In 1981, The Kinks loudly proclaimed “Give the People What They Want.” Thirty years later, JFX are a band that have taken that credo to heart, with a slightly modified version. “We’re music sluts,” said founding member Scott Blandzinski in a recent interview. That attitude of playing what the audience wants to hear has taken JFX to new heights, making waves in the Fort Wayne music scene as well as regionally throughout Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
You might remember JFX from the Fort Wayne scene during the 90s. The band began in 1994 as Johnny Exciter and gained a rather large, rabid following but quickly came to the conclusion that “the name was stupid,” so they changed it to JFX around 1996. The story behind the name change involves legendary Rock 104 DJ Sharon Rossi. According to Blandzinski, whenever Rossi would introduce Johnny Exciter at shows they were working together, she would introduce them as “Johnny F’in Exciter,” except the “F word” wasn’t censored. The name kind of stuck, but was changed to JFX for obvious reasons.
JFX released an album in 1998 that received airplay on Rock 104 and gained the band some attention from record labels.
“The record did really well and we almost got a record deal out of it,” said Blandzinski, but it never came to fruition. Even without the promotion a label could give them, the band garnered enough attention from the album to get “opening slots for a lot of national acts, including REO Speedwagon, Tesla, Firehouse, Slaughter and Warrant. We played all over nationally for a while.”
But like an exploding star, the success came to an end quickly when the band broke up around 1999.
“We burned out,” said Blandzinski. “We got tired of hanging out with each other,” and everyone decided to pursue other interests.
Blandzinski got into real estate “for about 10 or 11 years,” he said, to secure his future financially. The itch to play music, however, never quite went away. Now that he has put in enough time to get his finances where he wants them to be, he says he can finally go back to his first love. “Now I can focus on music.”
Blandzinski reformed JFX a few years ago and the band – now with Jeff Hedrick on drums, Jim Holley on bass and multi-instrumentalist Scott English, along with fill-in players Tom Leahy and Ken Daily – has been playing in bars around town for about a year now, as well as in clubs out of state.
“We’re taking over where we left off,” said Blandzinski. At the same time, he concedes, it’s a fresh start.
During the band’s first inception, JFX focused primarily on their love of hard rock and heavy metal. Now the focus is different.
“We’re a party band,” Blandzinski said. “We perform current and classic rock anthems, as well as hits from the 80s and club dance music. We really like what we do. We have a show like people have never seen before, with state-of-the-art technology, and we use it to our advantage.
“We’re not doing what we did before. The people who used to follow us don’t come out anymore. We focus on the 30-and-under crowd now because they’re the people who come out to the bars and want to have fun. We’re building a new and larger following and looking to get into bigger clubs” in the future.
Though the metal has given way to more current hits and party favorites like The Commodores’ “Brick House” and Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” the band still manages to work in a White Zombie cover or two now and then for old times’ sake..
The mix seems to be working. JFX currently have only three openings for bookings for the rest of the year. “It’s fun to have a ton of people dancing and rocking out to your songs” on a nightly basis, he said. “We know about 70 songs or so now, everything from the 80s Bon Jovi songs to Journey to hip-hop. Whatever the crowds want to hear, we want to know how to play it.”
Though covers and party music are the current focus for JFX, the band does work on new material and plans to release a new album in a year or two.
“We’re working on new stuff right now,” said Blandzinski. “We’ll put some of the new songs into the playlist from time to time to see how the crowd reacts to them. That’s how we know. They’ll tell us whether they like them or not, and it’s pretty easy to tell.”
Catch JFX, the self-proclaimed “music sluts,” at Beamer’s Sports Grill on Friday, May 31 and at Headwaters Park during the Three Rivers Festival July 14.
Don’t forget to bring your dancin’ shoes.