BOOM! Folk-rock band The 502s are based out of Maitland, FL and consist of three cousins and an interloper with an eerily similar Italian last name: Ed Isola (lead vocals, banjo), Jonathan Ruiz (percussion, guitar), Jacob Isola (bass), and Jake Icardi (electric guitar, backing vocals). What follows is mostly true tale of how they came to be.
In it’s earliest stages, the band consisted of cousins Jon and Ed casually recording cover videos of Mumford & Sons songs in the bathrooms of their homes. In what was far from glamorous, surely you can imagine two almost twenty-year olds cramming into a bathroom to practice because they (1) were to nervous to play in front of anyone else at that point and (2) had heard once that bathrooms provided better acoustics and were willing to try anything to make them sound better. For anyone desperate to relive those glory days, the videos are online if you can dig them up.
Slowly but surely, the covers went from God-awful to sub-par and the duo took a minor, repeat minor, step towards improvement when their cousin Jacob Isola joined the group in 2013 on bass. The three continued playing together here and there, purely for enjoyment.
After a summer of wearing his banjo finger picks backwards, Ed returned to college armed with a $100 banjo and a guitar he borrowed from his roommate. It was then that he started dabbling in writing original tunes. Though he refuses to play them for anyone, he claims that they were the absolute best songs ever written.
After graduating from college and heading back home in May 2015, Ed rejoined Jacob and Jon, and the trio started preparing for their first ever live show at an open mic at Austin’s Coffee House in Winter Park, Florida. The plan was to perform three original songs, and the guys were so nervous they could feel the crowd’s eyes on them before even walking in the door. But actually – everyone in the place watched through the windows as, while pulling up, Jonathan tried to turn into the parking lot and instead smashed head-on into the curb in front of the main entrance of Austin’s. Not a good start. To preserve whatever dignity they had left, they drove away, parked a half mile from the shop, and prayed no one would recognize them as they got on stage. Wouldn’t you know it though that after two years of practice, things actually went well for our band of heroes.
The trio continued playing around Orlando for a few months until one night in October 2015, at the request of his mother, Jake Icardi came strolling through the doors of an open mic to check out The 502s. The band had known Jake for almost fifteen years and had grown up going to school with him, but hadn’t seen him in a long while. Jake loved the originals tunes that were played that night and wanted in. Staying true to their tendency to get excited about anyone wanting to play with them, Jacob, Ed, and Jon went right out the front doors and held an impromptu, unofficial tryout with Jake singing along to The Band’s The Weight. It was love at first sight. Jake signed a napkin contract that night and was officially in.
After only two months together as a four piece band, and having never had a paid gig, the guys decided they were ready to play for more than twenty people at an open mic night. For any band, the next logical step would be to try and book a show in their hometown and hope to draw fifty people to it. The guys however decided that they were ready to play for 30,000 people and entered into a national contest to play at the inaugural Okeechobee Music Festival alongside international headliners such as Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and Kendrick Lamar.Somehow, and the band is still looking for an explanation, the guys beat out over 800 bands and had the opportunity to play Okeechobee.
Following up this incredible opportunity, the quartet released their first EP, The 502s – EP, on August 14, 2016. The release has been described as “a rousing debut that personifies the folk explosion from the past few years highlighted by booming stomps, upbeat tunes, and melodious gang vocals that ooze camaraderie. The release exemplifies a mixture of the raw energy of a young Mumford and Sons, crossed with the DIY attitude of The Lumineers, sprinkled with the heartfelt tunes of The Head and the Heart.” It’s got kick drum, banjo, harmonica, trumpet, mandolin, accordion, and is a guaranteed good time!
Despite being together for far less time than most bands, one thing the guys have figured out is their passion and energy for the live show. When the crowd is rocking, feet are stomping, and everyone in the room wears a grin from ear to ear it’s a very intoxicating feeling – and that is exactly what The 502s live for!