Juice is set to play at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on September 10. (Photo courtesy of Samuel David Katz)
Mission Viejo High School

Pop/R&B/hip-hop band Juice strengthens their ‘Naruto’ bond on new single ‘Konoha’

New York-based Juice doesn’t usually take time off. Since graduating from Boston College together in 2017, the seven-piece band has released two EPs and multiple singles accompanied by a nearly year-and-a-half long tour. After postponing their upcoming 2020 tour, the group has finally had a chance to rest and reflect on their career.

Their new single “Konoha” captures this introspection, referencing the anime “Naruto” to illustrate their process of practicing acceptance. Konoha, short for Konohagakure, means “village hidden in leafs,” and is a fictionalized place where the “Naruto” titular character lives and learns to grow with his community.

The song was written in Nantucket, Massachusetts, a setting as sentimental as the anime’s for the Boston-based group.

“We go to Nantucket every summer and play [a venue called] The Chicken Box, and I was sitting outside the band house after our first night playing. It was four or five in the morning and I was reflecting on all the things that brought the band to this moment,” said violinist and vocalist Christian Rose. 

Rose spent the early morning writing and played a demo for the band shortly after. Many of the members watched “Naruto” while growing up and were able to draw from their childhood energy to contribute to the song.

“Konoha” isn’t the first song to reference anime and certainly won’t be the last, but “Naruto” has such a sentimental value to Rose that he has the village symbol for Konoha tattooed on his arm.

“There’s always been an interesting and powerful relationship with black America, hip-hop, and anime. Theres a really subtly implied counterculture element to anime because it comes from somewhere else,” said Rose.

The song’s lyrics begin uncertain, but an optimistic tone develops as the band works out their frustrations throughout the song. 

“’Konoha’ is my favorite Juice song,” guitarist Daniel Moss said “Christian did an awesome job of taking feelings we all feel and synthesizing them.”

By the time the song was finished, Rose’s original demo had been twisted and morphed by each member of the band, resulting in a conceptually different version from the original. The song allowed them all to validate and work through their frustrations in real time.

After spending the majority of their young adulthood chasing their dreams in music together, Juice’s members are so intertwined in each other’s lives that expressing themselves isn’t always as simple as on “Konoha.”

“It’s complicated because the band operates like a family in a lot of ways… We are all guys who were raised in a culture that I think has discouraged men from talking about the specifics of their emotions and tries to get people to run around what they’re feeling. I think as a band, it’s tough to break down that conditioning and be more honest about things than when we started in college,” said Rose.

Egos needs to be carefully managed to ensure the band’s success — especially because personal relationships play such a complex role in their workflow.

“It’s interesting when [songwriting] does originate from the same energy sphere, since we’re all together when things happen,” said guitarist Michael Ricciardulli. “When things become super interrelated between the guys, they’re hard to talk about because you always want things to be good so you can write great music, so there’s this damage control mentality where it can be hard to address things head-on.”

In a group so tight-knit that arguments are predicted before they even happen, collaboration and conflict easily overlap. Nevertheless, these dynamics make Juice who they are, generating entirely authentic music.

“Konoha” is available for streaming now, and Juice is playing live at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on Thursday, Sept. 10.