August 11, 2022

It’s Gonna Be Us: Six questions for the boy bands of the North

Broom Closet Boys, Jack Pine, and Snacks & Five weigh in
By Craig Manning | Aug. 6, 2022

One Direction or BTS? *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys? O-Town, B2K, Savage Garden, Boyz II Men, Hanson, or New Kids on the Block? No matter your favorite, you have to respect the boy band archetype: A group of disparate talents come together and somehow move from obscurity to world domination in the blink of an eye. Maybe it’s the love songs, or the dance moves, or the dashing good looks, but for whatever reason, no formula in pop music seems more precisely calibrated for a meteoric rise (and sometimes, a precipitous fall) than the boy band.

We checked in with three of northern Michigan’s so-called “boy bands”—Broom Closet Boys, Jack Pine, and Snacks & Five—to learn about their roots, their career journeys, and their future goals. Oh, and we obviously made them answer the most important question of all: Who is their favorite boy band?

BROOM CLOSET BOYS

The boys: Broom Closet Boys are Chris Smith (guitar and lead vocals), Mike Morrison (bass and backing vocals), and Bruce Braden (drums and backing vocals).

The band: Broom Closet Boys aren’t just a cover band; they are arguably the cover band, at least in the northern Michigan music scene. The three members grew up in the 1990s and came of age in the 2000s, so they have a fondness for the music of those eras. But they also cut their teeth learning to play classic rock tunes. Add the differing tastes of the members—Braden loves metal and country, while Smith and Morrison skew artier and indier—and BCB checks a lot of boxes on the musical flow chart. That dynamic edge is the band’s secret weapon at bar shows or wedding receptions, where they can traverse six or seven decades of iconic hits songs without breaking a sweat. Plus, they even fit some nostalgic boy-band goodness into their setlists from time to time: Their take on Backstreet Boys’ 1999 classic “I Want It That Way” is goofy sing-along bliss.

The story: Broom Closet Boys go way back. According to Smith, the members all “knew each other from growing up and going to school together in Suttons Bay.” Smith and Morrison first played in bands together when they were 15 and 16, respectively, and while Braden ran in different circles (and played in different groups), they were all on one another’s radar. The trio ultimately came together in December 2011 when they got an invitation to play at the now-annual Mistletini holiday party at Knot Just a Bar in Omena. The show went well, the band became a permanent unit, and the rest was history.

The stomping grounds: From Workshop Brewing Company to Odawa Casino, Broom Closet Boys can be seen and heard regularly at a wide cross section of northern Michigan venues. Upcoming shows include Rove Estate (September 2), Hofbrau in Interlochen (September 3), The Coin Slot (September 9), and Kilkenny’s (September 16).

The future: After more than a decade together, Broom Closet Boys have the chemistry and telepathic connection that a band only builds with time. With those attributes, these boys could easily level up if they wanted to by moving to a bigger live music market or trying to land themselves on a major tour.

For now, though, Smith says the band is content doing what it’s always done: trying to “bring joy” to every audience they meet, whether that’s the Saturday night crowd at a local watering hole or the bride and groom celebrating the most important day of their lives. “When we can create an atmosphere and energy of fun music for a group of people, and they’re able to ‘let go’ and be in the moment with us and the rest of the party guests, that’s really when the work pays off for us,” Smith explains.

The boy band allegiance: After consulting with his bandmates, Smith points to *NSYNC as the preferred boy band in the BCB camp. “Their holiday album still slaps, and Justin Timberlake was in the band,” he reasons. “Also, we had a request recently from a person younger than us asking us if we knew how to play any ‘nine sync.’ That was a great moment to reaffirm for us that we’re old.”

JACK PINE

The boys: Jack Pine is a Traverse City-based quartet made up of Andrew Thomas (lead guitar and vocals), John Ransom (bass and vocals), Miles Prendergast (rhythm guitar and vocals), and Ryan McGee (drums).

The band: Jack Pine describes their music as “easy beachside vibes mixed with some classic rock ’n’ roll.” “Our songs run the gamut from laid-back summer tunes to powerful ballads to straightforward energetic rock,” Thomas says. “While we play mostly original tunes, our cover selection includes some well-known crowd pleasers in addition to more obscure songs that you might mistake as our own.”

