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Sameer Gadhia of indie-rock band the Jakes is wise beyond his years.
The Jakes started as a high school band?
We started in 2004, and all of us were sophomores. We came out of post-hardcore. We originally created the Jakes to get away from that stuff. Along with dance music, we got really interested in the Beach Boys, so we started doing three-part harmonies. Now we're all in college, and we're trying to mature our sound.
Is it ever a problem that everyone in the band is under 21?
It's actually kind of funny. A lot of venues are iffy when the majority of the people in the band aren't 18. That was last year, when a lot of us weren't. Some venues tried to take advantage of us. We're all over 18, which it seems is what venues care about.
For a young band, you guys have a pretty polished sound.
We had all agreed upon a pretty stringent work ethic. A lot of my time in high school was devoted to playing music. I did a lot of other things, too, but we had a lot of weekday practices, a lot of my weekends were taken up by playing shows. But it's a fun type of work. We didn't just want to be like any high school band. We wanted to push to be as professional-sounding as we could.
You won the Best High School Band category at the Orange County Music Awards this year?
We're fortunate to be in Orange County. It's a melting pot of a lot of sounds. High school bands aren't necessarily like high school bands anywhere else. Orange County has a lot of amazing musicians.
Has the band had to make adjustments with everyone leaving high school?
We're really embracing the change. It's been a harder process. We've been playing a lot of shows in LA. And there are fans in other places solely from the Internet. We had one fan from Brazil. She had actually come to California, and she came to some of our shows. It was really cool.
I saw some pictures where it looked like you were playing at Disneyland.
Yeah. We played there relatively often—once every two months, I'd say. That did help us, but we've been trying to step away from stuff like that. This was two years ago. We had a relatively mature sound. We were what you would call moldable. It was a good experience, and we learned a lot from that.
Not to dwell on it too much, but how did that come about?
It's actually a very intensive process. Getting to play at Disneyland was the equivalent of getting signed by a major record label. Disney is really selective about the bands they allow to play. They hadn't been hiring bands for five years. We sent them a promotional packet just for the heck of it. They asked us to do an intensive tryout. We had to get a 50-song set list, and it had to be a bunch of varying genres, eras and styles of music. And we had to make a 10-minute medley so they knew we were good at improvisation and as musicians. They allowed us to play our original music, too. I'm not sure how official this is, but I heard that we were the youngest band to play at Disneyland since the Jackson 5. We had people from Taiwan and Japan who had no idea we were just a small band. They thought we were mega rock stars. After almost every Disney show, we had to run to our van so we weren't stampeded by people asking for our signatures. It was very surreal.
Since you sing and don't play an instrument live, did you have to figure out what to do with yourself during instrumental parts?
I've played a lot of tambourine just because of that fact. And I played some cowbell for a while. Disney actually helped me a lot. We had a stage-performance choreographer who said, "I know you're tired, but you have four one-hour sets. You have to seem like you're as energetic as you were at the beginning." So I learned to be energetic and to conserve energy.
Is it tough keeping the band going in your first year of college?
It actually helps out a lot with time management. It also keeps me from just living in a little bubble. It's a very healthy thing for me. The band has been a way of life, and it's been a way that's really helped me out as a student, also. There's give and take, but I think people are always afraid of doing a lot of things and don't want to push themselves.