The members of Albany-based funk rock group Vicious Jimmy are unsure exactly when this band first came together.
Bassist Jeffrey Jukes was convinced it was six years ago, while discussing it at a meeting in the band’s practice spot in drummer Gary Nowik’s home in Altamont. Lead vocalist and guitarist Thomas “TK” Kretzler remembered it only being four years ago that keyboardist Timothy Fiato Jr. began jamming in Nowik’s garage, with Jukes and Kretzler soon to follow. The band’s Facebook page first went online in April of 2009, suggesting that it’s been at least three years.
Given the history of these four of the band’s five members, the confusion isn’t surprising. With the exception of guitarist Sloan Tash, who hails from California, the band’s members, all in their early 40s, are Albany born and raised, and have been playing music with each other and separately in various combinations since their days at Albany High School in the ’80s.
What makes Vicious Jimmy different is the album of all original music, “Relatively Dangerous,” that the band is preparing to drop at a release show at Red Square on Saturday night.
Vicious Jimmy CD release
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Red Square, 388 Broadway, Albany
How Much: $10 (includes copy of CD)
More Info: 465-0444, www.redsquarealbany.com
“The four of us had played in bands together in one lineup or another over the years, going back — we were playing in bars before we were old enough to go in bars,” Kretzler said. “The one thing we never did together was a recording that we could be proud of. We’ve always had original ideas; we’ve always been into songwriting, but never managed to get a good recording together.”
Vicious Jimmy was specifically formed to be an original project, after years of its members being involved with cover bands. In fact, it wasn’t even conceived as a live entity at all — originally, Nowik moved into a new home that had a space to jam, and wanted to bring his old friends together again.
“We said, we’re not going to play cover tunes; no one really wanted to play covers,” Nowik said. “It was just a creative thing. We didn’t even — we weren’t talking about getting a gig. We just wanted to play music, and I had a place where we could do that. And so we did, and next thing you know it was like, hey, these tunes sound pretty good.”
The band’s first gig was a battle of the bands at Jillian’s three years ago, where they managed to reach the finals. Soon the band was gigging out more, prompting a need for more songs.
“That sort of spurred us on, I think. And then we had a little bit of a mission,” Nowik said.
Kretzler, who had never been a vocalist before and was picking up guitar after a long hiatus from the instrument, found himself pulling double duty as the band’s sole guitarist and lead vocalist. Through a Craigslist ad, the band hooked up with the transplanted Tash, who also happened to be a recording engineer with his own home studio.
“We created [the album] because of Gary’s house, and recorded it because of Sloan’s house,” Fiato said.
The 11 songs on “Relatively Dangerous” showcase the five musicians’ extensive experience playing in bands over the years, blending rapid-fire, at times surreal, lyrics with muscular funk grooves and guitar pyrotechnics. Influences range from Kretzler’s favorite, Led Zeppelin, to Nowik’s jazz, to modern touchstones such as Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Indeed, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the band Vicious Jimmy tends to get compared to the most, though that wasn’t intentional. “We didn’t have a sound in mind, it’s just what came out of us,” Nowik said.
“We like grooves that make you move, [that] kind of music — mid-tempo, up tempo,” Fiato said.
Due to family and careers — Kretzler owns his own business — the band has mostly stuck with local shows. The furthest they’ve played out of town is Utica, at the Utica Music Fest a couple of years ago. With the musicians’ long history in the Albany area, they are able to perform a healthy number of shows here and draw crowds.
“With our Albany roots, we can go out and play [originals] and we can draw people,” Fiato said. “And that’s the bottom line. So usually we don’t — we try to pick our spots when we play, play good weekends when people are going to be around.”
“And we’re not in it for the money,” Jukes added. “So if we wanted to make money, we could do a cover band and make 1,500 bucks. Or we can do this and make 60 bucks.”