You could say that the formation of local band Lemón Royale was a happy accident.
Less than a year ago, violinist Nick Gambardella, 25, was performing as a solo act at an open-mic night under his stage name, Gamby. He ran into guitarist Liam Kaiser, 19, and vocalist Briana Lutzi, 21, who were also performing that night. The trio "clicked," according to Gambardella, and started to meet up to make music. Then, when pianist John Hetherington, 24, drummer Damon Owens, 20, and bass guitarist Andrew Appleseed, 29, joined the mix, the group knew they had something special. And so began Lemón Royale (they picked their name after randomly drawing adjectives from a hat).
Now, with their first official public performance this Thursday, Feb. 7, at Ringling Underground, the band is working to play their cards right.
In many ways, Lemón Royale exemplifies the music scene in Sarasota. You don't need to perform a sold-out show at the Van Wezel to make a living; the band was formed out of the local community of gig musicians.
"Sarasota has a very active working music scene," Hetherington says. "There's this network of musicians who perform at restaurants and bars, and remain regularly employed. And then there's a separate group of performers that do their own original music."
When Hetherington isn't performing as part of Lemón Royale, he's also a part of The Hydromatic, The Big Sugar Band and a wedding band with Owens and Appleseed known as the Serenade of Souls. He also regularly performs with Lutzi as Faux Real at the Social Eatery & Bar every Thursday night. Appleseed and Owens occasionally join them.
And while there are plenty of long-established art institutions in the area, the band is representative of the fresh, young talent that's always in rotation due to the four public colleges in the area. Hetherington and Gambardella both met while studying at State College of Florida, while Lutzi attended New College of Florida.
As a six-person ensemble, they participate in a high level of collaboration. Along with everyone pulling in their fair share when it comes to booking gigs, the music creation process is also a communal effort. They have a joint playlist on Spotify that they all regularly add music to—fortunately, they all seem to have similar tastes. They've cited Hiatus Coyote, Jorja Smith and Pink Matter, along with "a lot of weird stuff," as their source of inspiration.
"I want to be around people who care about this as much as I do," Lutzi says. She recently made the switch to working full time in music as a vocal instructor after ditching her former job as a swim instructor. "I've always craved being around like-minded people who want to be in this space of creativity, music and inspiration. I thought, 'This is the only way to be the kind of musician that I want to be.'"
As for what they see themselves doing in the next few years, they have no problem being as ambitious as possible.
"Definitely touring," Gamby says. "Playing as many shows as we can, and maybe it's a long shot, but a Tiny Desk concert."
"Nothing is ever a long shot!" Lutzi chimes in.