By GATES PORTER
Unbeknownst to many in Mountain Brook, our community possesses a set of rising talent: JUICE, a five-man band made up of students at Mountain Brook High School and Indian Springs School.
But don’t let that lull you into the notion that JUICE is your typical high school rock band, spontaneously born and quickly abandoned without ever seeing the outside of a garage. “These guys are the real deal,” said Jeff Shapiro, manager of the band, and indeed they are. This two and a half-year-old band of high school sophomores and juniors has already put on publicized concerts and released a seven-song album brimming with ambition and originality.
JUICE’s origins can be traced back to 2009 when current band manager Jeff Shapiro was heading up “Spartan Jam for Special Needs,” a charitable event in which high school bands played to raise money for Mountain Brook special education programs. Shapiro asked his son, Aaron, who had played bass since sixth grade, and his friends to participate in the event.
Aaron gathered together a group of talented classmates with whom he had played with in school talent shows for the fundraiser. Afterward, the core of the group realized their mutual dedication to music and continued to perform together.
Deciding to seriously pursue their passion, the guys adopted the name JUICE, a play on words born of an inside joke, and began to hold practices every Tuesday night. With loyal support from Shapiro and raw aptitude for their respective instruments, the members of the newly formed JUICE swiftly moved forward from their position as a talent-show band to that of a full fledged rock act, with Aaron Shapiro as bassist, Michael Harp as rhythm guitarist, Brent McCollough as pianist, Yitzi Peetluk on the drums and David Brockington on the lead guitar. When it came to vocals, Aaron, Michael and Brent all contributed to the singing.
JUICE quickly accrued a sizeable level of recognition throughout the Birmingham music scene, boasting a Facebook page “liked“ by thousands of fans. Only a year after forming, the band opened for famous bands and at prime concert hotspots such as Workplay. In addition to performing as opening acts, the band has also put on many of their own concerts at festivals such as Riverfest, Band Fest, Magic City Art Connection, Do Da Days and a select concert date in Alabama Adventure’s summer concert series, the band’s most prominent performance to date.
In the midst of accumulating fame, the band has not forgotten its altruistic beginnings. Proceeds from many of JUICE’s performances fund charitable causes, such as Zerometh, the Miracle Makers foundation, Mitchell’s Place, cancer research and special education.
From the beginning until late 2009, JUICE existed primarily as a cover band, skillfully performing songs from a plethora of famous artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Boston, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Van Halen. However, the band soon desired to do something more with their music. “In 2010 the guys began to write more songs and really started to move forward with the idea of composing a full length album,” Shapiro said.
JUICE’s songwriting is collaborative. “A member of the band will usually come to practice with a riff or a beat,” Shapiro said. “Then the entire band will assist in building a song around the original idea.”
When asked to classify the genre of the band based on their original productions, Shapiro hesitantly named “jazzy alternative rock” but then quickly pointed out that this was a rough generalization.
JUICE frequently breaks down traditional genre-lines in their music. The years of musical experience that the band has shared allow their creative pursuits to yield a truly unique sound.
On their first album, “Get It Together” has an energetic, fast-beat feel, and the “El Gato De Inciendo“ features a Spanish guitar opening. The final track, “Yitzi,” is an ambitious eight and a half minute long creative effort that incorporates a variety of rhythms and melodies produced by each member of the band, achieves an eerily harmonious sound and is likewise emblematic of both the band’s collaborative nature of composition and its distinctive musicality.
For more information about JUICE and to listen to and download their songs, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/juiceband. Their first self-titled album can be purchased at Barnes and Noble at The Summit, Piggly Wiggly in Crestline, Crestline Seafood Company Beach Burgers. Proceeds from online dowloads of their album on iTunes or reverbnation.com will go toward tornado victims.