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Tuesday, July 16 — Perhaps you’re already familiar with these new dudes on the block who critics have called destined for higher status. Juice comprises seven young men bearing guitars, a bass and violin — a few of them are quite the crooners as well. The cheerful rock ‘n’ rollers take on Mac's Bar tomorrow as part of their "What's Ur Genre?" tour.
The band broke out into the Boston indie scene with a self-titled debut album in 2016. The EP included the scorching single, “Gold,” and the group served up (bitter)sweet love tracks ever since.
The soulful, pop-rock septet has been playing shows around the US for almost two years now. With plenty of “emotional moments” along the way, the group plans to reflect their new sense of maturity in its upcoming project. I interviewed vocalist Ben Stevens, 23, and guitarist Michael Ricciardulli, 24, to figure out what all the buzz is about.
How did you get interested in your instruments?
BS: My first musical journey started with the cello and that was when I was like 3 or 4 years old. I thought it was the most beautiful instrument. It has such a wonderful range.
I was seeing a John Williams concert and Yo-Yo Ma was playing and I went up behind stage after the show. I was like, ‘hey, I play cello” and he was like, “no way, I play cello.” That introduced me to music and I played some drums for a bit too.
I grew up singing in church so that gave me the capacity to sing at least. Then musical theatre and it sort of took off from there.
MR: I don’t come from a very musical family. I had some great grandparents that played, but no one directly that gave me an instrument early on. I was in middle school, like early middle school in like 5th or 6th grade and it was the first year we picked electives — I forgot what I chose, I think I took computers or something. It was a big deal. So, I showed up my first day and I got put in band. I was like, “band is for nerds,” so I came home to my mom and I asked her to switch me out, but we had to wait a week for the schedules to settle down. She told me to just hang until the schedule got switched out.
Then it was the second day and we are picking instruments. I’m sitting at the back of the class – I was a quiet kid. I didn’t have enough charisma to say I was going to be switched out soon. So, I went up to the band director and thought the sax looked pretty cool, so I picked up the alto sax. I picked it up, blew into it and something horrible came out.
I actually went home that day and I guess my mom asked me how it was and I was quiet, but she knew I kind of liked it. So, I stuck with it and played sax for about a year. I really liked how it looked and always associated it with something that was cool. I eventually picked up the guitar soon after that.
Has everyone in the group had formal training?
BS: Everyone has had formal training at some point. We don’t like pride ourselves on musical training, but at some point or another, we all had that — which contributed to us branching out and learning on our own.
Who’s responsible for lyrics? Is it a group effort?
BS: Wherever the idea is found is one that will be pursued. That could be from anybody. There are no boundaries here.
I notice that your songs focus on the classic motifs of love and heartbreak, but I also notice you have these glimpses of more socially conscious moments. So, I’m wondering how you guys want to stand out from being another boy band like say, One Direction?
BS: One Direction is sick.
MR: Yeah, we love One Direction.
BS: It’s about being real at the end of the day and being human. Understanding what that’s like and how other people are going through similar things or not. We just want to shed light on the human experience.
Yeah, we were 18 and 19 when we were writing about those things. But that was just our point at that point in our lives. It’s going to be completely different music now.
If we were to write a love song now, we would go about it in a completely different way because we’ve been living lives now.
What have you learned since writing those songs initially?
MR: What I always think about is, if I on any level can bestow a feeling, or some form of sensation, into the form of a song at any given point, is something that means a lot to us. Also hearing a fan that is interested in us and sort of collects that sensation of their own and have it embody their own feelings, or life even, is a really special bond. We try to emphasize that at all times in the songwriting.
We also try in our mannerisms and our boyish-ness. We try to have fun too as a group. But at the root of it, the songwriting is always that sacred relationship. It feels really good to be identified with. It’s not the end all be all but we welcome it.
BS: Life outside of college is a thing. It’s a much bigger world than we ever experienced or understood on so many different levels. We’ve been traveling a lot and meeting a lot of different people. And then enduring a lot amongst one another, the outside world and ourselves. There is goodness everywhere, but there is also fear everywhere. So those are some of the things we’ve collected. To see that, recognize it and call it out and go to battle with it is what we are trying to do.
As part of your persona, what do you think youth, especially young men, need to see right now?
MR: It’s a more awkward thing to talk about with young men right now. There’s people like Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet and like, people that really break down that barrier of hyper-masculinity culture and heteronormativity in their persona. They are so good at making people feel comfortable through their medium of art.
I think that boyish-ness contributes to that, it’s definitely something that we are after. It’s something that we strive for and we’ve always recognized in ourselves.
BS: Kiss your homies goodnight
What did you study in college?
MR: All over the place, I studied finance and marketing with a minor in music.
BS: I did bio.
Best memory from being on tour?
BS: There has been so many. We went back to Boston after a three in a half month tour and it was cool and colorful and everything and we grew a lot from it, but we came back to Boston as the last show on that run. And you could just cut the freaking feelings with a knife when we walked out on stage, it was insane. It was like coming home to open arms. It was validating and comforting.
MR: That was more of the emotional side, I think I’ll share—
MR: Yeah Nantucket was wild. At the Gramercy Theatre in New York, which I guess doesn’t really count because it was the start of the tour, but we are pretty into Pokémon. Sometimes like to open a card before shows, as like a joke and we pulled this really rare card and everyone in the green room freaked out before the show.
BS: You can watch the video on YouTube.
MR: That was a great show, it was a sold-out show at Gramercy Theatre. So that was funny, but casual stuff like that happens all the time.
You can catch Juice at Mac’s Bar tomorrow night with local hip-hop heroes Jahshua Smith and Noveliss.
Juice at Mac’s Bar
Wednesday, July 16
2700 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI