On Saturday, March 9, pop-rockers Sister Hazel will be performing their chart-topping hits at Seminole Casino Immokalee’s Event Pavilion. Sister Hazel formed in 1993 in Gainesville. The band’s five members—vocalists/guitarists Ken Block and Andrew Copeland, lead guitarist Ryan Newell, bassist Jett Beres and drummer Mark Trojanowski—all embraced the city's local music scene and made their break out as an alternative rock band whose style combines elements of Southern rock, pop, classic rock 'n' roll and folk rock. Naples Illustrated spoke with bassist Jeff Beres about the group’s history, present endeavors and plans for the future.
NI: How did the members of Sister Hazel come to know one another?
JB: We were all playing in different bands around Gainesville. We were playing in different bands, in each other’s bands and then finally we all gravitated towards one another starting in fall of 1993.
What made you decide to form the band Sister Hazel?
We all admired each others’ playing from different projects. There were so many bands that were playing around Gainesville, it was an amazing scene and that’s the scene we came out of.
Tell us about the band’s name.
Sister Hazel was a Baptist minister from Gainesville who ran rescue missions. Her whole deal was that no kid in her community in Gainesville would go hungry. She ran soup kitchens and was a very active member of the community. Her focus was making sure the kids were fed, could get to school and stuff like that.
How has having the name Sister Hazel inspired the band to this day?
Here we are, 20 years after taking the name, working with Feed the Children on a global level. It was in Sister Hazel’s sprit of unconditional regard for everybody that we thought, that’s what our music should be like, and it developed in this band. We’re not going to follow any trends and it’s going to be about the music and the beautiful way that music can cross all boundaries.
Does Sister Hazel have any future goals with Feed the Children?
Hopefully we’ll go back to one of the villages at the end of the year with a number of fans and build something like a school or something that we raised money for all year.
What would you say has influenced Sister Hazel the most musically?
It’s funny, we all have such a wide variety of influences. I will say one of the great things about being a band is that you put out so much material that, eventually, you just sound like yourself. There are always derivative sounds and influences that find their way in, but over time you develop who you are and you become comfortable in your own writing. We write from the heart, we play from the heart; that is where we find our center, but at the end of the day we sound like Sister Hazel and that’s what we always strive for.
Does the band have any memorable experiences from being on tour?
We’ve got a lot of stories, but I will say this—now we are all family men. We definitely did our share of partying with the best of them, but at some point we started taking ourselves a little more seriously than that. It’s not that we don’t have fun, it’s just more of a tame environment. We come backstage and we’re showing pictures of our kids before the show and we’re talking about soccer practice and if we have time to be an assistant coach or not.
Have you acquired a large fan base over the past 20 years?
We are lucky to have a loyal strong fan base that supports us with whatever we do. We’ve earned their trust that when they pay their money they are going to have a good show, a great time, and we deliver that.
Are you guys working on anything new music right now?
We’ve been writing nonstop for the last two years and we have too much material, so we’re just working out the logistics of the best way to record the album, and if we’re going to partner up with a label on this one or not.
Do you collaborate with anyone while writing music?
Oh, yeah, all of us are songwriters we collaborate with each other, we collaborate with outside writers and we write on our own.
Any exciting news you would like to share?
We are definitely excited about this partnership with Feed the Children, that’s one of our new and exciting ventures. It’s a big year for Hazel. We’ve got the new album that we’re going to start making. We’re going to be filming at many shows this year to document our benchmark, so there is a lot of exciting stuff coming up.