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Columbus’ Own: Local trio Jemntonic here to jam

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String bass player Victoria “Tonic Tori” Woods considered herself the “rebel of the family” when she chose to play a string instrument. Her father was Jon Woods, the director of the Ohio State Marching Band for 28 years.

“I played in orchestra, so I was kind of the rebel because I didn’t want to play in band. But I do love marching band,” Victoria Woods said.

She said her father loved to hear her practice every day, and she fondly remembers playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with him, he on trombone and she on the string bass.

But now she has new bandmates. Now with Jessica “Jessijem” Minshall and Yoko Miyakawa, the trio makes up Jemntonic.

Minshall — lead vocalist, guitarist and accordion player — said she’s wanted to be a musician for 10 years. She was inspired to play accordion by her grandmother, who also played the instrument. She said she hopes to “bring it back” and make it popular again in the music scene.

Miyakawa, a viola player and percussionist, started playing viola in middle school and picked up some percussion for the group by fashioning a drum out of an old suitcase last year.

Jemntonic’s instrumentation has gotten it mistaken for a polka band a couple of times, but the band makes “pretty front porch punk folk,” and calls itself a “jamband.” Minshall described a “jamband” as the type of band that would play 10-minute leads, something groovy that appeals to music festival audiences.

“I kind of want to push ‘girlband’ into the jamband scene because there’s no solid girl jambands out there, and I kind of want to get that audience,” Minshall said. “Anybody that would like a jamband would probably like Jemntonics.”

The band began to form in the summer of 2013 when Victoria Woods and Minshall met at a music festival where they were both stilt walking.

The song “Hippy Dippy” features a dialogue section where they both talk about meeting each other for the first time.

They said they don’t consider their nicknames, “Jessijem” and “Tonic Tori,” to be alter egos but a part of their daily identity. Both are entertainers for a living, employed by a circus company that Minshall started. In addition to stilt walking, they also breathe fire and do tricks on the trapeze, among other talents.

“Pretty much we get high for a living on stilts,” Minshall said.

Not long after the duo met, they met Miyakawa at a Lotus concert through mutual friends. Minshall said that after she learned Miyakawa was a viola player, she had to have her in the band.

Miyakawa is known as the leader of the band, the “n” in the middle of “Jem” and “tonic.”

“I guess I’m technically the leader, but I like to look at Yoko as the leader,” Minshall said.

Miyakawa is also referred to as the “Rockstar Scientist” because she is set to graduate with a degree in earth science and chemistry from OSU in May. Miyakawa said she lives somewhat of a double life and doesn’t think that many of the students she teaches as a teaching associate know that she’s in a band.  

Music is an important escape from school stress for her.

“It’s a necessity, it’s very stress-relieving. Music helps me express things that I can’t really say,” Miyakawa said.

In the future, the band plans to focus its energy on music videos to get its name out while releasing music for free via Soundcloud.

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