If we had to pitch a new pseudoreality sitcom to the Disney Channel that could give the grown-up and moved-on Jonas Brothers a fair run for their money, we'd easily recommend the boys of Blast. Made up of bass player Benji Roberts (age 17), synth and percussionist Logan Moreno (age 14), drummer Antonio Nicasio (age 17), and guitarist Tristen Serpa (age 17), the locally grown, upbeat pop-rock outfit is, in a word, wholesome, and in a couple more, damned charming.
Hailing from various South Florida suburbs, the boys have grown up playing multiple instruments and performing in musical theater together. Most of them met at the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theater, where they often hold band practice and still perform in productions. When we caught up with Blast at a recent rehearsal ahead of their impending album-release party, the guys looked very much at home onstage among lingering set pieces from their last FLCT show, Jesus Christ Superstar.
"It was really fun and challenging," Serpa recaps on his and Roberts' latest production. Serpa looks a bit like a mini Justin Timberlake, sporting cropped, curly hair, a modest wooden cross on a string around his neck, and a chunky class ring that catches the stage lights as he gesticulates throughout our chat. While there's technically no band leader, vocally or otherwise, it becomes clear pretty quickly which of them tends to take charge.
"We call him the unofficial official leader," the other guys chime in, laughing. "He's the daddy of the group; he keeps us in line."
Speaking in familial terms seems to come naturally to the members of Blast, who've played together as a band for nearly three years and spent the past year and a half recording their first full-length album. Their bond comes through in the easy way they play and speak together, listening and picking up on each other's cues in a manner that's both mature for their respective ages and just flows.
"It's very much a brotherly, family vibe that we all have together," Serpa brings up on his own when speaking about what he hopes comes across most in their sound. "When it translates into music — in my opinion, our songs are very personal — and so they can touch a lot of people in different ways."
The guys have gained traction over the years by melding individual tastes and honing a distinctly pop sound their friends could relate to. Their three-part vocal harmonies, which Moreno writes, have drawn comparisons to the Beatles, while others have picked up on elements of ska in their sound, which at times incorporates trumpet, organ, and marching-drum parts. "It's got a very funky bass vibe," Serpa offers.
While the boys invested a significant amount of time earlier on crafting and recording medleys of tried-and-true pop covers in order to "play out and get people to know about us," according to Serpa, they're finally at a point where their own unique sound and brand are emerging. Evolution is 12 original songs written and recorded by Blast that thematically and chronologically catalog their growth up to this point. The band's manager and FLCT mentor, Kristin Deffler, explains: "Logan [the youngest of the group] had just turned 12 when we started this, and his voice was like Michael Jackson from the Jackson Five." The album is formatted so that the last song was the earliest recorded, the first demonstrating how far they've come.
As far as who they aspire to emulate or cite as personal influences, Serpa says, "For us as a band, I don't think we've ever been like, 'We want to be like so-and-so'; part of our process, that also kind of goes hand-in-hand with the album, is evolving into a sound that we like to play." Individually, they list off OK Go, Walk the Moon, and Blink-182 as some favorites. In the end, Serpa continues, "We come in with songs from completely opposite sides of the spectrum, and we kinda merge them together... Some [songs] start off really strange, like they start off with a Moroccan vibe and then end being like a pop-rock."
Blast has gained a steady following via word of mouth and through social-media channels like YouTube. Apart from their friends at school, "We know we have a lot of fans in the Philippines," Nicasio laughs.
While Blast's trajectory appears to be on the upward, none of the guys seems to know what the future will hold for the band. As three of the four boys finish up their college apps (Serpa and Roberts plan to follow their passion for theater) and Moreno is midway through his first year of high school, they say they're taking things "day by day."
We finish our hangout at the FLCT with a couple more songs from the guys. They jump into "You Don't Deserve Me," an upbeat pop-punk number with some attitude ("I was feeling really angry that day," Serpa laughs). No matter where they end up, it's clear the talented group of boys with brotherly love is headed for big things and having a great time getting there.
6:30 p.m. Saturday, November 28, at Fort Lauderdale Children's Theater at the Galleria Mall, 2542B E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-763-6882, or visit blastourmusic.com. Admission is free.
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