Just The Beginning: Smackdab Releases New Album, Gets Tour Bus

The road ahead is starting to look promising for the five members of the Jamestown-based soul and funk band Smackdab.

After recently hosting a CD-release party at Ellicottville Brewing Company, and the purchase of a tour bus, Smackdab may soon be coming to a venue near you.

Smackdab, which is comprised of: Jon-Marc Johnson, lead vocals; Matt Baxter, electric guitar; Mark Cooper, keys; Ryan Ecklund, bass; and Daniel Witherspoon, drums; is a well-known group of area-native musicians. The five members of Smackdab have been performing in and around the region for many years – both as Smackdab and various other bands – including: Zeta Cauliflower, Mysterious Moonshow and Little Dirty Goat.

According to Baxter, the new album, which is entitled “II,” has been very well-received. Because the band hadn’t released new material in many years, the group’s patient fans were thankful to finally get a record in their hands, he said.

“A lot of our fans and supporters were really happy to hear we had a new album coming out,” Baxter said.

The album’s title doesn’t have a specific intended meaning other than that it is the group’s second album, Baxter said. However, the tunes that appear on the album do hold quite a bit of meaning, much of which Baxter said he hopes listeners are the judge. If he had to pick a favorite though, he said it would be “Keep On.”

“It’s hard to pick a favorite because I like them all for different reasons,” Baxter said. “But, the last track on the album, ‘Keep On,’ is the song that triggered our songwriting spree with Daniel, our drummer. It’s also the first time I ever wrote and incorporated horn arrangements into our sound. It just has a great feel and message, – we love playing it live.”

Other tunes off the new album that the band as a whole enjoys performing live include: “Leave Me Alone,” “So Good,” “Casio Love” and “1st And Main.”

To record the album, the group utilized Joseph Glarner, of Glarner Group Productions and After Dark Entertainment, www.ggadnews.com, a Frewsburg-based studio and coffee-shop owner.

“Joe’s a good guy with a lot of musical background, and he’s also very busy with other endeavors such as his restaurant,” Baxter said. “We would have liked to have spent a little more time on the mixing and production, but it just wasn’t really possible with our budget and timeframe. Overall I think it came out great.

“We will be doing things a little differently next time we get in the studio, however,” he continued. “We are already plotting our next record, and looking at some amazing facilities and producers.”

To help promote the album, the band worked with Torrey Johnson, a Mayville-native cinematographer who studied at Ithaca College, (www.torreyjohnson.com). Their work together produced an album teaser promo, which can be viewed at http://youtu.be/ufruMT-YtqY.

“Torrey is just fantastic – a true natural with a lot of vision and ideas,” Baxter said. “He is so easy to work with, knows exactly what he wants and how to achieve it. We were all very surprised when we saw the video.”

Due to the recent acquisition of a new tour bus, Smackdab will begin expanding its influence by increasing its travel radius. According to Baxter, the bus will allow the group to travel together, as opposed to taking two or three vehicles separately, to performances.

“It’s kind of a big step for us – and one we’ve been meaning to take for a long time,” Baxter said.

Smackdab’s next performance is set for 10 p.m. on Friday at the Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport. The group will also headline the Ellicottville Brewing Company Fall Fest on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 7:30-11 p.m. Then, in November, the band will head to Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Columbus, Ithaca and Rochester.

“We are beyond excited for the future of the band,” Baxter said. “We’ve had some slumps and setbacks over the years, but we seem to be finally overcoming these obstacles. We are currently working on new material, as well as building our fanbase in and out of town. Everyone we’ve encountered has been truly amazing to us, and we can’t thank our fans enough for their continued support. It’s been a great journey so far – but I feel like it’s just the beginning.”

The digital version of the 10-track “II” is available on iTunes for $9.90, and physical copies can be ordered via the group’s official website, www.smackdabworld.com. For more information search for “Smackdab” on Facebook.