Mom, Entrepreneur, Rock and Roller
The first thing you notice about Jen Boronico on stage is her intensity. And...she is intense! It's as though every emotion she's been carrying inside is released through every big power cord. The second thing you notice about Jen is her smile. It's big, beautiful and genuine. The third thing you notice is her attitude; feisty, business-like and very brazen. On stage she's a giant, guitar slinging rock and roller, full of fire and power chord fury. Off-stage, she's a petite 5' 3 inches but with a big, bold confidence that you can't help but appreciate and admire.
Jen Boronico is a single mom 24/7, a successful business woman by day, and at night, the lead guitarist / vocalist for one of South Florida's top cover bands, Pandia. Although small in stature, her aura is huge and lights up the room. Even while sitting still, she seems to exhibit perpetual motion, like a boxer, bobbing and weaving. That's what I see sitting across from her. Her personality is larger than life.
Dressed in relaxed jeans and a grey t-shirt with her band's logo, this is not your typical CEO of a very successful business brand. This is Jen Boronico; brazen, ballsy and non-pretentious, with girl next door cuteness. Today, I'm meeting Jen at one of her many stores, Boca Tanning Club of Weston. Jen is the proud founder and franchiser of now 17 stores between Florida and New York. She had a vision to create something unique, not just a tanning salon, but more of a club, a spa, complete with techno music and high energy. She opened the first store in 2002, creating a business that has been in the top 2% grossing salons in the country. Personally, she owns or operates 4 of them, the rest are franchisees of hers. Boca Tanning began as a dream 15 years ago and she turned it into a life, a lifestyle. She had the vision to create an empire, and she has. A proud, devoted mom to a beautiful 14 year old daughter, successful business woman by day and at night, a rock and roller. You've got to love that.
FM: Jen, thanks for taking some time out of your crazy schedule to sit down for a few minutes with me.
Jen: Thanks for inviting me to be interviewed by Fretboard Magazine. My schedule actually isn't too crazy. Fortunately, I've got a lot of great people who work for me and that gives me time to do things like this and actually live my life.
FM: The right staff sure can make things a lot easier. Let's start out by having me ask you a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Jen: I was born in New York City then my family moved to Hollywood, California when I was 3.
FM: What brought all of you from New York to California?
Jen: My dad had a recording contract with MGM. He was a singer / songwriter and a guitarist.
FM: That's pretty cool. So your dad was a musician. Like father like daughter.
Jen: Yeah. He's the one who got me going. Then, when I was 5, we moved to South Florida. So, this is where I grew up. I lived in Broward until I was 15 and then we moved to Boca. I went to high school there, Spanish River High School. After high school, I went to Nova Southeastern and got my MBA in 2000.
FM: So, you consider yourself a native Floridian?
Jen: Yeah, I guess I do. (laughing) (I notice a great infectious laugh with a mischievous grin)
FM: Your dad was a guitarist. I'm assuming he was pretty good since he was signed by MGM.
Jen: Yeah, he was good. He was more of an acoustic player. I used to watch him play and thought, "that's so cool, I would love to do that."
FM: Does he still play?
Jen: Yeah, he does. He comes to see me a lot. I had him come on stage with me and the band a while back at the Elbo Room in Ft. Lauderdale. That was a lot of fun.
FM: That must be pretty cool, on stage playing with your dad.
Jen: Yeah, it was. It is.
FM: When did you first pick up a guitar?
Jen: I was 12. So, it's been a few years. (laughing)
FM: What was your first guitar?
Jen: (smiling very big) A Westone, pearl white. I wanted something like Joan Jett played. It was great. I loved that guitar.
FM: Do you still have it?
Jen: No, I don't. It was a great guitar though.
FM: I'm sure it was. I remember my first guitar, a Peavey T-27. I sold it off a few years ago to a collector. Some days I wish I hadn't. What was the first song you remember learning to play?
Jen: That's easy. Wild Thing!
FM: I'm assuming not the Ton Loc version!
Jen: Uh....no. (laughing)
FM: So, your dad was a guitarist. How about your mom? Was she a musician?
