CUTS YOU UP
CUTS YOU UP
Getting faded with the multi-talented J Spin
WORDS / SAM PFEIFLE
If you really want to know what’s going on in town, go ask a barber. On any given day, 20 or 25 locals will sit down, open up, and pour out their souls to the anonymous guy behind the scissors and clippers.
Rarely, though, do folks think about who it actually is making them look sharp. Folks in Kennebunk frequenting Main Street Barber Shop, for instance, just might find themselves at the hands of one of the most interesting Maine musicians going right now, filling up Maine airwaves with a combo package of hip-hop, R&B, and contemporary pop that’s incredibly infectious.
To clients in the chair, he’s Joey Spinelli, 25 years old and amongst a new wave of young barbers mixing culture, style, and comfort into one of the world’s oldest professions.
To radio listeners, though, he’s J Spin, an artist with a real feel for a melodic hook and an outlook on life that’s endearingly positive. On the bouncy “Home,” he pines for family and friends behind a little acoustic guitar bit and some spacey keyboards. With the most-recent “These Days,” he switches to an ’60s-style electric guitar and hits about a hundred perfect vocal lilts as he outlines his aversion to negativity: “Can’t even fake it/ I’m fine.”
And it’s that simple positivity that ties both his gigs together.
“I’ve just always been a really happy dude,” he says by way of explanation, having just hopped out of the shower following a day in the shop. “I mean, we all have our issues. I’m not saying I’m never sad. But it’s always better to portray yourself as being in a good mood, as having fun and enjoying it. Especially now, man. The last year, dealing with people …”
He sort of trails off.
“You gotta compromise as much as you can.”
His music is maybe a different story. Releasing music since he was 15 and in high school, Spin makes few compromises to chasing popular tastes, with a trilling delivery that seems to have its own natural auto-tune and an aesthetic that sounds like summer all year round. It’s no wonder he headed west after a semester at UMaine-Orono to ply his musical trade on the sands of San Diego.
He was made for surfboards and long, sun-bleached hair.
“It’s just so beautiful and expensive,” he laughs. “I was basically a beach bum for a few years. My hair was down to my bum, anyway. I was chilling out there, making music out there, and after a few years I just decided to move back home because I needed to make some actual money.”
Given much of his musical inspiration has come from his father, a gigging pianist for decades at the Stage Neck Inn in York Harbor (along with fellow Wells High grad Spose, who you’ll find guesting on some J Spin tracks), it’s perhaps not surprising that his other career was inspired by his mother, a hair stylist who used to have her own shop and now works at a nursing home giving cuts to residents.
“I decided to go to barber school,” he says. “Empire Beauty School, in Somersworth.”
A high school buddy was into it, too, so they rode down together most days for about 10 months, starting off with mannequins and working their way up to free or $5 cuts for anyone willing to sacrifice their hair to the learning experience. “There’s a lot of book work, too,” Spin says. “You have to learn a lot about body parts and that kind of stuff.”
But it’s in the shop, working the gig, where you really learn how to give a cut. It’s equal parts artform and performance, just like a great hip-hop show.
“You have to be personable,” he says. “The older folks, they love to come into barber shops, just to tell you about their lives and problems. They just want to be heard.”
And just like there are plenty of really technically proficient musicians out there who never quite find an audience, developing a following in the barber chair isn’t always about nailing every single snip.
“It’s more than just cutting their hair,” he says. “You don’t even have to give the best haircut ever to be the best barber. A lot of it is just being a good listener.”
Not that he isn’t proud of his skills. Put on the spot about what he does well, he’s more humble about his cuts than his music. “I don’t know,” he demurs. “I’m just an all around good barber. Whatever you want, I can do. I’m a pretty well-rounded person, too. If you want to talk, I can talk. I’m a nice dude. I’m easy to get along with. But I definitely love giving fades — a skin fade or any kind of fade, really. My favorite part is just giving a nice cut.”
Sometimes, listening has other rewards, too.
“For sure I get stories that I use in songs,” he laughs. “Not necessarily a whole narrative, but people will say these expressions or say things in a way I haven’t heard and I’ll be like, ‘Can I use that in a song?’ I’ll be writing it down on my phone like, ‘That’s cool! What’d you just say?’”
The pandemic was a grind, though. With people not exactly in great moods as the past 18 months stretched on, Spin found himself needing a break from music, especially with no outlet for connecting with people — he’s never even played “These Days” live. He barely counts it as among his releases.
