Rock & Roll, Entry Level
This is a big night out for the boys of Rue-Lynx, as so many of their nights are these days, as they await their band's 11:30 p.m. showtime at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. It's a slow evening at the old rock club, with barely 50 people on the floor and a scattered few up in the balconies, but it might as well be the Fabulous Forum to these hard-rocking teens who are ready to fire up 35 minutes of riffs, hooks and heavy drumbeats.
All but one of them are still in high school.
As soon as the night's previous band closes with a final tune, the five Rue-Lynx dudes grab their gear and head downstairs to the stage, ready to plug in and prepared to rock, but they don't get far beyond the bottom step. The other band is still packing up, and their singer looks over his shoulder and snarls, "Get the fuck off the stage!"
The man's black curls are fully lubricated and he looks maybe three times the age of most of the Rue-Lynx boys, and mutters something about "kids" and "proper etiquette," as the younger musicians in his face back off.
But the scolding is soon forgotten: This band of adolescents has already played gigs at the Whisky, the (late) Knitting Factory, the Canyon Club and El Rey, with more coming up at the Roxy and Key Club, and they have few worries beyond school the next morning. Tonight is their 15th show as a band.
"We're young guys putting everything we've got into our music," says drummer David Hiller, a breathless, self-assured 17-year-old who rode in from Van Nuys with his mom. "I put everything I have into it because it's what you want to do."
The others came from Simi Valley, including the youngest, bassist Ashton Pace, who's a few days away from turning 15. His big brother is Colby Pace, 18, fronting Rue-Lynx in a sleeveless Guns N' Roses T-shirt and an amber shag of ringlets cut in a style somewhere between Robert Plant and Kenny G.
At the Troubadour, they're just another young band chasing the rock-star dream, maybe a little ahead of the usual schedule and operating so far without much notice but working hard at it. Rue-Lynx is doing it under a band name literally resurrected from the early-'80s metal scene, and many of their rock heroes are from decades past: Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc.
As they move anxiously around the stage, Colby leans forward to sing for a small crowd of strangers and parents, the neighborhood handyman with tears in his eyes, the guy from the car wash, watching with his whole family, and the teenage girls who live next door to guitarist Trevor Klaiman, 16. But Colby wails as if facing a roaring crowd of thousands, singing a tightly wound rock tune called "Temperature's Rising":
"There will be a sound and fury
With a truth to tell
This might be the time to worry
'Cause now it's hot as hell!"
There are dueling, overlapping guitar leads from Klaiman and Brandon Sherwood, 17, shredding sparks at each other, barely raising their heads. Hiller pounds a Zeppelinesque beat. All of them are still learning stagecraft, experimenting with moves and audience interaction as fresh young rockers growing up in public.
"So many sexy people in the audience, so many!" shouts Colby to a smattering of applause.
There are more songs, and many more solos, and Hiller steps out from behind the kit to beat his sticks against the guitars as they shred through the originals "Overload," "Breakaway" and "Taking Over the World." In the crowd, one woman in a glittery blue top is dancing nonstop.
When the set is done, Mike the floor manager erupts with a rare show of enthusiasm and climbs the stage. The man has been at the club for years, checking IDs at the door and monitoring the load-ins; he has seen acts from Radiohead and Johnny Cash to Lily Allen and Queens of the Stone Age pass through. This is the first time I've ever seen him cheering onstage. "Come on! Where my dogs at?" he shouts happily to the milling crowd. "Woof, woof, woof, woof ... !"The Pace brothers live with their parents in a ranch house out in Simi Valley, with a small corral filled with goats, and a professional studio in a converted garage. The band is here a few times a week, practicing, recording, writing, planning. The studio was built by their father, Robert Pace, 11 years ago, and is equipped with a vintage analog tape machine and digital Pro Tools gear, with amps and instruments stacked high on the hardwood floor.
For their father, this is his profession, hiring out the room and his engineering/producing services to mostly local artists from L.A. to Ventura County. "We were around a lot of bands when we were little," says Colby. "We would follow them around and irritate them. Me and Ashton would fight and wrestle."
At 46, Pace still occasionally plays himself, most recently as guitarist in an industrial hard-rock band called Bleed.
Two years ago, he was teaching guitar and sound engineering at the Paul Green School of Rock franchise in Agoura Hills. His sons took music lessons there, and Pace was teacher to guitarists Klaiman and Sherwood and saw how well they worked together. By the end of 2008, he'd put them together as a band.
When the teens were struggling to choose a name, he was surprised to see them adopt Rue-Lynx, the name of a metal act he was part of during the early '80s. The name had no meaning whatsoever, not then and not now. It just sounded cool.
Colby and his brothers have seen the pictures of their dad. "He had huge hair, bright colors, tight pants," says the singer. "Typical ' 80s hair metal. He has most of that stuff in the closet still. I think I'm going to wear some of it for Halloween this year."
The studio is headquarters for Rue-Lynx, and leaning against a wall is a grease board covered with notes: "Ideas for Show: Glow in the dark (black light), Blue armpit hair, Drum on guitars (blue-light drumsticks), Fog, Get Jonas Bros. to play all our parts."
