DAN FARMER AND THE JUICE BOX HEROES ROCK SOUTHERN INDIANA
BY LAURA ROSS
PHOTOS BY TONY BENNETT OF TONYBENNETTSTUDIO.COM AND CHRISTIAN WATSON FOR EXTOL MAGAZINE
In this season of graduations and new beginnings, lots of high school seniors eagerly scoop up college scholarships. It’s a rite of passage for many – but that wasn’t the case for Dan Farmer in 2006. His story winds around like the lyrics of an epic ballad.
“I was a basketball player and loved musical theatre at Jeffersonville High School,” said Farmer, now 31, and the founder and lead singer of The Juice Box Heroes, one of Southern Indiana’s most sought after cover bands.
“Not a lot of people have that combination of athletics and theatre,” Farmer continued, “but I was friends with everyone – from the jocks to the artistic kids. I had several scholarships for theatre, and I had the opportunity to play basketball at a few schools as well. I turned them all down.”
Farmer chuckled. “I was in love with the sport of mixed martial arts and had every intention of becoming a professional cage fighter.”
Following a heartbreaking loss in the basketball regional his senior year, Farmer said goodbye to basketball, and days later, started training in mixed martial arts with New Albany police officer Craig Pumphrey and Ivan Dale, who trained other New Albany police officers in martial arts. Later that summer, Farmer added a boxing coach, Rock Cruz, and was on his way to his dream.
It might not have been his parents’ first choice for launching his post-high school life, but Farmer had a vision. He enrolled at Indiana University/Bloomington, earning a degree in fitness specialism-kinesiology, but trained night and day to be a professional cage fighter, with the goal of eventually opening his own gym. “I trained six days a week in Jiu-jitsu for hours a day,” said Farmer. By the end of his first year at IU, he was ready for his first cage fight. “I was 19 and I fought a 29-year-old,” he said. “The fight lasted just under two minutes, and he (Farmer’s opponent) got 47 stitches in his face. It was the first physical altercation I’d had in my entire life. I was never rough, I never fought anyone. I saw this as a sport I loved and wanted to master.” The adrenalin was the lure for Farmer. “If you’re going to beat someone in sports, a fight is the ultimate physical competition,” he explained. “It’s not who is the toughest, it’s who is the most skilled in martial arts. I dedicated myself and worked so hard on my skills, my cardio, and my strength. I loved every second.”
While his parents grudgingly supported his fighting, they insisted he remain in school. “It was really hard for them to watch it,” said Farmer. “My dad would lose sleep all week worrying about my well-being before a fight.”
He participated in cage fighting for five years and wound up with a 7-1 record. As he finished college and hit his 23rd birthday, he realized that it was time to move on. He was well-known regionally, and still loved mixed martial arts as a sport, but he knew hitting the elite – and most profitable – level of the sport was probably not in his future.
Farmer emerged from the sport relatively unscathed, “Other than the fact I can’t breathe out of my left nostril now. I’m otherwise OK,” he laughed. He graduated and worked for Jasper Engines and Transmissions, running their wellness programs initially, and later, moving into a supervisory role on the factory floor. He currently works for Cintas as a sales representative.
But Farmer knew he had to follow another lingering passion. Music and theatre had always been a part of his narrative, with stage appearances as early as 10 years old. He sang in the choir. College karaoke was great fun. He loved people, he loved music and he loved to entertain.
A fateful evening out with friends to see the Louisville Crashers band in 2010 led to a conversation with his friend, Jordan Rajchel, and the birth of The Juice Box Heroes.
“We were having a great time, and I said, ‘Man, we could do this better than anyone,’” said Rajchel, who was the band’s drummer until 2016. “I’ve loved seeing this thing we built grow into something pretty amazing.”
“We said, let’s do it,” added Farmer. “We put together five friends, and we were terrible.”
They practiced in a garage, though, and soon landed a few gigs in early 2011. Then, an opportunity arose to play at Louisville’s Hard Rock Café, and the band with no name faced a conundrum.
“We didn’t have a name,” Farmer laughed. “Everyone brought a list of names to rehearsal, and everyone hated each other’s suggestions. In desperation, our lead guitarist, Kyle Reagan, threw out the name Juice Box Heroes and it stuck. I thought we might change the name later, but we never have, and now everyone in Southern Indiana and beyond knows us.”
Word began to spread, and The Juice Box Heroes quickly established a popular following in the area. Weddings, corporate events, fundraisers and bars began booking the band, and their popularity soared. Farmer equates that to their varied and ever-changing selection of music, from the 1960s through today’s hits, covering all genres of music.