Jen: No. Actually, she was a dancer, a pretty good dancer too. But, my dad, until I picked up the guitar, he was the musician in the family.
FM: Do you play any other instruments or just guitar?
Jen: I have toyed with the bass a small amount but really, no, just the guitar. It's my passion. Always will be. There's nothing like being on stage and hitting that power chord or playing a ripping lead that just resonates from the stage and across the audience. (feigning a Pete Townshend windmill motion with her right arm)
FM: Let me move on to something else and I'll get your thoughts. Over the past 40 years, the music scene has changed a lot. Personally, I've seen it go from 70's rock to disco, to southern rock, to hair metal, to bubble gum, to grunge, to rap, to hip hop, to alternative, to electronic DJ stuff, and now in my opinion, in some areas, we're starting to see an influx of more kids starting to play rock again, at least in different underground scenes. It's just not getting big attention, yet. That's what I'm here to do, to help get word out. What's your thought on that?
Jen: (looking a bit curious, or perhaps sad) Yeah, music has really changed. There's plenty of rock out there if you go search for it but it just doesn't get the attention that it should. I don't know if it's dead but it's just not easily accessible anymore to people who listen to music. And, it's unfortunate.
FM: I agree. I'm hoping by interviewing people like you, who have a passion for it, for guitar driven music, that more kids will pick it up and help bring it back to the mainstream. How cool would that be? Living in South Florida, what do you think about the music scene here?
Jen: There's plenty of music here for everyone, enough to fit anyone's particular taste. With rock, originals are really underappreciated. When you go to clubs or venues and there's a rock band on stage, most of the time, they're doing covers. You know, you always get that same guy who stands up and yells, "play Freebird." For my band, that's great because that's what we do, what we're known for, great covers. But, I do wish more people would get out and go see a band that plays kick ass originals.
FM: Have you written or performed any originals?
Jen: I've only written a few songs. One we wrote, yeah. But, it's pretty angry and intense, a lot of personal meaning in it. So, I just stick to the covers.
FM: Tell me about your band, Pandia. I saw you perform live when Naughty Natalia was in the band. She was always crazy, but a good crazy. You guys were having a blast and definitely had a lot of great covers. What is it that you love most about performing live?
Jen: Yeah, I miss Nat. Those were some of the best times, let me tell you. We were going to get together again recently but she moved back to Colorado. (looking a bit sad) I started Pandia in 2009. We've gone through several lineup changes, which happens. Our current lineup is great. Very talented group. You know, when you're on stage performing, you get that immediate response from the audience. I love it. It's very inspiring which to me is the coolest thing. I love inspiring other girls to go out, get a guitar and learn to play it. There's so much passion. There's nothing like being on stage and hitting that big power chord. It brings the energy to a whole new level and I feel really connected to the audience.
FM: Have you had any girls come talk to you after the show, telling you that you inspired them to go out and start learning to play the guitar?
Jen: Yeah. Several times and that makes me feel great, knowing that I'm able to inspire others to do something positive that otherwise, they may not have thought about. That gives me a lot of pleasure, a lot of satisfaction.
FM: Musical influences. Tell me who your influences are. When I see you perform or listen to some of your music, I see some Joan Jett type performance, Jimmy Page, Jan Kuehnemund (unfortunately, she passed away not too long ago), and ACDC. Who are Jen's musical influences?
Jen: Well, obviously my dad. He got me started playing guitar. But, I love Stevie Ray Vaughan, ACDC definitely, and Jimi Hendrix (pointing to the Jimi Hendrix t-shirt I'm wearing today). Oh, and Lenny Kravitz. I love me some Lenny. One more, Jose Feliciano. He's really a unique and incredible guitarist who wrote Feliz Navidad and is super famous especially in the Latin world. You should listen to his playing. You know, on one of his records, he's using my Les Paul. And on the album cover, he's holding it. My Les Paul is famous.
Jen: Yep. My ex-husband tried to help Jose with his career for a while, he is an amazing player too. Jose is incredible. You should listen to his playing. He's great.
FM: Well, I'll have to do that. Now, back to you. I know you're a busy woman. A single mom, an entrepreneur, a musician. Anything I'm missing there?
