It can be quite intriguing when a talented band comes from the oddest of places.
Take Johnston, for instance – a town known to many for its pizza strips and the debate over which bakery has the best.
You wouldn’t necessarily believe that pop-punk act Jelly Side Down calls Johnston home, but in fact they do.
On Halloween, they self-released their debut album, “Had To Be There,” and it’s an impressive record that’s a culmination of the band’s first five years of existence.
Vocalist Cass Venditelli, bassist Jake Duhamel, drummer Steve Cunningham and guitarists Anthony Nappa and Alex Simkins unleash infectious energy that’s consistently present within the record. Tracks such as “Polaroids,” “Snakeskin,” “Goose Wayne” and a rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” stick out in both their amplification and variety.
Venditelli and I recently had a talk about the band’s origins, influences behind the sound they create and the experience of making the debut.
ROB DUGUAY: How did Jelly Side Down start out? Did you all go to high school together?
CASS VENDITELLI: Our bassist Jake, another old friend and I were watching a so-bad-it’s-good movie called “Devil” in Jake’s living room one day. As a joke, he said that a certain line would make a great band name, and the rest is history. From there, we recruited Nappa, Steve and Alex and played our school’s annual music show, Spring Fes, together and began as a cover band, but eventually branched off into making original music.
RD: That’s a cool way to start. What was the experience like for the band with making your debut album, “Had To Be There”? Did you make it in a studio with a producer or did you make it yourselves?
CV: It was an incredible experience, all thanks to my good friend Sean Boucher of True Music Studios in Smithfield. We kept putting off recording for a while, and one day out of the blue, I decided to just ask him if he would be interested in helping us. He accepted, and now, a year later, here we are.
RD: He did a great job on production, everything sounds very clear and genuine.
RD: It says on Jelly Side Down’s Bandcamp page that the album is an upbeat, refreshing ode to 2000s pop-punk. Which bands from that era do you consider an influence?
CV: This comes as a surprise to no one, but Paramore was a huge influence for me as a preteen girl, typically seeing mostly men playing this kind of music. Hayley Williams is a force. I wouldn’t consider them pop-punk, but VerseEmerge was also a huge influence of mine.
RD: With COVID-19 having an effect on pretty much everything this year, what have you been doing to pass the time outside of music?
CV: I wish I could say I’ve been musically productive during all of this, but most of what I’ve been doing is discovering and listening to a lot of new artists and local bands’ quarantine releases. I’ve also taken the time to get closer with and discover my favorite people, even if some of them are far away.
RD: That’s great to hear, Rhode Island has had a good amount of music come out in 2020 despite the year being absolutely crazy. What do you see the future having in store for Jelly Side Down? Have you looked into doing virtual shows or anything else for the time being to promote the debut?
CV: We are actually recording a show for “The Hammer Collective Presents” on the 22nd and it will eventually be up for purchase at thehammercollective.com/store. We will hopefully do more virtual shows, but between then, we will definitely be working on new material.
To check out Jelly Side Down and “Had To Be There,” visit www.jellysidedownri.bandcamp.com/album/had-to-be-there.