Warning: The following story may annoy you if you're over the age of 25 and play or dream of playing in a band.
Generalities get you in trouble. There are a few that are pretty safe to assume: The government is tapping your phone, your boss is screwing you and, if you're a teenager, your parents suck — and so does your band, if you have one. Most high-school bands don't stay together long enough to play their senior class show. Those that do live to regret the experience. However, Nashville's Be Your Own Pet are the exception to the rule.
Perhaps because they're not in school. Singer Jemina Pearl stopped when she was 17, and only guitarist Jonas Stein is considering higher education at this point — and if he does go, it will be online. (The University of Phoenix eagerly awaits your application, Jon.) When they were gainfully enrolled, it wasn't at your usual soul-deadening institution, but the Nashville School of the Arts. Not surprisingly, their parents' professions range from musicians to rock photographer to manager for Ronnie Milsap and Vince Neil.
While parental connections and enthusiasm are certainly more likely to spawn hope and potential than a constant parental carping of "Turn that shit off" or "Let me see your eyes, you're stoned," it is still no guarantee of results. However, BYOP's recordings have thus far illuminated a group high on punk-rock strategy, recalling X Ray Spex, Sleater-Kinney, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and thousands of other screaming hopefuls. The quartet does so with a genuine raw power that makes you take notice of the show, not their unusually young age.
Guided by Voices manager David Newgarden remembers the first time he heard them. "Two years ago, I saw them open a show for Kings of Leon in Nashville, and they were pretty rough but with unbelievable energy and charisma on stage. We hung very briefly after the show — and they had to go to school the next morning — but I immediately offered to manage them. I sent an MP3 to Zane Lowe, evening DJ on Radio 1 in England, and he put it on the air the next day. Their lives changed almost overnight."
Pearl remembers that Newgarden urged them to play the CMJ convention in New York City, and that exposure led to the band being invited to perform in Europe. "(Newgarden) was the one who got the press to start writing about us. People from XL (Records) saw us and wanted us to tour the U.K., and then we were signed."
Ah, do I hear the sound of a thousand frustrated musicians bashing their heads on concrete? I share your pain. At 17, I was no closer to that recording contract than I am now, many years later. But then again, my originals didn't rock out with the un-self- conscious firepower of "Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle" or "We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol." I never got around to writing my own song called "Stairway to Heaven," and I never recorded an album as quickly and professionally as these young spirits. "It didn't take a super-long time," says Pearl. "It was really recorded in two weeks and then mixed in one."
Whoever said good things come to those who wait was a firstname.lastname@example.org
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