Photo courtesy of Orange Guava Passion
Interview by Elena Householder
Last semester, I sat down with the members of freshman band Orange Guava Passion to ask them some questions about their recent formation and seemingly lightspeed rise to class-wide recognition. Between inside jokes and excited greetings, we bumbled into South Wayland Lounge, a common venue for their impromptu and intimate shows. Underneath the remnants of fairy lights from their most recent gig, we discussed their serendipitous beginnings, plans for the future, and gratitude for this opportunity to create music they love. Any mystery about their new-found popularity dissipated. They’re perfectly endearing and off-beat with just the right amount of self-deprecating humor to be the down-to-earth, lovable band anyone can get behind.
Members of Orange Guava Passion:
Features: Yale Friend
How would you describe your music? Do you have any main inspirations?
Ben: We would describe our sound as a fusion between Neo-soul, RnB, Funk Fusion.
Maya: With pop, gotta throw that in there.
Jackson: And a little bit of jazz obviously because most of us are jazz musicians.
Danny: I think we’re drawing from artists like Vulfpeck and Hiatus Kaiyote, but often Michael Jackson and Beyoncé also.
How did you all meet, and what was the formation like?
Maya: So, Ben and I kind of knew each other through us both being guitarist composers and messaged on Facebook over the summer.
Ben: Yeah, I slid into the DMs.
Maya: Then we saw Nat in the Vdub, and he was wearing a Vulfpeck T-shirt. I was like, “You have to be a musician!” It turns out he was a bass player, and he had met this drummer Dhruv. The rest of us had met already at some jazz jams in different configurations. So, Nat, Dhruv, Ben and I decided to have a jam and then I just was like, “Oh, Danny should come too,” because Danny knew Jackson and they had already bonded over a lot of this type of music.
Danny: Well, there’s a distinction. There was this first jam session with Maya, Ben, Dhruv, and Nat, but I came late. But I came in as they were already in the middle of writing this first tune. And I think I came in and I was like, “Oh, it sounds like you guys are playing some “Back Pocket” or something.” It sounded like they were playing some Vulfpeck song. And they were like, “No, we’re actually writing an original,” and I was like, “Oh shit.” I’m not going to lie, I was a little skeptical. *laughter* Then I sat down at this organ, and we finished it and it was actually really groovy.
Maya: So, we were really excited about it and we were like, “We gotta get some horn players on this and we gotta get a singer.” Danny said that we should talk to Jackson, and we knew Peter and Elliot from the jams.
Ben: Honestly, it was just a bunch of freshmen who liked each other as people. We liked each other as musicians, started playing together, and I think in the back of all of our minds, we wanted to come to school and have this type of experience in some way. And when we saw that that was possible, we kind of just went for it and we haven’t really stopped.
Jackson: I think we all kind of come to it with different musical tastes and different backgrounds, but we do all share a certain sense that brings us together. But, all of our different unique things are kind of what gives us our sound.
You’re all freshmen except for one senior. How did you meet and end up playing together?
Maya: Well, I actually went to camp with him.
Danny: Yeah, and also many of us are in the jazz program here, so we kind of knew each other,
Eliot: We just saw him walking by Jo’s one day.
Jackson: Yeah, I had my Wonder Boom and was playing some tunes, and he was commenting on it.
Ben: Basically, we ran into him out of sheer coincidence and we needed a trumpet player—he’s a really killer trumpet player—and worlds collided.
And what about your first gig?
Jackson: So, we jammed a couple times—it wasn’t really even a band at this point it was just a bunch of us jamming—but we found out about Gigs in the Grass, and we wanted to get together this original that they had worked on for awhile.
Danny: Not even awhile.
Jackson: Yeah, like one rehearsal. So, the second rehearsal we all wrote a melody. And our collaborative process—it was pretty sick how *laughter* (if we don’t say so ourselves) there were nine of us, but we would all contribute ideas for specific parts of the melody and what the final product was. An amalgamation of all of our own smaller melodic ideas that became what is now Trader Joe’s. And the story behind the lyrics is also pretty interesting because we pretty much just had a melody, and we were kind of rushed. We only had two rehearsals to work on this, but we really wanted to play for Gigs on the Grass, so we met like an hour before our audition. We had to write lyrics and also think of a band name.
Ben: We had no lyrics an hour before our audition. We literally had nothing besides the backing instrumental part.
Jackson: All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I was like, “Why don’t we just turn our generic placeholder love lyrics into a song about Trader Joe’s because we love Trader Joe’s?” And then we just thought that would be really funny because no one really asks the question “who is Trader Joe?”
Danny: And that being said, we also had to figure out a band name. And I think we were all on the same page that it should be something Brown-specific and relatable enough, but it would just kind of be dumb to name it after Spicy Withs. Everyone knows a Spicy With, or something named after Blueno, or things like that. But we were all in agreement—especially Eliot—that there’s this drink from all the main dining halls—the Ratty especially—called orange guava passionfruit juice.
Eliot: I mean there’s not much to say, I’m just a big fan. I probably have four cups on me at the moment *laughter*.
Jackson: And then we just thought that having an abbreviated version would make it easier to throw into conversation and stuff.
Eliot: So, we went into our audition after we were writing for like 45 minutes or something. We were kind of nervous.
