Not From Concentrate: A Look At The Unlikely Ingredients Of Juice

“I don’t care about being famous. I just want to be able to play bass and sit in that nice pocket that Miles creates.”

On a makeshift stage, under a temporary white tent taking up most of O’Neill Plaza, eight Boston College students started on an unlikely journey. Sporting blazers, slacks, and a few odd ties, the group was in the middle of performing one of its originals, “Where I Wanna Be.” As lights flashed on the stage—as people in the audience let out scattered screams of joy—Christian Rougeau, A&S ’17, fell down to his knees in a fit of passion and tore his bow across electric violin strings, his head bobbing ecstatically, strands of horse hair flying off the stick as he finished a furious solo.

After the fury, the band’s frontmen Rougeau, Ben Stevens, and Kamau Burton, all A&S ’17, took over. They ended the song a cappella, singing, “Sometimes I dream about a place so far away / Where the sun is shining right on through my day” to the silence of O’Neill Plaza. The audience joined in, clapping along with the song. “That’s where I wanna be,” the song closed, and the crowd erupted into a standing ovation.

If the guys in Juice haven’t reached the place they want to be yet, they are certainly on their way. Winning the Arts Fest Battle of the Bands on that April night under that white tent—and consequently opening for Hoodie Allen at last year’s Modstock—was, in part, the impetus for the band’s incredible rise over the last semester. “When we won Battle, we were like, ‘Wait a minute, we’re freshmen, we have so much time ahead of us,’” Rougeau said. “We can just take this, and just evolve it, and make it something awesome.”

Now sophomores, the eight-piece band still has plenty of time to evolve. But the journey that started that night less than a year ago has already taken Juice to the forefront of the BC music scene, making it the closest thing to a “household name” in student-generated music that BC has.

Emily Fahey / Heights Editor
Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

Juice has a long list of ingredients: Stevens on vocals, Burton on vocals and acoustic guitar, Rougeau on vocals and violin, guitar players Daniel Moss and Michael Ricciardulli, keyboardist Chris Vu, drummer Miles Clyatt, all A&S ’17, and the only non-sophomore, Rami El-Abidin, A&S ’15, on bass.

“There are so many of us, it’s hard to get us all in one place,” El-Abidin said. With such a wide pool of musical tastes and influences, it’s also difficult to pin the band’s sound down to a single genre, moving between rock, hip-hop, soul, and more classic pop.

“When we’re writing songs, there’s definitely a coalition of taste that makes the process take a little longer, but then helps the overall process,” Rougeau said. Juice can be best understood as a funky, hip-hop infused jam band, complete with electric violin. It’s hard not to compare them to Dave Matthews Band because they both have that distinct violin timbre. The influence is there, yet with a funkier, smoother flavor.

The journey of Juice began with a simple Facebook message. Rougeau posted on the Class of 2017 page looking for fellow musicians. Clyatt answered, and the two began jamming, picking up Ricciardulli, Moss, and Vu along the way. Rougeau would later link up with Burton and Stephens at BC Idol—the three of them combined accounted for first and second place at the annual singing competition.

The group organized as a band, under the name “Juice,” simply to participate in Battle of the Bands, their success in that competition ultimately developing “Juice” into full-time commitment. El-Abidin joined this year after former bass player Jack Godfrey left, initially inspired by the group’s performance at Battle of the Bands. “I was so stoked for them and also like sad at the same time that I wasn’t part of it,” he said. “And now I am, so it’s all right.”

Since winning the Battle of the Bands, Juice has played some pretty high-profile BC shows. The band opened for Hoodie Allen, played to a raucous crowd of soon-to-be graduates at last year’s Commencement Ball, opened for Andy Grammer in Robsham Theater, and opened for YouTube sensation Joseph Vincent at the Asian Caucus’ “Mind to Mic” event this month. These aren’t the typical kinds of shows at which BC bands perform. For the last few years, student organizations like the Music Guild have been working to foster a strong music scene at BC, but have struggled to build campus-wide interest.

Typically, BC musicians will play student-run shows at smaller venues like the Vanderslice Cabaret Room, which usually holds around 100 to 200 people. Juice, on the other hand, has had opportunities to play at more publicized events with big-name stars, and the band has even performed at Robsham Theater, which holds nearly 600 people. Gathering more than 600 fans on Facebook in under a year, Juice has broken through into campus consciousness, having done all this work as freshmen and sophomores.

Juice credits its success to a philosophy of persistence. “If we wanna maybe do something with this, we want to try to play as much as we can,” Rougeau said. “We want to reach out to as many people as we can about performance opportunities.”

Over this past summer, Juice reached out to the Campus Activities Board (CAB) looking for opportunities, and it found that the newly-founded activities board had been impressed by the band’s Modstock performance. The two groups have formed a relationship that’s led to many opportunities, including performance at the Commencement Ball and Andy Grammer. This weekend CAB and the Music Guild will be hosting the annual Fall Band Showcase in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room with Juice on the bill, along with BC musicians Atomic Pizza Slap, William Bolton, Seaver’s Express, and Lucid Soul.

Juicebook

In the long run, Juice just hopes to keep playing together, at whatever capacity. “I don’t care about being famous,” El-Abidin said. “I just want to be able to play bass and sit in that nice pocket that Miles creates.”

With more than two years left at BC, Juice is taking steps to expand its popularity and experiment with its sound. The members are currently working on an EP, as well as a partnership with Serengetee clothing that they hope will result in an official Juice merchandise line. They are also hoping to expand outside of BC with a show on Dec. 13 at the Middle East in Cambridge, a venue often considered a rite of passage for aspiring artists in Boston. A good showing with a big crowd could propel them into the music world thriving just outside of BC’s campus. Rougeau is optimistic. “Hopefully we can make the Middle East bump,” he said. “And then, the Boston scene will accept us.”

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor