Music Preview: Bill Deasy and Rich Jacques pilot Thomas Jefferson's Aeroplane

Ready for takeoff

Back in the '90s when they were in dominant Pittsburgh bands, the Gathering Field's Bill Deasy had his guitarist and Brownie Mary's Rich Jacques had his singer, and so there was no compelling reason for them to hook up on stage.

But that musical match is made now in the long-distance relationship that is Thomas Jefferson's Aeroplane. Contrary to the gimmicky name, the result is anything but a tossed-off side project. Rather, it's a shimmering studio product called "The Invisible Ocean" that stands with the best of each musician's work.

With its warm, pretty vocals, earnest lyrics and sweeping, atmospheric production, "The Invisible Ocean" has the feel of a U2 or a Coldplay record.

"I wouldn't say we were consciously inspired by U2, though I sure don't mind the comparison," Deasy says. "We were just trying to write simply in a way that resonated for both of us. And I think we wanted to keep the songs, and the production, kind of open and big."

Thomas Jefferson's Aeroplane
  • Where: Club Cafe, South Side.
  • When: 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday.
  • Tickets: $15. 1-866-468-3401.

Not long after Brownie Mary broke up Jacques left Pittsburgh to live in L.A., where he's had success playing with Chantal Kreviazuk, working with Ben Affleck on the music for "Hollywoodland" and placing songs in the Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston film "The Breakup." Deasy, despite busy here with his solo career, which includes writing songs for Martina McBride and Billy Ray Cyrus, managed to keep in touch with Jacques.

"I always liked him ... and his musical sensibility," Deasy says. "When he moved to L.A. I kept up with his progress. He sent me a record he made and came to one of my shows out there once. Then one of us finally said, 'Let's get together and write something.' "

They hooked up for the first time January 2007 with no real intention of making a full album, and by September had four or five songs written. Deasy says that, in all, they spent about 15 days sitting together and working on it.

"Some songs, Rich would instantly set about building a musical bed as I hammered out the lyrics. But other times, we'd sit and meticulously work the words through until we both felt like they were just right. It was cool. Checks and balances."

Deasy has long been known for his literate song craft and gentle spirit. With Jacques on board, he gets even better atmospherics and production than he did on his major label albums.

"Rich provided ALL the atmospherics. The dude breathes atmospherics," Deasy says. "It was really inspiring to write with him because he'd have all these cool musical things happening before the song was even done, and getting a glimpse of the big picture kind of drove us home."

The band, which will be filled out by multi-instrumentalist Rob Giles and a percussionist named Quinn, played its first gig Wednesday in L.A. and will follow with a CD release party Friday at Club Cafe.

As for the band name, Deasy says it stemmed from a discussion about a book called "The Disappearance of the Universe" that said Thomas Jefferson had edited his own version of the Bible.

"So, for a second we considered Thomas Jefferson's Bible. But that seemed a little heavy," Deasy says. "When one of us substituted 'airplane' for 'Bible' it gave us both a good chuckle for some reason -- so we went with it. It was my son, Luke, who had the idea to use the old-fashioned spelling of airplane or 'aeroplane.' "

Now, he says, "the sky is the limit."

Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576. First Published May 8, 2008 4:00 AM


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