What Would They Know? Jake Johnson of The Bombastics

by | Entertainment Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Polka Dot Bride
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It can be a time consuming and oh so daunting process trying to find a band for your wedding day. Deciding on the music for the different parts of the day, the songs to choose, how many band members you should decide on – the list goes on and on. Jake and his fellow band members in The Bombastics are here to help! Priding themselves on superior service they will guide you to the best possible solutions for your particular wedding day requirements, including an extensive songbook to inspire your song choices and an optional MC service. Professionalism is the key to their success, and The Bombastics have an abundance of both! Here is their story.

Please describe The Bombastics.

We like to think of us a collective; all individual musicians and artists in our own right, but when we come together we’re The Bombastics. We have a lot of fun working and playing together and I think that shows.

Great band name – how did you decide on it?

When we started back in 2007 our guitarist was joking around about band names and suggested we do a Shaggy tribute or something of the like. One thing led to another and the name The Bombastics became it. When we started we were playing soul, funk and RnB clubs in the city so it seemed highly appropriate then. Nowadays it’s just a great memorable name!

What role do you play in the band?

I have a few roles: as a musician in the band; I play sax, keyboards and do backing vocals. When clients need an MC I like to step up into that role too. I’m also one of the members that help our clients with the booking and planning process.

 Do you have a core group of permanent musicians in the band? Does experience count?

Yes, we do have a core group of permanent musicians but it’s not small. There are about 15 of us in total. This gives our clients the flexibility to choose the singer they like the most or the number of band members that suits them. It also means that we can keep the band running month in, month out. Every now and then one or two of us will take leave for an original music tour, family leave or a holiday. Being a larger band we can manage this without having to ever say ‘no’ to a prospective client and without any of us ‘burning out’.

How does this influence the sound and quality of the band?

It gives us the ability to essentially sound like any band or music style our clients want. For instance last Friday we performed as a jazz quartet at an intimate wedding of 30 people, then the next night we had a more traditional 5 piece cover band line up for a traditional wedding reception, then on Sunday our drummer/DJ and myself did a sax/DJ combo for a modern wedding reception in the city.

What music genres do you play?

Pretty much anything danceable: soul, pop, RnB, rock and blues. We’re also university-trained musicians so we either have a strong foundation in jazz or classical. It’s less common but we enjoy being able to offer that too.

You have an extensive list of music in your songbook. What is the process of working with couples to help them decide on their music?

It’s a team effort. Firstly, the songbook really gives our prospective clients an indication of what we could do for them. Then, for our upcoming weddings, we give our clients the opportunity to shortlist the songs they love and remove the ones they hate. They’ll often suggest a few songs of their own that are important and we’ll learn those specifically for the day.

 Do you tend to gauge the mood of the crowd on the night and play songs to suit the mood?

Once we’ve got our client’s shortlist of ‘do’s and don’ts’ this becomes our starting point. On the night we ‘read the room’ and choose songs from their list that are working with the guests and the mood of the evening.

Spontaneous requests are always part of the fun of the dance sets! In fact, we recently played a wedding where the bride loved our song list so much she had it printed and bound and made a song requests table. Guests could write a song request from our song list and pop it into a box, and then in our set breaks we’d grab the songs and plan our next set. It was both ingenious and a lot of fun!

What is the number of the band members commonly booked for a wedding? What should we consider when trying to decide on the number?

A five-piece band is the average band size these days. It’s the smallest band with tons of flexibility as it includes female lead vocals, male lead vocals and saxophone. This makes it possible to cover pretty much any song and style.

The number of band members mostly comes down to budget. I think a common misconception is that a larger band needs lots more space but this really isn’t the case. It’s the drum kit and PA system that require space and these are essential in every band line up if you want people dancing. Our original showcase venue had a stage that was 2 metres x 3 metres and we could fit our entire seven-piece band line up on the stage!

 What should a couple look for when choosing a band for their wedding?

I think finding a band for a wedding is much like shopping for any service. You don’t need to be a music expert to make a good decision. Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Are they nice, respectful, attentive and happy to be of service? You’re going to be emailing and calling back and forth for what’s meant to be the happiest day of your life. You want it to be a good experience before and during the wedding.
  • Do you think they look and sound good? It’s your wedding so you’re the best judge of whether they’re good or not. If you’re not able to confidently say whether they’re a great sounding and looking band then it’s probably not a wise choice.

