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More Mojo

The a capella group Mucho Mojo is returning for a second year with a new lineup and a new sound

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2001

They were founded in a hot tub - and they use lollipops for PR.

"It's a nice way to advertise," said 20-year-old Julia Parish. "I like those positive associations."

Embarking on its second year, the a capella singing group Mucho Mojo is anything but conventional. Last summer, the group was made up of Parish and fellow 20-year-olds Lisa Ray, Racheal Breiland, Jeffrey Tillinghast and Robbie Bishop. They got the idea while relaxing in a hot tub, Ray said.

"One of us started singing and someone else started singing something else on top of it, and we all just started singing stuff," she said. "We thought we might take it a little further and see if we could make a group."

When Tillinghast and Bishop decided not to return for a second round this summer, 17-year-old Adaira Willis stepped in to fill the gap.

"I really like the format that we had last summer, but I am really enjoying this too," said Ray. "It seems like it's a totally different sound. ... I think the blend of voices is just a sweeter blend, sweeter harmonies."

"We have a few of the same songs from last year, but our repertoire is for the most part new," Parish added.

In addition to gigs at restaurants and private parties, Mucho Mojo will perform on Friday at the Concert in the Park and sing at the Bald Eagle Music Festival at the Haines Fair in August.

Willis is looking forward to singing for larger groups.

"There's a lot more energy to show off," she said. "It's pretty much guaranteed that there's always going to be at least one person you can look at and know they're enjoying themselves. That's a wonderful feeling."

Mucho Mojos' a capella style is suited to small venues as well, Parish said.

"We don't have to use microphones in that atmosphere," she said. "I think a capella blends the absolute best without microphones."

Audience interaction is also important to the group, both during and before performances. "Guerrilla a capella," one of their trademarks from last summer, allows the Mojos to treat unsuspecting Juneau shoppers to impromptu performances.

"You run into a store that is unaware that you are going to run into it," Parish said with a laugh. "You run in and you sing and you run away before they can call the police.

"It's something we do that's just wicked fun," she added. "People really love it."

Performing a capella also allows for direct audience interaction during shows. Group members agreed that this makes it a unique musical experience.

"That's where I can enjoy singing more than playing my flute because I can be very expressive while singing and do a lot of body motions," Ray said. "It keeps us enthused and happy with what we're doing."

"We're a very audience-oriented group," Parish added. "Once there was a couple that just got engaged (at a performance) and we sang them a very sweet love song. You just go over there and sing it to them and it makes them feel really special."

All the members of the group have prior musical experience, having performed together in bands and choirs at the Juneau-Douglas High School. In addition to singing, Ray and Breiland play the flute and Parish plays the clarinet. Several members of the Mojos play piano, and Willis is learning the crystal flute, an instrument similar to a recorder.

Group members sing both bass and soprano, depending on the song.

"We all really switch around a lot," Ray said. "We like to do it that way to keep all of our ranges real versatile."

The songs they perform are "doo-woppy, old Andrews Sisters stuff," Parish said. Their play list includes "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," the UB40 version of "Fools Rush In," Billy Joel's "The Longest Time," and standards like "Stand By Me" and "The Still of the Night."

"We have two different kinds of music," Parish said. "We have the kind that's just bum-breaking - it's really hard. It's got some really amazing harmonies. Those ones we just look for a challenge ... and others we're just like, 'That's such a great song. Let's just do it.'"

Mucho Mojos will perform Friday at Concert in the Park, 7 p.m. in Marine Park. They have gigs at Fernando's and the Mount Roberts Tramway throughout the summer, and will attend the Haines Fair from August 10 to 12. Call 790-2807 for more information.

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at geneviev@juneauempire.com.



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