has become more apparent to us as we’ve grown and come toAsheville. So we really like our name nowadays.”

The guys describe their music as “Shred N’ Flow” which I found is a term they use that describes them very well. Rowdy explains; “A lot of times, the music features guitar and we have Casey who can “shred” very hard and the “flow” is when it’s ambient or when we use those pocket grooves. Sometimes we shred, sometimes we flow. On a good night we are doing both and everything in between.

Since coming to Asheville the guys have played all over the mountain. Venues include Dalton Distillery, Lexington Avenue Brewery for a String Cheese After Party and Emerald Lounge, which was one of their first shows with Phuncle Same. Rowdy talks about the venue process, “We’ve been whoring ourselves out around here. Not as bad as we could have though.
Justin says, “Our favorites have gotta be The Asheville Music Hall or Pisgah Brewery. We got to play after Darkstar Orchestra in the bar. That was an incredible experience. I’d say that was one of the few times that every person there was actually grasping our music. Rowdy agrees, “Upstairs (AshevilleMusic Hall) has a great sound and nice big stage. The One stop seems like this is the place to be for this type of music and scene. Hopefully we’ll be at The Orange Peel before too long! Jokingly says, (If we keep practicing, working on our scales).”

Rowdy talks about the people and atmosphere in Asheville; “We’ve gotten a lot better at socializing in this city. There’s a lot of times when we’re on the road a lot, when we get home we don’t feel like going out first thing when we get back, but you have to make headway. This time we were blessed with 10-12 days off which has been nice. We were able to hand out 1500 flyers for this show and trying to get them out. It’s been nice to actually have time to promote in your own city.”

Josh says “The coolest thing about being a musician in Asheville is being able to actually get out of the house and go do it. Like the funk jam every Tuesday. There are means to make your self known here, while working with other humble musicians. For us in general, playing with great bands such as “The Fritz” is opening doors while being able to meet the guys is just great. It raises a bar for us as a band thus having the awesome landscape to support inspiration.”

Rowdy says, “It’s so cool to be able to go to the funk jam, having so many people never heard of us, and leave having support and positive vibes. Once you get a little bit of buzz about your name, this is the type of town that will listen to original musicians that are not necessarily playing Skynard covers. That’s why I love being a musician in this city. It’s a tough town to be a musician in, in retrospect, because you have to some market value or a great street team but once you’re in, you realize how much people love music here- especially weird music- which is good for us.”

Justin agrees; “That’s one of the great thing to me, is that you get to meet so many bands and so many musicians come through that all wanna come back. So you make this relationship where they come to your city you go to their city, and scratch each others back basically.”

Justin talks about the future, “Ultimately, we wanna be on the road. Doing this is a lot of different cities, reaching as many people as we can with our message. It’d be nice to get out of the restaurant gig and start selling out shows because our message is positive. Not worrying about rent would be nice.”

Jahman seems to be running along a different vein that most small bands. They care about what the audience takes away from the show, rather than a hangover. Rowdy explains, “We’ve been doing this for so long that we’ve been broke and busted so that’s just a side effect of being a musician- like most artists. Our goal is more than just giving someone a fun night of getting wasted and rubbing up against someone. We have these ideas that we want to transplant to people and that’s on a scale of 10-1000 people a night. Your version of success is constantly changing. I mean, we’ve had people who’ve come up to us and said that our song has helped them through a particularly hard time and that’s as good as it gets, ya know? I’d say that’s success rather than a room of 300 people that are barely listening to us. In a perfect world, you’d be able to get all that and not have to worry about money and all that but you do.”

Justin nods; “We basically want to achieve a welcome consciousness about what we do as well.”

The band released their album, “Newfields” in 2010 and recently got 1,000 so Rowdy says, “There are plenty of Newfield’s for sale. It’s all a process of learning. We are learning how to promote them. It’s really just a fun thing to do; go into the studio. The guy we work with is laid back but professional. It’s just a whole different monster than playing live. We are looking forward to new years where we can media out, which is better media and audio for everyone,” says Rowdy.

They are playing in Columbus, Ohio on New Years Eve opening for The Werks at Newport. It’s a favorite of the band and they all agree they’ve had some life-changing show experiences in that particular venue. So they’re excited to be sharing the stage with a hot up-and-coming band such as The Werks on such a special night. Justin says, “It doesn’t get better than that in Columbus on New Years.”

The first of December marks the beginning of their holiday tour kicking off inAthens,Georgia. They’re going all over the South East as well asMichigan,Ohio,Pennsylvania and back down toVirginia. They’ll be back inAsheville soon but in the meantime, you can always check them out at the Funk Jam that happens every Tuesday at The Asheville Music Hall.

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