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Band members Justin Whitmer, Jesse Spiegel and Mikal Mancini have recorded three demo tracks.
Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 7 years ago

Young band thinks outside of the box (WITH VIDEO)

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

The Shoebox Monsters call themselves a “bro-mance band.” The frequent smiles and nods given while they rock out on stage aren’t solely for their fans — but also for each other, because they’re so in sync that words just aren’t necessary.

Freshmen Justin Whitmer, lead vocals and guitar, and Mikal Mancini, bassist and piano, formed the band in August. A few weeks ago, they welcomed drummer Jesse Kasanofsky, a sophomore, into the mix.

“When Jesse joined, we were always commended on our chemistry together,” said 15-year-old Mancini.

Upon learning they could win $5,000 for Pine View’s music department and with a mission to drum up support for arts in schools, the Shoebox Monsters entered the School Jam USA contest — a national battle of bands. They are now one of 12 semifinalists from the south region and the only band from Florida.

“I think the arts really helps students create an identity in school,” Spiegel, 16, said. “A lot of kids aren’t social gems, and your outlet is definitely the arts in some form. For me, music is awesome, because I always have so much to say, and if you’re on stage, it’s your two hours.”

The band classifies its music as alternative-progressive-rock infused with a bit of blues. Although the guys have different musical tastes, their main influences are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Mayer and the Arctic Monkeys. Their song lyrics come from their own experiences.

“Yesterday, we had a two-hour discussion on the psychology of life,” Spiegel said. “Our songs are about the moralities and crossroads that we come to and trying to find a balance between growing up, not wasting time and finding an identity. We all sort of complement each other.”

Shoebox Monsters played two gigs last week at the Irish Rover Pub and the Blue Owl. Most everything, starting with recording their three song demos for the competition, has gone smoothly, and the guys say they owe a lot of that to their mothers, who serve as mentors, the band’s agents and as a gig planners.

“I’ve been singing all my life,” said Whitmer, 14. “My parents made me sing in front of people and told me never to let that talent go to waste. I sing everywhere. I feel like the best way to express myself is through lyrics.”

Eight bands chosen by the public and two wild-card bands will advance to the School Jam USA finals Jan. 15, in Anaheim, Calif. If the Shoebox Monsters win, the band will receive a trip to Europe to perform at SchoolJam Germany in spring 2011; the opportunity to shoot its own music video on board the John Lennon Educational Bus; $5,000 for their school; and $1,000 to purchase musical gear for the band.

Online votes can be cast daily through Nov. 30. Visit to vote.

The band’s next performance takes place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 23, at the Irish Rover, 6518 Gateway Ave.

“The most fun is when you’re in the middle of a jam, and you get the one moment where the other person played exactly how you heard it sounding — when the moment clicks,” Kasanofsky said.

If the Shoe Fits...

Jesse Spiegel explains the idea behind “Shoebox Monsters.”

“Even though we live on completely opposite sides of the city, our houses are pretty much the exact same — the same shape and layout, but even the way our parents chose to decorate it,” Kasanofsky said. “We were thinking about suburbia and a song by Malvina Reynolds called ‘Little Boxes.’ It was written in the ’60s on how everyone in suburban areas lives the same. Mikal, Justin and I don’t have an interest in living the typical suburban life. We’re not going into business, medicine, law or any desk job. We consider ourselves suburban monsters — rebellious against the suburban lifestyle that a lot of people choose. ‘Shoebox’ was a culmination of several different things: little boxes from the song, and it just fit nicely. You can walk in whatever direction you want.”

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]


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