We conversed with multi-faceted funk musician Juan “Juanjamon” Montero to learn about his upcoming solo album plans as well as his expanding performance schedule with The Juanjamon Band. The Juanjamon Band is an improvisational collective playing Parliament and New Orleans funk infused with elements of rock, soul and reggae. Together these players expertly craft a dance party like no other and we’re ardently awaiting more opportunities to see them take stage.
Juan enjoys sitting in with other ensembles and he often invites guest players and artists-at-large to perform with his own group. He currently plays with the Joe Marcinek Band and is planning a reunion with the original band he started back in 1997.
The Juanjamon Band is scheduled to play Purple Hatter’s Ball this Saturday, June 3rd on the Beach Stage at 2:30pm. Bring your bikini and Juan will add the splash.
What have you been working on lately? Give us the update on your new music, shows and anything else you have going on.
Right now we’re recording my first album. I’m producing it myself. There will be a couple of guests on it but it’s mainly my core band. I’m not sure when it will be released. It’s comprised of my popular songs I’ve written within the past five or six years. I’ve only been doing The Juanjamon Band full force for two years. My main focus before that was Cope when we were touring. Next up we are doing Purple Hatter’s Ball. After that we will be at The Funky Biscuit in south Florida with Guavatron on July 1st.
Introduce everyone in your band for us.
The drummer is Michael “Thunderfoot” Garrie. He’s been in the Tampa Bay area for about ten years. He’s from upstate New York. Then I have Andre Mack on guitar. He’s originally from Tampa. I have Matt Giancola on keyboards and Trevor McDannel on bass. They both have their own band called Future Vintage. I have a trumpet player named Ceasar Lopez. He’s from Venezuela. I’m working with a new backup singer named Kindal Farver. That’s my core band. I’m known for frequently bringing up guests.
When you put the band together, did you have an idea of which instruments you wanted to use? Or were you already playing with all of the band members and it came together that way? What was the process like for piecing together the sound?
I started this band technically a year before I joined Cope. It was basically an outlet for me to play bass because no one ever lets me play bass. It started with me, Dennis Stadleman from Cope on guitar, and former Buffalo Strange drummer Mike Rumori on drums. I would write songs I could play on bass and sing, and I would have fun doing it. I would also loop the bass and play keyboard. Drummers hate that but it was an efficient way to get some neat things done. I did that for five or six years, just playing every other Wednesday at the Ringside Café and private parties. I did a couple Orange Blossom Jamborees and The Great Outdoors Jam and Hometeam New Year’s Rally. I wrote good songs and they were catchy. I’m a pretty good bass player.
What was most intriguing about the band was I got to control the band through the bass. Whatever I did on the bass, the band had to come with me. They’d always have to be on their toes paying attention because they never knew where I was going to go. I’d go all over the place and come back. They’d have to keep up.
At what point did you decide to make The Juanjamon Band more of a priority?
After a little while of touring with Cope, I decided to use another guitar player because Dennis and I were overexposed to each other. Dre is a good friend of mine and was the guitar player for Buffalo Strange, which I was also in, and he started playing with me. Right after Cope broke up, I decided to step up [the band] and that it wasn’t just for fun anymore. The very first gig Future Vintage did was at Skippers. They asked me to sit in with them and so I did. I was like, ‘how do I not know these guys already?’ The bass player looked kind of familiar, but I had no idea who the keyboard player was. I was like, ‘wow, he’s amazing. He’s right up my alley.’
I started going to their shows and getting to know them better. They love the funk as much as I do. They’re really solid players. I asked them if they would want to play with my band. They said yes and it’s been great ever since.
I did take my time for many years choosing people. Throughout my experiences in the past, it was important for me to choose humble, hard-working, responsible, good people. We’re just straight up honest to each other and tell it like it is. If someone doesn’t like something we just voice it and we take care of it. There’s no problem. I’m really lucky to have this group of people.
Watching your show from an audience perspective, the band is one cohesive entity. It’s doesn’t come across as Juanjamon and the individual players; it’s everyone together playing one sound. It’s a party on stage and that atmosphere expands onto the dancefloor.
