Any two musicians who cover a Reverend Gary Davis song and call themselves The Black Jesus deserve more than the standard, “Who are these guys?” Especially when the musicians in question are two white kids that play in a major label Rock ‘n Roll band (The Parlor Mob) and are covering blues songs from the early 1950s. But Dave Rosen (lead vocals/guitar) and Sam Bey (backup vocals/drums) are two endlessly talented, wonderful musicians. I wanted deeper insight into how they came to create such an original sound in an age of uniformity. —Luke Ditella
SURFING Magazine: You are both in The Parlor Mob together. How does the music of The Black Jesus differ from Parlor Mob?
Dave Rosen: Pretty much completely different. For better or worse, we kind of decided from the get-go that The Black Jesus would never be over-thought or anything like that, so the songs are definitely more stream of consciousness. We write them really quickly. I mean, we’ve written songs a few hours before a show and just played them at the show. So it’s really spur of the moment.
Tell us how The Black Jesus began making music.
“I came up with the name ’cause I thought it was kind of a funny play on how many Black this and Black that bands there were.”
We came home from a Parlor Mob tour and I was just jamming with my friend Chris Donofrio, who plays drums in Scott Liss’ band The 66 Now. We recorded three covers: “Yer Blues” by the Beatles, “Me and the Devil” by Robert Johnson, and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” by the Reverend Gary Davis. Scott actually recorded them for us. We could only play those three songs, and then we just booked a show to kind of expedite the whole thing becoming a reality. Chris was playing in a different band and couldn’t do the show, so I asked Sam if he’d be interested in playing with me. I wrote a bunch of songs and Sam and I just threw it together in no time. We recorded the songs ourselves, burned CD’s and drew on them, and gave them away for free at our first show. It all happened really quick. I came up with the name cause I thought it was kind of a funny play on how many Black this and Black that bands there were, and also because I thought white kids playing what are essentially blues songs is kind of like a black Jesus in a lot of ways. That was pretty much it, after that we were a band.
Do you both collaborate on all the songs or do you each bring a new song to the other and present it?
I write the songs, Sam and I put them together in a way we can play them by ourselves.
Do you find it easier to create music for the side project, being that you can do so without the major label pressure?
Absolutely. That was kind of the whole idea. It was sort of cathartic for us. We both love doing The Black Jesus, and it’s definitely close to our hearts, but it’s almost like therapy for us too. It’s complete freedom. We just trust our guts, and never really second guess ourselves. We really needed an outlet devoid of pressure or stress or we may have lost our minds.
Kind of a bit of both. As much as I’d hate to call it a side project, the fact is the Parlor Mob is definitely our #1. Sam and I record when we have time, and we play shows when we’re home, but we’ve had talks with labels before about different possibilities of things we could do to have a proper release, and what it comes down to is that we really can’t tour or devote any significant stretch of time to it right now. The Parlor Mob isn’t in a place in our careers right now where we have any real legitimate time off in which we could do a Black Jesus tour. Ideally what I’d like to get going on is to finish making a proper Black Jesus record, play shows at home, and just sell the record on Parlor Mob tours or something like that, and of course in stores. And when we actually do have the time we could do tours and such, but it’s just really not in the cards right now.
You have quite a few songs, but there’s no album. Not even an EP yet. When is something going to be available?
We definitely have plenty of songs for an album, and we actually recorded 12 songs in two days not too long ago. Things got held up from release while we were doing Parlor Mob pre-production, and now I’m kind of thinking we may re-record them. My hope is to release an album in the spring.