Friends who play together stay together

Local musicians Michael Lewis and J.T. Bates play often, play together, and tonight play at The Whole

Frederic Hanson

Michael Lewis was on his way to a gig in a car or spaceship or something on a Saturday night. He was about to play a gig with his jazz trio, Fat Kid Wednesdays. It was, as Lewis described it, “a chance to play some songs with my friends.”

One of these friends is Wednesdays’ drummer, J.T. Bates.

The two musicians have a hand, or a drumstick, if you will, in much of the Twin Cities music scene.

From Fog to Happy Apple, from Eyedea to the Wednesdays, these guys play a lot of music with a lot of people in a lot of bands.

Rock, jazz, rap, rhythm and blues and any other combination thereof are their gigantic, never-ending sonic sandboxes.

They explore music every which way, pouring a childlike wonder into everything they create. And in experiencing it, one gets a sense that their music is as genuine, honest and oblivious as the innocence of youth.

Tonight the two longtime friends will perform as a duo at The Whole at Coffman Union. Expect to experience a sound carnival.

On his way to that Saturday night gig, Lewis spoke with the Daily about the show and his seemingly inexhaustible muse.

Tell me about the show Thursday.
I’m doing it with J.T. Bates. There’s not a whole lot of motive behind it beyond that it’s music. I have such a kinship with J.T. as a person to begin with. We’ve been playing music for so long that it’s just an extraordinary, comfortable situation for us to be in musically. We both really trust each other.

A lot of people call you “modern jazz,” but how do you view yourselves musically?
I think things are getting harder and harder to categorize as musicians get more and more diverse. For J.T. and I it’s the same thing – just drums and saxophone. It can be a wash of many different genres of music, though. It’s more about deconstruction oftentimes.

You play in a lot of various musical projects – what’s the appeal for you?
At this point, J.T. and I have so many influences across the board – pick a genre of music, and we’re probably both into it. We’ve done a lot of work together and individually, and with Adam with Fat Kid Wednesdays. When we’re playing, all those influences can come out.

I’m very interested in having it be music as opposed to something that’s reminiscent of any particular record or time period. We don’t need to plan out what we’re going to play – however we’re feeling is how it’s going to sound.

Have you ever had a desire to focus your energies on one band?
I have a lot of interest in playing with many different musicians.

Every one has their own place they’re coming from. I got to the point where I was hearing some other shit and I was like … I need to learn some other stuff.