Locals: Jeni’s Company Band

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
From the February 7, 2013 edition

Why would a world-conquering desserts company send its musically inclined kitchen staff to make a record inspired by its locally sourced sweets?

“We always want to do everything,” explained Jeni Britton-Bauer, founder and president of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Jeni’s Company Band, first proposed during a company luncheon brainstorm, became a reality when Jeni’s employee Matt Beckler took the reins. He hounded Britton-Bauer about the project and eventually presented a budget and an action plan.

With that, 10 workers from Jeni’s headquarters rehearsed twice then descended on Italian Village recording studio Oranjudio last fall. They emerged with Flavors From Earth, a four-song EP inspired by Jeni’s space-themed marketing campaign of the same name. The EP was pressed to 12-inch vinyl and sold through Jeni’s stores and website. Friday, the band plays a release party at Kobo.

The initial plan was to make a holiday record, but they opted for a “deep winter” concept to extend the project’s shelf life. The band emerged with three originals steeped in spacey, soft-focus Americana. An “Islands In the Stream” cover was to cap it off, but the first few stabs were too ridiculous, so they subbed in a placid rendition of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”; consider it the yin to Hüsker Dü’s yang.

As Beckler acknowledged, the record could’ve sounded way different had any of the other talented bandmates — Maza Blaska’s Yoni Mizrachi, The Weight of Whales’ Larry Doyle and Human Cannonball’s Jesse Remnant among them — steered the ship. (With the prospect of more Jeni’s records on the table, one of them still might.) But the team humbly followed Beckler’s lead. Remarkably, the results are fully realized and cohesive, like the work of longtime collaborators.

“I think because we’ve all played with other people before, when we all got together it just sort of meshed well,” percussionist Paul Duellman said. “Nobody was trying to step on each other’s feet.”

Some of those other voices will sound off Friday at Kobo: Maza Blaska, The Weight of Whales and Beckler’s band Sable Spurs will open the show. Jeni’s Street Treats Truck will be there too. Pretty sweet, huh?