NEW YORK — The song “Bang!” by the Chelsea born-and-raised brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met — also known as AJR — is a Top 15 hit, has been streamed millions of times, and made iTunes’ Top 10 download list as of Friday.
Now, the song has a hot sauce that the band and the sauce’s creators are hoping is another kind of hit.
The creation of “Bang!” the hot sauce began earlier this year, when AJR — whose humble start as performers included tap dancing as kids in city parks to raise money for instruments — released the song in February. They wanted a locally produced hot sauce to go with the song.
One the band’s members, bassist and backup vocalist Adam Met, says the song is about that strange place between childhood and adulthood.
“[It’s about] being on the cusp of adulthood and not really wanting to take that next step of putting quinoa in your fridge and doing your taxes,” Met told NY1.
Met, who is also studying for a PhD in international human rights and sustainable development, says he and his brothers approached the Bronx-born company called Small Axe Peppers. The company, co-founded by King Phojanakong, a chef at Kuma Inn Restaurant on the Lower East Side, aimed to make hot sauces from locally grown produce in community gardens.
Since 2014, Small Axe Peppers has grown to a network of 75 community gardens in 15 major cities. The brothers of AJR met Phojanakong this past spring and spent the next months tweaking the sauce into a garlicky, sweet and fiery blend that uses serrano and jalapeno peppers grown from seeds donated by Small Axe Peppers. The hot sauce was born in early October, and can be bought online.
It was a perfect match, according to the chef.
“You know the peanut butter meets the chocolate, to make the Reese’s cup?” says Phojanakong. “Well, we’re from New York, AJR is from New York, they have a hit single named “Bang!” and we all knew we had to get together. “
For Adam Met, the hot sauce idea is more than a marketing gimmick; it is an offshoot of what he’s studying, the idea taking root in values that had tangible effects in communities around him.
“With this garden, they collect rainwater from the roof and store it in these giant containers, and use it to actually help grow the vegetables in the garden,” he says.
Karen Washington, who works with the collective Bronx Community Food Hub, puts it this way: “We’re making a killing.”
She says the collaboration that began years ago between Small Axe Peppers is now bearing real fruit, a real way a traditionally edged out community has a hand in its own economic growth. Washington said that was one of the goals of pairing a local company with community grown fresh food through the hub. The organization supports community gardens, such as the Kelly Street Garden near Hunts Point, whose peppers were used to make the “Bang!” hot sauce. Up to 30% of hot sauce sales are plowed right back into these gardens, nourishing both food and jobs.
“It started from empty lots and beautification to growing food,” Washington said. “And the nexus was economic development.”
The hot sauce packs a medium-hot punch, so a pretty grown up taste, inspired by a song about leaving childhood with a bang.
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