MUSIC | July Fighter: Jimmy Lyback takes a break from Sunshine Behavior to debut new band

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A bit back, sometime around late last year, I get a call from Jimmy Lyback of Sunshine Behavior, only it wasn’t to come see SB. Lyback was, it turned out, playing in a new band, something called July Fighter, at the Fine Line in downtown Minneapolis. I arrive, figuring it’ll be a fairly modest affair to showcase a little known spinoff for which Lyback’ll be lucky to draw a decent crowd. Guess again. The place is packed.

At the bar, affably holding court, Lyback is mobbed by fans, friends, and general well-wishers. I manage to get within speaking, well, actually, shouting distance and, in short order, am whisked downstairs to the dressing room. Lyback would like to do an interview but has to beg off. Seems there’s a TV news crew shooting footage and a few other matters with which he needs to contend.

No problem. I go back upstairs, find a spot along the wall, and get ready for the show, marveling at just how many charged-up folk have crammed their way into a full house to catch this unheralded offshoot of the solidly successful Sunshine Behavior. Word of mouth among SB followers had to have been fierce. And once July Fighter hit the stage, all cheering, clapping pandemonium ensues. It’s well deserved.

Fine a band as SB is, you can see why JF is necessary. It’s a different bag, departing from the sardonic, poignant alt-rock that marks SB as up and coming successors to likes of say, Gin Blossoms. This is much more acoustic, soft-rock in a warm, good-timey vein. Think the old Grateful Dead classic “Uncle John’s Band” and you’ve got the feel. Anytime you catch them at a club, ask—demand, if need be—for the band to do “Failure to Function,” a Ray-Davies-tinged sparkler. And “Know You,” a wistful, upbeat swinger with a sweet guitar solo.

I got hold of a demo of the album they’re presently finishing the mix on, sans harmonies. It’s a winner even in raw shape. The finished product should be, as the kids say these days, hyphy. Between that gig and now, I also got the lowdown on an update for Sunshine Behavior. July Fighter were still polishing things up in the studio when Jimmy Lyback answered a few questions by e-mail.

Are you still part of Sunshine Behavior?
I was the founder and last one standing. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting it up again, but I’m not in any rush. Actually, I’ve had some strong interest from singers and players who are just as strong or stronger than previous members. For me the decision is [that] if it will happen again, it must be stronger than before.

How did July Fighter come to be, and why?
July Fighter songs came about from songs I knew wouldn’t fit the driving pop/alt/rock sound of Sunshine Behavior. I just formed this catalog of chill, meaningful music that didn’t fit the in-your-face style of Sunny B. When the last two remaining members dropped out of Sunshine Behavior I finally decided to listen to friends and family who were pushing me to play and sing July Fighter. I used to give my grandma, who recently passed, copies of what I had been writing and she urged me to venture forward with the July Fighter project and that was really what made me believe it was the right thing to do. Whether the songs are better or worse is up to you, but that’s how they came about.

What’s the band personnel?
I play acoustic and sing lead, Nick Rod plays electric and sings harmonies, Jason Kreuth is currently playing bass, and we’re going through drummers like [New York Yankee shortstop Derek] Jeter goes through girls.

At the Fine Line you did a shout-out to the crowd, appreciating Twin Cities lesbians for supporting the band. What’s that about?
July Fighter’s first show was opening up for the national acts at Twin Cities Pride in ’09. Our music draws in an immensely diverse crowd from all walks of life, and that, for us is something to be excited about. We’ve been asked to open for the national acts again June 26 and we’re very excited to show Minneapolis Pride 2010 what we’re all about and show our support. Some of our best friends, Holly and Sofa the lovely lesbian couple, were in the crowd and being very loud with the help of a bunch of lovely gay and straight gals.

For a band that hasn’t even put out an album, that place was full of people knocking themselves out dancing to and clapping for July Fighter. What’s up with that?
Like I said earlier, the music speaks for itself and typically you just have to hear it once and you’ll be interested in hearing it again and seeing who shows up at the next show. Judging from what I hear it’s going to be played on The Current and some mainstream channels as well as Internet and college stations.

Who did the writing for the CD?
I wrote all of the music on the album. I did however have a good friend and band member, Nick, help out with some solo parts and some harmonies to help capture the live sound.

When’s it drop?
The CD is being released at the Fine Line on a weekend date this July or August. We’re waiting on the specific date as of yet. July seems fitting.

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