Smells like teen spirit
From party covers to punk, students dive into their music
March 27, 2004
Sid Vicious didn’t pick up a guitar until the day he joined the Sex Pistols, and so it is with the 2004 Steamboat Springs reincarnation of old school punk, Genghis Khan.
Erik Thomsen, Brent Lichteig and Kris Gayer chose their instruments about the same time they decided to start a band two years ago. Since then, they’ve been learning how to play and what they like to play.
When Alex King joined the band a month ago, he followed the same, steep learning curve. He learns as he plays.
Genghis Khan is just one in a growing number of teenage punk bands meeting in their parent’s garages, family living rooms and the Steamboat Springs High School band room.
Most people haven’t heard them play. They aren’t old enough to play at nightclubs.
Instead, their venues are more likely to be the Homecoming dance or the high school talent show.
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Lately, Genghis Khan has been practicing for its next gig at the official after-Prom party — a gig they’ll be playing with other high school bands such as Alway.
The two bands play to the same audience because of their ages, but their musical outlooks couldn’t be more different.
Members of Genghis Khan became attracted to the punk sound through the hard-driving music on skateboarding videos. They listened to bands such as the Misfits, The Exploited, Operation Ivy, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Through those bands, they discovered the sound they wanted.
“We like music that’s fast, powerful, short and sweet,” King said. “And sometimes political.”
The band spends four hours a day in the recording studio at the high school, practicing and writing music for a 10 track CD they hope to release by the end of the school year.
The “studio” is a small, soundproof room, tucked in the corner of the band room. Though teachers walk in occasionally, the room is a former storage room turned hangout space complete with a couch, drum kit and enough basic equipment to record an album.
Thomsen describes the band’s sound as “fun, awesome chants.”
Consider Lichteig’s original song, “Scumbucket Life,” which he wrote as an anthem for the band.
“No ambition / we don’t care / we’re going nowhere / and we like it there,” he sings. “We live the scum scum scumbucket life.”
As the band performs, Thomsen leans over the computer to record the guitar solo with the click of a mouse. This generation of musicians knows as much about how to record and engineer their music as they do about playing it.
For the past two years, Tyler Johnson, lead singer of Alway, put every penny into recording equipment, and he plans to major in music engineering in college. He has a complete studio in his house where the band practices.
Alway — comprised of Nate Lotz, Dan Barney, Luke Hamilton, Johnson and Greg Packer — is a party band. They play danceable covers with the sole purpose of giving the audience a good time.
They play a combination of classics by Elton John, Metallica and The Beatles and newer music by The Used and Thrice.
“We like kids to be able to sing along,” Johnson said.
Alway is the latest incarnation of a band started a couple of years ago by Johnson, Packer and Marsh Gooding. Since then, the band’s name has changed several times, and members have come and gone. The cycle will continue next year when Lotz and Hamilton, juniors, are left behind to find new members after graduation.
For the other teenage rock stars, graduation is two months away, and college will come with bigger towns, other bands to join and venues for performers such as themselves who haven’t reached the drinking age.
Before they leave for college, the band has one last task: to write the graduation song, which they plan to record and save for posterity or for the day when they look back at high school and the time when they played in a band called Alway.
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