Next Gen eleven eleven Makes Its Mark at Daymark

New Faces, Familiar Sound
By SANDRA WEYANT | May 31, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

After 20 years of bringing energy to venues near and far, the original members of eleven eleven have passed their musical torches to a new, spirited group of young men. Founder and former lead vocalist/guitarist Jeff Guiliani manages the dynamic lineup, which comprises lead vocalist Leo Johnson, guitarist and vocalist Chris Lax, drummer Korey Holmes and former bandmate, bassist and vocalist Josh Torres.

The foursome ignited the crowd with their opening rendition of “Play That Funky Music” during Saturday’s show at The Daymark in Barnegat Light. When it comes to determining set lists, eleven eleven has one main goal: to get everyone out of their seats and onto the dance floor.

“We choose our songs based on what’s popular, what gets the party started and what truly moves us. We take it and make it our own. We want the crowd to enjoy their time with us, like it was the best night of their lives and then, hopefully, they’ll talk about us when they leave,” Johnson said. Creating a set list also requires some research, according to Torres, who likes to spend his days off visiting bars and taking in people’s reactions to particular songs. He also surfs the Internet to keep tabs on the top 100 hits.

Most importantly, the songs should be compatible with the “vibe and talents” of the band. “‘It’s Raining Men’ is an example of a song that we shouldn’t include (in our set),” Torres joked. With a mix of oldies and goodies like “Shout” by The Isley Brothers and today’s popular hits, such as “Can’t Feel My Face” by the Weeknd, the band prides itself on its ability to cater to a diverse audience.

But song selection is surely not all eleven eleven has going for them. Not only does Guiliani serve as the band’s adviser, but he also sets an example of how the band should connect with its following.

“He (Guiliani) taught us to always be the nicest guys around. I think that is what draws our crowd,” Johnson said.

“Exactly. Be the band that is everybody’s friend,” Torres added. “We would go down to Virginia and play, and Jeff would know people by name. The point is to make people feel like they are part of the band, so that’s what we strive to do.”

When the original group decided to retire, it was Torres who was commissioned with the task of finding the new faces of eleven eleven. Torres reached out to Johnson’s manager and then to Holmes, and two years later, Lax signed on.

Band members all share the same passion for music and get their inspiration from various artists – singers such as CeeLo Green, Michael Jackson and Prince to bands like Deerhunter – to form their unique and captivating sound.

“As a guitar player, John Mayer is one of my biggest inspirations. Going to school, I was a blues player. I started playing guitar when I was 5 or 6. I got my first guitar when I was 1. I have been playing my whole life,” Lax said.

Holmes remembers it was when his parents purchased him a baby blue Mickey Mouse drum set at age 2 that he began playing the drums and hasn’t stopped since. Johnson said his parents said he was singing before he was talking, and at age 10, he started teaching people how to sing. He also became a choir instructor and expressed his love for “jumping around and carrying on” through acting in street and on-stage plays.

Each of the band members is dedicated to their craft and practicing individually, in addition to rehearsals.

“During summer season, we’re playing three or four nights a week. We host a live band karaoke on Thursdays. We practice when it is time to add more material, or when we need to polish up one of our songs,” Torres said. Outside of the summer season, the band practices at least once a week religiously, “like church.” Johnson and Torres sing and play just about every day. They live together and “get on each other’s nerves,” but the process works. Lax also visits their house once or twice a week to learn new songs and perfect old ones.

Though eleven eleven travels to many different cities to perform, Lax says he enjoys hometown gigs the most because all of his friends and family come out to see the show. Torres agrees, but for him, playing in a familiar atmosphere with friends and family can definitely bring on more nerves. “I’ve played in front of thousands of people at the Barclay’s Center and I was totally fine, but then my sisters will come to a hometown show and I am so nervous,” he said. On the other hand, he loves playing close to home (the band was originally formed in Vineland) because this area always brings energy and guests become “friends and family in an intimate situation.”

Johnson considers his role as a lead singer to be the most fun in the world, but he admits there is a serious trade-off and sacrifice. Three of the four bandmates (Johnson, Torres and Holmes) are fathers and they spend a lot of time away from their families. Typically, weekends are designated for family time, but not in the lives of musicians. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the band’s “high times.”

“It’s a tough life, but it’s a good life if you make it good,” he said. “When you’re surrounded by like-minded people, you can’t help but have success.”

In regards to creating original songs, eleven eleven is keeping busy and hints that new music is on the horizon. “That’s a little secret there. There is stuff happening. It’s a surprise. Right now, we’re getting through the summer, but it’s something that will be coming out soon. Stay tuned,” Torres said.

Visit eleveneleven.com to check out the schedule for future performances from “your favorite party band.” Upcoming New Jersey locations include Atlantic City, Cape May, Wildwood and Millville.

 

Set List Snippet

“Sex on Fire,” Kings of Leon

“Cheerleader,” Omi

“SexyBack,” Justin Timberlake

“The Humpty Dance,” Digital Underground

“Funk Soul Brother,” Fatboy Slim

“Treasure,” Bruno Mars

“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk

“Jump Around,” House of Pain

“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars

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