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The Advocate

Green River Ordinance Interview

by Susan Lloyd

"I think a lot of people are like 'Oh you’re Christians, you must be a Christian band,' but you know if you meet a plumber and find out he’s a Christian you’re not like 'Oh are you a Christian plumber?' We are just a rock and roll band, and we are Christians and that’s a huge part of our lives. " --Jamey Ice

Over a year ago, I was cruising around on myspace when I noticed a band on Needtobreathe’s friend list that I had never heard of before named Green River Ordinance. I decided to investigate, and instantly I was hooked. This five piece band that hails from Fort Worth, TX creates the kind of intelligent pop-rock that has massive appeal and as a result, they are quickly building a very strong fan base. Brothers Jamey and Geoff Ice (guitar and bass respectively), Josh Jenkins (vox, acoustic, keys), Josh Wilkerson (guitar), and Denton Hunker (drums) are also all young men who possess a strong Christian faith. I knew that if these guys ever made it to the east coast for a run of shows, I would find a way to go to a show and maybe even interview them.

I finally had the chance to interview AND see their live set in early March. I wasn’t disappointed on either front. Not only are these some of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve met in this industry, they possess a rare type of warm professionalism on stage. And they make all efforts to connect with their fans. Josh Jenkins walked through the crowd before the set that night, thanking individuals for coming out to see their show.

These guys are going somewhere, and it’s going to happen as a result of working hard, staying real, and playing honest music that relates to people on many levels.

TT: You are touring a new album that just came out last week. I got an email today that said it was on the iTunes top 100 list already.

GRO: Got up to 18.

TT: That’s very exciting. How are the crowds you are playing to receiving it? I mean, it’s BRAND new.

GRO: It’s been great. A lot of these places we are playing are a first time for us. I mean, we’ve toured a lot, but this tour we’ve hit markets we’ve never toured before so it’s been great to see new faces, people we’ve never seen.

TT: You guys are all from Texas, and you have a pretty big fan base there because you’ve been together and touring the state for six years, is that right?

GRO: (Denton Hunker) As what you see now, the band has been together six years. But the band was started a long, long time ago. Jamey and Geoff, the brothers, started the band when they were like 14.

(Geoff)- We were 13 and 15 actually.

Green River OrdinanceTT: So how good were you then?

GRO: (Geoff) I was amazing. It was incredible (laughter)

(Jamey) We were in a middle school talent show and we played Sweet Home Alabama

TT: Of course! So that was the bug that bit you, right? You said this is it, my life, my calling…

GRO: (Geoff) I don’t know if we said that!

(Jamey) We were really bad at sports, so “Hey, let’s play guitar!”

TT: But you all have a musical background, right? I mean, your families are big into music. I look at how you grew up and think it’s awesome that you had families that valued music. Were they saying “Please, please play on stage”? Or was it more like “Oh no, this is not a good thing.”

GRO: (Geoff) No, well, they didn’t force us to do it or suggest it. Jamey decided that he wanted to play guitar, and I decided that since Jamey was doing it that I would do it and be better than him.

TT: (to Geoff) So you are the younger brother?

GRO: (Geoff) Yeah, typical younger brother. But I sucked at guitar, and he was good. So I got stuck on bass.

(Jamey) I loved the guitar, and our dad would take us to blues jams when we were in middle school and then when Green River Ordinancewe started the band he would drive us to shows.

TT: Oh, what a cool dad!

GRO: Yeah, all of our parents are super supportive. His dad’s a drummer (Josh Wilkerson), his dad’s a country singer (Josh Jenkins)

TT: Would it be possible to do it without that support?

GRO: No, not at all. Especially when we dropped out of school to do this full time

TT: Did you really?

GRO: We had been a band since high school and went through two years of school, then we decided that we were going to drop out, go on the road and buy a van and a trailer touring colleges and bars. For that we needed definite support from the parents. That allowed them to say if there is any time that’s going to be right for ya’ll to take off and make this sacrifice, then it’s now.

TT: That makes sense. And I keep praying that one of my kids will say “Mom, I want to be in a band” and of course I’ll say “Yes! Go for it!” (laughter)

GRO: Even now we couldn’t do it without our parents.

(Jamey) Well, I know my mom just this week went over and took care of my wife when she was sick. Or if there is a check that comes in the mail they’ll go to the bank for us, things like that. They are very much a part of keeping us going.

Green River OrdinanceTT: So you (Jamey) are married. Anyone else married?

GRO: (Denton Hunker) I am.

TT: For how long?

GRO: A little over a year (Jamey)

One year (Denton)

TT: So that’s an adjustment and again without their support this doesn’t happen. But they knew what they were getting into, you think?

