RON HARTMAN/CHRONICLE PHOTO
Sweet N’ Juicy bass player Dave Smith, left, drummer Jimmy Curry and keyboardist Paul Paresa perform in Springfield last week. Part of their goal is to encourage laughter.
SPRINGFIELD – Live music had just returned to Springfield after a long hiatus, so fans at PublicHouse were treated to something special Friday.
A banana, a strawberry and a pineapple. The guys in Sweet N’ Juicy wear their fruit-suits proudly.
“It lets everyone in the room know you’re not going to be a bigger idiot than a literal banana and strawberry,” keyboard player Paul Paresa said. “It’s impossible.”
“You can’t feel any dumber than we do right now,” bass player Dave Smith chimed in. “I also feel like it gives us poetic licence. We can say anything. We can do gay jokes. People clam up, but if it’s a banana saying it. … it’s like a cartoon, it gives us cartoon licence, because everybody knows we’re just kidding.
“We try not to be too high-brow in our material … pretty much just sex and drugs, just keep it in the fun zone. We’re completely apolitical … obviously, we have opinions of our own – but if you’re not into sex and you’re not into drugs you probably don’t like us anyway.”
Aside from all the sex and drugs talk, there is something strangely intoxicating and addictive about Sweet N’ Juicy’s sound. The three-piece funk band from Portland performed an upbeat selection of originals as they promote the release of not one – but two – new albums, Sex, Drugs & Fruit and Your Mom’s Gonna Love Us.
“We have a clean album and a dirty album,” Paresa said. “We wrote a lot of songs during the pandemic, and we realized we had one party album and one mellow … mellow-ish … album.”
While Sweet (Smith) and Juicy (Paresa) are all about bringing the funk, they bring the fun, too. They keep a little comedy routine moving along throughout the show, never missing a beat.
Smith has enjoyed a prolific career, writing for TV shows and the W.E. soundtrack as well as being a longtime session musician in New York City. He’s worked on more than 60 albums and even recorded with Blondie.
Paresa hasn’t traveled nearly as much as Smith, but he’s paying some serious dues within the Portland music scene.
“I used to join every band,” he said. “I was in 17 at one point. That was really tiring. I didn’t sleep for like a year. … But I quit drinking.
“But drinking is so much more fun than not drinking, so I had to find something to occupy (my time) … so I played a couple of things, copied a lot of singers.”
The whole idea for the fruit costumes was in homage to Arrested Development character Gob Bluth, who sometimes wears a banana suit.
“My kid, when he was little, was always afraid of everything at Halloween,” Smith said. “I was the house bass player at a blues jam in Portland, and a bunch of people in banana suits came in and I had just gotten my costume so I went home and got mine and everybody had a great time. I found out later they were all part of a party group.
“It just planted in my mind, that just guarantees fun. Well, should we all be bananas? So I float the idea by the band and they’re like, ‘Naahhhh.’ So I said no, we should all dress up as fruits because it will be fun.
“So if we’re screaming suicide at people, they stiill know it’s funny. We make sure that our intentions are clear that we’re just here to have fun.”
In June 2018, the band got a chance to open for the popular Afroman. There was a big hip-hop crowd. The guys almost didn’t have the guts to take the stage in fruit costumes. Little did they know that this would be a turning point. They’ve worn the costumes ever since.
“Every single time that’s what we do,” Paresa said.
Sweet N’ Juicy are scheduled back in the area on Sept. 18 at Sessions Music Hall, a show that’s expected to sell out.
It’s a show worth catching.
Certainly sounds a-peeling.