Jet Black Roses
Most young musicians have grown up assimilating a variety of musical influences, but it’s the way they take those seminal sounds and blaze their own unique creative path that determines their future. With one listen to Jet Black Roses, it’s obvious that band members Tyler Cate, Erik Aylesworth and brothers Trey and Andrew Bentley are fusing their roots to create an intoxicating new sound on their debut album Song Of A Southern Man.
Often described as rock ‘n’ roll with a country soul, Jet Black Roses combines the intensity of such rock legends as Tom Petty and Aerosmith with the storytelling sensibilities of country stalwarts like George Strait and Alan Jackson.
“We want people to feel our music is familiar but also something new that they can use as the soundtrack for their lives,” Cates says. “I want hearts to be mended, babies to be made and lives to be changed,” Trey Bentley interjects with a smile. “I want people to walk away and be like, ‘Damn! That song helped me move on or brought me back after I lost someone I loved.’ That’s what I like to hear. I like to hear, ‘Man, this music, these lyrics hit me in a different way.’ I want them to feel a little bit of that redemption.”
A passionate desire to entertain coupled with a mission to serve up substantive lyrics that leave an emotional mark is the foundation of Jet Black Roses’ artistry. Having penned all the songs on their debut album with input from their producer Greg Archilla, the band has forged an identifiable sound.
“I feel like we’ve captured that sound I’ve been chasing my whole life,” Andrew Bentley says, “and it’s because of these guys and the cosmic energy that has engulfed us.”
The desire to make music started early for each member of the band. Brothers Trey and Andrew Bentley grew up in a musical household in Redbud, GA. “Our parents write and sing and we just grew up around it,” Trey shares. “Our house was rich with music. From the time I was old enough to pick up a guitar—and I think it was the same with Andrew —I knew this is what I wanted to do.” His brother Andrew eagerly agrees. “We always wrote songs together. The first songs we wrote definitely sucked,” he says with a laugh, “but we never stopped trying and honestly today it’s the continuation of that journey we began as children trying to write the best songs possible.”
Cates grew up in Raleigh, NC listening to his dad’s Jimi Hendrix, Earth, Wind & Fire and Isley Brothers records, and started playing guitar when he was 11. After studying music in college, he migrated to Atlanta where he built an impressive resume as a hip hop/R&B producer and session musician working with such acts as Ludacris, Nelly and Big Boi. “Erik and I met on the jam scene,” Cates says of becoming friends with Aylesworth. “We were at a club, hit it off and exchanged information.”
Born a military child, Aylesworth’s family moved around quite a bit before settling in Atlanta. “I was freelance musician doing all kinds of different stuff for whoever needed drums,” he recalls. “I was doing a lot of bar gigs, wedding gigs, corporate band gigs when Tyler started calling me for some projects that he was doing. We’ve been playing together for a while, and I remember hearing about Trey and Andrew from him.”
Mutual friends connected the Bentley brothers with Tyler when they were looking for a guitar player and he later introduced them to Aylesworth, which made the lineup complete.
“The first time we got together in rehearsals, the energy was there and we started jamming and writing,” says Cates, who had been on tour opening for Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows prior to joining Jet Black Roses. “We’ve all been doing it forever and I honestly think music runs deep in all of our blood,” Trey says. “It just flourished when we met Tyler and then Erik. Family is very important to us, and these guys are like family. Blood couldn’t make us any closer.”
“I’ve always been blessed to be playing with my brother,” Andrew says, “but I’ve got two more brothers now. That’s a beautiful thing and I think it reflects in the music. It reflects in the sound, and I honestly feel like you can hear the love on the record. It’s been an insanely cool journey so far and I just count myself blessed to be a part of it.”
Indeed, that camaraderie and musical chemistry infuse each song with a palpable energy. Together they’ve crafted an album that spotlights their taut musicianship and skill as insightful songwriters. The songs run the gamut from the funky energy of “Neon Halo” to the wistful nostalgia of “’79 Trans Am.” “Our dad had a ’79 silver anniversary Trans Am,” Trey relates. “The first time I played it for my mom and dad, my dad was crying, and he said, ‘Man, I feel like I am there again.’ Every person alive can relate to their first car, their first date, the date that they had with someone that became their forever person.” “When you listen to that song, even if you didn’t have a ’79 Trans Am it’s like it puts you in the driver’s seat,” adds Andrew.
It’s the picturesque details that connect the listener to the lyric. “We pulled nostalgia from all of our youths,” Cates says. “‘Sweet Tea and Southern Comfort’ is what we used to drink when we’d skip class in high school.” “Before Our Song was Over” is a breezy ode to a failed relationship. “It’s a love song for the suckers, which is what I say in the second verse,” Trey says with a laugh. “It’s for the underdogs, for the ones that have had their heart broken and moved on and lived their life. The main thing we wanted to do with that one is give all those heartbroken people a chance to say it’s all going to be okay. Another thing I think it draws from is that we talk about hope and love a lot, and it’s saying you can find hope in the heartbreak.”
“Holy Water” is a stirring love song with an infectious chorus. “‘Holy Water’ is a very special song,” Andrew says. “It’s a love letter to our wives.” “Speaking musically, it was our opportunity to work with David Campbell who is the most prolific string arranger of the past 50 years,” Cates says of the noted composer and arranger who has worked on over 450 gold and platinum albums by numerous artists including Carole King, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Garth Brooks and Campbell’s son Beck. “We were recording vocals for it,” Aylesworth recalls, “and Greg says, ‘I’m sending this to David Campbell to put strings on it.’ It took it to a whole new level. It was probably my favorite song on the record even before strings were added to it and now it just took it to the top for me.”
“When the Whiskey Don’t Work” is a poignant ballad that sounds like a career-making song. “We just had this idea of this guy at his low point,” Trey says. “I’ve been there before where you’re calling out and don’t even know if God is there. I prayed and I didn’t know if he was even listening. It’s about being at that broken moment when you are drinking and trying to forget and it’s not working. I feel like this is one of those songs where we’re able to encompass a lot of hope. No matter what you’re going through or where you are at, there is hope there.”
“A lot of people look at Christianity and get it wrong,” says Andrew. “They think they’ve got to be a certain way, but God’s out looking for the outlaws. If he was here today, he wouldn’t be going to the churches, he would go to the bars. He’d go to the broken. God loves the broken and that’s what that song is about. He fixes broken things. I know He did that for me and still does it on a daily basis.”
From heartbreak to hope and from feel good nostalgia to aching desire, Jet Black Roses has a song that touches on every emotion and takes the listener on a memorable journey. Their music is entertaining, but intentional. “Words have the ability to give life or death and what you say matters,” Andrew says. With one listen to Song Of A Southern Man it’s readily apparent these young Southern men definitely have a lot to say, and it matters.