Private Space, the third album for Bloomington, Indiana five-piece Durand Jones & The Indications was released at the end of July, but it feels like it's been around much longer. Like the band's previous two albums, their self-titled debut and sophomore effort American Love Call, Private Space, takes inspiration from a proud tradition of soul and R&B. But the effort put into tracks like the sensual "Witchoo" and " Sexy Thang," put it several steps above mere nostalgia-baiting. To hear a Durand Jones song is to recognize the timeless transportive power of these genres. And Private Space finds them expanding their horizons into a more disco-inspired territory, and further honing their techniques.
At the time of our call, the band, made up of frontman Jones drummer and vocalist Aaron Frazer, guitarist Blake Rhein (who met Jones while studying at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music), as well as organist Steve Okonski, and bassist Michael Isvara Montgomery, has about a week to go before the start of their tour in support of the album, kicking off on September 4 in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania and bringing them to such lauded venues as D.C.’s 9:30 Club and Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. The tour also includes a run of dates as a support act for My Morning Jacket. Based on reactions to previous performances (“One of the best shows I have been to in years,” reads one Songkick user’s review), Jones and his band are headed further and further to the top. But, like the rest of us, they have to prioritize their safety and the safety of their audience.
“It takes so much planning and luck. So, we’re trying to do our best to make it safe for everybody,” Frazer says about touring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The band’s most recent tour took place from January to March 2020, ending, as scheduled, in Chicago right before mass shutdowns took place. Audience members will be required to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours.
If Jones wasn’t making music, he might be conducting critical research about the pandemic. In 2016, the year of the band’s self-titled debut, Jones was working in a science lab and considering a career in public health, with a concentration in epidemiology. But once the album was released, Jones, who had dreamed of working in music since he was five years old, made the studio his laboratory, full-time.
Speaking with the band, their confidence suggests they’re not just looking forward to sharing these new songs with their fans, but also adding what Jones refers to as “a little more spice and flair.” Members of Brooklyn R&B/soul group 79.5 will be performing backup vocals as well as opening for the band on select dates. There will also be an auxiliary percussionist, adding further vibrancy to an already rhythmic show.
“That last tour in 2020, a lot of us were really figuring out what we could do to make it work for us individually and collectively on tour,” Jones says, “And that’s one thing that I’m definitely keeping in mind this time around.”
Though a band like this, with cited inspirations and dream collaborators such as Stevie Wonder, Raphael Saadiq, Dionne Warwick, and Mark Ronson to escape the “retro” label, the group doesn’t take it pejoratively, focusing on what they can do to make something new while still honoring the old, as well as delving deeper into different styles. Time spent in Europe led to them taking inspiration from Italian disco records. You can also find timeless urgency in their music, with passionate album opener “Love WIll Work It Out” tapping into the same hope for a righteous world as Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” “We feel totally comfortable embracing our influences and derivations, but kind of flipping it and making it our own,” Frazer says.
As the band’s status has grown, so has the number of times Jones has been recognized in public. In his current city of San Antonio, Jones has gotten used to run-ins with fans.
“I get stopped in the grocery store, restaurants, bars. I was even just taking a hike one time and some people on some bikes saw me and turned around and just wanted to say hello,” Jones says.
But Jones can go other places and not be recognized quite so much, like in his hometown of Hillaryville, Louisiana, where he’s more known as “Damon’s little brother,” a label he takes in stride.
My brother is by far way more charismatic than I am; He’s the life of the party all the time,” Jones says.
With his band headlining renowned venues, receiving critical acclaim, and connecting with audiences through captivating live shows, Jones’ pride is more than understandable – as well as inspiring.
“While it all feels amazing and surreal, also, it’s just we worked hard for this. We really put the time in, and once we realized that we all collectively had a dream, we really just worked together to make it happen,” Jones says.