Ony's Bands - Jackson Spells

Ony Ratsimbaharison is a local musician, writer, and blogger and member of the band fk. mt. Jasper asked Ony to write a regular feature profiling local bands — getting at what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how it’s going. If you’d like to see your band profiled in What Jasper Said, send Ony a message at JasperProjectColumbia@gmail.com with the word ONY in the subject heading and she’ll, you know, take it under consideration.

Local psych-rock group, Jackson Spells, aims to embody the subconscious, subjective reality in their recently released full-length titled 2.5, reshaping the format of their band as a two-piece with keys and drums. They first formed in 2014 as a trio, after John Watkins’ and former member James Wallace’s band, The Unawares, disbanded. They intended to take their music in a new direction, and after adding Rob Cherry as their drummer, they decided to change the name to Jackson Spells. Currently, the band consists of Watkins on keys and vocals and Cherry on drums, a change that prompted the duo to write a new album.

Their sound is a mix of arty horror with a grand piano sound, a choice that Watkins says makes him able to bring out the bass notes more. He is no stranger to eccentric and unconventional bands. “In the late 1980’s to early 90’s,” Watkins says, “I had a jazz rock band called Brainchild. We thought we were bad-asses. We had long hair and wore robes. Wow.” He tells us more about his current band and their songs in the following interview.

You can catch their unique sounds on September 18, along with Boo Hag and Los Perdidos, at Tapp’s Arts Center for the book launch of The Incredibly Strange ABCs by cartoonist Tommy Bishop.


How did you come up with the name Jackson Spells?

I was relearning the piano at the time, and I just imagined a kid, named Jackson, learning how to spell.  Then I thought about Jackson Spells having multiple meanings, and that appealed to my more mystical side, like a town named Jackson having to deal with witches spells. So I pitched it to the mates, and it stuck.

What is your songwriting process like?

When writing a new song, I begin with piano or guitar, and if it’s the guitar, I transpose it to piano before being superimposed with the vocal melody and lastly, I work on the lyrics. Then I take the song to Rob, and that’s where we work out an arrangement, and sometimes at that point lyrics may need to be edited to fit with the finalized arrangement.

My love of horror films often colors my lyric choices. My lyrics are led by suggested vowels and consonants that come to me when I’m writing the vocal melody. So from there, it’s kind of like a crossword puzzle, filling in the blanks with the right words. For the past year or so I have been using William Burroughs’ “cut up” method to help me write lyrics.

Who are some of your main musical influences?

David Bowie, Nick Cave, and John Cale.

My music has been compared to a lot of bands and artists that I never listened to. And that’s OK with me.

What is your overall philosophy as a band, if you have one?

Our philosophy is: Write. Record. Perform. Repeat.

Where can people find your music?

Our sophomore full-length album, entitled 2.5, is now available on Bandcamp.com.

The first album is also on Bandcamp and available on 12” vinyl.


Ony's Bands - Los Perdidos

Ony Ratsimbaharison is a local musician, writer, and blogger and member of the band fk. mt. Jasper asked Ony to write a regular feature profiling local bands — getting at what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how it’s going. If you’d like to see your band profiled in What Jasper Said, send Ony a message at JasperProjectColumbia@gmail.com with the word ONY in the subject heading and she’ll, you know, take it under consideration.

With everything so in flux, it seems rare nowadays for bands to stay together for very long, at least in the local music spectrum. But Los Perdidos, local instrumental surf band, is a rare exception to this pattern, as they formed in 1995. Their songs typically convey a darker form of surf, more along the lines of 80’s post punk. The band consists of Andy Collins (guitar), Byron Chitty (bass), Thomas Edenton (guitar), and Josh Robinson (drums). Over the years, the lineup has remained fairly consistent, aside from the recent addition of Robinson.

The landscape of the music world, and across all the arts, has changed drastically since the 90’s, with the internet and social media making it easier to share one’s work with folks around the world. Before Facebook event invites, getting people out to shows involved flyers and word-of-mouth. When Los Perdidos first formed, Collins and Chitty put an ad in the Free Times to find a drummer, something still possible today but less likely with the internet’s ease of use. Booking a tour or a last minute show is way more likely now with a network of bookers and promoters available at our fingertips.

Despite these changes, Los Perdidos has managed to remain constant and present in our scene. In the following interview, Collins explains what it was like forming in the 90’s and how things are now. They will be joined by Boo Hag and Jackson Spells at the September 18 book release of Tommy Bishop’s The Incredibly Strange ABCs at Tapp’s Art Center.



What was it like starting out in the 90s, compared to now? For example, how do you think technology and social media have shaped the music world and our scene?

My first reaction to that is to say that technology--Facebook, Myspace, etc.--has made it easier for bands to market themselves, but I think it's actually, like it's always been, word-of-mouth more than anything else that makes people aware of your existence. Having said that, technology makes some things possible that otherwise wouldn't be. For instance, we have a song in rotation on North Sea Surf Radio in Amsterdam, so people in Europe end up finding our Facebook page, which is obviously something that would have been much less likely in 1995.