Jen: (laughing). No, that pretty much covers it.
FM: That's a lot of things to juggle. By the way, I love some of the videos you've posted with your daughter on Facebook. She's adorable.
Jen: Thanks. We have a lot of fun. She's a great kid.
FM: So, how do you create that balance between mom, businesswoman and musician?
Jen: Like I said earlier, I'm fortunate to have a great staff working for me. They make life so much easier, which gives me the time to do what I love doing. I actually have another pretty big business project I'm working on that's taking a good amount of my time. Hopefully it will be worth it.
FM: That's great. Keep the creativity going. Your daughter, how old is she?
Jen: Jaime is 14. She said you could mention her name here. (laughing)
FM: Does Jaime listen to your music?
Jen: She's only seen us play live twice. I actually had her on stage to sing with us once. It was cute. She enjoyed it while she was there. And, she thinks the original song we did was super cool. But, I'm going to stick to the great covers. By the way, you can hear that song and read about it on the Pandia website. I sometimes catch Jaime listening to it. It's a pretty dark song but very meaningful to me.
FM: I'm going to listen to it. Where did the band's name, Pandia, come from?
Jen: I was married to a Greek guy. Pandia is a Greek Goddess, a daughter of Zeus, goddess of light and beauty and protector of humans. I like the name and what it stands for.
FM: Let's give Boca Tanning a plug. What got you started with that?
Jen: My ex-husband and I opened my first store in 2002 in Boca Raton. We had a vision to create not just a tanning salon but a lifestyle. We wanted it to be very cool, club-like. So, that's what we created. At the stores, some are open 24 hours and we even pump techno music in there. (looking around) Isn't this place cool?
FM: (I met Jen for this interview at one of her franchisee's stores in Weston, Florida). (looking around) Yes, it's pretty cool. I've never tried a tanning bed before but maybe I will.
Jen: You should. Or spray tan, it is fast and looks amazing.
FM: Back to the music. Tell the readers about your gear. What guitar are you playing? What effects do you use? Amps?
Jen: On stage, it's my 57 Les Paul Custom Re-Issue. I run it through my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe Combo Amp and I'll mic that. I also have an 87 American Strat and a Taylor acoustic. Love my Les Paul though but I really should be more careful with it. There was this gig where there was this big pole next to the stage and I was so into the music that I started rubbing the strings and fretboard against the pole, creating crazy distortion.
FM: You did that with your Les Paul?
Jen: (laughing) Yes. I know what you're thinking. This chick is nuts to do that to a Les Paul. But, it was in the moment and it was fun. (there's that great laugh again). I'd probably do it again.
FM: The poor Les Paul.
Jen: I know, I know. Let's move on. (laughing)
FM: You're definitely not the traditional single mom, successful business woman stereotype.
Jen: No I'm not (laughing)
FM: You're pretty cool.
Jen: I'm not sounding like a douche here?
FM: Not at all, quite the opposite. Stage set-up? Any effects?
Jen: My staples....Cry Baby Wah, Boss Delay and Flange. I usually run everything clean so I've got this real old box thingy called a PlexiTone from Denmark. The tone is sick! I love it.
FM: To get the gain real high and bring in the distortion?
Jen: Yeah. It's this real old thingy but it's awesome.
FM: Cool. Simple set ups are great. I once knew this bass player who had a huge amp stack, it must have weighed over 200 pounds, and a suitcase full of every effects pedal you can imagine. He probably invested over $5k in his amps and pedals. He was always fiddling with the pedals to get that perfect sound. What he should have been doing was working on his playing though. That's where he fell short.
Jen: (laughing) Keep it simple and play strong.
FM: What music and gigs excite you?
Jen: I did the Rock and Brew Festival 2 years ago. That was a blast. Playing in front of big crowds. I loved that. Any show where the crowd is going bananas is great. I love Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Alice In Chains, The Chili Peppers. I love the 90's rock scene, the grunge. Heavy guitar sounds. I miss that in today's music. You really gotta search the radio for good stuff. Even on satellite, they play the same things over and over.
FM: I'm there with you. I'd love to see a satellite channel that only plays new, indie rock bands. I love the Seattle sound from the 90's. When is the last time you listened to a new artist or band?
