The members of Rough Congress are serious musicians on their own, but when they convene as a group the first order of business is to throw down and have fun.
Since frontman Brandon O’Neill moved to Seattle, the Spokane quintet rarely plays shows these days. And now O’Neill is headed for New York, specifically Broadway.
“The business is crazy good,” said O’Neill, who moved to Seattle a couple of years ago and has since found steady work in theater after landing the lead role in “Guys and Dolls.”
O’Neill said he can’t yet announce his Broadway role. He likewise is tight-lipped about a videogame project he is working on.
“I barely had to step out of the front door in Seattle and I’m going to Broadway. I’m married with two kids. I couldn’t just hustle until something came up so I’m very happy with what’s happening,” said O’Neill, who is a part of Spokane’s musical O’Neill family (which includes Patrick O’Neill, Annie O’Neill, Kevin Long, and twins Curran and Riley Long).
While O’Neill is making ready for New York, the other members of Rough Congress are busy juggling multiple projects of their own.
A pillar of local music in his own right, guitarist Jamie Frost has taken to playing pedal steel while bouncing around between bands, including Cursive Wires, Silver Treason and accompanying singer-songwriter Marshall McLean.
He also contributed his talent to the Honor Flight compilation benefitting Northwest Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that raises money to send World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.
Frost, also known as Jamie Maker of the internationally renowned band the Makers, is looking forward to the Rough session tonight.
“I’m excited to play an actual stand-up guitar gig,” Frost said. “Having the pedal steel is pretty fun. I feel like I’m a kid again, where everything is brand new. You don’t play the same sounds or think the same way. Some of the sounds you are making for the first time ever. That takes you back to what got you into music in the first place.”
Drummer Aaron Saye, also a member of the Makers, performed on Cursive Wires’ forthcoming record and is recording with alt-stoner-jazz-reggae band The Number, a new project spearheaded by fellow Congressman Chris White (keyboards) , and Chris Barr, brother of Rough Congress bassist Jake Barr.
Saye recently got a call from the Makers’ bassist Donny Virgo to work on a new project.
“I look at this Rough Congress show as us getting together before we can’t, before someone moves on to something bigger and better,” Saye said.
Barr has been playing bass with local blues powerhouse Sammy Eubanks in addition to his weekly gig with Dan Conrad at Zola, working at Guitar Center, and giving private lessons at the Spokane Music Institute.
“We kind of see the inevitable to where we’re just so busy we’re not really looking to the future of the band. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the last show,” said Barr, who revealed that he and his wife are considering moving to Nashville for more musical opportunities.
Meanwhile White continues to use his day job running COMRADEstudios to mine opportunities to work with the rest of the guys in the band through making music for television networks and commercials.
“It’s nice to have my friends that I play with in the band around, if we need to do session work for an ad. I love it that I can call the same group of friends to make a song about Jell-O,” White said.
O’Neill hopes to leverage his stage career in the same way to reunite the band whenever the stars align.
“Once you have that Broadway feather in your cap opportunities open up. I’d love to come back to Seattle, or Spokane and sit in with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra,” he said. “In the meantime, this collaboration with the guys has been when I’m available and everyone’s calendars clear at the same time and we pull the trigger. Some of us have been friends for 20 years. It’s a brotherhood. That’s our M.O. Rough Congress can also mean we don’t meet that often but when we come together we make things happen.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.