Brooks dares listeners to get emotional.
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are walking on air following their European tour, and not just because they blew audiences away with their blend of spiky minimalist rock and passionate R&B. The singer and his band recently received exciting news: Their latest album, Howl, has earned several Grammy nominations. Expect the crew to be in a celebratory mood at the Majestic Theatre on Nov. 18.
"There was one [nomination] for best song, one for the whole album, and there were two more for technical categories," Brooks says.
The Grammy nominations could be a springboard to much bigger things, but this isn't the first time the band have grabbed the spotlight. In 2009, they attracted attention from Wilco — and Wilco's huge fan base — with a cover of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."
"We got some positive feedback from Wilco, so we went on and recorded it and made a video for it," Brooks explains. "They posted it to their Facebook page, and a lot more people got to see it."
Brooks says Howl returns to the band's beginnings in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood in 2007.
"Sonically, we were getting back to our original...fusion of post-punk and Memphis soul," he says.
Howl is a fitting title for the album. Several tracks beg listeners to get emotional and take action to make the world a better place rather than growing apathetic when they realize that change is difficult. As Brooks sings in the title track, "When mercy's just an abstract notion/You let me starve outside your door."
Onstage, Brooks channels many influences — including Otis Redding, Janelle Monáe, Gang of Four and the Clash — into an emotional sound that backs up his call to action. Garage-rock and hints of classic Motown tunes also make an appearance.
"I think all the songs we play live from this new album develop their own lives on stage," he explains. "We like to make people have fun."