No, Julie is not in the band, and no, none of the band members live in Julie’s actual House. But much in the spirit of its members, the band’s name is just a bit unconventional, while also reminiscent of a shared experience that you can’t really explain — you just have to be there. And I’ll try my best to explain, considering after the local indie rock band’s show at Huskies Bar on Saturday, April 30, 8 to 10 p.m., Julie’s House will be on hiatus as some of the members part ways.
“We ended up with this following of friends, and then I think it started with a cappella people who either wanted to book us at their house or come to shows where we were playing then,” Peter Busa, an eighth-semester data science major and primary drummer of the band, said about Julie’s House development over the past school year. “And then we ended up with new people, people we didn’t know that were coming to shows then would like it, kept in contact with us so they could find out when the next one was. So it kind of grew a little web.”
The winner of WHUS Radio’s 2022 Battle of the Bands on March 26, Julie’s House is composed of Busa, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Noah Frank, bass player and secondary vocalist Andrew DeBenedictis and lead guitarist Matt Kennedy. The band played their first two shows opening for fellow Storrs-based band Wavy McGrady at local bars Ted’s and Huskies, and originally under the name Brevity. Coined by resident English major DeBenedictis, he explained that brevity was just an obscure word he thought of when he and Frank were throwing around band names in the summer of 2021. Frank eventually brought Kennedy, who had played with in a band when they attended high school in South Windsor, and Busa, his randomly paired roommate at freshman orientation, on board to officially form the band in October 2021. The switch to Julie’s House occurred when they played their first headlining show at the house of Julie Borsotti, a seventh-semester communications and theater studies major, a fellow a cappella friend.
“It’s not only fun for us because we get to play, and we love to perform and enjoy the music ourselves, it’s also a great thing to bring people together, bring people around for a common purpose, that being live music.”Lead Singer and Rhythm Guitarist Noah Frank
“It’s not only fun for us because we get to play, and we love to perform and enjoy the music ourselves, it’s also a great thing to bring people together, bring people around for a common purpose, that being live music,” Frank, an eighth-semester political science and economics major, said. “A lot of people we’ve talked to, a surprising amount, this is the first time they’ve been to anything like this.”
Self-described — or in their Instagram bio, at least — as a “Storrs-based emo-informed location-specific indie rock collective,” Julie’s House has played hour-and-a-half shows at multiple UConn students’ houses for the past few months. Broken up into two 40-minute sets with a break in between, the band composes setlists with a combination of originals as well as covers ranging from rock punk Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” to boy band Jonas Brothers’ “Year 3000” to early-2000s ballad from the Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris.” The band’s singles have increased over the months, all featuring the classic indie single-word title, as well as thoughtful lyrics and cohesive instrumentals, which the audience has responded well to at shows. These singles include “Weight,” “Expectations,” “Coffee” and “That One Song That Matt Plays Drums On,” which the band explained was eventually named to the single-nomer “Possibility.”
“We just came up with a list of covers that we thought would be popular enough for a bunch of sweaty people in the basement to jump around to and have some fun, and it kind of grew from there,” Kennedy, 21, of South Windsor, said. “There’s only one song with a really funny origin story, “Gravity,” because when they said that their band name is Brevity, I thought they said gravity.”
The band cites a lot of collaboration and creativity in all they do, from the songwriting process to the instruments they play. Frank and DeBenedictis switch off on singing, especially with the particular original songs they’ve written, and Busa also chimes in for songs like The 1975’s “Girls” and George Ezra’s “Budapest.”
“In terms of the originals process, what happens most of the time is that we’ll come with an idea, then the entire band will flesh out through it, add our own stylistic additions on,” Frank said. “Which is nice, because you’ll have your own idea, and you’ll come to rehearsal and have no idea how someone is going to take that.”
Sitting in order of the indie to alternative to rock spectrum the members represent — Frank to DeBenedictis to Kennedy to Busa, respectively — the band explained how their musical style influences their cover selection and how their originals shape out, which they agreed as mostly indie alternative with some jazzier ones thrown in.
