The latest musical sensation sweeping the island is coming courtesy of three teenagers and a veteran drummer.
Comprised of 16-year-old Charlie Iwuc, 17-year-old Jesse Simonsen, 15-year-old Isaac Lalich, and 50-something-year-old Andrew Cameron, the pop punk band Twelve Tears rocked the house at Island Blues on Saturday evening, June 2, in their first paid gig.
Regulars at Island Blues’ open mic night on Thursdays, Twelve Tears took advantage of their expanded stage time on Saturday night to showcase their skills.
“We all started practicing about four months ago and played our first open mic night in Februray,” said Iwuc, who plays guitar and sings. “The reaction was great — people loved it. They didn’t know what kind of music it was, but they liked it.”
The open mic performances, however, began to wear on the foursome, Iwuc explained.
Open Mic Draws Following
“We were doing the open mic nights and everyone liked us and we started to get a following,” said Iwuc. “Then we started having to wait for a while. We’d do one set and then wait for an hour and then do another set.”
“We really just wanted to play,” he added.
Judging from the large crowd and enthusiastic cheers on Saturday, the audience is impressed, even if they might not know the Blink 182 or Plus 44 covers.
Music is nothing new for Iwuc, who has been playing one instrument or another for years now, and got his first guitar when he was 10.
“I had drums first and my Mom hated them, so I traded them for a guitar,” said Iwuc. “My dad knew how to play and I taught myself more songs. I just learned every song that I liked.”
The Rhode Island-native moved to St. John with his parents and two sisters when he was 12. The budding musician met Simonsen, Lalich and Cameron when he started attending the Gifft Hill School, where his love of music was apparently contagious.
Iwuc Spreads Music Bug
“I was never really into music until I met Charlie in seventh grade when he moved here,” said Simonsen, who plays bass. “I got into music through him because he’s from Rhode Island and I lived here my whole life. He played some songs for me and I really liked them and kept listening to more.”
Although Lalich had been playing piano since his grandmother taught him as a child, when the former home-schooled student enrolled at Gifft Hill his lessons went by the wayside.
“I was kind of overwhelmed with work when I started at school this year, so I started going to piano lessons only once in a while,” said Lalich. “Charlie and I have been friends for a while and he always wanted to start a band. And I guess I just got interested again.”
Despite a failed attempt at becoming a band director at Gifft Hill, Cameron, who teaches wood shop when not playing drums in a variety of bands, didn’t give up on young Iwuc’s talent.
“I met Charlie at school and knew he was into music,” said Cameron. “Last year I tried to be kind of a band director at the school and it didn’t really come together. I told Charlie to get something together and to come to me when he was ready and I could help them out.”
After giving Simonsen a few pointers on the bass, the two approached Cameron and the group started practicing two to three times a week. Iwuc, however, thought the sound wasn’t complete, explained Lalich.
“Charlie taught Jesse how to play bass and he got really good at it,” Lalich said. “They were always bugging me that they needed a keyboard player, so I finally checked it out and I really enjoyed it.”
While Twelve Tears admittedly has a limited repertoire — their first gig was a two-hour session which pretty much covered all their material — their range of songs shows diversity. Old favorites like the Clash and the Cure were featured along with some off-the-radio tunes from the Transplants and Blink 182, and even a few Iwuc originals.
Although all members say they are loving being in the band, it might just be the elder statesman who is having the time of his life.
“Enjoying The Heck” Out of Life
“I’ve been drumming for probably 35 years with numerous bands, but this is my first punk band and I’m enjoying the heck out it,” said Cameron. “It’s not the kind of music that I listen to — I’m a jazz purist. But I really enjoy playing this music because it’s energetic and fun.”
“This music is fresh for me and I’m really enjoying it,” Cameron continued. “I’m really enjoying playing with the kids — they have the right energy. Everything they do is all positive — there are no egos or any of that adult crap.”
The two-hour show was full of high-energy riffs and catchy tunes which had the crowd rocking out throughout the show. So, what’s next for the teens?
Simonsen, who is undecided between participating in college football or the military, hasn’t yet decided.
“I really want to continue playing in bands thoughout college,” said Simonsen. “It’s something I always wanted to do. But if I go to military academy I don’t know if I can.”
“So, I guess we’ll see,” Simonsen added. “I’m still deciding.”
While Lalich looks forward to a future in music, he’s not sure about it acutally paying the bills.
“Being a rock star or something would be cool,” said Lalich. “I’d like to keep pursuing music, but I don’t know if I want to do it for a job. I will keep playing music though, definitely.”
Dreams of Making It Big
Iwuc on the other hand, has no doubts about his future.
“I want to be a rock star, I have always wanted to be,” said Iwuc. “I just think it’s really fun. When you see people who have succeeded they look so happy.”
“And the money would be nice too,” Iwuc added.
Twelve Tears is hoping to play at Island Blues every other Saturday, but have not yet confirmed their next gig. Call the Coral Bay bar and restaurant at 776-6800 to find out when Twelve Tears is playing next.