Who would think to name a band Jolly? Keyboard player Joe Reilly felt that it required brainstorming a million other names, but Jolly seemed to stick, yet he knew they were a progressive metal band, so Reilly wasn’t too sure about that name. Drummer Louis Abramson remembers their old bass player telling them the moniker was stupid so the guys set out again to look for another name but all they found was crap. What does Jolly mean? It conveys smiles, laughter, a big fat round man with a white beard, dancing, happiness and music. Music is, Jolly.
“The funny thing is we were Jolly when the lineup was Joe, myself and Anadale, before our old bass player joined the band,” laughs Abramson. “It was just the three of us looking for a bass player. We were Jolly. And then we got in contact with Mike, who Joe and I went to high school with. And he joined the band. He’s like, ‘You guys are called Jolly? That’s kind of a stupid name.’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, it is stupid but it’s awesome.’ And then were like, ‘Wait a minute. Maybe it is stupid.’ [Joe laughs] And so we spent the next six or seven months saying, ‘Alright, forget Jolly. How about this? How about that?’ And there’s just lists and lists and lists of terrible, awful band names — boring ones [Joe laughs], stupid ones, just awful. And eventually we knew we wanted something short and snappy. We knew we wanted something kind of quirky and something bold at the same time, and it had to be Jolly. And I would say that Anadale was the one who pushed that the most. That was his suggestion in the beginning, and he’s the one that convinced us that, in fact, it was not stupid, even though we decided it was.”
They were smart to listen to their vocalist/guitarist, Anadale. The name was indeed quirky short and snappy. So Reilly, along with bassist Anthony Rondinone, Anadale and Abramson became Jolly in 2009, right before releasing their first CD on Galileo Records, a small label in Switzerland. “We were mostly playing around New York City — just playing shows and getting a feel for our live performance,” explains Reilly. “We actually didn’t really go out and hit the road until, like, years later. So we were just looking for opportunities and playing shows around the area. The guy from Galileo Records put us in touch withRiverside’s manager, Rob Palmen. And he actually brought us out in April, 2010 to play some shows with Riverside. So we were a band that played for 40 or 50 people inNew York City clubs and all of a sudden we’re on this stage in front of 1,000 people in the Netherlands. It was a pretty radical jump for us. In 2009 we were just pretty much playing locally.”
Being that Jolly is from the U.S., most would think that they’d establish themselves here before heading across the pond, but that was not the case for Jolly. They started touring in Europe first, and it is the European audience who wait for Jolly to come every year, whereas in America, they’re still building their fan base. “Well, it’s strange,” laughs Abramson, “It’s, like, two-sided. On the one hand, if you watch an audience during a lot of — at least the scene we’re in — during these shows it seems like the audience isn’t really into it. They just kind of stand there and watch. And at first we might have felt like, ‘Oh they weren’t into it,’ but that’s how they listen, I guess. I guess that’s exactly what they do: they listen. And then after the show we could see that all these people were very into the music. And then the same with Riverside — they stand there and they watch, and they just kind of, I guess like going to the movies or something — sort of a different kind of approach whereas America is, if they’re into it they’re really moving and jumping around and into it or they’re not interested, and it’s kind of all or nothing.”
“Yeah, American bands,” says Reilly laughing, “you can pick them out pretty much; you can see who’s gonna be a fan at the end of the show, while you’re playing, it seems. And the Europeans are kind of like, maybe they’re digging this, and then they come up after and they’re like, ‘Please sign this CD,’ and you’re like, ‘Oh, I guess they were into us.’”
Jolly released Forty-Six Minutes, Twelve Seconds of Music (Galileo/ProgRock Records) in 2009, devising a way, a therapeutic way (scientifically designed) to bring the brain to a state of pure happiness. Their second release, The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 1) took those concepts to guide us through another sonic journey and while working on their third studio album, Audio Guide to Happiness, Part II, Hurricane Sandy completely destroyed their rehearsal room and Abramson’s studio. All of the band’s equipment was lost to water; underwater to be exact. “The thing with that is we had an album finished and prepared for release for a long time,” explains Abramson, “but we’d still been working on it.”
