Despite a name more fitting for a funky disco supergroup, JNJ Dynamite is in fact an indie-rock folk trio, whose members were born and raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The “JNJ” references husband-and-wife team Joel and Julie Di Mauro; Joel’s identical twin brother, Dustin, brings the Dynamite. “Dustin’s a drummer in his other projects, so he’s the loud guy in the band,” Joel explains. “He always bangs away at the piano. We have to settle him down a bit.”
The trio’s music is folk through and through: raw and honest, with a roughness and emotional poignancy that feels achingly universal. Song themes range from feelings of loss and joy to environmental issues; Julie and Joel’s own romantic drama is not off-limits as lyrical fodder. They write what they know.
At shows, Joel, Julie and Dustin trade off on guitar, bass and piano, depending on who wrote what: “We play based on how each song originated,” Julie explained. “It’s more natural that way, and it speaks to the heart of the songs.”
The band’s sparse and simple sound wouldn’t be possible without Julie’s rough and smoky vocals, un-altered by any kind of technical or formal training. Her voice has a lilting quality, lending a haunting element to their music—at times she sounds distinctly like Neil Young. Other band influences include PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and classical guitarist Andres Segovia.
When they’re not making music, Joel builds Spanish-style guitars at their home studio, and Julie’s artwork will be on display at their upcoming gig in Boulder Creek. Dutch for “little box,” lille æske is cozy and intimate—the perfect setting for a JNJ Dynamite show.
INFO: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25, lille æske, 13160 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek. $10-$20, sliding scale. 703-4183.