Happy Mondays with Juice

Photo found on Juice’s Facebook Page

Let the music of Juice sweep you away in a breeze of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, rock, pop and funk sounds. This Boston, Massachusetts based 8-piece stirs together a heady pineapple-flavored concoction of soulful vocals and harmonies, flowing rap verses, funky grooves and remarkable electric violin parts. The Pop Break had the chance to interview Juice about their origins, winning 2016’s Land The Big Gig competition at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, their live performance, songwriting and their most recent music releases.

Who is Juice? (Names of your bands members and the instruments you play): Juice is Ben Stevens on lead vocals, Christian Rougeau on violin/vocals/rap, Kamau Burton on vocals/acoustic guitar, Michael Ricciardulli on guitar, Daniel Moss on guitar, Rami El-Abidin on bass, Chris Vu on keys, and Miles Clyatt on drums.

I know that you all met at Boston College as freshman, started jamming together soon after and then you won a battle of the bands contest that same year. Had you already been playing a lot of shows by that point and making a lot of fans? At what point did you realize that the band was really taking off: We didn’t start seriously playing shows until almost a year after the band was formed. When we won battle of the bands we earned our first BC fans, but at this point it was more of a hobby. The following year we played our first legitimate venue shows and won battle of the bands a second time. At this point we realized that people actually enjoyed seeing us perform and we started getting more shows in and around Boston. The term ‘taking off’ is relative since we still have a long way to go, but once we won 2016’s Land The Big Gig competition at Summerfest in Milwaukee it was pretty clear that the band had some serious potential.

When you began, did you expect that in just two years, you’d be playing so many sold out shows and gaining this much attention? What has that been like for Juice: We certainly did not expect the kind of trajectory we’ve been experiencing when we first formed. Juice has gradually transformed from a group of guys who jam together in a packed dorm room into a real band with original music and sound. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to grow our band and we are super appreciative of all our friends, family, and fans who have supported us and made it possible for us to take it this far.

How was the Summerfest 2016 Land the Big Gig competition? Did you have any idea that you would win and take home the $20,000 grand prize? Along with feeling an unbelievable amount of excitement and pride, what were your reactions to winning the competition: We went into the Land The Big Gig competition with a positive mindset but we certainly did not take anything for granted. The other bands sounded great so we knew the competition would be intense. We are really proud to have come out on top.

Now that it’s been a year, how has winning the Land the Big Gig competition influenced the band: Land The Big Gig opened a lot of doors for us. It proved to all of us that we have something special as a band and we need to work hard to take it to the next level! As a result of the competition, we had the opportunity to go back and perform at Summerfest this July. It was a lengthy 15-hour drive out to Milwaukee but we got to open directly for DNCE in front of nearly 10,000 people. That was wild. Land the Big Gig also put us in touch with our current producer, who helped us record an EP in Milwaukee. Be sure to check out our new music coming soon!

You are definitely a site to see live, with so many band members, an electric violin, strong vocals, rapping—even the combo of acoustic and electric guitars is really unique. Along with all of this, what it is about you guys that listeners love so much? What do you think draws in the big crowds: We have a very raw and loose energy when we play live and the audience really connects with that. Our solos and instrumental jams are often special moments that demonstrate our honest musical expression and versatility. Our songwriting has continued to improve, which has led to some great audience engagement!

What elements make up the signature sound of a Juice song: Fire hooks, tight grooves, violin.

I know that you started out as a jam band, so I’m wondering how that impacts your songwriting and performing? Do your songs usually start out as an improvised jam? Do you tend to have any improvised sections during performances: Our songwriting has become a more communal process, especially as we’ve lived together in NY this summer. Cohesive ideas are brought to the group in an effort to feel out the vibes, and take it to the next level. This helps refine and shape the songs, and allows for different harmonic and melodic ideas to come to the surface. We like to mix up our live show, so it’s always a pretty unique experience.

What message(s) do you want to convey to listeners with your music: We want our listeners to connect with our music in unique and deeply honest ways – whether it’s the beat, lyrics, jams, or melodies, we strive to transcend the typical listening experience. As long as we can convey the joy that playing music brings to us, then we are doing our jobs!

From releasing your single “Gold” in 2015 to your full-length album in April 2016 and just playing so many shows in 2017, how has your music evolved over the last two years: We have matured a lot in our songwriting and our playing since 2015. Our lyrics are more thoughtful, and we take effort to construct a more cohesive narrative in each song. In terms of our live show, we’ve always played with a tremendous amount of energy. However, recently we’ve done a better job at listening to each other and exercising restraint and dynamics in our playing, which allows for the big moments of energy to really stand out.

What are you most proud of in terms of your self-titled full-length album? Do you have any favorite tracks? What ones are they and why do you like them so much: We are most proud of the fact that we were able to record that album as young college students in the first place. Some of our favorite tracks are “Shoot Me Down” and “Where I Wanna Be.” “Where I Wanna Be” was one of the first songs we ever wrote as a band and it really brings us back to a special time in our lives.

What would you say is the best part about creating and performing music: The best part about creating and performing music is bringing joy and creating connections with the people who come out to listen and support us.

What’s next for Juice: We are going to be releasing an EP soon! We are also moving back up to Boston in the fall to play more shows and gear up for another tour in the Spring.

JUICE PLAYS TONIGHT AT WONDER BAR IN ASBURY PARK AT 8:30 P.M. WITH MONGO AND FRIENDS AND MATT WADE.

Laura Curry is a Rutgers University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Interviewing bands and writing about music is her passion. She is a frequent concert-goer, whether they’re happening in New Brunswick basements, Asbury Park venues, concert halls in NYC and anywhere in between. Alternative rock is her go-to genre (i.e. Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant, Foals, The Maine and lots more). When she isn’t writing for The Pop Break, she works at the North Brunswick Public Library, which offers plenty of Fantasy/Adventure novels to quench her love of reading. Additionally, she takes on creative projects from dream catchers and scrapbooks to paintings and jewelry making. She’s always happy to talk about her furry Maine Coon cat Austen and his knack for playing fetch and hide and seek. Just try not to ask about her next career move, because trust me, she’s working on it.