JUTAUN is, first and foremost, a band of brothers. Jake Evans, James Evans, and Samoeun Cheng make up the core of a group that has been exploring, writing, and performing together since they were teenagers in Williamstown, New Jersey. The huge amount of experience JUTAUN has gained playing and experimenting results in music that is both fresh and timelessly mature. The band’s intelligence and self-awareness allows them to bridge the divide separating such seemingly exclusive genres as latin and gospel in a way that not only avoids sounding contrite, but establishes a legitimate sound that they make their own. This blistering refusal to cater to established standards has already caused JUTAUN to cross paths with musical giants, such Leon Huff of Philly International and Gamble and Huff fame.
The close personal bonds between the band members, combined with their boundlessly diverse backgrounds, have created a musical outfit that is able to pull from such dizzying musical influences as the Righteous Brothers, Maroon 5, and Gary Clark Jr. without ever succumbing to cliché. So often in popular music, lyrical significance and meaning is forgotten in favor of lazy pandering, but JUTAUN disrupts this trend. Instead of seeking to avoid offense, they reach deep into their own experience and conscious to deliver lyrics that even find occasion to wander into the realm of poetry, such as in their song “Who am I” when James Evans sings “Who am I to judge/Who am I to deny love/Who am I to try to pick the world apart/But I refuse to be deceived/By the imposters and the thieves/That attempt to gain an entrance to my heart.”
The story of how JUTAUN came to be reveals the band’s current success to be even more dramatic. Jake and James Evans are brothers who were tutored and lured into the world of music through their father’s intense involvement and personal love affair with music of all kinds. As their father performed on a bass guitar, the brothers grew up within the fertile walls of music venues all around New Jersey, surrounded by musicians, fans, and industry professionals.
Even as the stage became an unwavering dream for the brothers, at home they were inundated with their father’s sweeping musical tastes. With constant music that ranged across broad musical styles like rock, reggae, folk, latin, jazz, funk, soul and gospel, the brothers discovered musical inspiration that make the almost eclectic diversity of influences in JUTAUN undeniable. The vast scope of musical styles that played in the Evans home was, perhaps, highlighted by internationally recognized music from the local area, as James recalls, “Our dad always told us to be a good musician you had to appreciate all types of music, but he was a huge Philly International fan. He used to play their music a little more than anything else.”
Samoeun Cheng spent the early years of his life about as far from a life of music as is realistically possible. Until he was six years old, he grew up in the refugee camp where he was born after his parents fled Cambodia. “I lived there until I was six years old,” he says. “All I remember was that we often had to escape thieves and hide. I remember the sounds of gun shots. It’s all like a bad dream.”
A long road that began with a Christian organization and led through San Francisco, Memphis, and South Philadelphia, finally ended for Samoeun when he wound up in Williamstown, New Jersey after his parents separated and his mother remarried. “It was my stepfather who actually introduced me to music,” he recalls. “I just fell in love with music. I was in the choir, did musicals….and then at school I met two brothers named James and Jake.”
Usually, they say, the rest is history. If JUTAUN has anything to say about it, the story is only just now being written, and, despite the richness of the past, the future holds the potential to be so much more.