Battle of the Bands winners mix hard work with passion

Lori Loughlin’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring musicians JP Dabu, Niles Miller, Joe Aleshaiker and Bruno Pita (right to left), beat out the competiton at Ground Zero’s annual Battle of the Bands. (Photo courtesy of JP Dabu)

What do you get when a biochemistry major, a journalism major, a business major and a civil engineering graduate start a band? It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the four members of Lori Loughlin’s Lonely Hearts Club Band have proven otherwise. On Oct. 25, they competed against three other groups at USC’s Battle of the Bands and won a $300 Amazon gift card as a testimony to their talent.

Lead vocalist and keyboardist Joseph Dabu, or JP, was scrolling through his Instagram feed when he saw the application for the contest. He immediately contacted his high school friend Bruno Pita, a biochemistry graduate student at UCLA who plays the bass. Pita then contacted fellow Bruin Joe Aleshaiker, a recent alumnus and civil engineering major. 

Lastly, Dabu reached out to Niles Miller, a junior majoring in business of cinematic arts  who he met at Remedy Through Music, a student organization dedicated to visiting local hospitals and retirement homes and playing songs for the patients, nurses and visitors.

Before they even started playing, what first characterized their personality was their group’s name — witty, original and just a little bit controversial. 

“We couldn’t come up with a name. We had a placeholder name [The Rivals] which was terrible,” Pita said. “I was actually ashamed of going up on stage like that … I couldn’t think of anything that was acceptable,” Pita said. 

On the last day the band was able to change its name for the competition, Pita desperately pulled up the Los Angeles Times and saw a headline about Lori Loughlin’s indictment. A lightbulb went off in his head. The alliteration of the three ‘L’’s was brilliant, and the callback to the quintessential Beatles album worked perfectly. 

“It’s funny because both Bruno and Joe are from UCLA and Niles and I are from USC,” Dabu said. 

But Pita hopes no one’s feelings were hurt. 

“I like to think of it as making your food spicy,” Pita said. “It might sting a bit but it makes the food more interesting to eat.”

Although the spice in their name is certainly ear-catching, the food — or in this case, their music — is what kept the audience enthralled and eventually led them to victory. Their renditions of “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Something” and “Somebody to Love” showcased their skills as musicians and proved that you don’t have to major in music to find your passion in music. 

Aleshaiker is living proof of this. Since graduating, he has been working on his music full time.

“I’ve been playing since I was 9 years old, so it’s always been a passion of mine,” he said. “For me at least, it’s definitely a big part of my life.”

Likewise, Miller, the band’s drummer, said his passion for music has always been present in his life. He learned to play the djembe and bongos with his dad and went on to play percussion and drums in middle school and high school. 

“I did do jazz ensemble for about a year, but then I stopped because it was too much with my current workload,” Miller said. However, he still considers playing the drums a great passion.

Pita, on the other hand, only started playing music his junior year, learning to play the piano on an iPad app and eventually picking up the guitar. But unlike his bandmates, Pita mostly sees the instrument as a stress-relieving hobby. 

“That’s how we actually started jamming together, he was just so hyped I think to have someone that played with him,” Pita said. 

Even though Lori Loughlin’s Lonely Hearts don’t identify as a Beatles cover band, the undertone and general respect for the iconic group is clear in their band’s style, and each member identifies with an individual Beatle. 

“I’m George, 100%,” Aleshaiker said. “I feel like George is always kind of in the background but is always contributing.” 

The other three have yet to reach some consensus. Bruno says he’s a Paul because he plays the bass and sings the higher harmonies. Dabu says he’s a Paul because he’s left-handed. And although one might be tempted to call the drum player a Ringo, Miller objected. 

“I decided to leave it up to the BuzzFeed quiz on there,” Miller said. ”And I got that I’m a Paul!”

Even though Lori Loughlin’s Lonely Hearts Club Band started out as a one-time performance, their win at Battle of the Bands was a definite confidence booster. 

“There was a lot of good competition, so I was actually kind of surprised that we won,” Aleshaiker said. 

Dabu agreed and lauded the other three bands they competed against. 

“We just banded together in September … and the other bands I’m sure, had been established, and probably were practicing more often than we were,” he said.

But Natalie Williams, a freshman majoring in art who attended Battle of the Bands, dismisses their humble remarks. 

“I wasn’t really surprised they won,” she said. “They had a lot of energy and were really hyped up. It was obvious they practiced a lot.”

In the end, it wasn’t just their hard work but their passion for music indisputably paid off. 

“We just wanted to have a good time,” Dabu said. “I’m glad we did that.”