By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
When Dave Davies of The Kinks recently decided to go on his first solo tour in nearly a decade, he needed the perfect backing band. He turned to The Jigsaw Seen, an LA-based rock group that helped him write his latest album, “I Will Be Me,” which is set for national release June 4.
Members of the band, guitarist Jonathan Lea, along with bassist Tom Currier and drummer Teddy Freese, are joining Davies on a short tour of the U.S., including a show at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on June 2. They’ll be performing songs from the new album, plus Kinks classics.
“It’s a good mix, but it’s Kinks heavy,” said Lea, who will be sharing guitar duties with Davies. “Tom will also play piano on a few songs and I’ll switch to bass. We mix it up.”
Lea, a lifelong fan of The Kinks, has been working with Davies since 2000 after a mutual friend recommended they collaborate. Considering the fact that the first song he learned on guitar was “All Day and All of the Night,” Lea said it is surreal to be working with the music legend who made it popular in 1964.
“One day, I got a call and a woman said, ‘Dave Davies would like to speak to Jonathan,’ and I was like, ‘really?’ He came on and said, ‘I’m doing this tour. Do you want to come?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Lea said. “When you’re working with someone like that you have to play it cool, but even after 13 years I think, ‘this is unbelievable.’ It’s still a pretty incredible feeling. Growing up, The Kinks to me were just amazing. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Through the years, Lea has learned that Davies is down to earth and easy to deal with. Davies has been known to ask The Jigsaw Seen for input, such as the case with their latest joint efforts, “The Healing Boy” and “Midnight In LA,” which appear on “I Will Be Me.”
“He sent us a demo and we just kind of flushed it out,” Lea said of “Midnight In LA.” “We recorded what we thought sounded good and he really liked the drum sound and other elements we added.”
About a month or two later, Davies sent them “The Healing Boy.” Currier laid down bass and piano tracks, and Lea recorded electric sitar parts for the song.
“We weren’t sure what Dave was going to think because we ended up with a John Lennon/George Harrison kind of feel to it, but he really liked it,” Lea said. “I’ve always loved the sound. Even as a kid, my favorite Beatle songs are the George Harrison ones with the sitar. We were happy that everything worked out well. The album sounds great.”
For the last few weeks, they’ve been rehearsing as a full band, arranging songs from the new album.
“We have to make a few alterations for the live versions because the production is pretty elaborate on the album,” Lea said.
Aside from working with Davies, The Jigsaw Seen has been writing songs for a new album of their own, which they hope to release by January 2014. It will be their latest studio recording since “Gifted” in 2011.
Lea, who co-founded The Jigsaw Seen more than 20 years ago, said he loves being a part of the band because it gives them artistic freedom.
“To us, it feels like an art project,” he said. “We would do it even if the records weren’t released. It’s a creative outlet and I like doing it because we can do whatever we want. With The Jigsaw Seen, we can do any crazy idea we have.”
That creativity extends all the way to album packaging. In 2000, they released “Zenith,” which was nominated for a Grammy for its packaging. The CD has a 1940s-style TV on the front, with a moveable disc. Other albums like “Gifted” came gift-wrapped, while “Winterland” was printed in silver ink with printed snowflakes inside.
“To me, art and music is all the same,” Lea said. “As a kid, all the bands I loved were pretty artsy. I always loved staring at the packaging and analyze it as much as I could. We keep that going.”
They also plan to keep their partnership with Davies going, as Lea said Davies has a knack for captivating crowds. He anticipates the show at the Narrows will be “a lot of fun.”
“Whether he’s playing for 500 people or thousands, he goes on stage and just turns it on. He just has that quality,” said Lea. “We’ve played the area before and have done a lot of shows in Massachusetts with Davies through the years, so we’re really looking forward to seeing people on this tour and meeting fans.”
Tickets to Dave Davies of The Kinks can be purchased online at http://www.narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the box office. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. or on the day of the show