Rock of ages

Smokin’ Joe Banana

Smokin’ Joe Banana are from left, Steve Harala, Thaddeus John and Todd Oldridge.

Smokin’ Joe Banana are from left, Steve Harala, Thaddeus John and Todd Oldridge.

Photo By David Robert

“Before we did anything,” says bassist and Smokin’ Joe Banana back-up vocalist Thaddeus John, “our goal was to write a string of at least three songs that would made it to No. 1 on Billboard’s top hits chart.”

All irony and tongue-in-cheek aside, it would be a pretty robust goal to reach for any group, let alone a band formed less than a year ago by three middle-aged guys well into their professional careers outside of music.

But John, 40, along with lead vocalist and guitarist Steve Harala, 38, and drummer Todd Oldridge, 40, have more experience in music than most rockers.

Smokin’ Joe Banana is basically made up of three guys, best friends, who’ve been making music since their teen years who one day decided to write some original songs together.

They had been playing gigs, covering classic rock standards in town for years and, while on vacation in Mazatlan, Mexico, decided to form a new project.

“Instead of swearing … I’d say ‘Smokin’ Joe Banana,'” says Oldridge.

John and Harala thought Oldridge’s strange curse substitute would make a good name for their new project. They put out a self-produced album in June. It’s mostly soft rock with a few heavier songs that seem to reflect decades of musical cycles.

“I can see the fire in your eyes,” Harala sings on the song “I Am Feeling Fine.”

“I decided, I am feeling fine, Suddenly I started to realize, I decided, I am feeling fine.”

“Feeling fine” is pretty much what Smokin’ Joe Banana is really all about.

The song has a soft guitar intro, a laid-back drum line and great back-up vocals from John. It’s John and Harala’s favorite song on the entire album.

With Smokin’ Joe Banana feeling fine on a Friday evening jam session, it’s hard to get questions in.

“You’re lucky you didn’t lose us for two hours,” says Harala. The band had been scatting out new melodies. Basically, Harala plays something on the guitar. John hums along to it and then forms ideas for words and lyrics. They often have to stop and record.

While Smokin’ Joe Banana has actually performed only one official show, a record release party back in June that sold over 300 tickets, mostly by word-of-mouth, the band says they are always ready for a show.

On Saturday, they held a barbecue where they did an acoustic show, with Oldridge using a bongo and a maraca instead of his usual drum kit. Some of the crowd wore Smokin’ Joe Banana T-shirts.

Oldridge’s 4-year-old nephew took a guitar that was hanging as a decoration on the living room wall and began to play along with the guys in the band.

He even knew the lyrics to some of their songs.

Maybe Smokin’ Joe Banana will live their dream and top the Billboard charts one day.

Maybe—just maybe—if they keep on smokin'.