I don’t know about you guys, but this pandemic thing has been rough on me. I’ve gone through highs and lows, but one thing I can tell you is that if I throw on some good reggae music, I am instantly transformed and ready to dance and sing. I know that when I am finally able to attend a live show, I’m just gonna break down and start crying — but, it will be a damn good cry! A positive of this pandemic: some beautiful things formed throughout this difficult time, including the deepening of friendships I made through social media and reggae music. It helped me make more sense of things and keep my perspective healthier. Anyway, the band that I want to introduce you to has one of these “friends” as a member. I’ve been listening to their music periodically through the year and it dawned on me that It is my responsibility to share them with you. The name of the band is Brothers Within, a Florida-based band.
I asked them a few questions and about my concern of what life has been like for them. The band members each answered back.
Let’s talk about Brothers Within. Who are you guys?
- BW: Brothers Within is an energetic reggae-inspired band made up of four (+1 dog) unique individuals who consider themselves as close as brothers! Leading the front lines, Bernie deliverers powerful vocals, while switching between guitar and bass. At center stage, Joey holds together the group on drums, while also sharing and switching with Bernie on main vocals, harmonies and everything in between. Holding down the keyboards, with the cleanest reggae bubble you’ve heard and also playing bass, is the one and only Jonathan, aka Jonny Keys! Setting fire to the lead guitar (and also sharing and shredding the bass) is Eric! Our plus one, or fifth member attending every show, is Bernie’s rescue dog, Luna, who, believe it or not, also plays the guitar and runs her own Insta account, too.
How did the band come to be?
- Joey: The first word that comes to mind is ‘organically’… we all met for many reasons in life, but I think we can all agree that the main one is to play music together for anyone who needs to hear and feel it. But, to be more in depth, from my perspective, I guess I’ll start in 4th grade when Jon and I met. I had moved from my mom’s to my dad’s and met Jon in our neighborhood. Jon was one of my first friends. We quickly became close friends playing sports and chasing chicks together; we parted ways due to normal teenage stuff… different schools and friends etc. But, then, in my senior year, we linked back up through mutual friends (Keith Kirby and Brandon Boisclair) — shout out to those boys! They were all super into bands like SOJA and Rebelution, which were two bands I had just got introduced to by friends (Greg Miller and Shawn Brim). We all started hanging out and passing time by listening and vibing with each other. (This was when the idea of wanting to be in a band started.)
- Skip ahead a year and, now, Jon, Keith and I are living together in Daytona Beach’s Shores, FL. Jon was doing well financially and decided to buy enough gear for all of us to start learning how to play music. I knew from the beginning I wanted to be a drummer; it was pretty much my dream as a kid to either be a professional skateboarder or drummer. Or, really, anything else that went against the grain. So, Jon bought me my first drum set and I payed him back with payments as time went on. Right there, it really started growing into ‘do’ mentality and less of a ‘want’. This was all happening in 2013-2014.
- At the end of 2014, my mother passed away and it really threw me into a bad space, but through my friends and family, I was able to pull through and continue to follow my dreams. New to that group of friends was our neighbor Eric Dinger. Jon and I had simply seen him on his front porch one night with a guitar and we decided to bring our newly-purchased instruments over and try to make a friend. And, that we did. He was practicing the song “Rivers of Babylon” (the Sublime version) that a friend had showed him how to play. We sat around and hung out for a while, trying to make decent sounds come out of our instruments and, now that I think about it, that’s all we do to this very day. I couldn’t imagine my life without Eric now.
- We quickly learned we were meant to meet that night. Eric heard me practice my drums one night and offered me a position at his local church (Radius Church). I was hesitant at first (not confident in my own ability), but Eric insisted, so I took the position! That was the best choice I had ever made and, still to this day, am very thankful. Eric, Jon, Keith and I hung out a lot and just took things slow; we weren’t a band yet by any means, but more just a group of friends who wanted to pass the time doing something positive and fun. We started getting a little better and more serious and decided we needed a name if there was gonna be any band at all.
