Rockers get ready for Battle of the Bands

High schoolers prepare to face off with drums, guitars, really loud amps

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

This winter the Sonic Death Monkeys took over Joab Cochrane's living room.

His daughter Natasha is the band's drummer and Joab said the four sophomore girls are welcome to rehearse at his house.

"I'm proud to see them spending as much time as they are," he said. "All these girls are talented, and there's some discipline there."

"Her dad has been so amazing, letting us play there," said rhythm guitarist Marissa Capito. "We practice in the living room because there's no furniture. Just drums and amps."

Rehearsal has been especially intense in recent weeks. On Saturday night, April 20, the Sonic Death Monkeys take the stage at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium for the Battle of the Bands.

"It's crunch time," Capito said.

In churches, garages, storage units and bedrooms, Juneau's teen-age rock musicians are writing songs and polishing their chops for their 10 minutes of stage time. About 15 bands are scheduled to play, beginning at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

The Cochranes had just moved to the house on Behrends Avenue in October when Natasha bought a drum set with her Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. The living room was empty and he said he'd much rather have her playing Ramones and Red Hot Chili Peppers' songs with her friends than watching television.

A guitar player himself, Cochrane's single admonition about the girls rehearsing concerned profanity in song lyrics, not volume.

"I'm a little disappointed they're not doing 'Nose Ring Girl' by Nerf Herders," he added. "That was sounding really good, but they dropped it from their lineup."

The band also includes twin sisters Courtney and Cayleigh Allen on lead guitar and bass.

"I've wanted to have a band since I first heard Nirvana when I was 5," said Courtney, who designed the Sonic Death Monkey Web site.

She started playing guitar a year and a half ago after her dad taught her the Beatles' "Blackbird." She got an acoustic-electric guitar for Christmas, then bought a Fender Precision bass for a song on a road trip because a puppy had chewed on it. She passed the doggnawed bass on to her sister and bought a Strat on eBay. Capito got her guitar online at the same time.

"It was a band bonding sort of thing," Capito said.

Natasha suggested the band get matching Sonic Death Monkey T-shirts for the Battle of the Bands performance.

Cayleigh said it would be better to just practice.

"We have to actually not suck first," she said.

Across town, the punk band Abandoned Leader has been rehearsing at the Auke Bay Bible Church. Singer Brad Peters has been working on an original song called, "Blame it on the Weatherman."

Another band, The Plastic Wrappers, has been rehearsing two hours a day, two to four times a week, said trumpet player Axel Thibodeau. The seven-piece band plays ska, not rap, and features two guitars and a horn section. Some of the musicians play in school bands, but this is a chance for the JDHS students' extracurricular bands to get stage time.

"We're having fun. We want to win. We're pretty good," Thibodeau said. "It's a good chance to play in front of the school. We have a Web site,"

For the past two years first prize has been 10 hours of time in a recording studio, said JDHS auditorium manager Toby Clark, who is organizing the event.

"I'm inclined to go for that again except no one's ever used it," Clark said.

Since most bands are just eager for stage time, he's thinking a better prize would be to set up a concert highlighting the three winning bands.

Each band gets 10 minutes or two songs at the battle. To speed the transitions, Clark is using a giant rotating stage set designed for the play "Noises Off" last fall. Divided into three sections, it will allow one band to play while stage crews tear down the previous band's kit and gear and set up the next.

Kevin Morris is the drummer for the band Isotopia. He ordered new drums and they're late. He's been drumming on pillows waiting for his kit to arrive. He cares more about getting up and playing than winning.

"People think I don't know how to play drums," he said. "But when I get on the seat, they'll go, 'Damn.'"

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