An Hour in the Life of... Musician Jonas Parmelee


Who: Jonas Parmalee
What: Bass player, The Silks
When: 11pm, Friday March 2
Where: Local 121, Washington Street, Providence
Why: Not only does he “slappa da bass,” he makes a mean crepe

I spot Jonas in the crowd at the dark Speakeasy downstairs in Local 121, wearing a heavy coat and winter scarf. “Aren’t you hot?” I ask. (The room is packed like an overstuffed suitcase.) “Actually I’m freezing,” he replies. He brushes the hair out of his eyes and smiles shyly. “I’m always cold. I think it’s in my genes.” It’s one hour to showtime, and he’s drinking a Guinness while chatting with friends.

Jonas is a whiskey and stout aficionado – my kind of guy. In January, the band was given a bottle of Laphroaig as a thank you for playing a fundraiser for Trinity Rep. Jonas counts this his crowning glory with the band, but also says, “Every moment with The Silks is the best moment. It’s the type of band I’ve been dreaming of playing in as far as work ethic and approach to music.”

Jonas, who – at first glance – is a cross between a rock star and Woody Allen (in the most endearing way), has been a Silks member for about a year now. Burnt-out on the “whole punk thing” after touring the U.S. and England with his former band, The Midnight Creeps, he took a break from music for a while. Then, he happened to see Tyler-James Kelly doing a solo set. “I was floored and totally inspired,” Jonas says. ”I realized I needed to be in a working band again.”

As Rhode Island luck would have it, Jonas’ friend Matthew Donnelly was a mutual friend, and eventually Jonas got word that Tyler-James (“TJ”) needed a new bassist. “Nervous as hell” after not playing for a few years, Jonas called anyway. He got the gig. Soon after, when in need of a new drummer, Matt signed on. The chemistry that the trio shares is obvious, both onstage and off.

At 11:30pm, the guys head upstairs to the taproom for some (more) boozing and dancing before they begin their set. TJ and Matt are wilding out; Jonas is dancing, but with a bit more reserve. He credits his affinity for dancing to Ty Jesso, the mastermind behind Soul Power. “If it wasn’t for Ty spinning all those killer soul records, I never would’ve realized how much I love dancing. I’m a bass player afterall, so how could I not love ’60s and ’70s soul?

After a bit of man-booty shaking, Jonas, TJ and Matt head back downstairs to set up their gear. They begin their set at midnight. It’s hard not to be captivated by their music, which is a mix of rock, roots, blues and charisma. I scan the room: all eyes are on stage and people are dancing. I hear (several times), “They’re so good!” And they really are; my friend and I are dancing too.

Jonas, tell me about…

Stage fright. “The only time I’ve ever had straight-up stage fright was the one time I smoked pot before a gig. That was a huge mistake. I was forgetting how to play songs and thinking, Oh my god! They all know!

Your first song. “I’m pretty sure the first song I learned on bass was 'Blitzkrieg Bop' by The Ramones. I got a late start; I first picked up a bass at age 18.”

Touring. ”It’s not for everyone. I’ve toured cross-country six or seven times. I’ve also gotten to tour as TV Smith’s bass player, which was cool. His ’70s punk band, The Adverts, was one of my biggest inspirations.”

Crazy fan stories.
“None are suitable for print. The guilty need to be protected as well as the innocent.”

The Providence music scene. “A lot of people want to complain about the state of the music scene here but they don’t realize how good we have it. You can see the variety of venues and bands if you take the time to look. There’s something for everyone.”

Your favorite PVD venue to play at. “I’d have to say The Met in Pawtucket. The place is set up to be super comfortable for bands and the staff and sound crew really do a great job.”

The Silks are about to start production on their new album. Saturday, March 10 marks their most important gig to date — a fundraiser show at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket. All the proceeds from the show go to their recording budget. Special packages are available online (they’ll play an acoustic set in your living room for $150). 8pm-3am. $10.


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