“We were plummeting towards Earth from two separate planes,” said Jake Munn, one-third of Jake & Kyle’s Awesome Band, on meeting his bandmate Kyle Nicholas.
“We ran into each other mid-air,” Nicholas said. “He was playing air guitar and I was playing air drums. We just kind of looked at each other and pointed at one another. The rest was history.”
Far less fascinating is the real story of the band’s creation. By day, Munn is a safety consultant for a small family business called Louie Munn Services. Nicholas is a software designer at Juvo Technologies, a tech company in downtown Hattiesburg. They both enjoy hanging out amid Hattiesburg nightlife and the “downtown music scene” and just happened to find themselves in the right place at the right time early last year when mutual friends brought them together.
Between visits to various bars and venues, Munn came to know Nicholas and learned that they shared an affinity for music. He began discussing the possibility of a “two-piece band centered around just having fun and playing music.”
“The whole idea was to not take it [seriously] and just make sure that we had fun,” Munn said. “And more importantly, [to make sure] the audience had fun.”
Nicholas said the two never really intended to make the band a serious project.
“[It was] just something fun for us and the audience to enjoy together,” he said.
During their first performance, however, they found that the crowds were not too receptive to their 90s/00s covers. They decided to change things.
“We started playing what we knew – blues, funk and rock oldies, and the audience loved it,” said Munn. “We discovered then that we should tailor our music to the audience. So we’ll play oldies to an older crowd at like Chesterfields, but then play newer stuff at places like Marlin’s. My rule of thumb is to see how the audience reacts [to] the song ‘I’ll Be There for You’ by the Rembrandts, which is the ‘Friends’ theme song. If a lot of people clap, we need to play a lot of 90’s/00’s covers.”
This focus on audience enjoyment has been the driving force behind the band’s success. Since their first show, Jake & Kyle’s Awesome Band has regularly attracted large crowds, and they always attempt to make their audience part of the performance. Typically, this is achieved by having audience members collaborate on an original song.
“We always make up one song at each show,” Munn said. “Sometimes, it’s about an audience member. For instance, at our last show, I told a group of girls that if they [would] sit on the couch in front of us, that I would sing a song about them. They moved to the couch, [and] we sang a song about them.”
The rest of their set consists of covers of popular but diverse music that spans across virtually all genres and includes songs like “Purple Rain” by Prince, “Beast of Burden” by The Rolling Stones, “Last Dance with Mary Jane” by Tom Petty, “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and “Fly” by Sugar Ray.
Since it started in April 2016, the band has undergone some changes. Most notably, Jake’s guitar and vocals and Kyle’s djembe drum and vocals are now joined by newest band member Jim Pierce’s sax and flute.
“It’s actually pretty interesting how Jim came on board,” Munn said. “I just happened to sit in on one of my dad’s band’s [gigs], and Jim was playing with them as a sit-in on sax. I met Jim, and he mentioned that he was looking for some extra gigs to play. I didn’t really have an intention of ever reaching out to him, but one Sunday, Kyle lets me know that he can’t make the show at Glory Bound like right before the show, so I scramble and call this Jim guy, and he says, ‘I’ll be there.’ He shows up and we rock the place.”
Munn said when the three band members played together at their next show, everything fell into place.
“We all have fun and the audience digs it,” he said of that performance. “The rest is history.”
Although for now they play in mostly Hattiesburg venues, they hope to take their shows to other cities and states in the future.
“Our future plans are to book more private shows and start to branch out to other locations around Mississippi,” Munn said. “We want to play in Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Jackson, Mobile and maybe New Orleans. We understand that people can get tired of you if you continue to play every weekend in one city, so we want to branch out for sure.”
They are particularly interested in performing at more private shows for fraternities, sororities and weddings.
“They tend to be some of the more fun shows we play,” Nicholas said.
Jake & Kyle’s Awesome Band will perform at Buffalo Wild Wings on Friday, Jan. 27 and Friday, Feb. 10.