“All of our shows this year have been sold out, and this year is nearly filled with shows,” said Farmer. “We average about 30 weddings a year, lots of events like Harvest Homecoming, and we travel regionally. We have even played the Fourth of July celebration for Pinehurst Golf Resort in North Carolina for the past two years.”
The Juice Box Heroes currently number six members, including Farmer and guitarist Kyle Reagan. Drummer Josh Howe, bassist Josh Inzer, keyboardist Dexter Neal and singer Sydney Magers round out the band. Rick Day runs all sound and light and heavy lifting for the band.
Everyone has day jobs as varied as school bus driver (Inzer), sales rep (Farmer), Humana employee (Neal), music teacher and choir director (Reagan), medical assistant (Magers) and theme park set designer (Howe).
For any locals keeping count, there are three New Albany High School and three Jeffersonville High School alums.
“ THERE AREN’T MANY THINGS THAT FEEL BETTER THAN TO BRING JOY TO PEOPLE AND THIS BAND IS DEFINITELY IN THE BUSINESS OF DOING JUST THAT.”
– Sydney Magers
Female vocalist Magers joined The Juice Box Heroes in 2015. “It’s like having five brothers I never knew I needed, but I can’t imagine life without them now,” she said. “We have an absolute blast performing together. There aren’t many things that feel better than to bring joy to people and this band is definitely in the business of doing just that.”
And Farmer’s parents? “They are much more in tune with this lifestyle. In fact, they are two of Juice Box Heroes’ biggest fans. My dad even watches our videos when he works out.”
“My dad taught me a mantra a long time ago, that reads, ‘Expect to be good. Preparation builds confidence. Confidence builds greatness.’ I live by this every day,” Farmer added. “I’ve gone from an honor roll kid playing basketball to a professional cage fighter to the leader of the band and rock singer. I’ve been so lucky and blessed with so many opportunities. Every time I get on stage, I relish that feeling.”
“Dan is one of the most motivated, passionate and competitive people you’ll ever meet,” said friend and former bandmate Rajchel. “If he does something, he’s going to do it right. There’s no in between. That feeling is priceless when you walk away from a show knowing we were a huge reason those people will remember that night forever. There’s nothing like it.”
“I will never forget the first time we played the Jeffersonville RiverStage,” added Magers. “There were thousands of fans beyond excited to see us. As the Heroes took the stage, the crowd grew even louder, and in that moment, I knew I was home.”
“We’re just regular people from Southern Indiana who love to perform,” Farmer said. “We’re up there, with so much energy, and we sing and dance and have a blast. We love it and that translates to the audience. They see how much fun we’re having on stage, and they want a piece of that.”
Life continues to evolve for Farmer, who is now a father to his six-year-old son, Bas.
“This band has been around his whole life, and I love having him at shows,” Farmer said. “Bas loves to sing at the top of his lungs and dance around the house. I think he might have some star power in him.”
Farmer hopes to keep The Juice Box Heroes rolling into the future. “We can play 200 songs on the spot, but we are constantly working on new songs, and we are very prepared. We’re always growing and getting stronger, and we’ve become family. We just love what we do.”
MUSIC NOTES WITH DAN FARMER
SONG OR BAND THAT MADE YOU WANT TO SING: Seeing Coldplay in concert made me want to be in a band. The Louisville Crashers made me think it could be a reality.
SONG YOU LOVE TO PLAY: “Bust A Move” by Young MC
SONG YOU WISH WOULD GO AWAY: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
ONE HOUR. NO LIMITS. WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO TALK MUSIC WITH BACKSTAGE BEFORE A SHOW: Prince
BIGGEST “ROCK STAR” MOMENT: Performing in front of 5,000 people at the Jeffersonville RiverStage in 2018
WHAT’S YOUR DREAM BACKSTAGE RIDER INCLUDE: Blue M&Ms, sushi, caviar and a pedicure.
IF THE JUICE BOX HEROES IS STILL AROUND IN 2040, WILL YOU HAVE THE “MOVES LIKE JAGGER”?: Yes! I’m already been called the Jagger of Jeffersonville, so it’s a guarantee!
WHAT LYRICS WILL BE ON YOUR TOMBSTONE: “Here I go again on my own!” (Whitesnake)
WILL YOU EVER PLAY THE ‘HOKEY POKEY’ OR ‘CHICKEN DANCE’ AT A WEDDING: NEVER.
MARTIAL ARTS ON STAGE: I throw the occasional high kick and pray that my pants don’t tear.
THE JUICE BOX HEROES REALITY SHOW TITLE: “The Definition of Weekend Warriors”
The Juice Box Heroes