J.K. Vanderbilt and his band of high-class renegades will be having their debut performance on Saturday, Dec. 3 at The Old Dutch Church here in Kingston. The church is very set on the performance ending at 10, so get there by 7:30 for sure to catch every note. The band includes Mattia Iusto on drums and longtime friend Mo Kelly on bass. This debut show is in support of Matt Pond PA’s record release of the long running indie act and well-loved local’s fantastic new album, Winter Lives. This is the first of many, many more J.K. Vanderbilt shows to come, as project leader Josh Rosenmeier will be pouring his heart into supporting his own record and performing for the world.
Most people around these parts are likely more used to having Rosenmeier pour them the best cocktails around at The Stockade Tavern on Fair Street, where he is one of our area’s most popular bartenders and a regular barrel of laughs. It turns out that he also grew up playing music, as anyone who has heard him belt out Bruce Springsteen at 2 in the morning might already know.
“I grew up writing songs. My teenage years were full of making bedroom recordings,” Josh says. “I have always thought that this is what I would be doing. I moved to Brooklyn in my early 20s to do exactly that. A few years later I returned to the Hudson Valley and found Stockade Tavern. Being in my mid-20s, the pressure of responsibility and a more viable career led to my obsession with cocktails, elegant drinking and being a great host. Music took a backseat, never being completely lost, just not with as much ambition. I still banged out songs on the piano and strummed out chords on the guitar. These not-so-ambitious meanderings are actually what led to some of the songs on my debut record How to Build a Fire. Fast forward another year or two. I met Matt Pond and Chris Hansen through the bar. My girlfriend, Sheri Jo Craig, knew Matt from years ago and we both held an admiration for his songwriting prior to meeting. So it was a pleasure to have his presence here in our town. Chris and I actually both graduated from Wallkill High School, years apart, but still coincidental anyway.”
Josh continues: “Now, there was one dark, beautiful night that Sheri and I hosted a dinner at our house. After dinner and loads of wine and whiskey, I sat down at the piano and played a song. This was the spark that created the fire. The next day I asked Matt if he could record my record. Right in his house. Because those summer nights we spent at his house showed me his recording possibilities in his home and the genius that Chris Hansen could make with these tools. He accepted and we began recording. This is where I believe that you meet everyone in this world for a reason. Me meeting these two beautiful people was the universe’s way of telling me that I should be playing music again.”
J.K. Vanderbilt was born. The J.K. stands for Rosenmeir’s initials, Josh Karl. The Vanderbilt comes from a magical sort of image of old-world America.
“That, and I used to sleigh ride at the Vanderbilt mansion growing up,” Josh says. “Childhood memories are what make you, I believe. My debut record, How to Build a Fire will be released in early 2017. It is a full-length record that I played every single instrument on. It is something I am incredibly proud of and something I can not wait to show the world.”
I ask Josh if he is nervous to get out there again. He admits that he is.
“I have not played in front of a crowd since my Brooklyn days. But with the loving support of my bandmates as well as Matt and Chris and everyone involved, I feel more at home doing this than anything else,” he says. “And if bartending has taught me anything, being a host is kind of like being on stage, in front of everyone, all the time. And I have become very comfortable with this.”
I mention to him that I am a big fan of the proto-surrealist French book by Boris Vian called Foam of the Daze, in which there is a piano that creates a perfect cocktail to pair with whatever song is played on it. I ask Josh what drink he thinks would suit his own music.
“I am going to go with a Sazerac,” he considers. “This is a drink made of whiskey, sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters, stirred, and poured into an absinthe-rinsed glass. This was the first legit cocktail I ever had, and it opened my eyes to the world of cocktails. Its history is also steeped in New Orleans, a musically rich town. It’s also pretty much a stiff glug of whiskey, which is tough and to the point, but also elegant with a good posture. I think that embodies my music pretty well.”