Inspired by folk, soul and 1960s rock music, The John Hancock Band explores a new sound with an older feel.
The band, comprised of siblings Darius, Alexis (Lexi), and Alexandria (Zandy) Fitzgerald along side close, like-family friend Jasmine Mullen, have been together since they can remember, but began creating music about four years ago at the birth of their band.
Recently signed to Capitol Christian Music Group in Nashville this summer, the group has formed a family of listeners wherever they go.
HOW THEY FOUND MUSIC
Darius, 21, on the drums, said for him, music was always around.
“My mom said I used to bang on everything: pots, pans, couches, people or whatever,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I think I’ve always been a musical person and music lover all my life.”
Darius started playing the drums when he was in middle school. When his parents decided to homeschool him and his siblings right before high school, he decided to take time to explore some other interest. He was reunited with his love of percussion at the formation of the band.
Zandy, 20, lead guitarist and vocalist,said she was always influenced and interested by what Darius did.
She said she always loved music but didn’t starting playing the guitar until her freshman year in high school.
“I had always wanted to play, but I didn’t think it was something worth pursuing until I did it. I caught on quickly and fell in love with it,” she said.
Lexi, 20, bass player, surprisingly said she didn’t start to loving music until about a year ago.
“When we starting homeschooling, we starting dancing and traveling a ton, and I loved that,” she said. “Five years ago, I started training in ballet and had been dancing since, but last summer, I heard God calling me more toward music.”
Lexi said she fought it at first, but after a while the Lord changed her heart for it.
“Someone came in and listened to our band practice and told me I should play the bass. It was so random but everyone agreed. There’s no reason why we should have been so comfortable with it but we were,” she joked.
Lexi said she has never had any professional lessons in instruments but that she learns from listening and with the help of her siblings. She said because of her background in dance, being a part of the rhythm section made it easier for her to pick up the bass.
Jasmine, 21, keys player, has parents who are musicians and in true rebellious fashion said she’d never become one. Throughout schooling and life, she eventually found herself writing songs and being involved in musical theatre.
“One day I asked Zandy and Darius to play behind me at a coffee house, and for me, that was like the beginning of the end because from then on we were all like, ‘All right, let do this.'”
The name of the band came about as the group wanted people to know their true identity through their music. They said many times, people take on the names they are called and accept them as their own identity, not knowing who they really are.
“Through our music, we want people to understand that their name or their ‘John Hancock’ is found in Christ,” Lexi said.
Because of outside conflicts, the band has decided to change their name. Until a new name is revealed, they will remain The John Hancock Band.
a BAND and a FAMILY
After finishing high school, Darius and Lexi went to Columbia State for two semesters and Jasmine attended Lipscomb for one semester.
“It wasn’t until after high school and after praying about it that we felt like the Lord was calling us to do it for real,” Lexi said. “So we took six months to pursue the music and at the end of the six months, we had an offer for a record deal from Capitol Records. Everything happened so naturally.”
The group said a lot of things came naturally for them because they had grown up together and their bond was so synced enough to communicate very well together.
“It’s natural because our relationship is natural. The way we can be honest with each other or just being able to say, ‘I don’t know this part.’ or ‘Can you help me with this?’ all of that stuff comes naturally so then the music comes along with it,” Lexi said.
“Our moms were best friends before we were born and were pregnant at the same time so we were forced to be friends, there was no way out,” she said with a laugh.
For about 6 years, Jasmine, Darius, Lexi and Zandy all travelled as background singers and dancers on the road with Jasmine’s mom, singer Nicole C. Mullen.
Unlike like most bands, The John Hancock Band wasn’t really looking for a record deal when they found one.
“We’ve been around the industry for so long that we were kind of turned off to the idea of having a record label. That helped us develop and become more unique because we we’re focused on what the labels wanted to hear,” Darius said.
The band officially signed the deal in June.
Darius said working with family can be the best thing and the most difficult thing.
“We still live together so if we have a fight here, we’re all going home,” he said. “You just have to get things right when it happens.”
Zandy said they hear band stories of people fighting because they don’t agree or because they’re having to learn things about each other that they didn’t already know. She said the good thing for them is that they fought when they were 12 and 13, so they already know so much about each other.
“Yeah, we do fight sometimes but that’s what families do, and because we are a family there’s no option to break up. Even if the band stopped we would still be a family,” said Zandy.
Lexi said it’s difficult separating work and family, especially when it comes to correcting each other.
