“It’s been a cool year,” Josh Miles says. “I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I’m not mad about it all.”
Though the past 12 months or so have been something of a trying time for the nation and the world at large, many things have come full circle for J.M. and the Sweets.
Winners of Best Unknown Band in New Times' Best of Miami 2017, J.M. and the Sweets offer the lofty vocal talents of the 24-year-old Miles. This year, the band appeared in public significantly more around South Florida, thanks in large part to its debut EP, Sol Village.
This young soul singer's career will come full circle with an appearance at Arts Garage in Delray Beach December 10.
“[Delray Beach] was the first place I started playing,” he explains. “It’s where I first met my guitar player. It was one of the first places I got paid to play. It’s definitely the place, the city, where I got started. Arts Garage has always... had really cool acts. Ever since I first came to Delray, I was like, I can’t wait until I play there."
His passions were fostered by his parents, but even they never saw this coming. “My dad [and brother] were both very surprised, because singing soul music and playing guitar, doing the whole singer-songwriter thing, was not at all what I did ever. I was always more on the academic performance side of it," he says.
“My dad oftentimes brings my family [to shows]. Much like many Haitian families, not just one family member comes. It’s always a ton of them, and I love it.”
At the University of Mobile in Alabama, Miles was part of the Voices of Mobile, a vocal ensemble of about 16 students that sang at churches and events throughout the year. They performed a cappella with backing tracks. It was an extension of his time spent as a choirboy in Dallas.
These days, Miles is singing fewer spirituals and more spacey numbers such as “Cosmic Apple Jam,” one of the most ambitious and, frankly, best grooves on Sol Village. He says the record has opened plenty of doors for the Boca Raton-based outfit.
“I love it. I couldn’t be happier. We didn’t really have any way for people to hear our music [outside of live performances]. It was really our opportunity to introduce ourselves to everyone — 'Hey, we’re J.M. and the Sweets' — and I think we did that and more.”
The band is working on an EP of covers titled South Florida Soul, Volume One.
“What I want to do is pump out a lot of music and make a lot of different avenues for that," Miles says. "South Florida Soul will be our mixtape format. We’re going to make a bunch of them, and this is the first in a line of them.”
The South Florida Soul compilations will bring together a number of local artists. The first edition will feature a variety of singers and musicians collaborating on five tracks, including new takes on Stevie Wonder's “Isn’t She Lovely,” Hozier’s “Work Song,” Bill Withers' “Use Me,” and a fan favorite from the band’s live set, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
“We want to start a genre, kind of like Memphis soul," Miles says. "We realize that there’s not really a brand of soul when people think about South Florida. This is our first attempt to do that.”
Ideally, the record will be available for free on the band's website by January 20.
In that same spirit of building the scene and working with other local acts, J.M. and the Sweets will team up with Jupiter’s the Helmsmen for a series of shows in an alley (it’s much nicer than the average alley, promise) between Subculture Coffee and Hullabaloo in downtown West Palm Beach.
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On their own, J.M and the Sweets will continue to promote Sol Village via several CD-release parties and, most exciting, a live concert film in collaboration with Public Sounds Collective (another wildly fun local outfit).
Still, all this talk of business and plan-making belies the true spirit of what makes J.M. and the Sweets go. Summed up simply, Miles and his bandmates want to be that little beacon of hope in the darkness.
“I am at a place in life, we’re at all place in life, where we’re trying to figure out what’s going," Miles says. "And although there’s a lot of stuff going on, no matter what, I feel like we underestimate the power of getting together and having a good time as humans.”