By Robin Jovanovich
Rest assured, I’m no love-struck teen. Just someone trying to get your attention. And it’s not about me, but about an eight-piece band called Juice. They’re only in town a few more weeks and trust me when I tell you they’re no one-note wonder. You’ve got to hear them, which is <no problema> as they practice four or five hours a day in someone’s basement in town. The home happens to belong to the drummer’s parents, and I can get you in the front door.
The kids, most of whom got their start playing in lower or middle school bands, met four years ago, freshmen year at Boston College. Kamau Burton, acoustic guitar and vocals, was in an <a cappella> group with Ben Stevens, lead vocalist. Miles Clyatt, drummer, would run into Rami El-Abdin, bass player, at auditions. None of them was majoring in music much less thinking of becoming a professional musician, but when given a chance to jam at a Battle of the Bands, they gave their loosely organized but enormously talented group a name, a name that stuck. In no time, they were playing at sold-out events in Boston and beyond.
“I was in a different band. Juice beat my band,” said El-Abidin, who is two years older than everyone else in the group. It was only natural he took charge, building their website, getting one of their friends to be their booking agent.
They have shows lined up and are proud to tell you that they no longer play for free. In fact, they’ve opened for DNC and Kayne West. You probably know their music, Mr. Timberlake? Come to think of it, you probably have played with them!
This has been the summer of the band’s life. They’ve recorded five new tunes. (I got to hear one of them right there in the basement.) I also was given a copy of their CD, which includes two of my favorites, “Gold” and “Where I Wanna Be.” I was almost pulled over on I-95 last week because I had the radio blasting and the sunroof open and I was jammin’ to music that reminded me of Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Three Dog Night, and youth.
These are heady times for Juice, who played at Summerfest in Milwaukee. They sold out at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. “There was big word of mouth,” acknowledged Clyatt, a 2009 Rye High graduate. “It was like a high school reunion.”
By the time you read this Mr. Timberlake, Juice will have returned from an eight-day mid-Atlantic tour.
But the best part of their summer? “The ability to access one another. “We’re determined to explore all musical paths,” said Daniel Moss, who plays guitar. “And we’re finding our own sound.”
They’re eternally grateful to Miles’ parents, Wonda and Bob Clyatt, who invited them to spend the summer and soundproofed the basement. “We love all the creative nooks in their house, but mostly we love Wonda’s cooking.”
Next month, three members, Chris Vu, who plays keyboard, Stevens, and Christian Rougeau, vocalist and violinist, are headed back to school in Boston — Chris, whose mother is a concert pianist, to study at the New England Conservatory, Ben and Christian to finish their last semester. Wanting to keep a good thing going and give their music a chance, the other five members naturally got an Airbnb in Boston for three months. They’re all looking for part-time jobs.
After that? They’re loosely talking about Nashville. “There are Airbnbs there too.”
Juice members, from left: Michael Ricciardulli, Chris Vu, Daniel Moss, Ben Stevens, Rami El-Abdin, Miles Clyatt, and Kamau Burton. Not pictured: Christian Rougeau.
Miles Clyatt in the kitchen with his mother Wonda, who’s been cooking up a storm.