They tell the story of working with Matthew Gerrard, the pop producer behind hit songs for Kelly Clarkson, Nick Carter and High School Musical. He reached out to Rue-Lynx just minutes after the band posted a recording of "Temperature's Rising" to their MySpace page. He would eventually sign them to a contract and bring the band to the Capitol Records building in Hollywood for a day of recording in historic Studio B, site of sessions by the likes of Dean Martin and Green Day. They worked with him for a year, but the discussion drifted away from just making music to seeking a TV deal. Both sides seem to have moved on.
The band keeps working, beginning this afternoon rehearsal with the grinding riffs of a song called "Blinded." Klaiman steps up to unfurl an intense solo on a Stratocaster covered in stickers, lost in the moment, leaning back, his sneakers planted on the carpet. Just as noticeable is that when Rue-Lynx drops the broad stage moves, and the between-song chitchat, they come off as more natural, direct, a real rock band, not kids aping the moves of much older players.
As they're jamming through the tune, Klaiman's dad, Andy Klaiman, walks up to me. "I would take him to the Sam Ash store competitions ... and he was beating the older players," he says with pride. "He was doing that at 10. I knew he was a natural."
The others begin to pack up to leave. David Hiller is excited about ideas for the band's first music videos. One of them has cows being led to slaughter, but instead of cattle "we have people with cow heads coming to slaughter the band," he says. "That would be crazy!" And there's his idea that begins with Klaiman driving a limo, and out of the back comes a chimp with a couple of rock chicks. "This chimp is pouring Champagne on the girls!" He wants to go 3-D.
On this Sunday afternoon, the band has come to Sound Studios in Van Nuys, where Rue-Lynx typically prepares for big shows by renting a room with a stage. Several parents are giving feedback. "Let's put more energy into it and let's go on with the solo sessions," says Robert Pace, talking like a coach. "I know it's hot. It's going to be hot everywhere you play."
By the entrance are bulletin boards covered with fliers and business cards for bands and players and tech support. There's one for a guy who creates band logos, another asking, "Need videos?" There are listings for guitar lessons, a T-shirt maker, a photographer, a "sleaze rock hair metal" act looking for an awesome singer, bands seeking drummers, a drummer needing a band.
Aside from the rehearsal, the teens have scheduled meetings with a stylist and a trio of potential music-video makers. While they're waiting, Hiller groans comically and holds up the newspaper ad for their upcoming Key Club show, pointing to the microscopic type listing Rue-Lynx on the bill. "I can almost read that," Klaiman says.
The first to arrive is the "stylist," an actor named Hector Hank, a bearded hipster in a porkpie hat who greets the band with hugs. He's been invited to discuss helping Rue-Lynx develop a bit of personal style. They all step into the lounge. "You've got so much going on for you it's sometimes confusing for the consumer," Hank insists, "so you've got to dumb it down a little bit."
Hank asks the teens to imagine distinctive looks for one another. Hiller suggests a suit for Klaiman, with short pants, burn holes and a top hat. Sherwood sees Colby in a ninja costume. The stylist then turns to Sherwood in his backward baseball cap and says, "If you don't mind bright colors, I'm telling you, man, the girls are gonna lose it. I would go more couture if I were you."
Soon the filmmakers arrive, and they are very enthusiastic about Hiller's video concepts. They are from a company called Ento La, still in their 20s and maybe not long out of film school. The filmmakers talk about their new macro lens, how good it is at shooting insects up close, and how the guys want to work that in somehow. One says, "You're kind of moving people into our own psychedelic nightmare — all these crazy bug heads."
They begin talking about the chimp idea, and one says, "We did talk to some people with chimps already. It really depends on what the budget is."
The band is listening, nodding along to all this, but the parents aren't so sure. "You haven't talked to any of us," says Colby's mom, Keely Pace, suddenly. "And because they're kids, they don't really finance anything."
The meetings have not been enlightening. Nothing is decided today. Robert Pace has been through this process, and has seen it happen with other bands through the years, too often ending up in disappointment or disaster. Some groups never recover from one bad mistake. "It's hard," he says later. "I've been around for a while, and you always want to make the right decision for the band, make sure you're not shooting yourself in the foot. It comes down to: Do you trust what they're saying? Sometimes it's pretty obvious you don't want to work with them, and sometimes it's a tough call."
He'll soon meet with the band and convince all concerned that making a video now is premature. There is no album yet. Work on Rue-Lynx's debut begins this month, and that much at least is under their control.
"They're young. They've got time," Pace says. "They can't get too discouraged if things don't work out."
Earlier, I had asked Robert Pace about the band, and how far his 1981 version of Rue-Lynx might have gone with the resources this new band of teens now enjoys. The parents all contribute to their fast-growing expenses.
"You mean with the studio and all the support of the parents and ... ?" He seems almost stunned by the question. That level of support was incomprehensible in those days. "Wow, I don't know, I don't know."
Get the Music Newsletter