When the teen rock band justincase went on the road to promote their self-titled CD on the Maverick label, they took their mother with them.
That’s not surprising. The three Tosco siblings – Justin (vocals, guitar), Nick (drums) and Hannahcome from a close-knit family, where music is an important part of their life.
“They were exposed to music from the time they were in diapers,” says their father, John Tosco, a guitar teacher who’s prominent on the local music scene.
“Music was part of their upbringing.”
Around the time Justin was born, John and his wife, Holly, began inviting local musicians to their east Charlotte home to sing and play acoustic music.
“When the Tosco Music Party began, we held them in the living room of our house. The kids would fall asleep on the floor as the music played on,” John Tosco said.
“Their musical influence was always there, starting with The Beatles. The playlist was for us,” says Justin, 19, who writes most of justincase’s songs.
While the band counts the Goo Goo Dolls and matchbox twenty among their inspirations, Justin also looks to artists such as Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones and James Taylor when he begins writing a song. He can find their CDs, tapes and albums on the family’s bookshelves.
“We’d play ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and then play one of my songs. Then we’d go back to another Beatles’ song,” he says.
Justin began playing acoustic guitar. Nick took up the drums, while Hannah, now 16, dabbled with flute, piano and bass.
“We’ve gone to hundreds of concerts,” said 17-year-old Nick. “We were exposed to all kinds of music, from country to rock and everything else.”
They began performing as justincase – a name suggested by a friend – when Justin was in eighth grade. They played at local shows for free, later earning about $100 for each performance.
In 2000, they met Michelle Branch at the EAT’M Music Conference in Las Vegas. Branch signed with Madonna’s Maverick records later that year, and helped them get an audition.
Last November, they finally signed a deal with Maverick. Their self-titled album, released in September, contains 11 songs, including “What I Wouldn’t Do,” “Letter” and “Without You,” Justin’s duet with Branch.
Their first video, “Don’t Cry for Us,” aired on MTV’s “TRL (Total Request Live),” and they went on a three-week promotional tour across 10 Southern states.
The band was the main act at the Sept. 21 Tosco Music Party, now supported by a nonprofit organization made up largely of fans, friends and fellow musicians. The event, held at a 600-seat theater in downtown Charlotte, was a sellout.
“The support all around them helped make this all happen,” Holly Tosco said.
On a rainy Tuesday night in Charlotte, justincase performed for an appreciative audience made up mostly of teenage girls. Despite a serious bout of laryngitis, Justin didn’t disappoint them.
“We’re very proud of this record and we’re excited that it’s finally coming out. Your support means a lot to us,” he said.
Justin, with his bleached blond hair and earrings, was seated on a wooden stool, wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans. Nick wore jeans and a short-sleeve dress shirt, while Hannah – punky red streaks accenting her dark hair – was dressed in tight black pants and matching shirt.
“We want to make this our career,” said Justin, who’s put off attending college. Nick and Hannah take high school classes online.
Is the Tosco family always harmonious?
“Under normal circumstances, we pick on each other like most families but we’ve found we work well together,” Hannah said. “Someone always gives in, and it’s usually me.”