Jen: I don't know how long they've been around but they're new for me; The Dirty Heads. The guy, Rome, from Sublime, is with them, sometimes. They've got that Ska-Hip Hop type sound. I really dig it. You should check them out.
FM: It's on my list now. Now for the question I ask all the musicians I interview. What music impresses you? It can be anyone, not necessarily a guitarist. It you're into the triangle, spoons, glockenspiel, bring it. What music impresses you?
Jen: There's a local bass player named Laszlo Piringer. He goes by the name "Lac." He is phenomenal. Let me show you. (she brings up some YouTube video and the guy is amazing, Pastorius good). I've played in front of him and this is the only guy who intimidates me, not necessarily as him, the player, but having him there watching and listening. Not even Jose Feliciano intimidated me when I played in front of him. But Lac, most definitely.
FM: As a musician, in one sentence, how would you describe yourself? Let's hear it.
Jen: Hmm? Repeat the question.
FM: How would you describe yourself as a musician in one sentence?
Jen: (thinking and then speaking slowly) A badass..... chick..... with tons of passion..... on the guitar.
FM: That should be the first line on your EPK.
Jen: (laughing) Maybe
FM: How do you spend your free time?
Jen: Watching UFC fights with friends. I'm really into MMA. I boxed and did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 4 years. I loved it. I should really get back into it. I then became a TV color commentator on a show called FightZone, it was on Fox Sports and broadcast into 38 million homes. I almost made a career out of that, but picked being with my daughter over what would have been a grueling traveling schedule.
FM: Just another interesting part of the life of Jen Boronico. I feel bad for the poor guy who rushes the stage. Rear naked choke hold with the right hand while playing lead with the left. That would be awesome. I'd pay a double cover charge to see that.
Jen: That would be a cool trick. I actually have had to get physical with drunk guys at shows, but we will save that for another time!
FM: Really? I'll remember that. Who inspires you as a musician? Can be a person, band, anyone.
Jen: Definitely the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Love their sound, music, the way they gel, everything, and the fact they've been able to bang it out over decades.
FM: Who inspires you as a woman?
Jen: Wow. Didn't see that one coming. Who inspires me as a woman?
FM: Hey, I'm asking the questions.
Jen: Any single mom who works and raises kids. They inspire me. I hope we all inspire each other.
FM: With your musical accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
Jen: I love seeing the young girls come to the shows and get inspired to pick up a guitar and learn to play it. That's when I feel I've accomplished something special, by motivating them to learn the instrument.
FM: Great answer. Tell us about your current band lineup. Who are these guys?
Jen: On lead vocals is Trip 6. He's perpetual motion, very high energy. Elisa Seda is on drums. Odalys Cuesta plays bass, Nosh Meir of Mainstreet, is also our vocalist, depending on the show. It's a great lineup. Elisa and Odalys are on a tv show on Telemundo, they are super solid. Trip goes on tour with his band Gears a lot and has opened for some pretty big names.
FM: Where do you want to be a year from now? How about 5 years from now?
Jen: In a year, I'd like to be completing the business project I'm currently involved with. In 5 years? Hmm. I'd like to be married again, maybe. Definitely playing music and just enjoying life, watching my daughter grow up.
FM: Where is Pandia playing next? Any plans to expand Boca Tanning to other markets?
Jen: Pandia plays every 2nd Sunday of the month at the G Spot in Wilton Manor.
FM: I was going to make a smart ass remark about that but I'll refrain. What else?
Jen: I'll be heading out to LA in a couple weeks for business so right now we don't have any other gigs scheduled. We generally play 3 times a month though. As for Boca Tanning, I'm not looking to add any more stores right now but if the right opportunity comes up, I'd have to look into it.
FM: It all sounds great. Jen, thanks for making time for this interview. This has been fun. You are definitely a renaissance woman! You've been great and I'm looking forward to seeing you out there hitting some more power chords and ripping up those leads very soon. Have a safe trip to LA.
Jen: Thank you. This has been fun.
Craig Marks, Editor
To follow Pandia, go to www.pandiamusic.com