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Local Band Column: The Nice Jenkins

This story was published December 1, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

I won’t lie to you, readers: I spent most of Thanksgiving Break watching cooking shows on TV. The few moments I managed to tear my eyes away from the succulent desserts on “Emeril Live” or the undeniable obnoxiousness of Rachael Ray, I spent reading over my old columns.

Tableau and I have come a long way. Now I am able to admit without blushing that I totally dig The Bravery. I’m not afraid of being attacked by hordes of angry hipsters for saying it. (I carry mace. And I’m fierce with my lip gloss as well.)

There have been other developments — the first band I ever interviewed broke up last week, and tableau doesn’t run in color anymore. But, to be honest again, I’m not really prone to wistfulness. Seasonal allergies, yes. Nostalgia, no. And although it’s my last one, this is a column, so I should probably start talking about the band.

The Nice Jenkins got their name from a girl named Da’Nyce Jenkins. None of them knew her, and instead of pronouncing her name “Denise,” they called her “Da Nice,” which inevitably turned into The Nice Jenkins.

“We wish we had a sweet story to go along with it, but we don’t,” drummer Adam Brock said.

TNJ has opened for The Constantines and played for more than 200 people at their favorite Charlottesville venue, the Satellite Ballroom.

Two of the five band members — bassist Jordan Brunk and the aforementioned Brock — graduated from the University. Lead vocalist and guitarist Rob Cheatham, guitarist Nate Walsh and pianist Dana Radcliffe are also from Virginia and complete the lineup.

“The band was a shot in the dark, and now it’s really working out for us,” Cheatham said.

“It was by chance that we got together,” Brunk agreed.

Neither Brunk nor Brock (go ahead and giggle at that name combo … I did) had ever played music before college.

“I learned to play drums because they were just sitting in my basement,” Brock said.

It’s a good thing he did, because The Nice Jen-kins are a local band must-hear. They played weekly at Mellow Mushroom earlier this year and frequent other Corner bars. With influences like 1970’s-era Bruce Springsteen, Sly and the Family Stone and Neutral Milk Hotel, TNJ has a sound that encompasses multiple genres, so many that they had to create their own.

“We call it ‘facerock’ because when music’s really good, you make that face. The happy face. There’s another Charlottesville band, Truman Sparks, that plays facerock, too. So there are two bands in the genre,” laughed Brock.

TNJ writes songs in many styles, but they agree that it “usually comes out as rock.”

They’ve recorded two “kind-of” albums and are planning to release an official one in February.

“The albums are different from what we do now,” Cheatham said. “They’re a collective of where we were at that point in time.”

TNJ’s ultimate goals include drawing an audience based on their recordings alone, quitting their jobs to play music, being facile enough to switch instruments with each other during performances and “in general, to rock more face.”

I think they’ll be able to (rock more face, that is) without any real problems. Along with creating their own genre, The Nice Jenkins are unique because all five members sing, and all five members write songs.

“Someone will come up with a structure, and we’ll workshop it till it’s good,” Brunk said. “It’s a collaborative process.”

Of all the bands I’ve interviewed, I think TNJ has the most musical potential. I really dig their multi-vocal style and dynamic live show. They’re one of those bands that you should see for five bucks while you can. I mean, TNJ could be the next DMB.

So readers, the time has come. I’d like to thank you for the e-mails, the random comments around Grounds and that letter bomb left on my porch. (Just kidding. It was left in my car, not on my porch.)

So, with a bad joke and a small dose of nostalgia, this is Molly Seltzer, signing off.

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