While a single instrument won't make or break a band, if it's unusual enough, its inclusion in the lineup can help win the war for an audience's attention.
For local jammers The Velvet Hand, Jon Elliott's saxophone is their lineup's secret weapon.
"It's something around here that people aren't accustomed to seeing," said lead singer Cody Scealf. "We've played venues before with heavy-metal bands and rock bands and this, that and the other, but I think people take away more from seeing something like the saxophone."
The Velvet Hand traces its roots back to the band Everyone's Audience, which Scealf formed in 2001 while he was still in high school. After losing his guitar player in 2003, Scealf invited Elliott to practice after school.
The band's current lineup has been solid for two years and is a mix of classically trained musicians such as Elliott and self-taught players like Scealf. While their backgrounds may differ, they share several key influences, such as Pink Floyd and Dave Matthews Band, that have strongly influenced their style.
Like those bands, The Velvet Hand's members said they are largely driven by a desire to experiment, a feature of their music they hope will be evident on their self-titled debut album, which they will release Saturday at JJ's Bohemia.
The 16-track project is the product of three years of active work and features material going back six years. Like their live shows, the album represents a wide range of musical exploration, Elliott said.
"One thing people take away from our shows is how eclectic our music is," he said. "We like to play different stuff. We don't want to play the same genre for two or three hours."
The Velvet Hand first began work on an album largely as a way to maintain the interest they built at live shows by offering something fans could take home with them.
Over time, its significance grew, Elliott said.
"I think we're all very excited about it," he said. "We're perfectionists; that's why it took us so long.
"We did not want to put something out we aren't proud of. At this point, we definitely are."
IF YOU GO
What: The Velvet Hand CD release party with Elk Milk.
When: 10 p.m. Saturday.
Where: JJ's Bohemia, 231 M.L. King Blvd.
Admission: $5 cover; $10 for copies of the album.
Venue website: www.myspace.com/jjsbohemia
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...