In New Paltz’s Southside Terrace, three musicians cram into a smoky and cluttered bedroom. The space is dark, except for the light coming from a shadeless lamp being blocked by a mammoth upright bass. Pieces of a drum kit are cluttered in a corner of the room with other musical instruments laying around half assembled.
This is the practice space of Just the Tip, one of New Paltz’s newest live acts.
Just the Tip formed in late May of 2011 by Damien Jackson, sixth-year contemporary music major, and Sam Smith, fourth-year jazz performance major. According to Jackson, it took a while to find the right drummer, and after trying different members over this past summer, the band eventually found its third member, Jeremy Truitt, a first-year environmental geo-science major.
“We felt like there were always bands that try and fit into certain genres in this town. You either have your jazz kids who turn every song into a funk model song or you have your indie kids who only play Indie,” Jackson said. “We wanted to try to bridge the gap between a lot of these genres and we’ve formed a middle ground for everybody and sound different from everybody at the same time.”
According to Truitt, energy is a big part of what makes Just the Tip the band it is. Which, as he said, “is some bad-ass rock and roll stuff.”
When it comes to putting a name on their genre, the band is hard pressed to find just one that encompass all that is Just the Tip.
“I like progressive improvised music, or progressive funk I guess,” said Jackson.
Smith said, “you can put a bunch of different titles to it, but in the end it’s still going to be rock’n roll.”
Just the tip is one of the few rock bands in New Paltz that’s strictly instrumental. Instead of having a singer belt out notes, or having one of the three members give it a shot, the band prefers Jackson to transpose the vocal lines and melodies of the songs on his guitar, making their jams that much more comprehensive.
“We haven’t brought in a vocalist yet… I guess, because we’re still trying to find exactly the sound we’re going for,” Smith said. “If we were to add a vocalist I would like to keep a few vocalists on deck so we can constantly switch it up and we don’t get stuck into one sound.”
Song choice also plays a large role in setting Just the Tip apart from other bands. Its repertoire spans from 90s hits like N’Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye,” to tender classics like The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” to hard hitting improvised originals like “Raw Dawg.”
“We have a list of 30 or 40 more tunes that we’ve always been like, ‘yeah that would a cool one to cover, that would be a cool one to mash up with this.’ It’s really always like we’ll get into one [song] and keep revamping it and we just try to make it ours,” Smith said.
Just the Tip correlates their style to the art of Andy Warhol. According to Jackson, the band will play familiar melodies, but take them to another place until the question begs to be asked: is this the same song or something new?
“I like to make the audience feel, not confused, but pleasurably confused about what’s happening; where they hear T-Pain, but at the same time it’s not in the same context what so ever,” Jackson said.
The members take pride in having something for everyone. According to Jackson the band’s fans range from age 16 to 65.
“Whether it’s a pop aspect of it or a jazz aspect of it that the older crowd usually likes, there’s something that is approachable,” Smith added.
The band has some hefty goals for the future that include The Mountain Jam and Bonnaroo festivals. Though they may argue about which they would rather play, the sky’s the limit as far as this band’s potential.
After a short time with the current lineup, Just the Tip shares a sense of pride.
“I’d say I’m really proud of what we’ve done, but I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied,” said Smith. “If I felt like I was satisfied I wouldn’t want to push it any further, so I try and feel really far away from where we’d be ‘satisfied’ especially because we’ve only been [playing] for like two months now.”
In the past two months the band has played its way around New Paltz, playing Snugs, Oasis, Grimaldi’s, Slash Root, among others.
“I think every time we play I just get more excited to see what comes next. There will always be stuff to work on. That’s not a haunting or looming kind of thing, that’s just a chance to succeed,” said Truitt.
Perhaps one of the more unique aspects of Just the Tip is the name. Whether taken as a sexual innuendo or a metaphor for never being complete it is undoubtedly an attention grabber. The band members choose to leave the name up to their listener’s interpretation.
“I want to get to a point where we could support ourselves and our future families through playing music. We’re not really concerned with mainstream success like performing at the Grammys…” said Jackson.
“That would be sick,” Smith said at the prospect of the Grammys.
“…but it’s not really necessary,” said Jackson. “We’re not really going into this assuming we’re going to be millionaires, we just want to spread our music and have people appreciate it and pay us for it.”