Also, in the '90s there was a neo-surf revival of sorts, which we were a part of. We'd play shows with The Space Cossacks, for instance, or The Penetrators--lots of instrumental bands. There still are some, but the herd has been thinned a bit.

Has your sound evolved at all since forming, and if so how?

It seems all bands, over a long period of time, move inevitably towards increasing complexity and slickness in their songwriting. Maybe it's because they get better at playing their instruments, or because of some nameless obligatory urge to change and "grow." We've sometimes experimented with more complex songwriting, sometimes with positive results, but we never stray too far from a straightforward, rock 'n' roll approach to music. Sometimes less is better.

Has anyone in the band been in any other local bands?

Yes, quite a few--Ghettoblaster, The Spanish Tonys, Felonious Swank...and maybe half a dozen others.

Can you describe what your music is like?

Plangent twang and mutant surf rock.

Who/what are some of your main musical influences?

I can't speak for everyone, but my main formative influences are from the '80s: Joy Division, Dead Kennedys, Husker Du, Bowie, Eno, Devo, Minor Threat, etc. A lot of that seeps into our songs, intentionally or otherwise.

How do you feel about Columbia’s music scene as a whole?

It's cyclical, it seems, with crests and troughs.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

We're really looking forward to playing the book launch with Tommy. The invitation he created for one of our Christmas shows at The Whig (pictured below) was sublime--a pack of wolves attacking candy canes. The man is brilliant.


Ony's Bands - Boo Hag

boo-hag Ony Ratsimbaharison is a local musician, writer, and blogger and member of the band fk. mt. Jasper asked Ony to write a regular feature profiling local bands -- getting at what they're doing, why they're doing it, and how it's going. If you'd like to see your band profiled in What Jasper Said, send Ony a message at JasperProjectColumbia@gmail.com with the word ONY in the subject heading and she'll, you know, take it under consideration.

Ony's first few bands are a half dozen talented groups who will be working with the Jasper & Muddy Ford Press franchises over the next few weeks by playing at in-house sponsored events. Boo Hag, Los Perdidos, and Jackson Spells are all performing next Sunday at Tapp's Arts Center (7 pm) for the launch party for Tommy Bishop's new book, The Incredibly Strange ABCs. Here's a look at Boo Hag, by Ony.


Boo Hag, which formed in June 2015, is a local hard rock band consisting of drummer Scotty Tempo and guitarist and songwriter Saul Seibert. Their latest self-titled album, which came out July 30 of this year, is a collection of macabre-influenced psychedelic songs, with song titles like “Monster,” “Hokus Pokus,” and “Crypt Keeper,” just to name a few.

Their interest in the macabre and horrific is evident in their name, which is derived from a Gullah legend. A Boo Hag is a mythical creature of the Gullah culture that, according to folklore, is masked in a person’s skin, which it sheds at night to ride living victims in their sleep, draining them of their energy. Their music aims to evoke the spirit of this myth through concepts like ritual and horror.

Seibert recently moved to Columbia and is from New Orleans, where, he says, a lot of his musical influence comes from. “Plain and simple we are kick-you-in –the-teeth, kerosene-driven, lightning-in-a-bottle rock and roll,” he states. Their writing process is somewhat unique and specific, which Seibert informs us of in the following excerpt from an interview.

Boo Hag will be performing alongside local psych-rockers Jackson Spells and surf rock band Los Perdidos on Sunday September 18 at Tapp’s Arts Center for the book launch of The Incredibly Strange ABCs by cartoonist Tommy Bishop.

art by Tommy Bishop

Six Qs for Boo Hag

Can you describe what your music is like? Boo Hag dabbles with the macabre and psychedelic aspects of rock n roll. We are loud, hard, dangerous, and serious. Boo Hag doesn't really come with a lot of bells and whistles… We do what we know to do.

What are your songs typically about? Some of the songs are simple and straight forward and not overly complicated… but most of the songs take on a narrative approach, and deal with a range of social issues and/or personal struggles.

What is your songwriting process like? I usually hide. I engage in ritual. I get up at 3:30-4 am every day to meditate and then write music or do personal journaling for a few hours every day. I also smoke copious amount of marijuana and walk my dog in the woods. After I have completed a song, I record it and send it to Scotty to listen to. We play through it a few times during practice and then move on. We let songs breathe and rest, and then when they are ready to be played again, we work on them. Scotty gets me in a way a lot of players don't and when you have that as a writer, you don't really fuck with it too much. He plays an equal part in the music of Boo Hag and a powerhouse. He is also my friend.

Who/what are some of your main musical influences? New Orleans jazz and Memphis Blues... What else really matters in the end?