“I got exhausted, man,” he says. “Like, am I ever going to play again? But hopefully, we’re getting back and things start to clear up.”
Now he’s back at it, though, inspired by everything from Felly to the late Mac Miller, and you’ll see singles dropping in October and November in the lead up to a new thematic album.
“I don’t have any names for you yet,” he says, “but I’m working on a couple of songs right now that I’m super excited for. It’s really going to be next level. I’m just trying to keep getting better and better. That’s always been my motto and my plan.”
And you can be sure that once shows start up again, he’ll be just as eager to chat as he is when you’re sitting in his chair at the shop. Good customer service never goes out of style.
For many, a barber is a personal friend, someone you’ve known for years and who knows just the way you like it. Going to another barber would be tantamount to betrayal! You’d never dream of it. For others, though, the nice person at Supercuts has always just been good enough. You could do better.
If you’re looking for experience that’s a level up from what you’re used to, here are some spots that will be sure to take care of you, alongside some breweries and dispensaries that will be sure to get you in the right mood for enjoying your time in the chair.
76 Main St., Kennebunk
This is J Spin’s home turf and where you can find him giving fades five days a week. But he’s got plenty of great compatriots, too, including owner Ed Beckett, who runs herd over a staff of barbers that’s grown to be six-men strong, including a downstairs lounge area. You can also grab some cigars while you’re there or an array of home-barbering tools.
12 Western Ave., Kennebunk
While they just opened a second location in Portland’s Bayside area, this is the original and it’s a treat if you like a cozy experience, as you can reserve your own fish shack to drink in. And everyone knows fish shacks are for drinking. They even have their own rum, bourbon, vodka, and gin.
1609 Main St., Sanford
Owned and operated by a mother-daughter team of nurses, the name of the shop comes from their pivot from working in standard health care and feeling veterans deserve an alternative to the pharmaceutical approach. This is your spot if you really want to dive into the details.
635 Forest Ave., Portland
Opened in 2017 as the first combination tattoo and barber shop in Maine, the seven barbers here are known for their traditional approaches, working on pompadours, slickbacks, side parts and other looks that wouldn’t be out of place in a local production of “Grease.” But that doesn’t mean they’re not happy to work on current styles as well. Watch out for the taxidermy.
373 Forest Ave., Portland
Right across from Oakhurst Dairy, Landrace joined the burgeoning adult-rec scene in Portland in June and hit the ground running with their eight years of experience in the medical business. Their 10,000-square-foot grow facility in Sanford pumps out a ton of great strains, including a Black Dog indica you won’t find often in Maine and some solid Northern Lights that never disappoints.
219 Anderson St., Portland
Right nextdoor to Lone Pine Brewing in what is one of Portland’s hottest neighborhoods for growth and oddly pleasing establishments, Goodfire is among the newest Portland breweries, but they’re building out an interesting beer list, including a slew of IPAs (including a “Vic Secret IPA,” which we assume is nearly naked in some way) and their Swirl fruited sour blackberry, blueberry, coconut, and vanilla.
824 Roosevelt Trail, Unit 6, Windham
The second location opened by honcho Frank Crosen (aka Frank the Barber), this is the sort of place where you can play a bit of pool while you wait, with a drink in your hand and a good bit of conversation. Heck, you can even bring your kids and let them tool around in the play area. And maybe grab a camo snapback for when you’re ready for your next cut and need to cover up.
815 Roosevelt Trail, Suite 3, Windham
If you can dodge the four lanes of traffic, this spot is literally right across the street from Crow’s Nest and right in line with their philosophy, creating a welcoming spot where you can hang out for a bit, if you so choose. Sidle up to the oxygen bar to set your mind straight before taking a gander at flower from the likes of Green Fellas, Green Moose, and Coastal Maine Flower. You might even find yourself on the Pineapple Express, an actual weed mobile that cruises the area.
19 Portland Rd., Gray
Windham’s got more weed joints than you can shake a stick at, but breweries are hard to come by. Head over 115/202 to Birchwood and find yourself a great local brewery where you can play a game of cornhole, grab a growler, and find an especially good selection of gluten-free options. Maybe the Dairy Bar is even still open next door.
74 India St., Portland
A one-man operation, Nate Soucy is a pro’s pro, with a welcoming shop that’s hard to get an appointment at because his word of mouth is just about all he needs and few people go elsewhere once they find him. Plus, he’s among the best snowboarders in Maine, so if you want to talk mountains, he can handle that in spades. Don’t even think about walking in.
