It’s hard to be a band in Miami. In fact, it’s hard to be anything other than a rapper or a hip-hop crew in Miami. Because that’s what this city caters to, at least for right now. But one band is trying to help change that — one mixtape at a time.
Twelve’Len, a three-man indie pop outfit started by 20-somethings Zach Fogarty, Vares Joseph, and John Falco, makes music about relationships and girls while strumming guitars and banging drums. The trio is decidedly not hip-hop. And yet that’s how the group was billed when it started out.
“The only blogs that talked about us were hip-hop blogs,” says drummer Falco. “And all the shows we got booked were rap shows.”
The Miami music scene, he and his bandmates realized, didn’t know what to do with them, because Twelve’Len doesn’t fit into any one particular genre. (On their website, they describe themselves as “a different kind of indie band for the Miami scene.”)
Rock and pop are two categories for which Twelve’Len is a better fit. But to book shows, the trio had to work its hip-hop connections or beg punk venues for a shot. The group had to prove that it had the chops to execute a show and the fans to back them up. It was a lot of work, admits singer Vares Joseph, but in the end, he, Falco, and Fogarty succeeded.
Today, Twelve'Len is well-known on the local music scene. The band has performed all over Miami and collaborated with local underground rap stars like Denzel Curry, N3ll, and Lil Champ Fway. Its music videos have been watched thousands of times on YouTube, and its fans hail from all over the world.
This ambitious threesome is no longer exclusively associated with rap or hip-hop, but it is, admittedly, still defining its sound.
“We don’t have a solid kind of style,” says guitarist Zach Fogarty. The rest of the band agrees. “We’re still experimenting. We still make new shit and get inspired by different shit,” says Falco. “At the end of the day, we’re creating our own genre,” Joseph adds.
This experimentation with sound and style is evident on each Twelve’Len mixtape. The band's first project, Yellow, drips with indie pop and alternative rock, and yet the first song on the album, “Love’n,” is undeniably hip-hop influenced. By its second project, Blue, the trio's sound had taken on an electronic twist, with a heavier focus on drums and bass. The latest EP, Silver, is more mellow and melodic, headed back in the direction of indie pop.
Each project, the group explains, focused on a different member. Singer Joseph played a significant role in the writing of the first project while drummer Falco took the helm of the second and Fogarty set the tone for the last project. “It was an experiment,” Joseph says. “We were finding where each of us could fit in.”
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This summer, Twelve’Len will release its new album, Pink, a project that Joseph promises will make “describing us much easier.” The overall sound of the album will be similar to Silver, but amped up. It will be easily classifiable as indie pop and closer to the signature sound that the frontman and his crew have been seeking.
="">“It’s kind of like a more mature, developed version of what you’ve already heard,” Fogarty says. “It sounds more like a band and everyone kind of comes together in it.”
And you know what they say: third time's the charm.