“Matt and I have a shared interest in math rock, emo and pop punk. Matt bridges that gap between the jazzier realm,” DeBenedictis, a sixth-semester English and psychology major and environmental studies minor, said. “We all write songs, but when we really put them together in terms of the instrumentation that we’ll play live, that’s a very collective effort.”
Frank and Andrew write most of the lyrics, but Busa also tried his hand at songwriting with a newer song, and Kennedy contributes with musical demos.
“We just came up with a list of covers that we thought would be popular enough for a bunch of sweaty people in the basement to jump around to and have some fun, and it kind of grew from there.”Lead Guitarist Matt Kennedy
“The big thing about them is that they’re full-sounding, but the words in almost all of them have a poetic context,” Frank said. “Andrew and I, we write most of the lyrics. We take a lot of pride in that.”
The band voiced that Hippo Campus is a musical inspiration they can agree on.
“The thing is, they never kind of stay the same as you would imagine,” Kennedy said. “I don’t write lyrics, but I’ll send them ideas, I’ll create little demos at my house, we’ll bring a couple of those ideas to rehearsal, and it transforms into something completely different. Same with ideas they’ve had — Andrew brought these two songs, “Possibility” and “Weight” that both kind of shapeshifted into something a lot bigger than what I initially thought they would be. People’s musical backgrounds, they all kind of get tied in a little bit once we get into a rehearsal space to flesh stuff out.”
Julie’s House has actually recorded a few of their original songs thanks to Busa’s oldest brother, who helped them do so in their parents’ house in Hebron over Thanksgiving break.
“By day he’s an actuary, by night, he’s a recording engineer and also in a band,” Busa said. “It was recorded and mixed by my brother Dan [Busa] and mastered by my other good friend Marc Sokolson through his company Sokolson productions. A cappella connection there. His vocal mixes are awesome.”
To Busa’s point, three-fourths of Julie’s House is part of the all-male a cappella group, the Conn-Men. The group discussed a love of music from young ages, and all of them listed more instruments they were capable of playing. Outside of a cappella, Frank works in consulting and serves as the Undergraduate Student Trustee, Busa works in IT and skis — featured on local Burlington, Vermont news during a winter break ski trip — and DeBenedictis hosts a WHUS Radio show at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Kennedy, who attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, ran audio and videoboard for the Hartford Yard Goats last summer and currently works in events setting up venues like the XL Center and Rentschler Stadium.
“The connections we’ve been able to make with people through music has been really awesome, and it’s nice to have an outlet on the weekends to have a good time and play music,” DeBenedictis said.
Kennedy and Busa describe the return to in-person, live music after almost two years of COVID-19 restrictions as their favorite part of being in Julie’s House.
“After having probably two years of not really anything in terms of live music experience, getting back into it felt really good,” Busa said. “I never really wrote a lot of music until recently, so that’s been a lot of fun.”
With Frank moving to Georgia in the summer for a consulting job and DeBenedictis studying abroad in the summer — Kennedy and Busa are staying local for their jobs — Julie’s House may not be able to rock Storrs like they did this past school year, but, as DeBenedictis said with the others in agreement, they’ll “find their way back. This isn’t the end.”
“The connections we’ve been able to make with people through music has been really awesome, and it’s nice to have an outlet on the weekends to have a good time and play music.”-Andrew DeBenedictis
“If there’s an opportunity to play again, we definitely would,” Kennedy said. “It’s like riding a bike — you come back to it, and everything’s smooth.”
Frank attempted to close out the band’s interview with a poignant reflection on the band’s impact on themselves and their audience —
“It’s not only been great because it’s allowed us to get closer, but we’ve seen friendships form at our shows, we’ve seen people to come together in ways they haven’t for so long,” Frank said. “It’s such an amazing tool to bring everybody together and give a lot of people the experience of live music.”
— but I think Peter summed up the risk and reward of a live musical performance in a nature more fitting of the band’s chaotic, but ultimately infectiously fun and charming energy:
“It’s that risk of hearing an incredibly wrong note,” Busa said, to which the rest of the group laughed, and devolved into their recounts of all the wrong notes they’ve played, yet the show went on.
Julie’s House can be found on Instagram @julieshouseband.