Jules Whelpton encourages you to hit your bass.
Bassist Jules Whelpton shares a thing or two about the art and science of slapping your bass.
Hailing from Southern Californian, bass player Jules Whelpton came into a small but faithful music community. Born in Oceanside, CA, Jules grew up between two loves: music and theater. He
r former debut band, Daddy Issues, touched on this split, as their theatrics and music put on a show in a community where the singer-songwriter shows were favored over band performances. Her music on her debut album Handle It (2016), with the help of songwriter Angela Alvarez, are fueled by her rich low bass lines, pop rock instrumentation, and power drumming from Brett Weir (Red Sun Rising, Downpour). Produced and recorded by Jim Wirt (Incubus, Fiona Apple) at Crushtone Studios in Cleveland, the band earned an LA Critic’s Music Award in 2016, and they were nominated for Best Rock Album at the San Diego’s Music Awards.
After the band split, Jules met Roni Lee (The Runaways, Kim Fowley), who also created and runs Play Like A Girl Records. Together they have toured and performed in many towns and situations as the Roni Lee Group. Currently they star in many Facebook live videos and are live streaming online.
Jules also helped create her original band, Fairplay, with the help of her former Daddy Issues bandmate, Wil Lopez. They released their debut EP, Broken Seams in 2018, and will be releasing new material later this year, 2020 with their new bandmates.
Not only is Jules known as #thatblondebassist but she also known for being an electric violinist, playing a pink violin on stage. When not performing, she teaches at the Youth Arts Academy in Del Mar, CA and loves to skateboard.
A chat with Jules Whelpton
Chuck Schiele: What does a life as a bass player mean to you?
Jules Whelpton: Being a bass player at first was entertaining to say the least. People would look at me funny, and say, “Really?” Being a girl bassist just over a decade ago when I started, has changed significantly now. I am thankful to be accepted among other musicians in my network, and I always feel honored to be recognized as a player from different outlets. Most importantly, I think I have a greater appreciation for all sorts of genres, bands, and musicians that I wouldn’t normally have if I didn’t play the bass. When you’re in this role of supporting the song, and being the “foundation” as many would refer to the role of the bass, your mind is more open to listening to the music, and it also forces you to think creatively. Many of my favorite producers are bass players, and their experience extend to many genres. And maybe also because there is one bassist to every 85 guitar players? Bass player joke.
Chuck Schiele: What gets you interested in working with any particular artist?
Jules Whelpton: I am a rockaholic. I love classic rock and hard rock, so if there’s a chance to be big and powerful with someone, I love it! I also enjoy working with funk and R&B artists, because it gives the bass an isolation frequency to be heard, and often times the bass can control much of the song. This is a different role than being a rock bassist, where you are mainly supporting guitars, drums etc. As a working session player, I also got excited working with cover bands because audiences would love watching and dancing along with us. Sharing your love for all genres in music is a big “yes” for me when working with different artists. As musicians, we need to be aware of why we play music in the first place. Fcor me it’s my favorite source of entertainment and inspiration.
Chuck Schiele: Please share with us the top 3 habits that make you the player you are today?
Jules Whelpton: This is a great question. A musician’s habits showcase their personality on stage or in the studio. I personally love playing with octaves. Maybe that is due to my love for playing in trios? Using octaves in your slap or rhythms can not only fill space but also provide a more interesting bass line than just hitting root notes. Another habit that is super essential for any bassists is to learn to mute properly. I see this with many guitar players who switch to bass in the studio. The string distances are a lot shorter than the strings on the bass, so when they pick or pluck them they often undershoot or overshoot and hit the other strings. When you’re in the studio, bassists, get the cleanest lines possible. Your band will thank you.
The last habit I’ll mention that has opened my eyes as a bassist, is learning your scales and arpeggios. Many bassists will get stuck with knowing the root line and the chords, and they’re good. The way to stick out and contribute to the song in any genre with maximum potential, is know your theory. Don’t overplay by any means, but do know what whole and half steps are, as well as the c. This doesn’t mean you have to learn to read music, rather know how to play a C Major scale on command. As Victor Wooten has said, “You’re always only a half step away.” Know what that means.
Chuck Schiele: Are there things that happen in your off-stage life that factor into your onstage world?
Jules Whelpton: When it comes to personality, mine can be seen everywhere. I love to have fun, and most of the time I’ll be showcasing that on stage, or in my teachings, recordings, whatever! More deeply though, I try and be someone people can relate to, and learn from. That’s why I love teaching music. Not only do I get to live and breath it, but, I also get to share with others why music is therapeutic, helpful, or inspirational. Having art in society humanizes us. It gives us an understanding into new cultures. And it even unites many of us, though we may come from different backgrounds. Never try to hide any of the “positives.” This is my goal with life. And, thus music. You will see this in anything I put out into my onstage world.
Chuck Schiele: The art of listening is so integral to growing as a player. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Jules Whelpton: Yes! Literally a dying or a forgotten art among many. The younger students I teach have recently discovered the art of listening to a full album! Up until a year ago, many artists would throw singles out and listeners would devour it in a day, and want more. Pop music became very disposable, thus making music in that genre very forgettable. When Billie Eilish and her brother came on the scene, I believe a sense of renaissance was created in the pop world, as now a younger generation, a main consumer of popular music, listened to the entire album multiple times. Many of their tracks span multiple sounds and genres and keep the listener entertained for the entire 30-40 minutes.
Hopefully their influence will continue for younger aspiring artists who will carry on the torch of the art of listening. I also believe the maturity in younger musicians is something to pay attention to as well. Due to YouTube, many have discovered classic rock or Bach and have desires to play some classics. Learning to play these selections, some written centuries ago, forces these artists to listen to the entire movements, and understand the statements being made in times where music was one of the only tangible histories.
Chuck Schiele: What is the primary role and soul of the bass as you see it.
Jules Whelpton: The heartbeat or pulse of the song being shared as a low frequency is the universal main role and soul of a bass in an ensemble. The role may change as a solo bassist. But when played in a group, the low frequency supporting other timbres is truly a soul. When absent, the song feels empty. Nobody wants an empty song.
Chuck Schiele: What would you say to a kid interested in picking up the bass?
Jules Whelpton: I say the same thing, time and time again, “Master it, love it, and you will have a great musical experience.” They will also be most likely employed at the local level and beyond.
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