The Jessica Prouty Band Rocks New England
By Victoria Wasylak
They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the Jessica Prouty Band certainly does not see anything that needs to be fixed about hard rock.
When it comes to making new music, the award-winning Boston rockers aren’t concerned with creating some sort of newfangled avant-garde genre, but prefer to delve deep into a sound that is darker than Led Zeppelin and lighter than Evanescence.
“We’re just a straight up hard rock band,” says Prouty, the 20-year-old leading lady of the band she formed seven years ago.
Do the math: Prouty has been rockin’ since her early teens and her musical chops are wise beyond her years because of it.
“Originally it was just me,” she explains. “I quit another band in middle school that wasn’t working out.”
The split brought her to a summer music program, where she did some early soulsearching and got noticed by Brian Maes of Ernie and the Automatics. Maes was floored by Prouty’s songwriting skills, especially at an age when most kids were busy mastering the next level of Halo 3 or tuning into Big Bang Theory reruns. He encouraged her to continue making music on her own.
But Prouty is a team player at heart.
“In the end, I didn’t want to be explorative, I really wanted a band,” she says.
While the band has had its share of rapid turnover, the current lineup plays like a well-oiled machine, including guitarist Jon Suh, who Prouty met during a School Jam USA competition.
Suh was a member of the band Peligro that took first place in the nationwide competition, and he also won the individual award for best guitar player. Alongside Suh, Prouty and drummer Cameron Pelkey won best in show for their respective instruments. Afterward, the pair snatched Suh up, and, along with guitarist Jansen Manning, the crew completed the Prouty “dream team.”
Despite the band’s laundry list of achievements and awards, like winning multiple battles of the bands and best song in the Children’s Hospital Boston Notes for the Cure Battle, the band’s age has gotten in the way more than once.
“When we were younger — even younger than we are now — we were not taken seriously by a lot of people,” Prouty says, adding that the band was often treated as a “crappy opener.”
Sometimes it’s still a waiting game.
“That’s the worst part, I can’t see other band’s shows and network with other musicians because I’m not 21,” she says.
While the band may be young, they’re no strangers to the struggles of any seasoned touring musicians. They lived out of a van and budget motels while gigging on the road to places as far away as Tennessee, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
The Jessica Prouty Band’s latest album, Set Me Free, is an 8-track sampler that ranges from progressive beats to simmering Southern rock and was mixed with help from Grammy-award-winner Bob St. John who is best known for working with bands like Extreme, Collective Soul and Duran Duran. Prouty guarantees that the album is more refined than the group’s past work, with crisp vocals and a well-rounded balance of ballads and soaring guitar rock – namely, the title track and single, “Set Me Free.”
To celebrate the album release, the band kicked off what Prouty calls a “mini-tour” of concerts and release parties to personalize the experience for audiences in different states. After playing mainly state fairs, the band is expanding their horizons by taking on festival performances including Rock the Block in Lawrence and the Northern Maine Metal Fest.
“We never really played a lot of rock festivals, specifically,” Prouty said. “But we feel like we can match up to these other bands in terms of musicality.”
At the Claddagh Pub’s Rock the Block Festival, the band did just that, churning out a jam-packed 30 minute set of head-banging rock ’n’ roll to a crowd of pumped-up, leather clad punks.
If the band’s fierce licks don’t set them aside from the average garage rock, then Prouty herself certainly will. Her smart lyrics, booming bass lines and badass presence take center stage.
“There are so few women in rock music, it’s kind of scary,” Prouty says, adding that female vocalists in the music industry are often tossed aside.
“One thing that really empowers me is that I’m not only a vocalist, I play bass as well,” she says. “Once you say ‘I play bass,’ people take you more seriously. I hope to help alleviate the stereotype that girl singers don’t know anything about music, because they do, and I hope the people who listen to the Jessica Prouty Band get that women are just as important as men in rock music…and not just because my name is the band.”