I’d also add that it’s critical to not think of music as an afterthought. When planning a wedding, couples often get caught up in having the “perfect Pinterest wedding” forgetting that it’s not all about how it looks. Remember to budget for music because without it, there’s no party. The music for the wedding usually consumes about 8% of the wedding budget so keep that in mind from the beginning and you won’t have to take shortcuts when making a decision later on in the planning process.

Please describe the music services you offer:

For the ceremony –

We offer a few different acoustic options for ceremonies, depending on the songs our clients want. Our trombone player’s wife is also a renowned cellist and runs our string quartet, which is often a popular choice for traditional wedding ceremonies. Our keyboard player has recently been performing solo piano at some ceremonies too, so as usual, we’re pretty flexible in meeting the dreams of our clients!

For the reception –

We offer our live band in a range of sizes from a two piece to an eight piece band. We find that the decision to opt for a larger band usually comes down to the priorities of our clients. Recently we’ve been offering the ability to increase the band size for later in the night only. For clients that want a bigger band but it’s pushing the budget, they opt for a smaller line up over the early part of the evening then female singer and our horn section will arrive after meals and join the rest of the band for the dance sets.

What are some favourite songs of the band at the moment (that you all love playing)?

Every band member has their favourites and not-so-favourites but I have to admit I think all of our male members secretly (or not so secretly) love playing ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift! Recently we’ve added ‘Into You’ by Ariana Grande into the mix and that’s been a lot of fun to do live.

Every now and then a client will request a lesser-known song that can be a real pleasure to learn and perform. We’re lovers of great songwriting regardless of genre, so we get plenty of kicks out of learning and performing any well-crafted song.

You also offer an MC service. And different packages for this. Why should we consider an MC and what is your most popular option?

A good MC is something that is critical to a perfectly flowing reception. It’s not necessarily about the public-speaking but more so the ability to communicate with the venue, band, photographers and videographer across the night. It’s the job of the MC to make sure everything is going to time and to plan so that every important moment is captured by the photographer and videographer and that there’s plenty of time left for dancing with the band.

A bad MC is someone who thinks they need to make it all about them, doesn’t communicate with the suppliers across the night and drinks too much!

As an MC I see my role as highlighting the beautiful couple, making people feel relaxed, at ease and getting a few laughs in the process. In the background, I’m making sure all suppliers are ready to go for every moment of the night.

The different packages on offer come down to the level of involvement required on the night. Big bridal parties with lots of introductions or a wedding with games and activities usually require a dedicated MC. For most other weddings, it’s a simple enough role to offer as a member of the band for the night. Also, some couples like the opportunity to get help putting together the schedule for the evening so part of our bigger packages includes meeting up prior to the wedding to piece it all together.

What do you enjoy most about playing at weddings (or in general)?

So many things!

  • I get to make a living from making people happy!
  • Weddings are beautiful occasions that make people happy. It’s an honour to be part of them as we leave every one of them feeling like we’ve been part of a momentous moment in two families’ lives.
  • I get to play music every weekend with my close friends – we have a laugh and a lot of fun every single time.
  • We never have to worry if the crowd will show up to see us play!

 How far from Melbourne will you travel with the band for a wedding?

We’ll travel anywhere. We drive as far as Mildura, Corowa and Albury on a regular basis. We’re also happy to fly interstate or overseas for guests that are determined to have The Bombastics above all else!

Where can we see you play? Do you play regular showcases or venues?

We perform publicly at venues in and around Melbourne. At the moment we perform every month or more often at Blue Diamond cocktail bar in the CBD. Many couples find it hard to get out on a weeknight so we’ll soon be showcasing some live performances online too. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for those upcoming performances.

Are the band members a tight knit group who celebrate the end of the working week together?

Sure are! One of the pleasures of the job is sitting down to a meal together at weddings every weekend. We also try to get together regularly to have a jam, record some original music or go to each other’s original music gigs. Some of us have young families now so catch-ups seem to involve tea and coffee rather than anything more potent these days!

Thank you Jake for sharing The Bombastics’ story. The Bombastics have a sound that makes you just want to get up and dance – it’s infectious! To find out more about The Bombastics visit the website.

Headshot via Jake of The Bombastics.

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