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Meet Saint John’s Band

By Patricia Majher and Ben Chartier | Photography by James Lunig | September 2001

Meet Saint John’s Band

They’ve only been playing together since New Year’s, and they’ve already had an out-of-state gig in front of several hundred enthusiastic fans.

“They” are Saint John’s Band, a group of five teenage musicians from the suburbs of Flint whose acoustic rock sound is building up a following in their community and beyond.

Curtis Burnash, 17 (vocals, guitar), his sister, Morgan, 15 (bass, viola, flute), Deric LaFuente, 16 (drums, percussion, bass), Drew Nelson, 17 (guitar), and Jeff Wright, 16 (drums, percussion, back-up vocals), recently sat down with this writer and her teenage son, Ben, and talked about how the band got together, where they’ve gone with their music, and whom they’d like to share a stage with (hint: the initials are DMB).

Pat: So how’d you guys meet?

Deric: On New Year’s Day, I went over to Jeff’s house. He was playing with Drew (his neighbor) and Curtis (Drew’s classmate). And I jumped on the congas and we just started jamming!

Ben: Who are your musical influences?

Deric: We like Rusted Root, Dispatch, Dave Matthews…

Drew: Santana, Blues Traveler…

Ben: Do you only play your own music?

Deric: No, we mix it up. If you just go and play your own stuff, people hearing it for the first time can’t sing along. So we play some of our own music and some covers…a big variety.

Ben: Why did you decide to use both a drummer and a percussionist?

Curtis: Hey, we’ve got two great drummers, so it was a natural thing for us to do.

Pat: Where have you played so far?

Curtis: We’ve performed locally at places like Beans and Leaves (a coffee house). So many people showed up there, they actually had to stand in the entranceway. I think our entire youth group came out to see us!

Jeff: And lots of people walking down the street looked in the window and then came in to listen. The owner told us it was the most people he had ever seen.

Morgan: We also played at Local 432 in downtown Flint and at Pirate’s Park (an amusement park).

Pat: And you’ve performed at church?

Curtis: Yeah, we’ve played for the commencement service and for Eater vigil at Blessed Sacrament.

Jeff: Curtis plays for the youth choir there.

Pat: I hear that’s where you were ‘discovered’ by a visiting Carmelite priest…

Deric: Well, one night, we went up to the church to play with Curtis, and Fr. Don Brick heard us and asked if we’d perform for a youth rally he was organizing at Holy Hill (a shrine north of Milwaukee, Wis.).

Pat: How’d that go?

Deric: It was pretty cool! Fr. Brick arranged for us to have this great sound system that was used by big-time bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was a beautiful place, real relaxed and peaceful. Everybody had a good time, even though it rained a bit.

Morgan: We ended up performing outside before a couple hundred kids. Fr. Brick told us we could come again next year.

Pat: Was that the best time you’ve had as a band?

Morgan: That was fun, but I think the best time was winning the talent show at Kearsley (High School). The whole thing started out rough—they accidentally turned off our mikes and we had to start over. But we ended up playing real well. Everyone was really proud of us.

Ben: Have you built up a fan base at your schools?

Curtis: Yeah, especially after the talent show. People we didn’t even know came up to us to buy our T-shirts and help finance our trip to Holy Hill.

Pat: How do you juggle your music with school and church and other activities?

Morgan: It’s tough. I also run track and it was hard to do it all during the season.

Ben: Are your parents supportive of your music?

Chris: Definitely!

Jeff: Mine, too. We’re just waiting for my little brother to get old enough to play sax for us!

Pat: What would your dream gig be?

Deric: Comerica Park!

Pat: Opening for Dave Matthews Band?

Deric: No, playing right beside them!

Morgan: It’s a big dream but it could happen.