Jamming after school in your bass player’s living room or the drummer’s garage, holing up in your bedroom writing lyrics working out melodies on your acoustic — this is where it all begins. Many of the bands featured in our Bands to Watch started playing together in high school as did their heroes. We decided it was high time we showed a little respect for the kids who, in between studies, chores and Facebook, find the time to make music. Here are some of our favorite local bands that have yet to don caps and gowns but probably keep their parents’ vacuum cleaners full of guitar picks. You can see all of them, save for sLaTr who had a previous engagement, at the Local Rock Picnic this Saturday, Feb. 18, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/localrockpicnic.
The Dutch slang from which Skick derives its name loosely translates as “having fun,” a motto the band emphasizes both on stage and in the studio. Coming off a year that saw Skick win the Simi Valley Days Battle of the Bands and make a big impression at the Sonic Sound Off competition in Los Angeles, the members of Skick, who range in age from 11 to 15, are focusing on quality over quantity for 2012. Guided by their parents, who pull producing and booking duties, Skick has made waves at big-name venues – the Whiskey in L.A. and The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, to name a few. Ruby, Trevor and Julian Visser may be siblings but would scoff at a comparison to Hansen. With influences ranging from Linkin Park to ZZ Top, the band, which includes bassist/vocalist/song writer Emily McCrite, is simply ripe with potential. Clothed in orange – the Dutch national color of celebration – Skick is on the verge of breaking through.
“It’s kind of like a relationship,” says Izzy Morones. “You have to work really hard at it.” Just a few months ago, the fate of Red Terrain was anyone’s guess. After the original guitarist left, the band used the time in hiatus to focus on school – but much like Mordor, one does not simply walk into retirement. Reformed and revamped, Red Terrain is back with newfound energy and purpose. At this year’s Local Rock Picnic, the band will be performing all new material and showcasing a new sound – one it hopes will justify a possible name change in the coming weeks. Between rehearsal and homework, the members of Red Terrain are happy to burn the candle at both ends, ensuring that 2012 will be their shining moment. With new guitarist/keyboardist Ethan Renner, Red Terrain’s visage has shifted into a new face for the new year.
When Sammy Cicero, guitarist and occasional vocalist for the blues/rock/metal amalgamation Valpurgis, approached the booking manager at the Ventura Theater with sheer curiosity and hope, he couldn’t have imagined that he’d score a spot for his sophomore band on that month’s local rock showcase. That was April 2011, and a few months later Valpurgis – with Julien Zuniga on drums and Noah Wilson on bass – would open for rock legend UFO on the same stage. Now, rather than emulating its idols Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, Valpurgis has taken to crafting its own sound, flying high on the wings of youthful energy and talent. After raising funds for Pacific High School’s outdoor garden after vandals destroyed much of it, Valpurgis – along with the possible addition of a keyboardist for that King Crimson/Deep Purple feel – is looking to influence the local metal scene much as one would nurse a tender sapling growing wild with nutrient-rich inspiration.
Finding time after a long day of rehearsal, the five members of Eyes on the Skyline sit around a speaker phone for an impromptu interview. It’s easy to get a feel for the ethic that has led the band from meager beginnings in 2009 to possible Warped Tour act in 2012. Vocalist Doug Dunlap’s excitement seeps through the phone. After winning the Thousand Oaks Battle of the Bands last year, the band was offered free recording time at Easy Street Records, where they found a mentor in Jules Leon, who produced the upcoming EP. Within the last few months alone, the band’s fans have increased dramatically – a quick look at the Facebook fan page hints at its popularity, which bassist Duncan Murray credits to the group’s unique sound – and the fact that it isn’t a punk revivalist act. If 2011 was Eyes on the Skyline’s rise to fame, 2012 could find them on the way to national stardom. (Photo credit Vega Stone)
When Slatr takes the stage at the Sunset Sessions event this week, it’ll be following in the footsteps of Stevie Nicks and k.d. lang, who have also performed at the industry-only, three-day showcase in San Diego. At the age of 12, Guitarist Teagan Stedman can arguably be named one of the hardest-working musicians in the county, if not the state. When he’s not on stage, Stedman organizes the annual Shredfest, a Battle of the Bands event launched by his nonprofit, Shred Kids’ Cancer benefiting cancer research. Having released a four-song demo in 2011, Slatr plans to follow it up by working on a full-length album this year.. With Paige Augusta’s Anthony Kiedis-esque vocals, Jagger Krusen’s eclectic drums and Alex Arnaout’s steady bass, Slatr is poised to leave a big impression at Shredfest in April.
Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, Sam Cicero is the son of VCReporter’s arts and entertainment editor, a fact that had no bearing on the decision to include his band Valpurgis in this feature.