When Durand Jones & The Indications went into the studio to record their third album, Private Space, at the end of 2020, it was the first time the R&B group was together since the start of the pandemic. The group was jamming and tinkering on new material, but nothing seemed to click until they addressed the chaos of 2020.
“I was in the control room just writing away and honestly, the words just fell out. I was reflecting on a time where I didn’t feel like I had the capacity to make art,” says lead singer Jones, who explains he was overwhelmed with thoughts about the pandemic and the issues of systemic racism brought to light by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The result was album opener — “Love Will Work It Out” — a slow-burning anthem that packs both a beat and a message. Jones croons about the extreme loss of life due to Covid, “modern day lynchings,” and the loneliness of the pandemic.
Launching an album with a political song has become a trademark of the band, known largely for their revivalist soul leanings. Their self-titled debut began with call to action “Make a Change” and their sophomore effort, American Love Call, started with the titular track that bore witness to the opioid crisis and other uniquely American tragedies. But “Love Will Work It Out” pushes the listener towards optimism, which Jones feels is greatly needed at the moment. He recalls his grandmother, a veteran, who was unable to eat at certain restaurants despite serving and loving her country.
“She still loved this place so much. Most of her generation felt the same way,” says Jones. “If they could be hopeful amidst all the Jim Crow laws and overt racism that was so dangerous, then I have to keep hope alive.”
But Private Space only dwells on the difficult year for three minutes and forty-five seconds, before the cathartic release of “Witchoo” and the remainder of the disco and funk infused album. Guitarist Blake Rhein and drummer/singer Aaron Frazer says the genre-shift stems from their DJ stints where they have been incorporating Italian disco and European groove music they were absorbing while on their last tour.
“I do think as the social climate has shifted in a more progressive direction and more Black artists, more femme artists, more queer artists have entered, I think it makes sense that you see a resurgence of the sound that’s always been amazing — but that had faced the backlash from traditional social power structures,” says Frazer. He adds that the disco sensibilities are more of what people need right now after a rough year of grieving or simply being apart.
Private Space is a record they believe will resonate with a live audience as they return to the road this September. “Since we’ve gravitated away from so many slow jams, I’m really excited to see what kind of stuff we can put together [on stage] with these energetic dance songs,” says Rhein. “We’re expanding our crew and lighting. It’s all really exciting.”
A strong contingent at Durand Jones & the Indications live shows are folks from the lowrider community, who are attracted to the band’s soul influence. Despite the new album’s infusion of disco and modern sounds, Frazer still thinks that community will be out to support them.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that the other side of the coin for the lowrider stuff is boogie stuff. We’ve also tried to make it clear over the years to our people that we’ve eclectic music fans. We love a lot of different styles,” says Frazer. “I think they’re definitely gonna ride with us. No pun intended.”