In recent years Durand Jones and the Indications have appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, landed songs in TV ads, and toured around the world. But even while racking up one achievement after the next, the dynamic soul band goes out of its ways to acknowledge its Hoosier roots.
“I feel really proud to have that be the musical community we emerged from,” says drummer/vocalist Aaron Frazer. “Of course, the conservatory is world-class, but so is the community of bands, musicians and show-goers that all revolve around the basements of Bloomington.”
Fresh off the release of their third album, Private Space, on July 30, we caught up with Frazer, vocalist Durand Jones and guitarist Blake Rhein for a phone interview, discussing the band’s Indiana origins and what inspired their latest release.
How did the band initially come together in Bloomington?
Durand Jones: I got to Bloomington in the fall of 2012 to pursue a degree in classical music. My saxophone professor got me an assistantship with the African American Arts Institute, which is where I met Dr. Charles Sykes, a Motown specialist who put me in the IU Soul Revue. I was there to coach horns, arrange horn parts and all that jazz.
It’s just by chance that the band was short on male singers that year. I sang with this really beautiful person, Ariel. We did the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell song, “Your Precious Love.” Blake was the audio engineer, and he heard me. He handed me some CDs and was like, “Hey. I like to write soul stuff. If you ever want to hang out and write some songs, I’d totally be down.” So I was like, “Alright, cool man. That sounds like fun.”
Through that, I met [founding Indications members] Aaron, Justin and Kyle. I got to see their band Charlie Patton’s War, which I was super impressed by. I didn’t expect to see such a vibrant music scene outside of the school. It was unexpected but also a godsend. It wasn’t just the music school that was flourishing — the city was flourishing with art, too. So it was really dope seeing Charlie Patton’s War, which got me out to see other people and meet other musicians. That’s how the band started.
Before the Indications were even a thought, I know Charlie Patton’s War invited Durand to sing at a basement show. What do you remember from that first time you all performed together?
Blake Rhein: The first time the three of us all hung out together was in the studio working on a song. Aaron and I recorded instrumentals and had some vocal ideas. Durand came up to the studio, and we just spent a few hours hammering out a song. That’s what ended up becoming “Giving Up.”
Throughout the rest of that semester, we did one or two more songs. Durand was a really busy dude, and we were all kind of doing our school stuff. But as Charlie Patton’s War, we played all these shows in unfinished Bloomington basements, and I remember having Durand come and jump on a song. We did “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” with him, and it was very lit. People were so into it, and that was a really good feeling.
Once the band started getting out on the road and gaining traction, what were some of the more surreal moments you experienced?
DJ: Well, I live in San Antonio now for a reason. [laughs] I will never forget doing our first tour and stopping in San Antonio. We played this [San Antonio native] Sunny Ozuna tune. I don’t know if we were expecting to get the reaction we did when we did that tune, but it was absolutely amazing. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced something like that where you start singing a tune, get to the chorus and you don’t even have to sing a word because the crowd’s got it on lock. That was a really beautiful moment for me, and I immediately fell in love with San Antonio after that. They really do love soul music, and they love the people that keep it alive. So I guess that first show in San Antonio was just the start of me realizing the legacy we have given ourselves the task of upholding and pushing forward.
Your last record, American Love Call, had a ‘70s soul leaning to it. How would you characterize the sound of your latest album, Private Space, and what inspired you to go down that route?
BR: Every time we do a record, the sound of it is very intuitive. We’ve been gravitating to this disco/modern soul-type sound. But then, once we started making that type of music, outer space imagery came about. There are a lot of albums from the era with that retrofuturism, and we tried to embody that with some of the imagery on the album cover and in some of the lyrics on songs.
Overall, this past couple year’s we’ve been listening to more disco and modern soul than we have the late ‘60s soul stuff that the band was built on. So it was less of a conscious decision and more just like, “This is what we listen to now. Let’s try to make something that sounds like it.”
Were any songs on the album inspired by the tumultuous times in which they were created?
DJ: “Love Will Work It Out” was definitely one that I was writing in reflection of what was going on before the pandemic hit and then what happened during it. We edited the lyrics down a good bit in the second verse. I was writing shit about the fires in California and the storms that kept hitting Louisiana. It all just felt really crazy and almost apocalyptic in a way, with all the natural disasters that were hitting us along with the systemic racism and health disparities that the world was facing.
That song really stands out to me as one that reflects what we were going through, but I didn’t want to just keep it desolate. I wanted to make it something uplifting and something that people could hopefully empathize with.
Your next tour starts up in September. What do you look forward to most about taking these songs on the road?
Aaron Frazer: I think these songs are partially a product of being on the road. Even though they were written during the pandemic, we have now spent years getting very real-time feedback about what moves a crowd, whether we’re playing a show or Blake and I are DJing after a show with our 45s. So I think these songs are a product of just figuring out what’s really fun to do live. I think the shows are just going to feel like a giant party. I’m excited to give that energy and give that energy back.