Published on December 3rd, 2013 | by Joe Lawler
The many sounds of Jordan Mayland
You could assemble a band using just Jordan Mayland.
The 32-year-old musician plays guitar and sings in Volcano Boys. He plays keyboard and sings in Jordan Mayland and the Thermal Detonators. He drums for the Wheelers. He makes electronic music with Tires. He’s not currently playing bass for anyone, but he did play that instrument with Nuclear Rodeo.
In fact, Mayland’s Thermal Detonators group started as a one-man recording project with Mayland playing every part. That’s the case for the project’s first EP and upcoming full-length, “I Wrote It all Down.” But despite the album not coming out until later this month, Mayland is getting ready to head back into the studio next month with the musicians he’s been playing with at Thermal Detonators’ live shows.
“When I started getting together with the actual members of the Thermal Detonators, we started working on new material,” Mayland said. “It’s interesting hearing my songs put together as a full band versus me being a control freak and playing every song myself. There are certain things I like about playing every instrument on an album, but there’s something about the dynamic of having different human beings playing those parts.”
Starting with the Carpet
Mayland’s first band, Keepers of the Carpet, arrived onto the local music scene pretty much fully formed. Keepers were known as an Ames band, where bands often spring up as college students move to town and start playing together.
But Mayland’s band started out in Buffalo Center, located in the northernmost row of counties in Iowa. Mayland and his friends founded the band while still in high school. The reason: there wasn’t a lot to do in the 900-person town.
“I think just because it was a small town, we had to make our own fun and make our own opportunities,” Mayland said. Soon after, Keepers of the Carpet were performing at prom, playing at the Deep Muck Big Rake festival in neighboring Rake and pretty much anywhere else they could. There were no big shows coming to Buffalo Center, so Mayland’s band became the big show.
The band’s Ames affiliation came when bassist Zack Smith moved to the city to attend Iowa State. Soon the band was playing regular gigs there, with the rest of the band commuting from Buffalo Center and Pella, where Mayland was studying music at Central College. In Ames, the Keepers competed in a VEISHEA battle of the bands against Pookey Bleum.
Pookey won and Keepers lost, but Pookey Bleum band members Patrick Fleming and Aaron Hefley ended up signing Keepers to their label, Bi-Fi Records.
“Jordan has a musical mind like I had never seen before,” Fleming said. “His own songs are fantastic, but he can do any style. He could be
in a metal band, or a Weezer-style pop band or a jazz group. He’s one step ahead of everyone else in the studio. He already hears all the parts in his head.”
Chris Ford first became aware of Mayland’s music as a fan. In July, Maximum Ames Records, which Ford co-founded, released a self-titled album by the Wheelers.
“He’s definitely one of the most valuable musical entities in Iowa, both in terms of output and his contributions to other bands,” Ford said. “He’s setting the bar high in terms of musicianship and songwriting.”
A man of many bands
Mayland said playing in as many bands as he does can get chaotic. At the moment the Thermal Detonators are the most active, but next month Volcano Boys will return to performing live regularly. He practices with Volcano Boys on Tuesday nights and Wednesdays drives up to Ames to teach music students and then practice with the Thermal Detonators. The Wheelers recently got done with a fall tour, so are taking some time off. Tires released an EP earlier this year and will be working on new music soon. Mantis Pincers, a band Mayland plays synthesizer for, might also be getting back together soon.
“There’s got to be some sort of balance between my life and being a musician,” Mayland said of a realization he had recently. “But something can come up or there will be a last-minute gig and suddenly I don’t have a weekend anymore.”
But the bands all offer Mayland something different. He describes the music of the Thermal Detonators as being more classical- and jazz-inspired, with pop elements. Volcano Boys is more straightforward rock and Tires’ sound borders on punk.
With Tires, Mayland gets to experiment in electronic with his Tires and TD bandmate and friend Phil Young driving most of the music.
“Luckily they’re all so different and I get to play different instruments in each one. It’s like I get to wear a different face for each. When I want to be more of a drummer or singer or synth player, I get to play all those roles,” Mayland said. “I think I would get bored with one band; I’m pretty ADD. I just want to keep pushing myself to prove it to me and keep myself focused and on my toes.”
Mayland wants 2014 to be his year, with new music coming from the Thermal Detonators, Volcano Boys and maybe a few other projects if things work out. While he describes himself as ADD, at the moment Mayland also seems driven.
“I think I’m convincing myself to stay busy with my passion, rather than dilly dally around with it,” Mayland said. “I am going to go all out, not just this year, but for the next couple years, releasing as much music as I can.
“I write so much and the songs get piled up that by the time I get with a band I don’t remember how to play them or I’ve lost the original spark.
“So I’m trying to capture what I have right now. So we’ll get Volcano Boys all practiced up and jump in the studio and hit record. Or maybe get Electronidoll (Mayland’s synth pop band) in for a song or two. I want to capture as much as I can. That way, I can say I did it and don’t need to obsess about it anymore. If I owe it to myself, I’m just going to do it.”
Jordan Mayland (opening for Tommy Womack)
When: 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Vaudeville Mews, 212 Fourth St.
Jordan Mayland and the Thermal Detonators with Mumford’s, Trouble Lights, Mark Mallman and Doctor Murdock
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 31 (CD release show)
Where: DG’s Tap House, 127 Main St., Ames
When: 9:30 p.m. Jan. 4
Where: Vaudeville Mews, 212 Fourth St.
Hear Mayland’s music: