Jenks Miller is spinning a lot of musical plates. He’s the guitarist in Mount Moriah, a fiery and far-reaching folk-rock band based in Durham. He’s also the mastermind behind Horseback, his eternally shape-shifting avant-metal moniker, which has touched on ambient drone and barebones electronica amid a bevy of other diverse ideas. Apart from those bands, Miller has long released solo material, spanning patient guitar improvisations, found-sound delicacies and assaults of jarring noise.
But it would appear that these pursuits still weren’t enough to scratch Miller’s creative itch. Rose Cross NC, which sprang into life last year as the Jenks Miller Band, is his newest project. Backed by a contingent of ace local players from bands such as Mount Moriah and Some Army, Miller replaces his Horseback shriek with an understated croon, going all in on the sprawling, weirdo folk-rock that often tinges Horseback’s metallic crescendos.
“The stuff Rose Cross NC is doing involves a lot more free improvisation than anything either Mount Moriah or Horseback has attempted live, so no two performances will be alike, even when we’re playing the same songs,” Miller says. “I’m hoping folks will be interested in hearing different versions of these songs, multiple live and studio versions. I’ve been listening to a lot of late-era Miles Davis and live Grateful Dead stuff—the way those groups presented their material in different stages as ‘works in progress’ has influenced the way I’m approaching this new project.”
Thus far, the band has only played a handful of live dates—but two of those sets were recorded, and they’re now on sale to benefit Rose Cross NC’s future efforts. The money raised will go toward rehearsals and time in the studio.
“I do my very best to compensate the musicians who work with me on any project, including their time spent in rehearsals, in the studio and at shows,” Miller says. “This is important, but it can get expensive; often it means that I lose money when we play shows. Eventually, I can’t afford to do it. The expenses incurred on the road are one reason that Horseback doesn’t do many live dates and is now essentially a studio project. So I’m trying to find new ways to sustain the work.”
The outfit’s 2013 and 2014 performances at WXDU and Three Lobed Recordings’ annual day party during Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival are available for download or purchase for $3 each at Miller’s Bandcamp page. The first offering consists of three tangly and twisting epics, each of which highlights Miller’s evocative guitar melodies and his undying love for the music of Neil Young.
The later contains one 18-minute song, touching on the pristine ambience of Horseback’s 2007 debut Impale Golden Horn, building from that base into a simmering longform jam, an ideal showcase for Miller’s superb guitar tones.