Danny: Yeah, we were like, “Guys, I just hope we get to play and even if we don’t make it, it was still really fun to play with you guys.”
Eliot: We go in and the Class Board is super nice, and so we played our song. Then they were like, “Oh my god!” and we were like, “Uh oh, was it really that bad?” But they were like, “No, that was amazing,” and they asked if we wanted to be the headlining band at ANOCH.
Danny: And I just want to acknowledge that the CCB really took a leap of faith with this freshman band and said, “We’ve only heard you guys play once, but I’m willing to give you guys this gig in front of the whole school.” We were like, “Let’s freaking go, this is awesome.” So, I really just want to give credit where credit is due to all of the CCB.
Peter: Yeah, and they asked what else we had to play for the two-hour gig and we were like, “Uh… this is it. We have this, and we play nothing else.”
Ben: So, in two and a half weeks we had to learn over twenty covers and put together another original. We were rehearsing ten plus hours a week for sure.
You just did a show in South Wayland Lounge. How did you decide and plan to do that?
Maya: We just really wanted to play another gig before Thanksgiving.
Jackson: We had more originals as well that we wanted to show to our friends and any of our …fans? *laughter*
Ben: And we thought this would be a really good space to do that, and it was—it turned out to be really conducive to our playing and to the environment in general.
Danny: And it should be said that this is basically a function of Wayland not having a nice lounge space. Like, this is the equivalent of Arnold Lounge, but this is what it looks like. So, we just figured this was a nice social gathering space. Then we were like, “Wait, it’s also pretty big. We could take all this furniture out, put some lights up, this could be a great spot for a gig,” and it turns and that it really freaking was. *laughter*
Ben: And we definitely want to do this more, you know, it worked for us.
Jackson: There are also some other freshmen who have been trying to put stuff together and have smaller shows of their own, so we want to build up our freshman class’ music scene. We had a guest on our last show, and we do enjoy bringing in people who we think can contribute or have specific things they want to share.
Ben: There’s an amazing guzheng player, which is a twenty-four string Chinese harp, so we want to do a collaboration with her. We did a collaboration with a rapper. We did one at the Swayland show with another vocalist.
Jackson: We still have a very specific sound, but at the same time we really want to branch out and have a lot of diverse types of music and genres that we dip our feet into
Do any of you guys pursue music outside of OGP?
Ben: Yeah, Maya and I are going to concentrate in music, and I know I’m going into it professionally. All of the rest of us are in ensembles in some way and we pretty much all go to the jazz jams.
Jackson: Also, a lot of us are obviously very interested in music, but we didn’t come in with that being our main focus. But, we actually think that we might accidentally major in music along the way. So, we’ll see where that leads, I guess.
You already have over 600 likes on your Facebook page. Were you surprised by the support that you received here? Did you do anything specific to get the word out?
Peter: Well, our marketing strategy was a lot of word of mouth, I would say, like just telling friends here and friends at home. I was surprised by the amount of support that we saw.
Danny: There were the first couple days where we got like over 200 just from sharing it in the Facebook group.
Jackson: For gigs we hadn’t even played once before, and we had a huge crowd of freshmen that were there to support us and even made signs and stuff. Like people were buying in before we even had anything to show for it. *laughter*
Danny: Yeah exactly that’s the thing. It felt like some freshmen just wanted something to get behind and it felt like they could get behind us, which is a great feeling for us and hopefully for them as well.
Maya: Also, we were all just so excited about it. We would have rehearsal, and then come back and say to our friends, “I just had the best time working on all this music. You have to come see us.” I think that built a lot of excitement about it.
Jackson: And, like how Peter says, the word of mouth thing. If anybody would ask how we’re doing, this is just such a core part of our experience here and so many of the fun moments we’ve had that we just have to talk about it.
Peter: Yeah, I apologize to all my friends that I’ve spent the last month talking only about OGP to.
Ben: But I think that shows how excited we are.
Do you have any plans coming up?
Wills: We do. We’re going to release two originals within the next two to three weeks on all platforms—iTunes, Spotify, all that kind of stuff.
What was the recording process like?
Ben: It was honestly so fun, though being in the studio… We were in the studio for about four hours, and we spent about two hours each on the tracks. It was definitely a very different vibe to how we usually rehearse and play.
Wills: Yeah, it was all about working out the details.
Ben: Right, and for us it’s all about the vibe and how we’re presenting, but for that it’s all about the minutia.
Eliot: And just doing the multi-track, like the rhythm section and then the horns and stuff like that we hadn’t done before.
Ben: And then more long term, we’re looking to do a five song EP that would come out probably in the spring.
Anything else you want to say?
Eliot: If people have anything they want us to play for, please reach out to us. We’re really looking to collaborate a lot as well, so we’d love to hear from people.
Danny: Count on us playing more in Swayland lounge.
Ben: The last thing I think is just that we really just want to play more.
Jackson: One last thing for me is that we’ve talked about how excited we’ve been about the group. I think that besides all of the experiences we’re having now, it’s also really exciting to think about how new this is for me, and it makes me realize how much we still have to grow. That’s one of the most special things—like we’re already here, and we have so much further we can go as well.
Ben: We’re all freshmen—we have four more years here. Let’s see what we can do.
Catch Orange Guava Passion at their gig at Finlandia this Saturday, March 2nd!