GRO: (Denton) big smile Yeah, she did.

TT: Well, talk to me about something else. This is what I think is so awesome about bands like you and Switchfoot, Relient K and Needtobreathe. You know that they are people of faith, and they have a strong faith, but it's not this thing that they have to go out and market and put in front of people. What are your thoughts about how you live out that faith in a bar or on a college campus when your faith is not necessarily in your lyrics? Do you have a particular philosophy or vision that goes along with that?

GRO: (Jamey) I think a lot of people are like “Oh, you’re Christians, you must be a Christian band,” but you know if Green River Ordinanceyou meet a plumber and find out he’s a Christian you’re not like “Oh, are you a Christian plumber?” We are just a rock and roll band, and we are Christians, and that’s a huge part of our lives. But we just want to be the best rock and roll band we can possibly be and use that.

(Josh Wilkerson) And another part of that is when dealing with people we try to be relational. When we are on the road, we aren’t the type of guys who are going to trash a hotel room. We’re not going to tell some sound dude off. We try to be as relational as possible with people.

TT: Right. And that has to have impact. And I’m assuming this, but there has to be a marked difference in the way you would behave and someone who does not have faith as a priority at all, especially maybe in this industry where you see people who are hurting.

GRO: Definitely

TT: You, Josh, have very distinctive vocals, and I think when people hear you sing they will say “Ah! That’s Green River Ordinance!” But what else do you guys rely on to kind of set yourselves apart from the pack?

GRO: That’s an interesting question. I think we have a chemistry and charisma onstage. And not to be self indulgent like we have it figured it out, but we’ve been touring and playing shows since high school. It’s just become such a natural thing. I’d like to think we have a little more swagger. We are very intentional about making every show a performance and not just us playing songs.

(Josh Wilkerson) I don’t think that anything about our songs is that special or that much different from other pop-rock music. It wasn’t our goal to be the most different band like “We’ll play the chorus first and then play it backwards!” Our goal was to write songs musically and lyrically that people could connect with, listen to easily, and could grasp a broad group of people. What sets us apart and makes us special is our live show. Like what Jamey was saying, we Green River Ordinanceget into it, we enjoy it. When you are getting to see somebody who enjoys what they are doing and believes in what they’ve got going on, you know you can see that, you can feel that energy.

TT: And that’s what I’ve been hearing about you guys. Your live show is what gets people going. I’m looking forward to seeing your live show.
Now, you’ve talked some about song writing, so who are your song writing heroes? Who are the song writers that you are inspired by?

GRO: (Josh Jenkins) I think everyone would answer that differently, but for me it would be Tom Petty. And we all look up to Matchbox Twenty or Third Eye Blind, Emerson Hart from Tonic. There are lots of good 90’s rock bands that we like. We set out to write honest songs that people connect with and remember and can sing along with at shows.

TT: If you could have anyone sit in on a writing session with you who would it be?

GRO: (Geoff) God. Top of the list. Yeah, God…that would be awesome

TT: That would be like the most perfect song ever.

GRO: (Jamey) Well, yeah, it would be a Psalm.

(laughter) I think maybe Tom Petty. He has this saying “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus” and we’ve really tried to adopt that. We really want to write songs that get into people’s heads. We want people to hear it and want to sing it.

(Josh Jenkins) And that ties into our live show. If we play for a big crowd one of the best things we experience as a Green River Ordinanceband is engaging the audience. Every show we’ve played we try to dig for that engagement, talking to the crowd and getting them to sing.

TT: That engagement is something I’m starting to see a lot more of and I guess that’s one of the good things about singing in a club. That barrier can be broken down a lot faster. Are you starting to see other bands work to break down that barrier as well?

GRO: (Jamey) I think it’s one of those things that most artists are always trying to do. I think it’s always the goal, and you see someone like Bono who does that better than anyone else. He’s been doing it for so much longer than most people. And then it’s pretty obvious when you see artists who are completely unaware of that concept. Then there are guys like Matt Nathanson who do an incredible job of connecting. Oh, and the lead singer of Snow Patrol, the way that he talks in between songs is completely engaging. You can be at the back of the audience but you feel like you are talking one on one with that guy. We strive for that. We never want to go up there and just go through the motions.

TT: And that’s always going to be the thing that draws people in, that authenticity. Well, you’ve just recorded this album and you’ve worked with these guys who’ve produced Natasha Bedingfield, Maroon 5, and Sister Hazel. Was there an intimidation factor working with producers like that?