“Just a year before it was Hurricane Irene — it was supposed to be the biggest hurricane ever. And it was pretty bad where I live in Rockaway Beach. But I was closer to the bay so I didn’t get anything. And I was like, ‘Oh, that was fine.’ And even though there was the mandatory evacuation where I was during Irene, I was fine. So when this happened, what happened to most of the people in the neighborhood is you’re just totally numb from the last year: ‘Oh, this is gonna be nothing. It’s gonna be like last time.’”
“The people on The Weather Channel were saying [in deep, ominous voice], “This is unprecedented, historic. Nothing like this has ever happened before,” says Abramson. “It doesn’t really even mean anything. And then, man, my family was trapped in my house — my father and my sister and my aunt were trapped in my house because they decided to not evacuate and that was the scariest moment of my life. And I got my computer out of there and saved the album, thank God, but my whole studio, our equipment, all of our stuff was drowned. My basement apartment was filled past the ceiling, up the steps to the first floor, and everything I owned….I’m living in Joe’s place right now — I’m homeless — with my fiancé.”
“Yeah, that’s why he’s here,” says Reilly. “He’s been living here the last three or four weeks. After the storm we went to Louis’ together and we basically, 10 guys, worked for 10 hours, basically throwing out everything. It was just covered in sewage and mud.”
Basically Jolly and this new album saved my sanity during Hurricane Sandy, because otherwise I lost everything.
“Yeah. And it was built by my grandfather,” states Abramson with a sigh. “And my great-grandfather bought the house. My grandfather finished the basement, built the bar down there, built all the wood paneling, and had his workshop there. And there were just decades and decades of history of paintings and letters and photos and books and tools, and woodwork craftsmanship from my grandfather. And all of it was destroyed in a day. It was crazy. Everything — my whole family history, it was just wiped out. It was unbelievable. And the only thing that made me not lose my mind was the fact that I saved the computer, I saved the album, and all of our fans have been waiting to be released for quite some time. And if I didn’t save that, I tell you, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’d have lost my mind. But because I did save it and because it was so close to actually having to hand it in to the label, it just kept my mind off all that stuff and gave me a real sense of purpose. Basically Jolly and this new album saved my sanity during Hurricane Sandy, because otherwise I lost everything.”
Losing everything can be devastating and some can’t even move forward after the carnage; they’re frozen — but the members of Jolly were determined to figure out a way to recoup the loss so they could continue to make music. “We set up an ‘Indiegogo’ campaign and you go to Indiegogo.com/jollyband,” says Abramson with excitement in his voice. “It has the video, and it has a button right next to the video where you could donate an amount and it lets you choose which perk you want. A lot of people have basically pre-ordered our new album or gotten something else fun like an animation prop from one of our music videos that was animated by us, and a lot of other fun things. And it’s very easy to do. And in an overwhelming — that was another great thing, another silver lining to this whole thing is we had no idea that we would get supported by people we don’t know in this way.”
“Within 10 days or something we reached our goal of $10,000,” continues Abramson, “which unfortunately still only scrapes the surface of what we actually need to pay for, especially to go on tour this spring. But the feeling that that gave us of people just helping us and wanting to help us, and us not expecting it was — to date it’s the biggest indicator of what it means to really have a fan base to support you. We will always now have this debt, almost, to our fans and this mentality that we’re here because of them, literally, because if it wasn’t for our fans we wouldn’t be able to go on tour this spring, which means we would not be able to support this new album, and that in turn would mean that we would not be able to release the album, which would mean that basically our career is put on hold for another year.” And we’re all in our late 20s and we have significant others who want houses and kids and stuff, and so there’s a clock. And so basically if it weren’t for the fans there’s a good chance that there would be no Jolly, literally.”
You must be doing something right if you can raise that kind of money in today’s economic struggle. Fans want nothing more than to see their favorite band recover because when the going gets tough, the tough “man up,” smile and know in their hearts that even in the worst situations, everything will be okay; so let us be….Jolly.