Jason Gallagher is ready for Leroy Justice to be your favorite band.
“We want a bigger audience. We want to play more. It’s just going to come from playing more. When we play for any audience, we can kind of convince them that we are they’re new favorite band, and that’s what we want to do,” Gallagher said in an interview this week.
The vocalist/guitarist and his bandmates will have plenty of opportunities to win over new followers in the near future. The New York-via-Northeastern Pa. group, which also features Josh Karis (drums), Sloan Marshall (keyboards), Justin Mazer (guitar) and Bradley Wegner (bass), will perform during the Record Store Day festivities at Gallery Of Sound’s Mundy Street, Wilkes-Barre, store on Saturday, April 20. Next Tuesday, the group will release its third album, “Above The Weather.” And on May 4, the band will perform at the River Street Jazz Café in Plains. The show will feature a complete performance of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” album, Gallagher said.
With “Above The Weather,” Gallagher wanted to shake up the recording process.
“I think previously we relied on some basic song structures, and it was a matter of getting songs done and playing them live,” he said. “On this recording, I think we wanted to kind of form the songs a little more and even write them in a way where it wasn’t just, ya know, thinking about the basic ways of doing verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge. We tried to expand on those ideas a little bit more. It was a little more interesting for us to play, a little more interesting for us to hear, than what we were doing in the past. You can be derivative in your songwriting and your recording, but I think it’s important to push beyond that into somewhere that comes natural to you and is expressing what the band wants to play but is also goes outside the boundaries of what is normal. At least for us.”
The album is also the first to include Mazer, a Shavertown, Pa., musician who has been a part of several projects in the region, including Dirty Water and Led Zeppelin tribute Misty Mountain. Gallagher said that selecting Mazer for the job was a “no-brainer.”
“Josh kind of presented us with a couple of different people and we played with them, and they were good,” Gallagher said. “All great guys, and all great players, but not taking us to that spot where it was just like an unspoken thing. And when we played with Justin, it was unspoken. It was really not talking about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it, it was more just kind of closing your eyes and listening and fitting right in. It was kind of a no-brainer. I probably knew five minutes into the audition that that was going to be the new guy.”
The roots/jam group again worked with John Siket, who handled mixing duties for “Above The Weather.” Siket is known for his work with artists ranging from Phish and Dave Matthews Band to Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo.
“I randomly met him on the first record we were working on in a studio in New York,” Gallagher said of Siket. “We kind of just instantly got along. He’s a great guy. He’s just got this old-school mentality of doing things the right way, with the right gear, and getting the right sounds, and serving the songs. It’s just an honest, pure, like great, solid, 100 percent, quality way of mixing and recording. It’s hard to argue with. He’ll explain why he’s doing something, and he’ll say, ‘Buddy, this is the way that your favorite band did it,’ ‘This is the way Rolling Stones . . ., this is the compressor that Zeppelin put their guitars through.’ It’s hard to argue with.”
Gallagher began writing songs about 10 years ago and started a band, calling it Leroy Justice. But the core of the current lineup came together about five years ago, he said, during a poker game on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Some of the other players were in another band, “and I had all these acoustic tunes. They kind of took out the electric guitars and made them a little harder, and I begrudgingly picked up an electric guitar and started playing along.”
Gallagher and Karis both grew up in Kingtson, while Marshall is from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and Wegner is from Indianapolis. Gallagher explained that Saturday’s hometown Record Store Day set is far more than just another gig.
“Three of us in the band grew up with Gallery of Sound and grew up buying records there and going there to see what other albums my new favorite band had, or what other albums the guy working there could recommend that were similar to stuff I liked,” he shared. “It was a place to go with your friends. I think it’s part of that getting-up-and-going-out kind of mentality that is lost in being able to download any song in a minute. I think it means a lot to us because that’s what our music is. It’s get-up-and-go-out kind of music.
“We want you to get up and go buy our record, and it takes action. It’s community, it’s an experience, and we’re going to do our part to provide that experience, because we’re having a good time too, ya know? We want to be a part of that experience.”
Part of the Leroy Justice experience has been sharing stages with stalwarts from the jam-band circuit, including moe., Blues Traveler and North Mississippi Allstars. While he calls all of the groups “musical beasts,” he pointed out that, “No.1, those guys, without fail, every member are some of the nicest guys ever.”
“Just good, solid guys, and they should be,” Gallagher continued. “They made their careers playing rock music, and they toured everywhere, and they’ve been successful at it. Why would you not? But you never know, and you meet them all, and you just hang out and talk with them. They’ve just been so generous, so cool, and it makes you want to be that way. It makes you want to get to that level so you can kind of pass it along and act like that. They’re great role models.