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San Clemente Journal

Rhythms of Generations - Local Musical Legacies

Jun 05, 2024 01:53PM ● By Don Kindred

The Harris Family winners of the Family Feud.

by Katie Arons

San Clemente couple Hans and Janine Sylstra met through music and have been entertaining audiences together for over three decades. Hans is a descendant of one of the first families to reside in San Clemente; his great-grandfather Roy Divel founded the first funeral home and ambulance service in 1927 when the town’s population was merely 300. Janine is the youngest of the Harris family, a local musical clan of five siblings, all with names that start with the letter J: James, Jeff, Julie, Jara, and Janine. 

Billed as ‘The OC Jacksons,’ the Harrises began playing as the ‘Four J’s’ in 1973 and celebrated their 50th-anniversary last year, commemorating their first performance on stage at Lion Country Safari, with 4-year-old Jara on drums. A few years later, Janine joined the ensemble, and they became ‘The J. Harris Band.’ Unlike typical family musical groups of the time that just sang and danced, they excelled at playing instruments, which really set them apart.

Originally from Compton, the family moved to the brand-new community of Mission Viejo in 1969. The Harris family continues to live and entertain in South OC, and although they have gone their separate ways professionally, they remain close and still play together on occasion.

Due to their extraordinary musicianship, they have individually worked with many iconic artists, including George Clinton, Morris Day, Alicia Keys, and more.  ‘Superfly,’ ‘Prophecy,’ ‘Deepwater,’ ‘Sweet Polyester,’ and ‘Slapbak’ are just a few of the popular local bands that were created by members of this talented musical dynasty.

As the o

The Harris Family - Jara, Janine, Jeff, James & Julie in the 1980s.

 ldest sibling, James led the ‘J. Harris Band’ along with their parents during their heyday and continues to promote the band today. He is working on a documentary to chronicle their unique lives. James is the only family member to receive professional training, as his parents financed his formal classical, jazz/pop piano, and organ training. He shared his knowledge with his younger siblings, but his two younger brothers were naturally talented child prodigies.
Jeff is a self-taught guitar virtuoso, who channels the spirit of his hero Jimi Hendrix. His inventive spirit extends beyond playing music to the creation of tools for fellow guitarists through his company, AxeTrak.  His sons Josh and Justin are making names for themselves in music; Josh grew up joining his dad on stage from the age of five and now makes his living as a producer like his brother Justin, who is known as ‘Stealmybeats’ and has established himself in the landscape of hip-hop production.

Sylstra Family Band - Josiah, Jonah, Janine, Hans and Justice.

 Jara played his older brother’s drum set for the first time at age two, and by the time he was four, he was performing as the ‘Four J’s’ 4-year-old drummer. Later, his reputation led him to give drum lessons at a young age and he often played with his friend Taylor Hawkins of ‘Foo Fighters.’ Jara has the natural talent to play all instruments and writes original music. He has played with and toured with many artists, including ‘Snoop Dogg’ and along with his sisters was signed to Warner Brother Records in the early '90s. Jara lives in Dana Point and continues to play professionally alongside his daughter Jaz and San Clemente native Gus Day in his popular funk band ‘Slapbak.’

Sweet Polyesta and The Platforms poster of Julie Harris by Roy Gonzalez.


The soulful songstress of the family, sister Julie, settled in San Clemente and can be seen on stage throughout Orange County. As a lead singer, Julie has fronted many bands, including the '90s local favorite ‘Sweet Polyester’ and ‘Buck Ram Platters’ in Japan. Her son Jeremiah has been playing music his whole life, joining his mom and uncles on stage, and is currently touring the world, drumming for the band ‘Hed PE,’ a popular band known for their fusion of punk rock and hip-hop music incorporating heavy metal and reggae influences.
Janine says that music is a way of life for the family, “It’s just in our blood.”  The next generation of Harris musicians-bearing the familial hallmark of ‘J’ names-continue to carry the musical torch, each carving their own path in the industry. 

Enter San Clemente’s own Sylstra family, where creativity flows as freely as the ocean breeze. All three children of Janine and Hans are artists and entertainers. The family of five record and perform together as the ‘Sylstra Family,’ while the youngest, Jonah, is a solo artist who can be found on all streaming platforms under the name ‘Jonah James.’ Josiah, the oldest, makes his living as a fashion model, working for top brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Skechers, and more. Daughter Justice is an actress who divides her time between San Clemente and Los Angeles. 

Hans and Janine perform at their monthly Saturday afternoon gig at BeachFire.


Janine and Hans keep their love for music alive with monthly Saturday afternoon performances at Beachfire Restaurant. Janine plays drums, while Hans plays guitar, creating a captivating blend of rhythm and melody. They're also working on original songs to charm new fans and leave a fresh mark in the music world.

Despite their individual pursuits, both the Sylstra and Harris families continue to contribute to San Clemente's vibrant music scene and prove the adage, “A family who plays together, stays together.”