Sing along, Boys

Janzen Boys build a band out of family jam sessions

The Janzen Boys have come a long way from after-dinner sing-alongs and silly hallway jingles.

From the Carpenters to the Beach Boys and the Jackson 5, The Janzen Boys are following an age-old tradition of families making music together. 

Whether it’s the natural-sounding harmonies or the wholesome delight of discovering sibling power-teams, there is a certain undeniable warmth and familiarity that stems from blood relations performing together.

“The running joke is however old my youngest son is, that’s how long we’ve been together,” John Janzen, the patriarch of the group, says. “We’ve always been goofing around the house but the thing that got us started truly was busking at the Forks last year.”

It was oldest son and vocalist Simon’s, 14, idea to audition for the busking licence and make the band a more formal affair. His brother Mick, 10, who was an avid instrumentalist on drums and mandolin, agreed to take up singing and what do you know - three-part harmonies emerged.

Following a summer of busking at the city’s number one tourist spot, the boys took the show on the road and busked their way to the West Coast and back.

“We took the money made from busking and stopped to play music in every city on the way to Kelowna, BC,” Janzen says. “It was just the best summer holiday I’ve ever had.”

The proud pop is happy to take credit for some of his children’s musical gifts. He filled the house with so many musical instruments that the boys would have to be moving guitars, ukuleles and mandolins around in order to do anything.

“I’m definitely not a make-them-practice parent,” Janzen admits. “But I did make it so that whenever they were bored, the obvious choice would be to pick up an instrument.”

Apart from physically leaving musical cues around the house, Simon and Mick also had the luxury of growing up in a musically creative environment. They spent much of their childhood in Japan - where John was based for 10 years - where they were practically raised in a jam session.

“I was in a band at the time and when I’m making music they’re always in the periphery of it,” Janzen says.

In addition to his creativity-based parenting methods, musical genetics seem to run in the Janzen line. Janzen’s younger sister Diana Ishigaki often lends her voice to the group’s folky songs.

“The cool thing about a family band is that these little jam sessions happen in 15 minute increments,” Janzen explains. “It’s all very informal. It became the only option if I ever wanted to have a band.”

The Janzen Boys’ next step is to record some of their material in order to have a tangible piece of music, more than just the YouTube videos that got the group noticed in the first place.

“It’d be great to have something to hand out to people,” Janzen says.

Visit facebook.com/thejanzenboys for more information.

Part of the series: The Uniter Fiver Showcase

Published in Volume 69, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 14, 2015)

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