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Local Listens: JunkFood

Welcome to Local Listens, where we profile some of our favorite Washington musicians. This week, we shine the spotlight on JunkFood.

Photograph courtesy of JunkFood.

It’s good to incorporate a little junk food into your day, whether it’s candy, ice cream, or the tunes from the Northern Virginia rock band JunkFood. The group has made an impression on Washington over the years, gaining recognition as the best local cover band from On Tap magazine in 2003 and the best local band in 2005 by a Washington Post readers’ poll.

JunkFood started in 2000 but has made some member changes along the way. The current line-up consists of Bart Harris (lead vox, rhythm guitar), Paul Schauer (lead guitar, vox), Joey Murray (bass) and Jeff Essex (drums, vocals). JunkFood’s attitude and passion for music is refreshing. Harris says there’s no question that they were all born to do it: “We’re all musicians, and we have the ‘disease’ of music. It’s not about wanting to do this. It’s about needing to.”

Having this kind of self-awareness mixed with a high level of positivity has helped the band’s popularity throughout Washington. In addition to the band’s earlier recognition, Washington City Paper named JunkFood 2008’s best local band, and DC101 has been regularly spinning its single “Toast” (from JunkFood’s third full-length album, Mighty. It’s not just the talent and mindset that pushes the band in this direction but the fans’ support.

“We have some great people who enjoy what we do, and they’ll let everyone know about it,” Harris says. “That’s how you get voted best local band, and it kind of validates what we do on a daily basis.”

JunkFood has shared the stage with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Plain White T’s, and Bret Michaels. (The band says it knows Poison’s front man so well that it could tell you who wins the latest season of Rock of Love.) Flogging Molly, Carbon Leaf, and DJ’s Benji and Joel Madden (of Good Charlotte) will soon be added to that list when JunkFood performs at the National Shamrock Fest at RFK Stadium on March 14.

Check out the Q&A with the band to find out its favorite music scene from a movie, a must-have junk food, and more.

Name: JunkFood.

Age: Nine.

Hometown: Fairfax.

First song that made you want to play music:
Bart: “I grew up on Elvis, Motown, the Beatles, and the Eagles. There are so many (thanks, Mom and Dad) songs—I don’t think there was just one.”
Jeff: “ ‘Shout at the Devil!’ ”

First instrument:
Bart: Violin.
Jeff: Bass.
Joe: Bass.
Paul: Guitar.

Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:
Bart: “It comes when it comes. I don’t have control over writing. I have notes everywhere. I have voice-memo applications on my iPhone.”

Best local venue:
Bart: “It’s in vogue to say the 9:30 Club. It probably is the best venue, but seeing a great band is more important than standing inside of a great club.”
Joe: “Sweet Caroline’s.”
Jeff: “9:30 Club.”

Best bar to hear music:
JunkFood: “The bar with the cold beer!”

Favorite local band other than yours:
JunkFood: “We all have huge respect for Todd Wright as an artist. Another great band is Fools & Horses and I like Rome in a Day.”

Best thing about Washington’s music scene:
JunkFood: “The diversity, and that it’s populated by great musicians and bands.”

Worst thing about Washington’s music scene:
JunkFood: “It’s so spread out that it’s inconsistent.”

Craziest tour or show memory:
JunkFood: “ ‘It’s the demon weed!’ ”

Finish this sentence: “When not making music, you can find me . . .”
Joe: “. . . at a Caps game.”
Bart: “. . . planning world domination.”
Jeff: “. . . football and hockey!”

Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
JunkFood: “The band agrees with this answer 100 percent: the Beatles!”

Digital download or hard copy:
JunkFood: “Old school, man. Love the artwork and the credits.”

Rolling Stone or Spin?
JunkFood: “Playboy!”

Club show or festival?
JunkFood: “Both are exciting. With festivals you have a better chance of Joe Music Fan being exposed to new music, but there’s something to be said for a loud rock show in a club setting.”

What musicians, bands, and performers influence your music?
JunkFood: “We have everything from glam metal to Bob Marley. Slipknot to Butch Walker. We’re all pretty diverse.”

You’re playing a show with Bret Michaels. How did that happen?
Bart: “We’ve done things with Bret in the past. I was in a band with Pete Evick years ago, and Pete is now Bret’s guitar player. So we have the inside track. I know who wins Rock of Love Bus!”

Do you think Michaels will be with a winner from the show?
JunkFood: “He will definitely be ‘with’ a winner from the show. That man is currently king!”

Which of the bigger acts that you’ve shared the stage with is your favorite?
Joe: “Styx is always a standout. Everyone associated with that band is class act. We had a great response at that show and made a lot of new friends. Jimmy Buffet was fun as well.”
Bart: “Fuel had some of the nicest guys ever, and they killed it live.”

What’s your favorite junk food?
JunkFood: “Thanks to Joe Murray, Sour Patch Kids are always in the van. Always!”

What are you looking forward to about Shamrock Fest?
JunkFood: “The amazing atmosphere. Everyone at Shamrock is there for one reason: to have a good time.”

What’s your favorite music scene from a movie?
JunkFood: “The scene in This Is Spinal Tap when the band gets lost under the stage in Cleveland! ‘Hello, Cleveland! Rock and roll!’ ”

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