What if somebody captured the magic of an impromptu jam session, like lightning in a bottle, and then just left it as it was? That’s the modus operandi of Vanier’s Jukebox Ocean and, with their first EP Rivers of Song set to drop sometime in November, it’s interesting to reflect on the spark that ignited this still-young project. When founding members Joseph Anidjar and Shayne Assouline first played together in the back mods of Vanier’s music department, there must have been a moment when they realized there was something in the energy and spontaneity of a good jam that was both powerful and yet fragile, endangered by too much tinkering or hampering. Like they say; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
In this respect, Jukebox Ocean’s music is that weekend afternoon at the drummer’s house; refined, perfected and vacuum-sealed. There’s structure to their compositions, and a touch of jazzy sophistication granted by formal musical training, but never enough to override the band’s simple approach to rock. Shayne’s drumming is pure animal ferocity, enough to dislodge a bass drum microphone no fewer than three times during their August 28 Alizé gig. Joseph’s lengthy solos descend from hot, bluesy guitar licks to hard, chugging metal riffs and back again, in the space of seconds, held together by the new rhythm of guitarist Iann Duthie.
If nothing else, Jukebox Ocean should find an easy foothold with fellow musicians. Arguably, their greatest accomplishment is preserving that restless enthusiasm every 13-year-old feels for music upon first picking up an instrument, not as a platform to express pain or tell stories, but as an end in itself. If Snarky Puppy is every musician’s wet dream for taking impromptu jams and turning them up to 11, Jukebox Ocean, by keeping them down to earth, is pure nostalgia. It brings one back out of the fog of navel-gazing pretentiousness that so often plagues young musicians nowadays at that tender age where it was all about just making some noise.
With their infectious energy, technical virtuosity and enormous stage presence, Jukebox Ocean earned a small but dedicated following at Vanier and beyond and, with Rivers of Song on the horizon, their spark of spontaneity may see them explode onto the Montreal scene in the coming year.
Written By: Ian Down
Originally Published: September 2015