Once a week, five lake-area guys, all but one in their 50s, get together in Paul Norton’s Deephaven basement to thrash out three-chord anthems with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, and play rock star. The members of Static Jones Band all have day jobs and other adult responsibilities, but every Wednesday night, they put those on the back burner to indulge in pure, amplified musical expression. They also play occasional gigs and have developed a following in the lake area.
Most of the band members can walk to practice. Four of the five members live in the Heathcote neighborhood in Deephaven; the only exception is drummer-vocalist-songwriter Jay Hyre, who lives in Excelsior. In addition to host Paul Norton, the other members of Static Jones are bassist Judd Williams, guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Dave Jaffray and keyboardist Tim Roesler.
The four have known each other for roughly 15 years, and “we talked for a number of years about playing together,” Norton recalls. Norton, a Maple Grove native, has been playing guitar and writing songs since his 20s, and played in a number of rock bands before this one. “My idea was to be an original band,” he says. Most local bands made up of middle-aged musicians are cover bands, he notes, describing Static Jones Band’s style as “indie rock and Americana.”
In addition to original songs, they do a few favorite covers, too, by well-known artists like Jackson Browne, the Rolling Stones, Big Head Todd and others, choosing to eschew hits in favor of highlighting more obscure B-sides. “You might not know the songs, but the sound is very familiar,” says Norton.
Using double-hung windows, sheetrock and sound-insulating materials, Norton created a practice room in his basement, where the guys are free to play as loud as they need to. Three years ago, they started practicing in earnest and assembling a set list, and played their first gig at Bayside Grille in early 2014.
Every six or eight weeks, the band plays at local venues like Excelsior Brewing Co. and Victor’s on Water in Excelsior, and the Astor Cafe and Driftwood Char Bar in Minneapolis. “We just love playing, and if people like coming to hear us, that’s great. It’s really fun to see these guys who have always been in cover bands writing songs,” Norton says. “One of the great things about Minnesota and the western suburbs is that there are a lot of venues that welcome bands playing original music. You don’t have to be a cover band. The places we play have been incredibly supportive.”
All the members have day jobs “doing very different things,” says Norton, who runs The Village Company. Norton and his wife moved to Deephaven 18 years ago with their sons.
Hyre moved to the area from Cincinnati four years ago and met Norton through a mutual friend; he’s been playing with the group for about four years. Hyre, who has also been a songwriter since his youth, says he appreciates the fact that the band’s occasional gigging doesn’t interfere with family and job responsibilities. “It’s different from when you’re 17 or 18 years old and you think you’re going to conquer the world,” Hyre says. “With us, it’s family first, job first.”
The band has made live recordings, and might produce an album one of these days, Norton says. The primary goal is always at the center: having fun playing music, says Norton. “It’s a wonderful distraction.”
Check out the group’s Facebook page, Static Jones, for updates and upcoming performances.