Jump, Little Children returns with a new album and fresh inspiration
Top: Jump, Little Children’s (left to right) Evan Bivins, Ward Williams, Jay Clifford, Jonathan Gray, and Matthew Bivins; Above: Watch the band perform in “Homegrown,” a Hootie and the Blowfish-hosted fundraiser for South Carolina Educational Television, in December of 1999.
When Jump, Little Children came together to play the Dock Street Theatre and Charleston Music Farm in December 2015, it was meant to be a fun reunion after a decade-long hiatus. The shows sold out, leading to a Southeastern tour. Shovels & Rope fanned the new flame when they asked Jump to get together again for the inaugural High Water Festival in 2017.
It was moments after performing at High Water to an adoring crowd of thousands that band leaders Jay Clifford (of Charleston) and Matthew Bivins looked at each other and realized the group still had a future, despite its members being scattered across five states.
“We couldn’t understand it, in a lot of ways,” Matthew recalls. “But we realized that people wanted this, and that we should try to keep it going a little bit longer.”
Nearly a year and a half later, Jump has raised more than $100,000 from fans via PledgeMusic and recorded a dozen songs for Sparrow, which was released in September—the band’s first studio LP since 2004. Unlike with previous efforts, the members weren’t beholden to a record label or even to the need to be commercially successful. Jay and Matthew; Matthew’s brother, drummer Evan Bivins; guitarist and cellist Ward Williams; and bass player Jonathan Gray have plenty to keep them busy, from day jobs to families, so Jump can simply be fun again.
Jump, Little Children played reunion shows at the Charleston Music Farm (left) and Dock Street Theatre in December 2015; they released Sparrow in September.
“It reminds us of the beginning of the band,” says Matthew, recalling the days when they’d busk along Market Street. “There’s an effortless energy and desire that comes from no outside force. Nobody needed us to do this—it’s a really organic thing without a lot of consequences. There’s a lot of power in that, honestly.”
That’s not to say that Matthew wouldn’t love to play a gig like NPR’s Tiny Desk series, two decades after the group’s heyday packing out venues across the East Coast. Sparrow may just fly them all the way there—they called on three established producers for the recordings, including Jake Sinclair (a member of Beck and producer for Weezer and Panic! at the Disco), Josh Kaler (who locals may know from the band Slow Runner), and Wolfgang Zimmerman (Charleston’s knob-turning star for SUSTO and Band of Horses).
Sessions were split between Nashville and a two-week stint in Charleston, where the guys soaked up the atmosphere at old haunts like Fast & French and Santi’s. “We wanted to have that mosquito-driven, hot-until-10-o’clock-vibe we grew up with,” says Matthew. “Being able to come back and do this has been like the nicest gift anyone could ever give us.”
Images by (band portrait) Valerie & Co. Photographers, (Music Farm) Nathan Baerreis Photography, & (album cover) Evan Bivins