The Sound Down Under 

Fruit’s vocal harmonies have taken them around the world.

“We’re going to have to get through this one,” Keynes notes with a matter-of-fact air, chatting via cell phone as the band heads to a Boston music store a few hours after the theft. “That’s why you have insurance.”

Insurance or not, it’s not the type of experience Keynes expected when she met guitarist/singer/songwriter Sam Lohs and horn player/vocalist/songwriter Mel Watson in 1995 at an acoustic gig where each woman was playing in other groups. Someone suggested they jam and the three hit it off. The core of what became Fruit quickly jelled. Later, percussionist Yanya Boston and bassist Brian Ruiz were added.

“I think we realized at that moment,” says Keynes. “It was apparent [there was] something special about the vocals that worked.” Even in Fruit’s “embryonic phase,” Keynes adds, “people saw the magic.” A successful show in Vancouver led to a suggestion they play an Oregon gig. “It was that single comment that ignited our na‹ve dream,” Keynes recalls with a laugh.

As the sound developed, this group of boundary-stretching musicians concentrated on the vocals, and harmonies became central to the group. The mix of rock, funk, pop and ballad styles that emerged is a wide-ranging one that seems to work whether the band plays a folk festival, a world music gathering or a rock show. It also won them Best Up-and-Coming Live Act in Australia at the 2001 Australian Live Music Awards. Fruit’s complete musical package is an eclectic one difficult to pigeonhole but it resonates with audiences in their home country as well as in Europe, the States, Canada and South America. Richmond music fans can make up their own minds when the band plays Jumpin! on Thursday.

“It’s certainly not hard for people to relate to,” Keynes notes simply. “It can really fit.”

Part of what makes Fruit a fit is a democratic approach to songwriting and singing. Keynes, Watson and Lohs each write, and they divide lead vocal duties. They also bring diverse influences to the band and retain side projects that allow for alternative musical outlets and musical growth.

“There’s only so many songs you can do in a show,” Keynes explains. “[Side projects are] something that has enriched the band.”

At this stage of the dream, Fruit remains unknown to many pop-music fans. But the powerful vocal arrangements and the mix of introspective ballads and original rock music are a fresh and worthy sound on the contemporary scene. For Keynes and the band, the excitement of a journey filled with appreciative audiences and van break-ins is an unpredictable musical adventure.

“It’s an extraordinary life,” Keynes concludes. S

Fruit plays Jumpin!, Thursday, Aug. 14, 6:30 - 9 p.m., in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Sculpture Garden, 2800 Grove Ave. Tickets cost $10. Call 340-1405 for information.


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