Green Lemon Finding Sweet Success
Guitarist Steve Schaben technically is still the new guy, but after doing 150 shows during his first year with Green Lemon he seems like an old hand. No surprise, considering he was a friend and fan before joining the up-and-coming Edmond group. All of the band members except Chris Cox are graduates of Edmond Memorial High School and Cox is a graduate of Edmond North High School.
“I’ve known these guys for quite a while,” Schaben said. “I used to listen to the band before I was in it, and I had a blues band with the bass player when I was fifteen. So, I had a relationship with them beforehand and that’s helped me.”
Formed in 1999, the band had a different lead guitarist, and a different name. “They were called ‘Grass’ at first,” Schaben said.
In 2001 they relocated to Ft. Collins, Colorado, to get more exposure to a bigger music scene. That’s when they discovered there were about 1,500 bands with ‘grass’ in the name. So they compromised on the new name, Green Lemon, and started playing around Ft. Collins a lot, doing bar gigs and opening for touring acts.
The band began touring on its own in 2002, a year before they recorded their first album. Since then, Green Lemon has toured the country, taking their unique sound to both coasts and crisscrossing the heartland more times than they care to count. They also returned home to central Oklahoma.
Green Lemon has a sound that even Schaben finds hard to describe. He says that’s a good thing and attributes it to the eclectic mix of influences each member brings to the group.
Schaben studied jazz at the University of Central Oklahoma, but his fellow guitarist, Wayne Allen, prefers the sound of Irish rockers, U2. Keyboardist, Jon Cordero, and bassist, Jesse Fioravanti, listen to indie rock, while drummer, Chris Cox enjoys reggae and Maroon 5.
“It’s really a crockpot of different things,” Schaben said. The band blends progressive rock, reggae, electronica and on-the-spot jam improvisation to create a unique sound that is attracting an exploding fan base across the nation. In 2005 they were featured in several renowned festivals and received numerous accolades.
The band was named the “New Home Grown Band of the Year” by Leeway’s Home Grown Music Network and listed as a “Top Band to See Live in 2005” by Jambase.com. They also were named “Independent Artist of the Year” by Hapi Skratch Entertainment, the distributors of Green Lemon’s self-titled CD. Jambands.com recognized them as the “New Groove of the Month” for March 2005.
The band rounded out the spectacular year by winning Relix Magazine’s Jam-Off contest. Green Lemon was selected from more than 300 entrants to have a song included on Relix Magazine’s Jam-Off compilation CD. Relix invited the band to perform a winner’s showcase concert in New York City in September during the prestigious CMJ Music Marathon.
Most recently, the band was nominated for a coveted Jammy Award. “The Jammy Awards are the jamband world’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards,” Schaben said.
There are eight Jammy Awards handed out annually at a ceremony in Madison Square Gardens. Green Lemon was one of six nominees for the 2006 New Groove Jammy.
While many musicians talk about jamming, Green Lemon makes improvised jam sessions an integral part of their stage show.
“A lot of other bands will write out a chord progression and have a solo instrument improvise over a progression,” Schaben explained. “We’ll have chords and changes, then invent melodies to take you from one chord to next. But a lot of times nothing is planned out. It’ll just be a static jam in one key, with all the changes coming from different chord phrasing or metric modulation.”
“It’s more cohesive, like spontaneous songwriting,” he said. “Everyone tries to invent smaller parts instead of one instrument taking the lead. We haven’t mastered it yet, but it’s an idea that not a whole lot of bands attempt. I think it makes jams more interesting than when you have one instrument as the sole source of melody.”
There are four songwriters in the band, which also contributes to having a unique sound. Schaben said, “Usually, one person brings an idea to the group. They’ll have the lyrics written out and the chord progression and style, but everything, even the style, is subject to change. We get input from everyone on how it should sound, what kind of chord voicings it should have … everything.”
So, while the band’s unique sound is a natural outgrowth of the individual members’ interests and influence, it does take some cultivating. Schaben said they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a really great thing to not be readily categorized,” he said. “The best classical composers of their eras, like Beethoven and Bartok, were so great because they were so different from what came before them.”
“When people can’t categorize your music it’s harder to develop a following,” he said. “People want to hear something familiar to them, they want a consistent sound. We don’t do that. We all have different opinions and backgrounds in music. It’s really a challenge to get any style pinned down when we’re trying to write a song.”
“When you do that, it’s harder for people to instantly love your music, but the people who are listening are listening for right reasons,” he said.
More and more people are choosing to listen, too. With more than fifty shows under their belt this year, 2006 has been and will continue to be a busy year for the band. According to publicist Jennifer Kalkman, “The 2006 festival season will find Green Lemon gracing the stages of some of the nation’s most prestigious festivals, as well as a few up-and-coming festivals.”
Green Lemon played two shows at Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival in Lawrence, Kansas, which Kalkman said is quickly gaining attention as a leading festival.
“They’ll also be featured at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and SmileFest near Asheville, North Carolina,” Kalkman said. “By the time summer comes to a close, fans will have had the opportunity to see them perform in a more intimate festival setting at Auburn EarthFest, Oklahoma’s Flint Rock Music Festival, Wisconsin’s Feel Good Festival and Missouri’s LegFest. They’ve also been selected to perform at Widespread Panic After Parties on the West Coast in July.”
It is becoming difficult to find live music venues in Oklahoma City that will accommodate a crowd of their particular size. “There are a lot of smaller metal venues or techno club venues, but not a whole lot of large size, live music venues in the area, short of the arenas,” Schaben said. But this summer, they will play at the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheatre for the first time.
On July 4, Green Lemon will perform at the OKC Independence Day Jam, sharing the stage with legends of the jamband world. Former Grateful Dead member, Bob Weir, and his new band, Ratdog, will headline the show, which will also feature Keller Williams and the lead singer from the popular band String Cheese Incident.
“It’s great to be part of a top notch show like this in our home market,” Schaben said. “The fans here are great, and when they find a good local band they respond with a vengeance and really try to support the local artist. Oklahomans want to get out and see good live music.”
To learn more about this local band and find out where you can see them next, visit their Web site at