“Sometimes speaking up is difficult. Because we do know each other so well, we know how someone might be more sensitive to something even though it’s something they might need to hear,” she said.
the MUSIC, the SOUND, the HEART
Four years ago, The John Hancock Band started with an acoustic folk sound. Overtime, their sound evolved and began moving toward a more heavier rock.
“Within the last two years, we’ve really dove in head first into this sound,” Lexi said. “And it was weird. It was never a conscience effort, we all just starting getting into it at the same time.”
She said musically they were sheltered while growing up, listening only to some of the big gospel artist like Amy Grant, Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond. She said once they got older and discovered people like Chuck Berry and John Mayer, they experimented with their sound and it inevitably changed the way they played.
Some of the band’s other influences include Colony House, NEEDTOBREATHE, Alabama Shakes, Jackson 5, The Beatle, Tommy Sims, BB Kings, and Aretha Franklin.
“Now, we’re in our 20s, so how do we sound like who we are, speaking what we believe? I think that’s what comes out – what we say and how we say things. We don’t have a formula. It just happens,” Zandy said.
Darius said one of the things in older music he’s taken away from writing is hard is easy, but easy is really hard.
“I can try to make something sound so complex so that it goes over everyone’s head but it’s difficult to continue to boil the matter of our music down to it’s simplest form where’s it’s [easily understood by] anyone who’s listening to our music,” he said.
Jasmine and Zandy, who write most of the band’s songs, said they love referencing older music in lyrics and sound to create something new.
“If you go back, the heart and soul is there,” Zandy said. “It’s really kind of simple but also just smart and it just feels good.”
As far as being labeled in a particular genre, well, that’s still up in the air for the band.
“When people come to our shows and ask us what kind of genre we are, we usually ask them to tell us,” said Zandy.
Right now, the band is focused on recording an EP that they hope to be finished with by the top of next year.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but it’s looking pretty promising,” Zandy said.
They said they are always open to play more venues, bigger venues, and travel more if possible.
“The bigger the audience the better. Obviously, our mission is to make the name of Jesus accessible to people but not in an overly religiously way,” said Lexi.
The four of them were born and raised in Nashville.
“We love traveling, but at the end of the day there’s nothing better than coming home to Nashville, Tennessee,” Jasmine said.
Darius said for him it comes down to roots and family.
“There are a bajillion cool places in the world, and a bajillion cool restaurants and coffee shops everywhere, but having family and friends here is everything,”
Zandy said for her community is accountability.
“It’s people who you can trust to hold you accountable and speak into your life, whether that’s hard or easy, encouraging or constructive. A community is people who help each other and build each other up,” she said.
She’s always said she’d never want to make music alone. She said she finds it a blessing that she can find community in her family and friends.
“[Community] means that I’m safe, that I’m cared for and that I’m loved. It means that I can keep going when times get rough,” she said.
Darius said community is where he can be 110 percent himself.
“It’s being comfortable, and not feeling like you have to put on a face because that gets tiring really fast. Community is a place where you’re naturally yourself and people accept you for it,” he said.
Jasmine said community is making a family of friends.
“I’ve grown up with these guys so they’re like my family, and I think we bring that family aspect when we interact with people to where we leave people feeling like they’re a part of our family now,” she said.
Lexi defined community as being around people who love you.
“As I’m getting older, I’ve noticed it’s harder to find people who genuinely love you for you, and not necessarily what you can do for them. Community is simple. It is loving people just because they’re people. A lot of people want to be someone base on what they do and not who they are, and I believe community loves people for people in spite of all that.”
Jasmine understands why so many people are moving to Nashville.
“There’s a lot of people coming here and I think what they’re seeing and what they’re trying to be a part of is this loving family we call a community. Everyone is so sweet here so it makes sense why people want to be a part of that,” she said.
Some of the concerns for the city that the band has have to do with growth.
Collectively, they said they love to see more people come to the city and bring new things, but they also said they would not like to see Nashville become like Atlanta or New York. They like the small but growing city, but they also like retreating back to the small country life just outside it.
“Nashville is one of the few entertainment cities with heart so I wouldn’t want to be one of those towns where everyone is outdoing each other. Here, I’ve always thought if you’re in music you’re a part of the brotherhood, and we all support each other,” Jasmine said.
The band said the heart in Nashville has to do with the rich musical history behind it. They said there’s an authenticity here that can’t be found anywhere else.
“It feels real here. You’re a part of history when you do something in Nashville,” Lexi said.
Thanks for reading, Nashville!
Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
It starts with community. It starts where you are.