Zach Velli, 13, drums for Cat Jack, a band he formed with his brother Jackson Velli, 14. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)
Zach Velli, 13, drums for Cat Jack, a band he formed with his brother Jackson Velli, 14. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)

Those in the Denton Community received a unique wakeup call Saturday morning.

Cat Jack, a two-member band comprised of brothers Jackson, 14, and Zach, 13, played a short set outside The Clarice.

Set up on the patio in front of the main entrance to The Clarice, Gabbi Velli, the boys’ mother, noted how different of a “venue” this was. However, Jackson and Zach have played in venues ranging from The Electric Maid, an old laundromat in Virginia, to the 9:30 Club, a renowned venue in Washington, D.C.

The boys played at the 9:30 Club with their teacher Benjy Ferree and his band Benjy Ferree and the Dees.

Zach (left) and his brother, Jackson (right), play at the entrance of the Clarice. They formed their band Cat Jack at a young age. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)
Zach (left) and his brother, Jackson (right), play at the entrance of The Clarice. They formed their band Cat Jack at a young age. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)

“That was an amazing show,” Velli said. “It was such a unique opportunity to work extremely hard over the summer to learn [the band’s] original songs and music.”

In addition to the music, Jackson also learned how to play bass for the performance.

“We had a month to learn all the songs,” Jackson said. “It was pretty rigorous. We practiced almost everyday.”

“It was worth it,” Zach added.

The boys started taking lessons several years ago and formed close bonds with their teachers, Velli said.

Benjy Ferree, Laura Harris and Ben Green were a trio of teachers before going their separate ways a few years ago to pursue their music careers outside teaching, Velli said. Ferree taught both boys while Harris only taught Zach and Green taught Jackson.

“Benjy is super fun and an amazing, patient and interested teacher,” Velli said.

“He was a very philosophical sort of person,” Jackson said. “I was always listening when he was talking. Everything he said really spoke to me.”

Featured is Jackson Velli, 14, lead guitar player for Cat Jack. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)
Featured is Jackson Velli, 14, lead guitar player for Cat Jack. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)

Harris started teaching Zach when he was only four years old. Velli described the relationship between Harris and Zach as “something almost like a sister and brother, or something that feels as close.”

“My husband and I are forever grateful for what they have shared with our boys,” Velli said. “We look forward to many years of connection to those teachers.”

Though they stopped taking lessons, Jackson and Zach still spend much time of their time writing songs and rehearsing for shows.

“Their music is a significant time commitment, especially for Jackson,” Velli said. “He approaches music as a passion. For a teenage boy, he spends more time on music than any other activity. It’s a huge time commitment, but one that’s sort of invisible because of his love for [music].”

However, the boys have interests outside of music. They both play travel soccer and were involved with their school’s musical.

“They don’t have a lot of idle time,” Velli said, “which was really helpful for them to figure out what matters most.”

Cat Jack is comprised of Jackson and Zach Velli. (Ryan Eskalis, Bloc Reporter)
Cat Jack is comprised of Jackson and Zach Velli. (Ryan Eskalis/ Bloc Reporter)

It all started when Jackson repeatedly begged for a drumset, requests which his mother continuously refused. Eventually, family friends bought Jackson a drumset, which Jackson said should be put in Zach’s room.

“I need a drummer,” he said.

For six months, Jackson watched while Harris taught Zach drums. One day he deemed Zach good enough and Jackson decided he wanted to play electric guitar.

During the first lesson, Green and Velli held the guitar for Jackson because it was so heavy.

“That was so good,” Green said after the lesson. “I’m really stoked.”

headshotMaya Pottiger is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at mayabee777@aim.com.

 

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