So-Cal garage rock band features ‘Superbad’ star on drums
From the moment they began playing together, there was never any question about it. "We have always been The Young Rapscallions," says Nick Chamian, guitarist for the grooving, fuzz-box-stomping, Los Angeles garage quartet, set to play The Blue Lagoon on Jan. 13. In fact, the group's moniker came so naturally that neither Chamian, nor his longtime friend and Rapscallions co-founder, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, can remember discussing it.
"I don't think there was ever a conversation," says Mintz-Plasse, the band's drummer, who started jamming with Chamian back in the summer of 2007—the same year Mintz-Plasse starred as "McLovin" in the blockbuster comedy Superbad. After the two of them mastered a few White Stripes tunes, they invited two of their fellow classmates—bassist Taylor Messersmith and singer Jonathan Sanders—to join their sessions.
Though some of the Rapscallions knew each other from elementary school, the first time the whole group was in the same room together was on the first day of their freshman year drama class at El Camino High School in Los Angeles.
Everyone in the band has a theatrical streak, Chamian says, noting that their love of performance and their interest in music, made the formation of the band almost inevitable. "We've always been creative together, so the music aspect came very freely," he says. "We're drama nerds. We need attention. We need to be on stage.”
The guys bonded over improvised comedy, their love of The Arrow—the regional FM classic rock station—and attending rock shows, Mintz-Plasse says, fondly recalling seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers play at The Forum in Inglewood.
That's not to say that everyone in the band has uniform tastes—as evidenced by the group's early recordings, which reveal a band that is talented and a tad green.
The Young Rapscallion's debut full-length, Everything Vibrates, released in September 2011, features songs like "Tread This Water," "Walking Phoenix" and "Frankenstein's Daughter”—all of which bounce around from funk to punk to metal, mixing genres adeptly, but without ever settling on a sound that is uniquely their own.
It's a critique that Chamian, the group's main songwriter, acknowledges. "I think we're still developing what our sound is," he says, noting that the band began jamming for fun. It wasn't until early 2011 that they considered playing shows and putting out records. "We still don't know exactly what [our sound] is yet or what we're trying to do."
But perhaps Chamian is just trying to be humble. On the new Rapscallions EP, It is What it is, the guys have honed their sound—whittling away at the galloping metal riffs and changa-chang guitar scratching, and doubling down on heavier, Dead Meadow-esque garage-psych riffage, and chugging Breeders-like bass lines.
If humility is a virtue for Chamian, it is a law for Mintz-Plasse, who did his best to deflect any line of questioning having to do with his status as a hero to a generation of nerds and misfits.
Although Mintz-Plasse's nearly 82,000 followers on Twitter have heard about his band on more than one occasion, he says he would never dream of abusing his celebrity—a term he isn't all that comfortable with—to push his music.
"I'm definitely not that guy to call in favors," he says. "I just want to play music with my friends." As far as he is concerned, acting is just his day job.
The Young Rapscallions play at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, at The Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $5. For more information, call 423-7117. 21+.
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