These times of content streaming, micro-attention spans, middleman economics and ever-increasing interconnectivity have plenty of folks believing they never have to leave their home — much less their hometown — to accomplish their dreams.
That concept seems to hold true for some music artists. For instance, Justin Bieber was a YouTube artist who was digitally discovered and the pop duo Karmin gained enough page hits and blog buzz playing interesting cover songs to get a record contract.
While becoming a YouTube sensation can be a viable road to fame and fortune or at least to becoming a working artist, that path is inherently narrow and clogged with aspiring fame seekers.
The band Extra Spooky, one of Akron’s own, is a young quartet of friends who joined forces in 2009 and have decided to take the road well traveled.
Following its 8:30 p.m. Friday gig at the Eye Opener, 1688 W. Market St., the band of 2013 Firestone graduates will pack up the band van and a U-Haul and migrate to Los Angeles.
But, don’t worry Band Moms (You share the same empathetic “Oh, no, my baby’s going to the big city!?” worry wavelength, don’t you?), Extra Spooky guitarist/lead vocalist Henry McCoy, bassist/vocalist John Cohill, guitarist Spenser Nikitin and drummer Logan Patrick aren’t leaving Akron on a whim, and they aren’t harboring phantasmagorical notions of taking L.A. by storm and becoming rock stars overnight.
Extra Spooky with its new album Marbles — which features the band’s quirky, herky-jerky, guitar-driven indie pop — have a plan of attack, a plan that has been gestating for a couple of years.
The band formed almost casually with McCoy meeting Cohill during freshman year in math class and bonding over some shared musical tastes and then discovering that Cohill was already “messing around” musically in his basement with Nikitin and Patrick.
“I said, yeah, I can play guitar, too, and that’s how that first started,” McCoy said.
Six months later, the band left the basement and through Cohill’s connections played its first gig at Portage Country Club.
“Our music was we covered a Modest Mouse song and it was a lot different music, but still it wasn’t what people there really listen to. It was fun but it wasn’t something we’d ever do again and we didn’t,” McCoy said.
Extra Spooky began playing all around Akron, Canton, Kent and Cleveland and, by senior year, the band had developed a wanderlust. While a few members wanted to just jump up and go, cooler heads prevailed and a plan was concocted and enacted.
The plan included building a band bank account with money from gigs rather than dividing the band’s pay among members and reaching out to friends out West to make contacts and such while also trying to build an audience in the East.
Last October, Extra Spooky did a tour that took the band to Chicago, Baltimore, Buffalo and a few shows in New York, which McCoy said was a success.
“I wouldn’t say we’re super known by any stretch of the imagination in New York City because there’s so much going on there. … But we definitely met our goal of letting people know about us outside of Akron, Ohio, and we do have some solid fans in New York, Chicago and other states,” McCoy said.
For two years during which the band recorded a few EPs, Extra Spooky, played, plotted, planned, graduated from high school, made two scouting trips to L.A., recorded and is now ready to take the next step.
“We feel like most bands that want to move out West or something, like they give themselves a month and just do it and don’t have any money,” he said. “We feel like that’s what sets us apart … we’ve had years of saving and planning.”
The band also has Marbles, a 16-track album recorded locally at Tangerine Studios. The nearly 70-minute album, named as a tribute to Cohill’s uncle Michael Cohill, who is a marble maker, and Akron, which once had marble factories, is action packed with peppy and poppy off-kilter tunes.
The band is primarily self-taught, save McCoy who took a year of guitar lessons, but he says, “I think that is partly where our sound comes from because the majority of the band doesn’t know musical theory or stuff like that.”
Members may not be able to sight read or name their favorite diminished chord but Marbles is full of kinetic rock tunes that may remind some listeners of beloved indie bands such as Pavement and the aforementioned Modest Mouse.
On songs such as Mr. Death’s Creature Feature with its ersatz dance rock groove, McCoy and Nikitin’s shimmering guitar lines dovetail, clash and complement, providing much of the band’s melodies under McCoy’s friendly if not always melodic vocals while the rhythm section starts and stops in interesting and groovy ways.
“A lot of times it gets loud and [we] can’t hear each other and it just luckily turns into something that works out, but we do play off each other quite a bit and listen to each other,” McCoy said.
Despite all the seemingly different directions each member is going, the songs do come together and are written by the band.
“It’s just kind of made up on the spot. Very rarely does one member have something made up beforehand; like in some bands, people will come with multiple parts. It’s never like that with us,” he said.
The band gets together frequently to crank out “something out of the blue,” record it on a computer and later use the recordings as a reference to see which jams, riffs and ideas are worth turning into real songs.
A band of 20-year-old musicians who will all turn 21 over the next few months let loose in the City of Angels could be an opening paragraph to a treatment for an ABC Family cautionary tale. But, as Extra Spooky excitedly prepares to leave Akron and start the next phase, its young members are more than ready for the bright lights of the big city and aren’t worried about succumbing to the many temptations and disappointments that can quickly tear a talented band of friends apart.
“Yeah, we’re smart about that stuff,” McCoy said confidently.