Friday, January 10, 2014

Boston Does Boston: Interview with Jason Dunn

Given the announcement of our Iguana Grant project of Boston songwriters covering their favorite local songwriters, this may be the best timed feature ever. If you have ever been a fan of the local Boston Rock scene you have heard of the band The Luxury. Jason, the lead singer and songwriter of the band recently came up with a crazy and amazing idea...lets get a bunch of these bands that I love and am friends with to cover each others songs and then donate the proceeds to a good cause. Well, he did it, it was a success, and he is probably going to do it again for future volumes.  I caught up with him to talk about his Boston Does Boston project...this is the kind of stuff that "community" is all about.

1) First off, who are you, what is your involvement with this project and how else are you involved in the Boston music community?

I'm Jason, lead singer and songwriter for The Luxury (, and I run a very small and very cheap recording studio called Mad Science Audio Labs ( Now, of course, I'm also the curator and executive producer of the BDB series, which basically means it's my baby. This time around I did everything myself, from seeking out bands to pushing the idea to press. I'm not hell-bent on doing things like this alone, I just felt like I had to prove something to myself. Actually, I'm still not sure what that was, but the results are awesome. Maybe I should get all aggro with myself more often?

2) Give us a brief overview of what this project entails. How did you come up with the idea?

It's awesome. If that's too brief, it's twenty-six of the best Boston acts I've ever seen covering each other's songs in their own style, the weirder the genre-jump the better. I based it loosely on a comp called Burlington does Burlington that came out in Burlington VT when I was a kid. When I broke my ankle last Valentine's Day I had a lot of downtime all of a sudden, I had the idea of doing that in a much bigger, much broader community with a few tweaks - have everyone on the discs cover someone else on the discs so everyone has both the challenge of doing a great band and the pleasure of having themselves done by another great band. And to make it even more irresistible and to have something purely good come out of it, I figured we could give all the money away to charity - and since I love animals, despise their abuse and was running the show, I chose the Animal Rescue League of Boston ( It was clearly the best idea I'd ever had, and I was in bed for weeks, so I started typing invites.

3) Were the bands hand-picked or was there a sort of application process? If so, will there be more volumes and how can folks become involved?

There's no application process. I chose the bands by leafing through my 12-year old mental database of great bands I love watching and listening to in the area and just writing down the first 30 that came to mind. It's funny, as soon as the facebook page launched I started getting emails from bands I'd never heard of asking, sometimes kind of demanding, that they be included. The thing is, it felt suspiciously like they were trying to gain their band exposure through something that didn't even exist yet! It was still a pipe dream and a long list of people that were into the idea. I was as nice as I could be, but I had my list and to me the visceral end point was to raise money for the ARL, and in order to do that I needed to maintain a level of quality control. Since it started in my head, I didn't have to write down a list of requirements, but if I had it would have read something like this:
  1. I've heard you or heard of you and as a musician, a music fan and a producer I think you're awesome.
  2. I know you well enough to know that you'll turn in something great and you'll probably do it within a reasonable timeframe.
  3. You actively play live and know and respect the majority of the other bands I'm talking to.
  4. Finally, you put on a great live show and people will come see you at the release parties, where the ticket sales also go to the ARL.
And yeah, I know this sounds exclusionary and believe me, I didn't want it to be that. But I had to know in my gut that this would work, and with such a large group of crazy artist people I had to know I could trust everyone. Even with this list there were problems, but I just zenned out as much as possible and tried to be a firm but encouraging leader-type without getting too pissed off. It helped that most of the list considered me a friend, and vice versa, and that we had a great cause to support.

In terms of Volumes 3 & 4? Hell yes, I plan on doing it. This was a lot of work but it was ultimately such a joy to get it all together. I'm going to try to reach out beyond my own scope of knowledge, being mostly the Cambridge/Allston/Somerville rock and pop scene, and get some more out-there crossovers happening, but it's still going to be held to a certain standard. If I've heard of a band, that helps, but what helps even more is if they're undeniably awesome, good-hearted, in it for the right reasons, and have a real following that would love to see them do something like this. Again, in the end it's all about benefiting the charity, and if a band or artist hasn't gotten to the point where they would help make that happen, it just doesn't make sense for me to invite them yet. It's not a diss, it's the reality of doing something with dollars involved.

4) Are there any particular bands you would really love to see cover each other in the future?

Of course! I mean, I don't choose who covers who - I ask the participating bands to give me their top three choices out of the list, and then try my best to make everyone happy. But I can think of tons of pairings I'd like to see. The problem is that if I put them into words now and they don't happen, I'll be sad, and if I DO put them into words and they happen on a future comp then I'll be accused of cooking the books. However - on a national and international level I can give you some examples I think would be amazing to hear. Let's have The Talking Heads covering Peter Gabriel. Let's have Justin Timberlake cover Metallica. Let's hear One Direction do a sappy choral rendition of Def Leppard. Let's hear Taylor Swift announce her retirement. Let's have The Temptations cover Oasis. Let's hear John Williams cover Gary Numan, for Pete's sake. Why not? The weirder the crossover, the more rewarding the result.

5) The one thing that this project screams to me is "community". The local music scene seems to have many different "pockets" of tight knit groups. Is this something you took into account when putting this project together? What does the local community mean to you?

It's something that bugs me, the pockets you speak of, and something I've tried to avoid with this project. I don't like that the same bands play with the same bands over and over again. Hell, I don't even like that local music on the radio is mostly relegated to Sunday nights, and even some of those DJs just focus on the same bands. Granted, everyone's guilty of that to a certain level, even me, but if the idea is for people to be discovered, you can't keep preaching to the choir. That's why everyone on BDB was encouraged to break out of their comfort zone and do something really different. Some bands went further than others, like Black Thai covering Freezepop or Will Dailey covering Reverse, and I, Pistol covering The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, but one of the coolest things I got to witness this year was an email chain between Miss Fairchild and Mr. Vertigo while the former was covering the latter, where they suddenly realized they really liked each other's music. The more of that we have, the more the music community actually becomes a community. There's no industry focus on Boston, there's barely even an industry TO focus on Boston, so why stay in our shells? To answer the question, the local music community means everything to me, it's where I found most of my best friends and where I've spent most of the last twelve years. But it would be a lot more fun and productive if it were more inter-supportive, if that's a word. Encourage each other instead of pretending we're competing for some brass ring that doesn't exist. Enjoy the time we've got to be doing this, surrounded by so much talent. Hi-fives all around, all the time, forever. Call me a hippie if you want, but, you know... all we need is love, Paul.

6) Now...plug this in any way, shape, or form that you wish!

The whole double-CD is online for people to listen to at So seriously, go listen to it. There's not a bum track in all 26 tracks, and there's not a chance you won't leave the experience without at least two favorite new bands. In fact, I challenge anyone to do that. It's just too good. And it's all for the love of music and kittens. MUSIC AND KITTENS FOREVER.

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