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Rambling with St. Paul and the Broken Bones (SR)

17 Jun 2013

written by The Southern Rambler

stpaul band hangout


Rambling with St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Originally posted on The Southern Rambler

by Lynn Oldshue


Paul Janeway steps on the stage wearing a suit, bow tie, horn-rimmed glasses, and combed-over hair. The drum pounds and the horns blow. With hands raised to heaven, Janeway slams down the first note, and the band St. Paul and the Broken Bones takes off with the frenzy of a religious tent revival.

Janeway looks more like an accountant than the lead singer of a southern soul band, but he sounds like Sam Cooke, moves like James Brown, and wails like Stephen Tyler when the spirit grabs hold of him. “I need your help. Come on with me. Come on, come on,” he commands as he motions for the audience to sing louder, pulling in their congregational energy and giving it right back.  The crescendo builds until he is running in place, and the crowd, horns, drums, and guitars match him step-for-step and note-for-note. He waves his hands like a preacher fighting off the fire and brimstone.

An unexpectedly good entertainer who talks with his hands and uses his whole body to express his emotions, Janeway would have been just as good behind a pulpit, he was even groomed as a teenager to become a Pentecostal pastor. But St. Paul and The Broken Bones is much more than the Janeway’s voice and showmanship. Jesse Phillips (the only Canadian in the band) on bass, Browan Lollar on guitar, Andrew Lee on drums, Allen Branstetter on trumpet, and Ben Griner on trombone supply the soul, rhythm and blues that drive the music.

How did St. Paul and the Broken Bones begin?

Jesse: The band accidentally came together less than a year ago, but Paul and I have been friends for years and sometimes played together at parties or coffee shops in Birmingham. Les Nuby of Ol’ Elegante Studios pushed us to do something with our music, so we went in the studio off and on. We had ideas for 15 songs, but the four songs that stuck (Greetings from St. Paul and the Broken Bones EP) were the ones that dictated the direction of our music. Browan and Andrew come in at the end to fill it out, and that is where we had the idea to form this band.

People started asking us to play before we finished recording, so we did some fall shows and a short tour in December. Ben Tanner from the Alabama Shakes asked us to make a record through his record label. It was a crazy holiday as we tried to write songs before we went in the studio in January.

Paul: We are still trying to figure out what it means to be in a band and what we are supposed to do. We are still flying by the seat of our pants. Browan has been in a couple of bands before, such as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, so he is our Moses guiding us through the darkness.

When did you sense that attention was turning to your music?

Callaghan's Irish Social Club     Catt Sirten Photography

Callaghan’s Irish Social Club     Catt Sirten Photography

Paul: We realized something was going on when we sold out a show at the Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham. That is one of our favorite places to play and we played there several nights in a row and the audience kept growing until we sold it out.  Another good night was at Callaghan’s in Mobile. We played that afternoon at the SouthSounds Festival and played a second show at Callaghan’s. There was so much energy and excitement that night and we felt like we were on top of the world.

Browan: It changed for me when we went into the studio to cut a few songs and came out with something really good, something I would listen to. That is when it started to become real.

Where did you get the name St. Paul and the Broken Bones?

Jesse: When we named the band, Paul and I were just messing around with music and we didn’t take a long view of what could happen. St. Paul is because Paul doesn’t drink or smoke, and broken bones is because we liked the alliteration of two b’s. Broken bones felt like the fragmented parts of a whole and sounded like a name for an old-school soul band. The name began as an inside joke, but it started showing up on the Internet and that was it.

For the rest of the story see The Southern Rambler

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