Ross’s voice is distinctively gravelly and, with just this instrument, his guitar, and Jeff Erwin on keyboards, he beautifully delivers “I Need Time.” It transfixes us with its hauntingly familiar subject: “I need time / But I still need you around / Head is in the sky / While your feet are on the ground / Baby, baby, I can’t stay here with you.” The song is from Ross’s solo album, which will be released later this year. The rest of the set is full-throttle Sim Ross & the Redemption with all of its foot stomping, fist pumping, body rocking energy.
During the last verse of “Eden,” we find ourselves at a poetry slam when he hits us with, “We’re not polished silver, we’re made of brass / creating darkness for the mass / chewing on bits of broken glass / to make you swing, to make you shake your ass / to run away from your boring past / to break away from your social class / to revel in the silliness of all the sadness in the cold, stark, wet, angry world we live in / fly away from fucking Eden.”
“Time to multitask,” he explains pleasantly, putting on his harp. Looking over at Dan Powell, lead guitar, Ross satirically impersonates a stuffy office manager: “I’ll keep that in mind at the end of your performance evaluation.” As we laugh, he remembers something. “I got excited to play my own song. What a fucking asshole.” Their set list has them covering a Rolling Stones song next.
We finally get the harp during the intro of “We Ain’t Kids No More,” but it’s not enough of it for me. I think about how I want to hear more of its bluesy sound as my eyes follow its descent down the neck of the mic. Ross’s throaty voice and lyrics pull me out of my reverie, “We ain’t kids no more, we get the lasting pain / we ain’t kids no more, it really pours when it rains / we ain’t kids no more, it’s our last chance to take the reigns / we gotta grab a hold and ride.”
A familiar tune emerges during Sim Ross & the Redemption’s final song. We hoot and whoop. They started playing “Stand by Me” two years ago when they had a monthly gig at Putnam’s Pub in Fort Greene and had to perform crowd pleasing covers. Ross uses it to introduce the band—Powell on lead guitar, Ryan Hall on bass, Bryan Langlotz on drums, and Erwin on keyboards. “I like everyone to know that we’re first and foremost a band, and they’re not just like hired guns.” For Ross, a collective, a committed group, is one of the most satisfying qualities in a band. To understand why, we need a little history.
“I remember the moment the band broke up. I was living in this big three story, drafty, party house. I was sitting on a shitty beat up couch. Our manager, and our lawyer (yeah) were there glaring at us. I think I may have been the one that said, ‘I don’t want to be in this band anymore.’ It was fucking heart breaking. Everyone was so invested in it.”
It was during this time that Ross, who also began to write music at 16, learned what a song should be and, more so, what it shouldn’t be. Following the break up, he spent some years in Chicago, but found the music scene scarce. He was searching for something reminiscent of New York in the ‘90s when “all artists and musicians were doing their thing and not giving a fuck about getting approval from mass audiences. When an artist just continues to write what they want to write no matter what anyone asks them or tells them to do.”
When he moved to Flatbush four and a half years ago, what he found instead was “wealthy people pushing non-wealthy people further and further out of the city. To live in this city is to survive,” he says. “That’s really what it’s all about. Survival. I love and hate it here every single day.” Ross persists.
“I’ve never been in a band that was so talented and grounded in the music, yet fun to be around. It’s a perfect balance of serious songwriting and hanging out with some truly insane dudes. I don’t see myself playing in any other groups as long as I’m in NYC,” says Hall, the bassist.
When their old drummer moved to Austin, the band decided it was time for a new name and Powell came up with Redemption. “We all seemed to agree on it, and it stuck. Dan’s always trying to redeem himself after life altering mistakes he makes, so it’s fitting,” says Ross. Both themes continue to be present in their work, which they are in the process of recording now. Their first album will likely include everything they played at the Pine Box Rock Shop except “I Need Time.”
Sim Ross & the Redemption will be playing at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg on June 1 with The Sky Captains of Industry, Civil Youth, Sadek (Skitzopoetic), and Stabwounds. You can follow Sim on Instagram @simfuckingross.