Local Current Blog

The Garage’s annual Ugly Sweater Party to spotlight teen bands on the rise

NightStones, in a warmer season (Facebook)

When it comes to the Twin Cities music scene, we have all our established favorites, as well as so many other flourishing sub-groups — the post-Hippo-Campus college scene, anyone? — but rarely do we hear about the burgeoning high school bands who have very much made names for themselves.

Tonight, the Garage is hosting their Ugly Sweater Party that features quite a few local bands on the come-up in the DIY scene right now, three of them being high school bands: Why Not, Nightstones, and Marmalade. I spoke with the high school bands playing the Ugly Sweater Party about their thoughts on the local scene, the ups and downs of being young and making music, and advice for young people in the scene — much of which proved they are all wise beyond their years.

Why Not (Isaac Dell, Henry Breen, Joshua MacGregor), an “indie-math-punk rock” three-piece from St. Paul, just dropped their first full-length, not something many 15- and 16-year-olds can say. They express an overwhelming love for the Twin Cities music scene, citing the community and diversity as huge benefits.

Booking shows seems to be the biggest challenge — whether it’s venue liquor laws restricting the age of potential performers, or their musicianship not being taken seriously by booking agents and event organizers. Dell says that “while it is hard to be at a high school age trying to make it as a band or musical artist, I️ think it’s good overall because it really inspires us all to think super-creatively and outside the box about just about everything when it comes to the business side of music.”

Why Not collectively agreed that age restrictions are lame, and that’s why there is such a flourishing house show scene: young bands just want to share their music with people, and young fans just want to listen. They all are looking forward to the future, seeing where Why Not takes them, and said that three important things for young people to keep in mind are to (a) don’t hesitate; (b) make music you enjoy before trying to market yourself; and (c) network, network, network!

Formed in 2013 for a talent show, Minneapolis alt-rockers NightStones (Ramone Bridges, Antoine Ferguson, Bob Kabeya, Freya Hatch-Surisook, Lucus Stinson) released their debut EP, Muted Faces, this past February. Since then the band have been busy playing shows in the area, including some prominent festivals like Art-a-Whirl, Twin Cities Pride, and LeGrand Fest, as well as being finalists for the Snow Show Battle of the Bands.

Like Why Not, NightStones said that the Twin Cities scene is a great community for new artists to make a name for themselves. “The worst thing about being young in the scene is the lack of respect that is sometimes given to you because there is an assumption of ignorance and lack of knowledge, skill, and ability,” they wrote in a message from their Facebook page. “But the best parts are that when you do prove to the nay-sayers that you actually do have skill and knowledge, you are given lots of opportunities to grow and become great.”

The band say that our scene is in need of venues free of age restrictions, and media that want to showcase young artists. NightStones are excited to watch the culture of the local scene develop over time and to find their place within it, telling other aspiring musicians that not all opportunities are good ones, and to focus on those that help you grow.

Last but certainly not least, Marmalade (Jonah Hansen, Plaiqu Jones, Maddison Spall, and Lucas Holz) are a band that “spew jazz-punk indie rock,” according to their Facebook page. “We go off!!” The Minneapolis band are big in the house scene, often playing alongside the previously mentioned bands, and in that, they have found a place to tell their story and make friends.

Demo, their first EP, has been online since July. Holz said they really appreciate the support they’ve found in the local scene, despite not always being taken seriously. “Minneapolis is definitely where I would want to be to play music if I didn’t already live here.”

Jones brought up the impact that organizations like the Garage and Orca Tribe have had, offering unique performance and networking opportunities within the DIY scene. Communicating with other artists and spreading positivity was key advice Marmalade had for those looking to create, and the band hope to see some sort of non-profit that helps young artists with the logistics of booking shows and tours and contacting promoters.

Support your local teens!