Greensboro rockers bring in big name to produce debut album

by Ryan Snyder

If there’s a singular purpose driving the creative direction of Greensboro pop-punk band Jonas Sees In Color ( jonasseesincolor) as they take to the studio, it might be to distinguish themselves from some of their less-than-stellar peers. At least that’s how lead singer Ryan Downing made his case. “It seems like most of the stuff being released right now is stale and insincere,” Downing said. “It’s like candy; sweet and tasty for a minute, but it’s just a bunch of empty calories and we’re ready to put out a record with an authentic sound and purpose.”

After releasing their debut EP Avalanche on Right Hook Records, the band caught the attention of New York-city based label Glassnote Entertainment, a label noted for their stable of safe, image-conscious pop and indie rock groups. Signing the burgeoning act might have been a no-brainer, as Jonas Sees In Color seems right at home with their fashion-forward, swept-hair look and melodic approach to accessible, contemporary punk rock. Glassnote obviously sees plenty of potential in the young band. They brought in sought-after producer Aaron Johnson to take the studio reigns to Jonas Sees In Color’s full-length debut. Johnson is fresh off of the production of the Fray’s self-titled follow-up to the triple platinum How To Save A Life, which he also co-produced. The Fray debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and also performed admirably internationally, though it only lasted one week in the top spot in the United States. “I’m stoked to work with the band and I think Ryan has a great voice,” Johnson stated. “Plus there are six of them, so you know, that’s cool.” So Jonas Sees In Color has recently signed with a highly capable label, has a hugely successful producer in the wings for their next release and seem to be bursting with promise all around. So why is there still an elephant in the room? If there’s anything for the band and their fans alike to be cautious about is that, while Johnson is developing a reputation as a hit maker, his most notable work has yet to translate into critical success. At best, reception to The Fray was lukewarm. At worst it was pretty vile, though the majority of those opinions were sprung from the college music press. Several reviews of the chart topper, however, tossed around the word “soulless,” while Rolling Stone used the phrases “weak-kneed” and “focus-grouped.” If the subsistence of work by bands such as Nickelback is not proof enough, The Fray provided further confirmation that an album can hit No. 1 while being more or less panned by those who listen to music for a living. However, the threat of being eschewed by the media doesn’t faze Downing one bit. “It’s more important for me to just have a great record and if the critics don’t like it that’s fine, because that’s not who we’re writing it for,” Downing said. “We’re writing for the people who get it and if you don’t get it, it wasn’t written for you.” What does this mean for Jonas Sees In Color? In order to achieve the authentic sound for which Downing is striving, he and his band mates have taken a wholly organic approach to creating the album. Use of computer alterations are at the extreme minimum and the band is simply relying on their own obvious talent to see them through. “I think right now people are overusing vocal tunings and drum machines and it sounds like everyone is making their music on Garage Band,” Downing added. “We want to sound like six people with instruments that play their instruments together.” A bit of a taskmaster in the studio, Johnson has the six members of the band pouring over ever musical detail in marathon preproduction sessions at the wilderness studio Music Mania in Snow Camp. The goal, according to Downing, is to create an unmistakable sense of familiarity with the songs among each member of the band. It’s about much more than simply learning the music, however. It’s more so about having intimate knowledge of how each musician plays. “We’re spending around 12 hours a day playing each song, which is a painful number of times to play a song over and over,” Johnson lamented. “We’ve analyzed literally every single part of every song and we’ve learned more about how each other plays than we ever have before.”