- We started brainstorming and, after a few months or so, I came to Jon in his room and asked what he thought about the name ‘Brothers Within’. The fact I still get goosebumps while writing that tells me that we chose the perfect name. We agreed that that was it. Shortly after that, I starting going through some personal trials and decided to move back to my dad’s house. Keith went his own way, starting a successful tile business, and Jon moved in with Eric. I lost focus and knew I needed to get back to my roots; I was hanging around with a local band named Relief and they sparked my fire back up. So, I came to the Eric’s house one day and voiced that I was ready to get out of my funk and start getting more serious with this whole thing. Thankfully, while I was finding myself, Jon and Eric hadn’t skipped a beat and had things ready to go right where we left off. Us three now had a name, a Facebook page and fire burning that still has yet to be put out!
- That puts us in the summer of 2015. A few months prior, I had went to see Keith at a mutual friend’s house, Bernie Boehm. Bernie was also just getting into learning music and was learning the guitar. We had a little jam session; our friend Joe lovecchio was there, too. Keith left a little early that night. I stuck around and had a really good time, got to know Bernie and immediately knew his vibe was not one to let pass by. I invited him to Eric’s house to check out what we had going on! A few weeks later, Bernie came by and we had another little jam session and we had a talk about how we needed a bass player to complete what we thought could be a full band. He agreed! (I remember him talking about how cool it was that we had a drum set [laugh].) We truly felt and still feel that connection every time we are all together.
- A little while passed and we started learning four songs a month. We called it “the month Lyst”; we each were able to choose a song we wanted to learn and then we learned it as band. We learned almost all of our songs using that method, along with our white board. If you are thinking about starting a band, get a white board first and thank me later. At practice one day, we were talking and Bernie voiced he was feeling called to do more and wanted to take a step in being the frontman and guitar player of the band; it took some figuring out because we still needed a bass player, but we figured it out and now, we all play bass at one point or another. I couldn’t imagine or want anyone else in the world leading this band on that stage. We started hitting open mics at local places and the one where we found home was Sunsetters Bar and Grill. The connections we made there will forever hold a place in our hearts. Special shoutout to Brett Tomadin and Juju! At the end of that year (2015), my dad and stepmom came to Dale Hetzler’s house (Casa De Loca) to see our first little house party show. We played like five songs and opened for the Wilbur Wailers. My folks told me they were throwing a New Year’s block party and wanted us to come play!! And, that we did. Going into the year of 2016, we were four young men who call themselves Brothers Within and today, in 2020, we are those same men. Brothers Within for lyfe. We would also like to give a special shoutout to Rick Gehris: thank you for believing in us, opening your bar to us and allowing us to pursue our dream in those early stages. Thank you as well as to all of our families, who have been with us from day one all the way to this day right here. We love you and will never forget where we came from.
What’s it like to play live music again?
- Jonathon: Every time I play music, it is a huge release. I’M FREE!! The moment I start playing, I couldn’t care about anything else in the world. It clears my mind of all the negative and replaces it with positive energy that I can feel in every chord I play. I feel at home and so at peace when I’m jammin’ music with my brothers. To start playing more shows again has been a huge blessing. The energy you feel from a crowd can’t be described into words… it is such a powerful vibe that makes me play even more passionately. Knowing you’re spreading that love to people — that’s what it’s all about. It is such a powerful feeling to know that people and places are slowly starting to get back to normal; in our world today, musicians are some of the most important messengers. Music speaks right to the soul and can make such a positive impact. When you hear a groovy jam, you can’t DENY it.
How have you coped with 2020 and the pressures of the pandemic?
- Bernie: It’s surely been rough for most, including us. We came into the year stoking hard off the release of our first music video for our song “MindSurf”, featuring the rising queen of the scene Kat Hall. [The video] also was filmed and produced by the legend Ryan Noeker!
- Our last shows before the fear and panic spread were down in Key West, and that was an amazing time for us, so it’s been difficult to go from that to what we’re dealing with now! But, we’ve done well at keeping each other composed and, through the thick of it, we refocused our energy into writing and creating new our tunes, as well as digging further into the recording and production side of things for ourselves.
What is your overall band message?
- BW: The message derives directly from the music. It brought us together and will continue to connect so many around the globe. Music is truly a universal language — vibrations that anyone can relate with and feel. We convey the message through our name ‘Brothers Within’: we’re all brothers and sisters within the universe, connected soul to soul, from the tiny cells inside to the stars out far away and full circle back through in harmony to this conscious moment.
Brothers Within – “MindSurf”, feat. Kat Hall official video:
Cover photo by Ryan Noeker; thumbnail photo by Nick Repko