Before Lauren Bjelde became the charismatic frontwoman for the horn-powered, six-piece soul-combo Royal Jelly Jive, she held down a monthly gig for a year at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room with a psychedelic blues/funk project. An elemental Delta boogie seeped into the music, manifesting the spectral presence of blues legend John Lee Hooker, who once owned and operated the club.
Royal Jelly Jive’s story starts right after this, in late 2013, when Bjelde, keyboardist Jesse Adams and a few other members launched the band, delivering an uproarious blend of slinky R&B brass, surging organ and keen melodic hooks, still leaving room for the blues that served as their foundation. The group started hitting the Boom Boom Room hard and quickly emerged as one of San Francisco’s most entertaining bands.
“When Jesse Adams came into the picture, he took us to a new level of funk with the B-3, bringing that John Lee Hooker juju,” says Bjelde. “We had the vibes spilling over from the Fillmore, and it all went into our sound.” Additionally, the band features Robby Elfman on reeds, trumpeter Danny Cao, trombonist Luke Zavala, bassist Tyden Binsted and drummer Felix Macnee.
The group recently released its third album, Limited Preserve No. 3, which features “a whole bunch of jelly being jarred. This is a harvest and assemblage of our studio experience,” Bjelde says, referring to the album, not the preserves.
“We been spending so much time as a band on stage night after night, so much music pours out,” she says. “There’s no rhyme or reason or official recipe as to who writes the songs. It’s about what feels good. Jesse and I are together all the time, and a lot of that songwriting comes together working feverishly on the boogie.”
Deeply informed and playfully reverent toward the departed masters whose shoulders they stand on, the band brings its far-flung curiosity to the stage this month in Napa and next month in Petaluma.
Royal Jelly Jive performs on Friday and Saturday, Jul 26 and 27, at the Blue Note Jazz Club, 1030 Main St., Napa. 6:30pm, 8:30pm. $10-$30. Bluenotenapa.com; and on Saturday, Aug 3, at Petaluma Music Festival, Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, Petaluma. Gates open at 11:30am. $55-$65. petalumamusicfestival.org.