47 India St., Portland
Just a hop and a skip from Nathan Charles, this spot is brand-spanking, having opened in August in the location formerly occupied by Two Fat Cats cupcake operation. And it’s just as sweet, with a step down into a plant-filled shop heavy on the glass and customer service. Plus, there’s parking right out front in a neighborhood where that can be hard to come by.
49 Washington Ave., Portland
The people-watching here is hard to beat, with a set of high tops that sits out on Washington Avenue and allows for views up and down what’s become one of Portland’s busiest streets. Grab some BBQ across the street at Terlingua, or a bottle of gin nextdoor at Hardshore, or just be happy sipping on a Farmhouse Ale or — our personal favorite — the concord grape-flavored Magenta. It’s absolutely delicious on tap.
E.S. Barber Company
264 Main St., Bridgton
Right downtown and easily accessible, this is your spot in the Lakes Region if you’re into something that goes with your piercings and tattoos. Eric Signorelli is known for tight designs, sculpted into your scalp, and a sense of adventure. Still brand-new, you’ve got a good shot at walk-ins here for a while, but don’t count on it lasting.
316 Portland Rd., Bridgton
Newly expanded to double its previous size, you can spend a solid 15 minutes looking at the random shit on the walls before you even start shopping. Once you do, though, you’ll find a huge selection of flower, in those big jars instead of individual packaging, and a big selection of pipes and other glass to boot.
860 Maple Ridge Rd., Harrison
Welcome to the beer dome! If it’s cold, make sure you get a reservation ahead of time for your own cozy beer-tasting experience, with some snacks to keep you from getting too tipsy. If it’s warm, expect some great scenery out in the woods. Either way, try the DDH River Haze, a flagship that they just keep tweaking.
Mainely Fades Barbershop
99 Center St., Bangor
You might be able to figure out what this place specializes in, but it’s not your typical dude spot. All the stylists are women, and owner April White runs the shop since opening the place in August 2020 — not exactly primetime for opening a barber shop. With a husband in the military, she definitely knows how to go high and tight.
1172 Hammond St., Bangor
One of the largest selections you’ll find in Maine, Firestorm has been holding down the adult-rec scene in Bangor longer than anyone. Currently, they’re bringing in a lot of flower from Grass Roots and Allure Cultivation, along with their own grows.
80 Columbia St., Bangor
You’ll find a classic brew pub here, with locally sourced ingredients and an emphasis on home cooking. Vegan corn chowder, baked fried green beans, and sticky fingers all taste just like mom used to make. And they augment their beers with things like the Hagrid, a hard butterscotch seltzer, and a big list of local wines.
675 Main St., Suite 12, Lewiston
Owner Heather Jeselkis-Swift opened her own spot here just last year with an aim toward men’s cuts, despite a background in cosmetology. Dudes rave about her. Look for a dive into nails and massage soon since, as she told the Lewiston Sun Journal, “I know a lot of men, they want to get their feet done, but they’re embarrassed to go into a nail salon,” she said.
711 Lisbon St., Lewiston
These folks are true to their name — you get organically grown (though not MOFGA-certified) cannabis grown hydroponically in small batches and with great care. It’s the only place we’ve found strains like Orange Dog and Querkle. We’re eager to try the sativa Prayer Tower, too.
26 Route 126, Monmouth
A micro-brewery in one of the coolest little towns in Central Maine, they’re open Thursday through Sunday, and now offer both indoor and outdoor seating options. If there’s a more inviting beer name than Dragin Magick (a red ale) in Maine, we don’t know what it is. Everyone should let their kids name their beers.
142 College Ave., Waterville
This place can be an oasis of cool in a town that’s not always hip to the latest trends, and Tanya Lennon leads the way with an eye for a great design in the back of the head. Tell her to go crazy and see what happens. You might find a walk-in, but best bet is to book ahead if you want them to be able to spend some time.
10 Water St., Suite 11, Waterville
A true nano-brewery, this is a great spot to take a flyer on, where you’re never quite sure what beers will be on tap. If you’re lucky, you might find their Patches sour with a fun flavor, but make sure to grab the flagship Let It Shine, a summery hazy IPA that packs a punch.
475 Kennedy Memorial Dr., Waterville
Maybe you’ve been to the Portland shop, but the Waterville spot is the OG adult-use location for Sweet Dirt and has one of the prettiest showrooms in the state. And the location is about the easiest on-off for Route 95 you can find if you’re headed much farther north. Per usual, you’re going to find a big selection of their homegrown flower, all of it MOFGA-certified organic.
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