For the girl group Jada, fashion is a whole new world. Shortly after arriving at a recent photo shoot, the members of the band sifted through the wardrobe rack, calling out names of designers with a girlish excitement. Based in Boston, they joked that they have to come to New York to get their fashion thrills since New England isn’t exactly a fashion mecca.
As a young group on the edge of breaking into the music business, the girls are a work in progress, both in their music and their wardrobes. Recently, band member Jacyn Tremblay, 22, has been trading up from basic jeans looks, an inclination that started the first time she tried on a Versace dress. “It made me feel…a bit more pulled together,” she said.
Developing a distinct style is just as important to the musicians as their sound, a mix of pop and R&B featuring sophisticated harmonies that recall the soulfulness of gospel. Jada includes Tremblay, April Forrest, Elle Wine and Lauren O’Keefe and will release its first single, “Since We Made Love,” on the Universal Motown label in March. The debut album is slated for summer, followed by a nationwide tour. For the album, the group worked with a diverse roster of writers and producers including Dallas Austin, Babyface, Swizz Beatz, Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem, Danjahandz and the Clutch.
Jada was started almost four years ago by Bristol Entertainment, an artist development company in Boston that was behind musicians such as Niia on Yclef Records and The Dropkick Murphys on Warner. Unlike bands that have one lead singer, that duty rotates among Jada’s members, none of whom plays an instrument.
“It’s rare to find a group whose members can each sing lead, but still possesses an interlocking harmony that makes them a cohesive group,” said Sylvia Rhone, president and chief executive of Universal Motown. “When Jada sang a cappella for me, there was an instant connection.”
While their sound is distinctive, fashion is a key part of the package. “It’s not just about the music,” Forrest, 18, said. “More so than ever before, people tend to listen with their eyes.”
To help define what they’re going for — an urban look that remains accessible to a wide audience — the four got together to do what girls do: gather women’s magazines and cut out images of their favorite celebrities, which they then presented to stylists. One look they all agree on: Gwen Stefani. “She’s funky and very fashion-forward,” said Tremblay. “We want to be like Gwen but with an even younger twist.”
O’Keefe and Wine, both 20, like high-end European designers including Roberto Cavalli and Yves Saint Laurent. O’Keefe’s dream look is “Gwen Stefani meets Victoria Beckham.” She describes her style as “chic funky” with tailored skirts, high-waisted shorts and heels. But, she added, “I also love that old Hollywood glam pinup girl style with sweetheart lines and lacy gloves.”
Wine, on the other hand, prefers Stefani with a touch of Lindsay Lohan. A sexy dress and 5-inch heels make up one of her favorite looks. Wine isn’t a stranger to fashion — her mother, Debra, founded Debra Wine Designs, which produces shoes and watches as well as clothes. “I grew up with fashion stuffed in my face all the time,” said Wine, adding that she might one day want to try her hand at designing.
But Tremblay and Forrest admittedly are not as fashion-conscious. Tremblay identifies with a more casual “Kelly Clarkson meets Ashlee Simpson” look, and prefers Diesel and Seven jeans, and loves bracelets and vintage rings. Forrest likes Juicy Couture and Baby Phat, and feels most at home in bright tops and hoodies paired with jeans — although she says she’ll throw in “some really crazy kicks or accessories to make it a little more urban.”
The Jada girls hope to nail down their look as a group and make it as cohesive as when their four individual voices come together in an a cappella harmony. “Each girl has her own sense of what she wants,” said O’Keefe, “but it’s a matter of putting it together as a whole.”