Writer: Amber Green
Squeedlepuss is a band made up of five musicians all with ties to local college, University of North Florida. Formed in 2013 with a smaller arrangement, the band has evolved into consisting of Javian “J” Francis (Keys), Stefan Klein (drums), Paul Miller (guitar/vocals), Mike Perez (bass), and Dan Hunting (guitar). The band has been growing in success and popularity ever since. They have recently begun putting final touches on their first studio album due out in the next couple months.
Klein is a student in the jazz program at UNF, and Perez is half way through pursuing his master’s in music. The rest of the band member are UNF jazz program graduates. UNF has served as a networking hub for the band, as they formed friendships as peer students before the band was created.
“Individually, we all learned our craft there,” said Perez. “You play in ensembles there and small jazz combos but it’s nothing like what we’re doing…I guess you learn to play with other musicians…you get experience doing that, but we were all gigging and doing stuff like that anyway,” said Hunting.
UNF is a part of what shaped the individuals that make up the band.
“He’s [Dennis Marks] a phenomenal bass player and he’s just a good friend…he’s more than just a professor…he’s a big fan of the group, just real supportive,” Klein said on the UNF jazz professor and band groupie. “He’s actually one of Squeedlepuss’s top supporters, so he says…he wants a shirt, he wants a hat.”
UNF’s jazz program focuses heavily on the ability to improvise within live performances. When attending a Squeedlepuss performance, improvisation is evident as each song unfolds in a slightly different way depending on the energy of the band in that moment; this has yielded opportunities for each band member to take on solos within songs and showcase their individual talents.
The band’s genre is hard to narrow down as they don’t strive to fit any specific mold.
“We’re really playing every genre of music except jam music in a jam band package…Within the music is lots of layers of different genres being put in a jam band package,” Perez does his best to articulate the genre of the music the band strives to create. “If this was 1975, this would be a fusion band,” said Francis. Their Facebook page refers to the genre as “jazz-fusion” but after listening to a few songs by Squeedlepuss, “jazz-fusion” may not be entirely accurate, as their sound is very eclectic.
They have played countless shows here in Jacksonville, and over the past couple years have begun playing big name music festivals like Bear Creek in 2013, Purple Hatter’s Ball in 2014, Orange Blossom Jamboree this year in May, Roosevelt Collier’s Suwannee Get Down in June of this year, and The Great Outdoors Jam this year in July. They made their way to the Pass the Good festival and faced bad weather that ended up causing their set to be cancelled. They have also made it on the Hulaween festival’s bill for this year’s dates at the end of October. It was almost a year ago that the current band members first played a show together at Mellow Mushroom in Jacksonville Beach on Halloween making their Hulaween performance this year somewhat of an anniversary for the members.
The Roosevelt Collier Suwannee Getdown this past June has proved to be one of the most impactful performances thus far for the band.
“That was a really memorable performance…he sat in with us,” Dan said as the band all agreed one of their favorite musicians to share the stage with so far is Roosevelt Collier. “He’s really humble, like before we go on stage he’s talking to me about barbecuing ribs,” Francis said.
Collier, a much larger name in the music scene as a very talented slide guitar player with ties to Jacksonville, has been someone the band has a great amount of respect and admiration for.
Not all the band members are originally from Jacksonville but they enjoy what the music scene here is evolving into and what it’s offered their careers.
“It’s a nice little intimate crowd, it’s good to see the amount of love that we can get out of people just with the small little cult following that we have…we’ve received a lot of love…time will tell if it gets bigger or not” Klein said describing his take on the present and future Jacksonville music scene.“The stage is really good, the room is good, and the sound is great…its way better than any other venue in town,” Hunting and the other band members made it clear that Underbelly, a local Jacksonville venue, has become extended family in ways. Having experience with several venues, Underbelly is their choice venue to play at.
A large part of the Squeedlepuss’ success has come from experience.
“We’re all just freelance musicians,” Hunting said. Due to their education at UNF, gigging constantly as a band and individually, teaching music lessons, and rehearsal time, each band member has become a career musician. A great inspiration for younger musicians making their way through a very competitive career field, if your dream is to become a great musician, take notes from Squeedlepuss.
The very first studio album is being finalized over at Chromatic, a recording studio in the Riverside of Jacksonville. Although there is no name for the album yet, it will feature about 8 tracks. Four of those tracks being instrumental and possibly 4 more that will include vocals from Miller. With a new album on the way and packed schedule of performances, Squeedlepuss is quickly hitting milestones within their musical journey that have made them stand out.
Check out Squeedlepuss’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/squeedlepuss