I think the room, the ambiance and the audience is the most important thing. I don’t just go up there like, ‘this is what I want to do and I want to play what I want to play.’ It’s totally about what is going to lift this audience into a dancing frenzy, full of laughter, smiles and sensuality. I love to get everybody going as much as possible.
We just attended our first Orange Blossom Jamboree and there was a distinct feeling of togetherness among the bands as well as the festival-goers. What are your thoughts on the uniqueness of that event?
First, it’s only Florida bands. That is special to us. We don’t get a lot of respect in Florida for our music scene. It’s not a music hub but there’s a bunch of wonderful musicians from all over the world that live here. We are proud of the fact that we’re giving everyone a chance to be a part of something. If they can’t make it into some of the other festivals in Florida, they have an opportunity to be part of this one. After eight years, the format hasn’t really changed much. The staff has perfected the thought process on which band leads into the next one and accommodating everyone’s schedules at the same time. Russ and his staff have perfected running that festival.
Also, we’re very open to collaboration. We have a lot of sit-ins. It becomes a family reunion for musicians and friends. It’s definitely one we look forward the most. We try to keep everyone involved with it. We’re proud of Florida.
Have you tapped into any other markets yet?
We’ve traveled from south Florida up through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and up to Wisconsin and Chicago. Right now I’m focusing on the album and my personal life. After being with Cope for awhile – being in a touring band can dishevel your life. So, I’m finishing the album so I can make a big push and get back to touring. I’m pretty sure Future Vintage and Juanjamon Band are going to tour together. I’m writing new tunes. We’re learning new songs and new arrangements of different covers. We’re playing really hard covers and just getting better at being a band.
We’re playing The Great Outdoors Jam. I’ve also personally been playing with the Joe Marcinek Band. I’ve been playing with him for a year and a half now and doing some touring with him. I’m also a member of Bootleg and Bootleg has been doing some reunion shows. I’ve been warding off everyone asking about Cope reunion shows.
At OBJ I brought out the original singer from my first band we started in the Tampa area in ’97 called Grin. I’m still really good friends with him. We performed one of our most popular songs called “Mushroom Summa.” We performed that song from ’97 – 2000. The band basically broke up in 2000 after our cd came out. I’m looking forward to doing a reunion with that band – maybe at the next OBJ.
Juanjamon sitting in w/ Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet at OBJ – via MusicFestNews
What was the inspiration for the song “Mushroom Summa”?
The guitar player took us out to cow fields to pick mushrooms. It’s funny, I saw an old friend last night who was around back then. He said he came across pictures of us he hadn’t seen in years. And so we would pick a whole bunch of mushrooms, go to someone’s house and make a bunch of mushroom tea. We’d take a gallon jug to the club with us, drink some on stage and then pass it around the crowd. Needless to say they were fantastic shows. One day that whole experience turned into a show.
It sounds like music keeps you pretty busy. Do you have any interests when you’re not writing or playing music?
I do dreadlocks professionally for Caucasian hair. If you don’t have dreads I will make you dreads in about eight hours. If you have dreads I make them look beautiful and perfect. I can put in extensions. I also teach master classes at high schools and middle schools. That’s something I’ve been doing since middle school. They used to let me conduct all the marching bands. Then when I was in my junior year of college I received a scholarship on top of my scholarship for conducting. I’ve always had a talent for it.
Lately I’ve been really into soul coaching and counseling people who are going through a tough time. I’ll listen and give them encouragement, love and hugs. I make them feel better about life, give them inspiration and bring them up.
I’m sure over the years you’ve done quite a few shows at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Do you have a count on how many?
It’s a lot. The first time I played there was the Florida Music Harvest in 2001.
What is your perception on the growth of the park over the years? How does it feel to be a part of that growth?
I think it’s been amazing. It’s pretty much been the same, just minor changes over the years. What’s best about it is to hear people from all over the country talk about how awesome it is and how it’s one of their favorite places to see music. It’s bringing a lot more people down here and bringing people together from all over the country. Anything Paul Levine is involved with is top notch and well run.
What about Purple Hatter’s Ball in particular is special to you?
The interesting thing is I’ve never been. Up until last year it was always the same weekend as Orange Blossom Jamboree and I’ve always headlined OBJ. This will be my first Purple Hatter’s Ball so I’m excited about it.