GRO: We met up with Mark Endert the night before we started working and he was just the coolest guy. Within 15 minutes we were talking about the most random things on the planet. From the get-go he was one of the coolest guys we’ve met. We spent like two weeks with him then we spent six weeks with Paul Ebersold. He’s like a father figure. We hung out with him all the time even when we weren’t in the studio. Played bocce ball with his entire family. It Green River Ordinancewasn’t so intimidating because they are such great people. We might have been intimidated for like two minutes and that was the space of time from Mark Endert walking from his car to our table. As soon as he opened his mouth we were like “oh, okay”

(Geoff) If you’re going to make art with someone you can’t be like all business. Both of those guys were great at saying, “Let’s talk about our personal lives, let’s connect as friends.” Once you do that with someone you’re comfortable enough to take chances and risk things and be honest and open. Both of those guys were great at just being real people

TT: I think with any kind of art you have to be comfortable. It takes courage. Do you find yourselves, when you write, you come up with something that really speaks to you, something that you love, and then you think is this going to speak to anyone else? Do you have those moments?

GRO: (Josh Jenkins) Absolutely. The whole process of writing, you always like the newest thing the best. Sometimes you forget to go back to the songs that you’ve written a while back. Like C’Mon was our first single, and it was something that we had for a while. When we sent songs to the producer, that was one he wanted. And we rewrote it Green River Ordinanceand he really challenged that song. But sometimes as a writer you write something new and you’re excited about because it’s fresh. Then you play it for someone and you don’t get the response you hoped for. Or I’ll have an idea and I’ll play it for Wilk or Jamey and they’re like, well, that’s okay. And you think "Really? I really liked that." The whole writing process is a very interesting one because sometimes you get excited about crap. (laughter).

(Geoff) In essence, you have five guys in the band who write. It’s not like you have a band president or a leader. It’s not like a monarchy. And then you have the manager, and the producer and the A and R guy so you’re looking at 8 people and you’re trying to pick 12, 14 songs out of 40. It’s pretty tough because these songs are like your baby.

TT: Do you get really attached to songs?

GRO: Yeah, it’s like which of these children do I love more?

TT: I can imagine that would get tough. With this song writing process and all of you are in a room, how does that work? Does someone come with an idea? Is there a pattern?

GRO: (Jamey) It’s more organic than that. Every song is different. Like choosing the songs, if Josh chose all the songs, then everything would look a certain way. If I chose all the songs, they would all look a different way. A song goes through this filter that is all five of us that kind of pulls it and picks it apart and develops it where it becomes something that is Green River Ordinance and not just one of us. Every song is a different beast that goes through that filter in a different way.

Green River OrdinanceTT: So it’s good to have someone to bounce these ideas off of.

GRO: It also makes it a lot harder.

TT: Because then you have five people with five opinions and ideas and styles! I imagine that when you’ve been together this long that you’ve learned how to communicate through some of that, or do you still have moments when you think “Why can’t they get it?”

GRO: It’s a process. It’s one of those things that you do get better at. It’s like a relationship with someone. Like being married, you are probably always going to have to work at communication with your wife, and I think that’s a beautiful thing that you get to strive for that.

TT: With you two (Ice brothers) being related, do you feel that there might be a time when you two are in one camp and everyone else is in another? Or are there times when you look at each other and say “I’m sorry, you’re on your own with this one”?

GRO: Yeah…both of those things. (laughter)

TT: Last question because I know you guys are starving. If you could go on tour with anyone, what would that line up look like?

GRO: Led Zeppelin from the 60’s, U2 in a heartbeat, Tom Petty. (DH) Hillary Duff. (laughter)

TT: Jonas Brothers? Actually, I love the Jonas Brothers. I have a 9 year old daughter; I have to love the Jonas Brothers

Out of My HandsGRO: Oh yeah, that’s a requirement!

TT: So U2, right?

GRO: Oh definitely. Or Coldplay, Tom Petty. Yeah it would be cool just to sit at the side of the stage and watch. We had the opportunity to do that with Collective Soul which was a band that had a huge influence on us growing up. And that was amazing. Sit on the side of the stage every night and watch them kickin it very well, still. They are fun. Every song that they play is a hit that you didn’t know they wrote.

TT: Well, I wish you the best. And I appreciate so much that you took time out to do this for me.

GRO: No problem, thank you!

Green River Ordinance’s latest CD Out of my Hands is now available on iTunes and is also available online at Target.com and Amazon.com. They are currently on the last leg of their tour and heading out for a few west coast dates. You can learn more about the band by visiting their myspace at http://www.myspace.com/GRO.

Green River Ordinance

All concert photos by Susan Lloyd.
Copyright Susan Lloyd. All rights reserved.

See more Green River Ordinance concert photos at Susan Lloyd's Flickr page here.

Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com