JAGMAC, a rising pop group from Baltimore, performs at Mix 106.5's Towson studios this summer. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)
Inside the Towson studios of radio station Mix 106.5 earlier this summer, a brightly colored sign captured the moment — and the audience’s mostly young age: “I skipped my nap for JAGMAC.”
On stage, the six siblings of the rising pop group from Baltimore had just concluded their first local radio appearance with a slow, nearly a cappella number: “Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered ballad from the 1980s.
Afterward, the crowd of approximately 40 — many of whom were grade-school students with parents in tow — erupted into cheers as the singers expressed their gratitude to the audience, where their grandmother sat in the front row.
“This is a dream come true,” the group members repeatedly told the crowd.
The scene represented a stars-in-training snapshot of what could be the calm before JAGMAC’s storming of the pop charts.
Made up of the Patalinghug siblings — Jared, 17; Angelique, 20; Gabriel, 21; Manjo, 23; Alyssa, 25; and CJ, 27 — the group, now based in Arnold, was named Radio Disney’s “Next Big Thing” in April. Now comes a tougher challenge: Proving Disney right, first with Friday’s release of their debut EP and an upcoming national tour that kicks off Sunday in College Park.
With the Disney co-sign driving them — the same distinction that helped launch the careers of mega-stars such as Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello — JAGMAC (an acronym from the first letter of each member’s name) said they’re ready for their shot at stardom.
“It really boosted our confidence as a group — just to show us that great things can actually happen if we just keep grinding, keep working hard for this goal we started years ago,” CJ said.
Born half-Filipino and half-Polish to parents Carlos and Alicia, the members of JAGMAC grew up in Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood. Early on, their father gave each sibling the same two life requirements: “I told each of them — you have to go to church on Sunday and get your black belt,” said Carlos Patalinghug, who owns and teaches at the martial arts training center Kick Connection in Pasadena.
Church, check. Black belts in taekwondo? Completed by the age of 9 for all six members. Yet music, they said, was always the goal. The members have spent years learning guitar, piano, bass and drums, while also choreographing dance routines and writing songs. They’ve performed together as a family for the past decade and have been known as JAGMAC since 2013.
A couple of years ago, Lucas Prata, one of their managers, put some early recordings in the hands of Radio Disney’s Phil Guerini. JAGMAC solidified Disney’s interest with singles such as “So Good” and “Soldiers,” a Top 15 track on Billboard’s Hot Club chart.
Aside from talent, family dynamics and diverse background, the group possesses a “tremendous uniqueness” that could make JAGMAC “global stars,” said Guerini, vice president of music strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide. “The reality is they get better and better each time I see them. I think it’s the most wonderful combination of talent and message, and we certainly are extremely excited to see where they go next.”
The group’s appeal, particularly to Disney’s target audience, isn’t hard to see: A collective cool wardrobe, songs with enough slick R&B flair to stand out, and true musical talent, all in a young, fresh-faced package. Most striking, though, is JAGMAC’s constant positivity — seen in their energetic, smiling music videos and social media accounts.
“We never started because of the fame or the money,” Angelique said. “We really just wanted to inspire people through our music and who we are as a family.”
Their solidarity is exemplified by their regular dinners at home, Alyssa said. They typically wait until their dad gets home from the gym, usually past 10 p.m., and eat together as a family, discussing their days and whatever issues occurred.
“We try to work it out there at the table,” Alyssa said. “It’s bringing it back to the family and unity, and God being in the center of it all.”
After the Mix 106.5 performance, each sibling described the other. Manjo is a creative music producer with great hair, Alyssa said. Jared, the gymnast of the family, is a prankster, according to CJ. Angelique can defuse any awkward situation, Gabriel could be a life coach, CJ is a fashion trendsetter and Alyssa is JAGMAC’s mother figure, making sure they all stay focused.
Working toward a common goal “brought us closer,” Alyssa said.
On Friday, the group took one of its biggest steps yet. “Right Back With You” is JAGMAC’s proper debut project, a six-song EP the act recorded last summer in Los Angeles with producers Jayme Silverstein (Miguel), the Trust (the Gipsy Kings) and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster (Justin Bieber).
Lyrically, the record touches on an array of “life” topics, from relationships and faith to self-doubt, CJ said. A good chunk of it, including the recent EDM-influenced single “Not Sure,”is simply meant to get listeners dancing, he said.
“For this EP, we wanted to be able to relate to people,” CJ said. “It definitely came from a fun place.”
Starting Sunday, JAGMAC will take the new material on the road, kicking off their U.S. tour with a set at MilkBoy ArtHouse in College Park. Stops in cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando and Los Angeles are scheduled to follow.
Their budding careers already find the members far from home on a regular basis, and JAGMAC hasn’t ruled out eventually moving closer to an entertainment capital like New York or California.
But the members said they’re motivated to be a major success story from a city that could use one. When people hear they’re from Baltimore, they seem scared in response, Angelique said.
“But they shouldn’t be because Baltimore is beautiful,” she said. “Through our music and what we stand for, hopefully we can bring Baltimore up even more.”