The story: Rewind back to 2016 and Prendergast was on a creative hot streak, writing one original song after another. Jack Pine formed around him and his music, with the band booking performances around TC as a vehicle to present the new tunes. Soon, though, Ransom and Thomas began bringing their own original material to the table, igniting and diversifying the Jack Pine sound. Combining disparate influences like Pink Floyd, Alabama Shakes, Bill Withers, Jack Johnson, and Mt. Joy, Jack Pine makes music that sounds anthemic and chill at the same time. Fans of big guitars, spacey atmosphere, and folky vocals will find plenty to love about the band’s terrific debut album, Embers, which was released earlier this year.

The stomping grounds: Jack Pine are regulars on the stages of Lake Ann Brewing, The Little Fleet, and Workshop Brewing Company. Catch them next at The Coin Slot in Traverse City, where they’ll take the stage at 7pm on Friday, August 12.

The future: While “making it big” is certainly on the list of dreams for Jack Pine, Thomas says that the band is “very down to earth and real in our thinking.” A more modest dream for the future is “to open for a regional act and really just get some exposure outside of Traverse City.” On the scale of loftier ambitions, though, Thomas notes that the band does have its sights set on making it to some big stages—particularly Red Rocks, a legendary outdoor amphitheater near Denver, Colorado, that is built amidst giant natural sandstone outcroppings.

The boy band allegiance: “The Beatles count, right?” Thomas asks. (Of course they do! They’re the prototype!) “They were the original boy band but transcended that and became so much more.” Musing about what allowed John, Paul, George, and Ringo to go from mop-top lads singing cover songs in front of screaming crowds to the ambitious experimenters who rebuilt pop and rock music into legitimate artforms, Thomas makes a sly comparison to his own band. “[The Beatles] truly had something more that made them legends of music,” he says. “Maybe it was the fact that they had three songwriters and four members who brought so much diversity to their sound?”

SNACKS & FIVE

The boys: Contrary to the number in their name, Snacks & Five is actually a quartet, consisting of Jack Fivecoate (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and harmonica), Erik Griffin (lead guitar), Justin Perry (drums and percussion), and Jimmy Olson (keyboards and backing vocals).

The band: “Good music for island life,” reads one of the reviews on the Snacks & Five Facebook page, a fitting description of the band’s considerable appeal. Playing a mix of reggae, rock, and blues—with a strong emphasis on the easygoing sound of reggae—Snacks & Five sounds like a 90-degree summer afternoon at your favorite beachside tiki bar. The core members handle the foundation of the sound, but true to the communal feel of reggae, their music also often thrives thanks in part to guests. The band’s debut EP, last year’s Feel It in the Air, features appearances from Stu Brooks (an accomplished bassist who has played with the likes of Lady Gaga and Matisyahu) and Billy Kottage and Mike Appleton (both alums of the horn section for ska-punk band Reel Big Fish).

The story: In Snacks & Five, the “Five” is frontman Jack Fivecoate, who started playing guitar and harmonica at 13, honed his musical skills as part of the Traverse City Central High School choral program, and then launched a professional music career that took him (far) away from home. The “Snacks” are Griffin and Perry, who previously played in the local funk rock band G-Snacks. In 2018, Fivecoate moved back to TC—from Honduras, where he’d been working as a bar band singer by night and a professional scuba diver by day—and Snacks & Five took form as a trio, with Olson joining later.

The stomping grounds: The jammy, eclectic music of Snacks & Five has graced the stages of many local venues, from Jacob’s Farm to Union Street Station. Recently, the band landed in front of crowds at both the National Cherry Festival (opening for 1964 the Tribute, the Beatles cover band) and the Beaver Island Music Festival. If you want to dance and groove to the live sounds of Snacks & Five, though, you’d better find your opening this summer. True to their sun-drenched sound, these guys follow the warm weather south for the winter, setting up seasonal shop in Key West, Florida.

The future: “We feel like we are currently living one of our dreams by spending the winters in the Florida Keys and the rest of the year in northern Michigan,” Perry says. This coming winter marks the band’s fourth sojourn to Florida, where Snacks & Five averages 6-7 shows per week. With a strong reputation as a live band in both locales, Snacks & Five is now looking to up its game as a recording outfit. “Our goal is to get in the studio to make the best music that we can and leave studio sessions with a piece of music that we love, are proud of, and that we can share to the masses proudly,” Perry adds.

The boy band allegiance: “After much thought, our favorite boy band is Led Zeppelin,” Perry says, noting that, while some boy bands and their music have faded with time, the four dudes in Led Zeppelin remain influential more than 40 years after disbanding. “Those legends put out legendary music that will be here forever.” [Editor’s Note: We think Led Zeppelin is a bit of a stretch in the boy-band world, but we’ll let them have this one.]

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