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Group at Work: J Roddy Walston and The Business

by Emily Zemler on October 21, 2013

If you listen closely to Essential Tremors, the new album from J Roddy Walston and The Business, then you can hear an underlying sense of dance fervor. Not the electronic beats that populate today’s music but an old-school, Motown-tinged rock sort of dance rhythm.

“For a while, I was saying to the guys, ‘What if we didn’t write songs and we just had grooves and we made our version of what people should dance to?’” Walston says, citing Michael Jackson’s Thriller as an influence. “Kind of a James Brown thing with no real chorus or verse—just me repeating the same
thing. Everybody was like, ‘That’s a bad idea!’ But the nuggets of songs are in there.”

The album, the group’s first for ATO Records and third fulllength since forming in 2002, went through several iterations during the writing process, each
version shaping the 11 songs that appear on the final collection. Last year, the band took a break for the first time in six years and returned home to work on their new material. Then, this spring, they went into the studio with producers Mark Neill and Matt Wignall in Valdosta, Ga., armed with a slew of raucously thumping songs that Walston says were “95 percent done.” The process lasted two and a half weeks—a relatively long time for the group.

“We do all of the experimenting at home,” Walston says. “Demoing and structuring and building songs up and breaking them down is all a part of our writing process. That extra five percent is what the producers bring in. It’s the glue that forces together a bunch of songs that are good on their own and makes it a record.”

The group’s fall tour will offer an interpretation of Essential Tremors that lends additional depth to a set of tracks that careen from Zeppelin-like bombastic swagger (“Sweat Shock”) to Cheap Trick-infused pop vamping (“Same Days”). They will also put that dance sensibility to the test.


“Seeing a band live is part of understanding records, at least for me,” Walston says. “I don’t write off a record until I have a chance to see it live.”

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