Evenhands are guitarist and lead vocalist Luke Simenson, keyboardist and backing vocalist Cole Simenson, Bassist and backing vocalist Jeremiah Cillessen, and drummer Jon Pope.
Originally formed in the fall of 2008 in Denver, Colorado, and having recently reformed after a two year hiatus, the band looks forward to a new direction and a renewed focus.
Evenhands focuses on stylish, rock-based grooves by interpreting material both original and borrowed. Regardless of author, the music is given a fresh style and feel, as opposed to an attempt to reproduce existing recordings and performances. The intent is to create something vibrant and unique with every performance; the covers are selected only if the band feels it can bring something relevant to the song, as opposed to performing songs because of their prevalence in the culture. The emanation is dance-able, lively, heart-felt, roots-based rock and roll with the sophistication of fusion and progressive forms of music. Inspired by the likes of Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, The Band, and the Allman Brothers, the band fits in no category when it comes to their original fare. Ranging from classic rythm & blues to rock-a-billy to rock anthems, the goal remains to capture an interesting performance of well-conceived, thoughtful neo-americana.
Evenhands provides a refreshing return to something that works well: soulful rock music, performed by skillful musicians on live instruments excluding the modern trend of supplementary, computer-generated, digital waves. The band has a sound of its own, borrowing from existing styles and sounds already familiar to the audience, unbound by any existing interpretation. However, the structure, familiarity and musicianship is maintained; the engine remains steady.
The foundation is the competence of the rhythm section. With departures for keys and strings, the drums must remain in the chase. Jon Pope's contribution in Evenhands is immense. The key to our jams with the freedom of improvisation is the steady beat of the drum, like the designated driver. Pope is equal to the task, yet still finds exploration behind the wheel, which is grounded by intuition and a predictive proclivity.
Commitment to musicianship is the other aspect of the engine. All members of the group are accomplished musicians with an excess of twenty years of experience. There is constant discussion about the developement of mood, expression, and complementary distribution of energy throughout the tune while emphasizing variety and never relenting. Because of this steady purring engine, a tremendous amount of experimentation and improvisation can take place. The jam is to extend a notion stretching beyond words in a melody with pulse and texture. There are syncopated spirals lifting solos toward a breaking point lulled into tamed grooves structured within contexts and settings refreshing and sometimes recognizable.
The band began in the late nineties as a project between brothers. Cole and Luke Simenson were raised to love classic rock, and began playing wind instruments in elementary school, both continuing through high school and concert and marching band and so forth while also learning piano and guitar, respectively, as a matter of personal interest. Having formed their first band comprised of just the brothers, Primordial Soup created an album, Themes From a Migrant Mind, which was a thematic album written and performed by Luke, with the technical assistance and piano skills of his brother. This little gem made its way into the hands of Jeremiah Cillessen, who heard something special in this bass-less, drum-less record and became the band's first bassist. Cillessen, a young father with backgrounds in high school metal and college jazz, showed signs of virtuosity. Rehearsals began ensuing every Sunday in the Simenson parents' basement.
The originating members of Evenhands, the trio: Simenson, Simenson, and Cillessen, would begin what would become a long, epic journey with one goal in mind... Find and keep a competent drummer. Steve "Sleeps With the Fishes" Johnson was hired as the first drummer of Primordial Soup, and worked with the band for several months until one day he came to the basement in a panic, then sold all his gear and was never heard from again. In 2001 the band hired Clint Woodard from Jeremiah's hometown, Farmington, NM, and with the new lineup changed its name to "Soup" and recorded a demo EP. After bailing out on a "house band" opportunity, Clint mutually agreed to leave the band. The following year drummer, Justin Anderson, came into the fray where the band began the jam band experiment feeling out their instruments and exploring new avenues in the music, which sometimes became undecipherable chaos and never-ending, unpalatable jams. Rehearsal spaces were developed and shut down by authorities. The band now comprised of Simenson, Simenson, Cillessen, and Anderson mostly lived together with various significant others, and were forced to play through headphones by extremist neighborhood watch militias with itchy fingers on the buttons 9-1-1 waiting for the slightest hint of vibration. During this period, several recordings were produced and various nurtured songs are still a part of Evenhands' repertoire.
In 2003, Jeremiah left the band on family leave. The brothers persisted. Other bassists were tested and tried. Various recordings were circulated with black-and-white photocopied covers and homemade CD-stickered disks stuffed in half-size jewel cases and handed out at shows of more established acts.
During Jeremiah's absense, and following the departure of Anderson for an endless European adventure, Luke and Cole began recording the songs which would become Luke's solo album entitled Sadhana. Anderson layed down the drum tracks on demand and Cillessen composed and layed down the bass tracks during one weekend session. The long, drawn out process of this album took three years to complete. By the time the record was printed and available for purchase, everything had changed.
Anderson fell out of the group permanently. Cole and Luke began promoting Sadhana, and Cillessen came back into the band who was yet again without a drummer. By 2008, the three members of Primordial Soup had been playing together on and off for ten years, and the search to find the fourth member was still on.
One final ad was placed in "The Westword", a free, weekly, Front Range publication, for a drummer who liked Pink Floyd, Phish and the rest. Jon Pope answered the call. A new band was forged during the promotional push of Sadhana, one not centered around the album but that embraced the unique skills of all its members and material that widened the format. Even Hands, which was the first incarnation of the current band, became heavily reliant on covered material. The goal became to pepper in originals between concurrent covers, and to struggle to reproduce rather than reinvent this material in a misguided attempt at pleasing an audience that never materialized. In the fall of 2013 the band decided to take a break.
For the first time since 1997, the brothers stopped the project.
By Springtime 2016, Simenson, Simenson, Cillessen, and Pope were ready to give it a new try. Time had taught them what was important, but mostly what was not. A simplified approach and re-utilization of skills is being explored. We record all our rehearsals and post them online. The takes are there with all the unedited mistakes, the rough, unmastered mixes, but more important is the cohesion that comes only through years of trying. There is no settling here, but no one is making any drastic moves either. The twenty minutes of Traffic's "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" is an ode to an era. The original "Healing Herb" was first written and performed a decade ago, but still finds new territory here in the present. There are natural bridges between Evenhands (now renamed to indicate a change in focus, but not in personnel) and certain well-known bands, such as The Band and various phases of Neil Young; the jam-band aspects of Phish and The Grateful Dead, or the stylish, long-form jams of bands like Pink Floyd or Traffic; but also song-craft artists like Petty and Bill Withers. So these are natural choices when cover material is being chosen. These are hits from the past that we hear at bars and at our friends' parties, not at weddings and school dances.
Some of the material might be a bit obscure, but the idea is there should be a flow between the original and borrowed. This flow, the engine, and years of long and careful advancement in ability both technological and musical, are at play in what has become Evenhands. What comes next is the subject of the present. An album is in the works to be available by the Summer of 2017. Shows are being coordinated. A fan base is being kindled. Evenhands hopes to provide interesting and well-conceived music for an audience of music lovers. Whether you own a venue, or a pub, or just listen to music while you drive in the car, Evenhands can provide a steady groove to enliven and enhance your purpose in life.