Locals Only: Jam Division

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When Eva Ball recruited Chad Shepherd to perform Joy Division songs at her "Joy Divisions" art show this spring, he accepted with a hint of hesitation. As much as he enjoyed the seminal British post-punk band's work, he didn't want to recreate it by himself.

So Shepherd took the opportunity to recruit Aaron Klamut and Dan Olsen, his downstairs neighbors in the five-story Downtown creative space that houses Skylab and The Shelf. He'd often heard Klamut and Olsen jamming and had been hoping for a chance to collaborate.

A couple months before the June 4 art show, the trio began to rehearse under the name Jam Division with Olsen on bass, Klamut on drums and Shepherd on guitar and vocals.

"We started doing straight-up covers," Olsen said. "It seemed kind of pointless."

To quell his boredom with playing it straight, Olsen suggested the band "dub out" one of the songs in the style of legendary Jamaican studio engineer King Tubby. So they scaled back the nervous, twitchy tempos to a molasses pace and began altering the sounds through delay, analog edits and relentless repetition.

"It instantly was attractive to me and I knew what to do with it," Shepherd said. "We just went right into it, and that was it."

By the end of band practice, they had struck up a fruitful creative vision. Little by little, they edged away from the original compositions, moving from Ian Curtis' bizarre headspace into a new one of their own making.

If Joy Division entranced listeners by quickening their pulse, Jam Division accomplishes the same feat by lulling their heartbeat to a crawl.

The rehearsals were such a hit among the Skylab crowd that friends asked Jam Division to play a few shows before Ball's "Joy Divisions" event.

People have continued to ask, so they're still booking shows, including an experimental rock motherlode Tuesday at Cafe Bourbon Street alongside Human Eye, Sian Alice Group and El Jesus de Magico.

The group's skewed sonics continue to evolve. Although Olsen insists, "It's still a cover band," the musicians have begun using their source material as more of a jumping-off point than a strict blueprint.

"I don't even listen to the actual song," Klamut said. "We just start playing a song. It usually will have the root note, maybe, and the words."

As for documentation, Shepherd has extensive recordings of each practice, and the band laid down four tracks at Columbus Discount Recording for a CD to accompany the art show. They hope to press some vinyl when they get the chance. There's no rush, though; for the moment, they're just enjoying the new creative frontiers.

"Eva asked me to be in the show. It became a band," Shepherd said. "I'm stoked."

E-mail your local music news to Chris DeVille at cdeville@columbusalive.com

Jam Division

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13

Where: Cafe Bourbon Street, Campus

Web: myspace.com/jamdivision