Getting Fresh in the mountains
Until a couple of weeks ago, Mike Tiernan was the lead guitarist for The Motet. Tired of writing songs he couldn’t perform, he made the decision to leave the group and focus on his writing. Jersey Fresh predates the decision, but has given Tiernan a heady taste of a new musical direction.
“We’ve only played five or six times, it’s not a full-time thing,” he said about the group. “Now I’ve got all this time on my hands. The response has been really good.”
His decision to leave The Motet at a time when the group is both popular and successful surprised fans. For most of them, it seemed to come out of the blue.
“Yeah, a lot of people are shocked,” said Tiernan. “But I was on the fence for a few months before I made the decision. I’m going to miss the music. The music was really fun – but not the stinky bus or late nights or all that other stuff.”
He describes Jersey Fresh as a mix of funk, jazz, rock and even some folk. Though they play a lot of original material, they’ll throw in a few covers for good luck: Dr John, Michael Jackson or Little Feat have all made it into the mix.
“It feels good, it feels right,” said Tiernan. “Music is like sharing another couple of languages. That was one of the great things about the Motet, learning all these different rhythms, diving into them.”
Coming from a guitar player’s perspective, Jersey Fresh began as a blues-rock-folk experience. As Tiernan and cohorts got more involved with theory and harmony, it’s evolved into a jazzy mix of electric folk. All four members of the quartet sing, so the vocals are a big part of the show. In addition to Tiernan, Jersey Fresh is Steve Vidaic (Sucker) on keys, Rich Chance (Gordo) on bass and Chris Misner (Gordo) on drums.
Jersey Fresh manages to deliver songs that build steadily, teasing the audience all the while. Misner’s drums throw out a request: play with me, they plead. And the band is off, sweeping in and out of each other’s musical lines.
“I’ve played with so many different groups, I feel like I click more with just a couple of individuals at a time,” said Tiernan. “It’s like trying to hold an improvised conversation with other people – though not everyone communicates, or at least not in the same conversation.”
Tiernan is getting his musical fix by performing, as his five-disc changer is broken. Patrick, one of his two cats, is the culprit. Instead of waiting patiently like the other feline, Lucia, Patrick leapt onto the player while it was open, breaking the entire thing. Ray Charles, Eric Clapton and a bit of salsa were relegated to silence.
Tiernan has been playing the guitar since 13, when he pushed the drums to the background. Until then, he was the jazz drummer in the high school band, which accounts for his rhythmic style.
Now that he’s got more time, Tiernan is looking forward to performing with Jersey Fresh more often.
“I just like making sounds,” he said, laughing. “Making music that makes people smile or feel happy – the exchange of energy with the audience. As a band, we’re creating something for a reaction.”
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.