Gather ye ‘hazelnuts’—your favorite band is coming
ROCK RIDGE MUSIC COURTESY PHOTO
Jett Beres’ life revolves around music and family. While his busy life as a rock star is consumed at times by the latter, it is the former that is showcased in some of his earliest memories.
“I can remember, very vividly, being somewhere between 2 and 3, and I can remember a couple things from that time: one is playing with superheroes, and two is listening on a little record player to three 45’s that I had,” Beres said.
He started strumming the bass in sixth grade, which eventually led him to his current gig—bass player and vocalist for the band Sister Hazel, the Florida-based band named for a minister that will play the Blind Pig March 19.
“We’re always on the road and we’re always writing and always recording,” Beres said. “We just keep it so that there’s fresh material for our fans every year to 18 months, which is kinda new for us, we used to have three-year gaps between records, but the record industry’s changing.”
Sister Hazel first hit the charts in 1997 with “All for You.” Because the song was so well-known, Beres said it defined them for years. But now the group has such a large song catalogue that new fans may not even know the song initially.
In addition to Beres, members of Sister Hazel are Ken Block (lead vocals and acoustic guitar), Ryan Newell (lead guitar and vocals), Andrew Copeland (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Mark Trojanowski (drums). Beres started the band with Block in 1994.
Their latest disc, Release, came out in 2009, and they’re already working on the next one.
“We were just in the studio cutting some tracks,” Beres said. “We kind of never stop writing. At some point along the way, we just realized we’re a career band.”
Not traveling to Ann Arbor with Beres will be his wife and children, but when he’s not on the road Beres, 39, describes himself as a “full-time family man.”
“I travel about 100 days a year, which seems like a lot when I say it, but you gotta think the other 265 that I’m home full-time,” he said.
And those aren’t just words. During the interview with The Washtenaw Voice he packed his kids in the car to take his son to karate and his daughter to a jazz class. That’s not to say working and being a dad is easy.
“I’m sorry; my son is wrestling my dog now,” Beres said after a sigh.
Although Jordan, 7, and Kai, 4, don’t travel with their dad, they do get to see the band perform every year at Walt Disney World. Both cite their favorite Sister Hazel song as 2006’s “Mandolin Moon.”
“Actually both of them, at different times, have come up on stage in front of very large audiences and sang that song with the band,” Beres said, making no attempt to conceal the pride in his voice.
In 2008 Beres released a book, “Starfish, a Lullaby” based on requests from fans who said their children loved Sister Hazel’s song “Starfish.”
Beres and the rest of Sister Hazel rely on communication with their fans, who call themselves “hazelnuts,” and host events like a “Hazelnut Hang” and “The Rock Boat” to stay connected to them.
“I think what the Hazel fans get that maybe other fans don’t is that we have encouraged and helped develop a community and communal atmosphere,” Beres said. “I think that’s a key to bands that are in it for the long haul.”
Sister Hazel’s been to Ann Arbor before, but Beres only remembers two things—the temperature and the name of the venue, the Blind Pig. He’s hopeful it’ll be warmer this visit during a show in which people can expect to hear all their favorite Sister Hazel songs.
“We keep the live shows fresh,” he said, “but the ones that we don’t change, some of the hits like “Your Winter,” “Champagne High,” Change Your Mind” and “All For You,” those are just so well-received by people, everyone’s singing every word, that it makes the tedious aspect of having played it a million times live, makes it fun.”
Orchard Radio president pumps up the volume at new student organization
CHRIS ASADIAN THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Punk. Rock. Life. Force. Describe Stephanie Mae and the music she plays and those words have to join the mix.
As Orchard Radio ripens as a new student organization at Washtenaw Community College this semester, Mae, 22, a broadcast arts major, took over as president. Her radio background and passion for music can only turn up the volume at the Internet station.
Mae, of Stockbridge, has been involved with Orchard Radio for more than a year, but since the station became a student organization this semester with Mae as its first president, Orchard Radio has seen all-time-high levels of attention.
“Oh yeah, like a 200 percent increase,” Mae said of the interest. “It used to pretty much just be broadcasting students who were interested in it or even knew about it. Now that we are a student organization, I think people realize, ‘Oh, we have a radio station, I can listen to it, I can take part in it.’”
The station has more than 50 student shows, with several people on the waiting list. And that’s after the shows’ length went from two hours to one-hour max.
But the station has a wide variety of programs.
“Literally everything,” Mae said of the offerings. “There’s two Christian contemporary shows, some sports talk shows, top 40. We’ve got one girl who teaches Spanish for half an hour. We’ve got a guy who was born in Africa and he plays music from his country. It’s really cool and completely across the board.”
The dramatic rise in interest generated a lot of work, but Mae eagerly embraces it.
“There’s more involved that I would have ever thought possible,” Mae said. “There are so many people interested, so we are trying to get them set up with a show and trained. That’s been the hardest part is trying to be a teacher, because I feel like I’m still a student, but then I’m like ‘Yes!’”
Orchard Radio station manager Scott York said he chose the Orchard Radio officers, which also include a vice president and promotions manager, because “they were above average and had a handle on radio.”
York is extremely impressed by Mae.
“She’s excellent,” he said. “She’s really taken control of running meetings and she’s always there to help.”
Mae is taking her last broadcast arts course this semester and hosts her show “The Takeover” on Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m. She plays strictly local bands from Detroit, Windsor and Ann Arbor and focuses on underground and punk.
“I’ve always been so passionate about music and especially local music,” Mae said. “And I’ve been on the end of the spectrum where I’m working with bands that are striving and having to put all their energy and money into their music so they’re flat out broke living out of their van just trying to get people to hear their music. That shows such passion, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Mae keeps the tone of her show gritty and rockish, which works well since she goes to at least five local concerts a week.
“So if I’ve been out partying the night before and let’s say I come in not sounding the greatest, it fits with what I do, so it’s rocking. Oh yeah,” she said.
She also tries to keep the show conversational as if she were talking to friends.
“I’ve had a couple moments where I say off the wall things, and I’m like ‘Why’d I just say that?’” Mae added. “But then most of my friends would know that’s how I’d talk; I say some weird stuff sometimes and most of my listeners know that too now.”
Mae always wanted to be a music journalist but realized she wanted to focus on radio after meeting a radio DJ at a local concert a few years ago.
“I started to realize that I want to play music for people,” she said. “And I’m kind of a natural-born leader, so I like to get people to listen to what I have to say, and darn it, this new song is great so you should hear it too!”
Mae interned at Greater Media Detroit working with the WRIF and RIFF2 for about a year.
“I had such an opportunity,” Mae said. “I got to work with Motley Crew and Poison and Alice Cooper.”
She also began taking classes in broadcast arts at WCC, which supported her foray into radio.
“It seems like every instructor that is part of the program has either worked in a radio station or worked in advertising, so they all know their stuff,” Mae said. “Everything I’ve learned here I’ve been able to use outside at radio stations, so it’s really paid off big time for me.”
While Mae is involved with multiple local bands in promotion, marketing and photography, among other things, WCC has also given her opportunities too – including the emcee gig at Welcome Day on Sept. 15.
“Welcome Day was really nerve-racking,” Mae said. “But once I got out there, I was like, ‘this is fine – I’ve done this in front of 14,000 people; I can do this in front of people I go to school with.’ And it turned out to be a lot of fun. The night before of course I got no sleep, but it was fun.”
Mae will also host the college Talent Show in November.
In the future, Mae hopes to get into the radio scene in New York or Los Angeles, maybe London someday.
“My big dream is to move to London and start up a really cool punk show, because I feel like that’s where punk is from,” she said.