Twenty years ago, Agents of Good Roots seemed to be a band on the verge of breaking big.
The Richmond-based quartet, which included Roanoke natives Andrew Winn and Stewart Myers, had a record deal with RCA and a nationally released album, “One By One,” that mixed jazz, rock and funk. The disc included a couple of alt-rock hit singles, “Come On (Let Your Blood Come Alive)” and “Smiling Up the Frown.”
Instead of breaking big, the Agents broke up in 2001. They never put down their instruments, though. In 2017, the band played its first live show in about a dozen years, a memorial gig for their tour manager and “spiritual adviser,” the late Jeff Peskin. Along the way, the quartet rediscovered its spark.
The Agents showed that spark in a block party headlining slot last summer at Martin’s Downtown Bar & Grill. They return to Roanoke on Saturday to play 5 Points Music Sanctuary.
Winn, 45, the band’s guitarist, keyboardist and singer, is back in Roanoke, where he has worked since August as an anesthesiologist for Carilion. He said that he was finishing his residency about the time the band decided to reunite.
Peskin’s death “was surely a catalyst that pushed us all to want to get together and make some music again, especially in his honor,” Winn said in a Tuesday phone call. “And then we found that it’s really a lot of fun to do it. We really missed it.
“So we played some shows, not trying to take over the world or anything, just trying to get back to the beginning of why we played music in the first place. You fall in love with it, and it doesn’t really matter who’s listening. Enjoy it, and play it.”
Bassist/singer Myers and the rest of the band, sax man J.C. Kuhl and drummer/singer Brian Jones, remain in Richmond, where each has a career playing, teaching and recording music. Winn, a music major in his first university go-round and a teacher before he decided on his new career path, said he never gave up playing during his years studying anesthesiology, playing lots of East Coast gigs with his brother, Gordon, and other top Richmond-area players in the Winn Brothers.
Picking back up with Agents was relatively smooth, he said.
“I think when you’re playing your own stuff, it came from your own source,” he said. “Going back to it, it’s easier to wake it up than it would be to play a bunch of other people’s songs. I didn’t think it was too bad. There were a few bumps here and there, but that’s part of the fun. Figure it out.”
The band is talking about recording again. And Winn plans to make the most of social media to stay in touch with a nationwide fanbase earned when the Agents were touring 200 days a year in a van. He envisions live feeds from the studio, geared toward fans across the country.
Gigs will be limited to Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville and Virginia Beach, he said.
“Just enjoy it and not think about where it’s going” is the goal, he said. “I felt like we sound good because we’ve matured into the music. We used to play so fast. Now we can actually settle into a groove a little bit better.”