What is your overall philosophy as a band, if you have one? As a band, I believe our philosophy is to simply create and have fun doing what we love doing. We are a live act and that is where we thrive. In the end, we just want people to celebrate the music with us.

What is your vision for the band/the band’s future? We will see what happens. We have no intention of slowing down, we’re both driven people.

Cartoonist Tommy Bishop Returns to Columbia to Launch First Book


"Albert the Appleworm absolutely adores accounting."


When he left for the West Coast in 2008, cartoonist Tommy Bishop left his mark on Columbia via quirky album cover creations and his unique brand of almost otherwordly illustrations. After much encouragement, the artist is finally releasing his first book of drawings, and he's starting simple -- simply creepy, simply bizarre, simply strange. The Incredibly Strange ABCs by Tommy Bishop is a children's book with illustrative art adults are going to both appreciate and get a kick out of sharing with their children.

A two-part book launch that has every member of the family covered is going down on Sunday, September 18th, and like Bishop's work, it'll take you for a ride.

At 3 pm, bring the little ones to Tapp's Arts Center where they can (literally) sit at the artist's feet as he reads to them with musical accompaniment from Reno Gooch, and then enjoy a cookie and lemonade reception while Bishop signs copies of The Incredibly Strange ABCs for the children.

Then return at 7 pm (sans children) for a launch party with performances from Boo HagLos Perdidos, and Jackson Spells -- a cash bar, snacks, and continued signing of The Incredibly Strange ABCs. Ten dollars admission includes price of book, concert, and launch party. Afternoon attendees who purchase a book will receive a voucher for admission to the concert and launch party on Sunday night, and the publisher will provide a convenient signing and storage system so patrons won't have to pick up their purchases until the end of the evening.

An art poster from the archives created by artist and author, Tommy Bishop.

Bishop is looking forward to returning to his old stomping ground where he left his mark on Columbia's media art scene. "I used to put out music zines, bootleg comps, and a music blog under the name Force of a Revolving Toilet," Bishop says. But he may be best remembered around Columbia for creating art-inspired album covers for such bands as the Unawares, Boo Hag, Los Perdidos, and more.

Album cover for The Unawares created by Bishop.

The 36 year old cartoonist wrote and illustrated The Incredibly Strange ABCs as both a gift for and a way of sharing his art with his 17-month-old daughter, says Bishop, who is expecting another daughter with his wife, Nassim Lewis, later this year.

A founding member of the Greater Columbia Society for the Preservation of Soul, as well as the Christmas in July celebration at The Whig, Bishop returns from his current home in Portland, Oregon, after a stint in California, to a number of friends and family members who look forward to his visit and the launch of his first book.


"Tommy was in attendance for our very first live performance and approached us asking if he could design our flyers. We agreed, but could not ever have imagined the visual/design creative brilliance that was to follow for the duration of The Unawares run," says James Wallace, formerly of the Unawares. "That run included hand inked covers for three CD's, one LP, and dozens of flyers. A newly designed flyer for each show. He refused payment for his generosity, so we sent him steaks and whisky to show our deep appreciation for who we referred to as 'Our Genius.' We had folks interested in our music just from seeing his artwork. Thank you, Tommy Bishop!"

Musician and long-time friend Scott Tempo agrees. "I've watched Tommy create state of the art work for about 20 years now. I've seen how he labors for hours over the smallest details. I've always been a big fan and have come to Tommy numerous times for band artwork over the years. He's always delivered unique pieces that stand out above the crowd,” says Tempo, whose band Boo Hag is one of three bands playing for the book launch concert. “To be able to be a part of his book release is an honor.”

Tommy unawares art bar

An early example of Bishop's work advertises The Whig, North America's greatest dive bar located at the corner of Main and Gervais Streets in Columbia.


In advance praise of the publication, Julia "Liz" Elliott, author of The New and Improved Romie Futch and The Wilds, writes, "Combining the subversive silliness of underground comix with the elegant grimness of Edward Gorey, The Incredibly Strange ABCs will enchant both children and adults with addictive tongue twisters and surreal scenarios. Roused from a stupor produced by reading too many humdrum alphabet  books, parents will laugh along with their tots as they explore Bishop's absurd and wondrous world."

Filmmaker and segment director of Drafthouse Films anthology ABC's of Death 2.5, Steve Daniels, writes, "As a father of two budding weirdos, Bishop's The Incredibly Strange ABCs was a revelation; far more fun that the stuffy, homogenized alphabet books I grew up with as a kid. These strange illustrations and clever wordplay never fail to illicit giggles or downright maniacal laughter from my children. The weirder, the better, and this book has it covered."

A selection of the illustrations found in The Incredibly Strange ABCs by Tommy Bishop

Published by South Carolina boutique publishing company, Muddy Ford Press, The Incredibly Strange ABCs is being printed as a limited release and the author will be on hand at both events on the 18th to sign and personalize the book. Pre-orders are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Tommy ABCs