Project Hysteria saw just how their musical diversity literally came to life during a May performance at Hermann Palooza in the Missouri wine capital.
While playing on stage at the Hermann Amphitheatre, the band noticed how certain songs in their rock repertoire cultivated different positive reactions in the crowd.
"We played Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name' and saw the younger kids and adults move closer to the stage, as the older adults moved back. Then we played, "Cocaine,' by Eric Clapton and the kids backed away as the older adults walked up," said Austin Perkins, Project Hysteria bandleader and lead vocalist and guitarist. "It felt really good to play on that big stage."
Even though Perkins, along with his four fellow band mates, organize a loose set list for different gigs depending on the listener demographic and venue, they feel like their band's musical styling's capture the "quality" highlights of rock and roll from the 50's to the present. Seeing that kind of varied age audience reaction at Hermann Palooza and the many other performances they have played over the last year together is an amazing feat, due to the band members own ages only ranging from 14 to 16 years old. They hope to get a similar reaction as the Jefferson City-based band decides a setlist to go with in their newest and latest gig during Hot Summer Nights in June, July and August, kicking off the evening from 4-6 p.m. Friday at Luby's Stage on Bagnell Dam Strip in Lake Ozark.
As Project Hysteria's different band members describe their style in various ways such as "rock," "rockish blues" and "bluesy grunge," the group's bassist exemplified their style as a whole with perfect definition. And his fellow band mates whole-heartedly agreed.
"I'd say we are Nirvana and Green Day put together, slapped in the face by The Doors, mixed with Pearl Jam and a pinch of Black Sabbath thrown in," said Ashton Wilson.
"Actually, I would say Black Sabbath puked on their shoes," added in rhythm guitarist Ethan Browner.
"Yeah," Ashton, Austin and fill-in drummer John Kerr all agreed with a smile, a laugh and a nod.
"Project Hysteria' in the making
Since Austin was about 11 years old, he has been a huge AC/DC fan, noting that "Bad Boy Boogie" is still one of his favorite songs.
He also started to play guitar, developing his love of music not just in inspired listening from his favorites such as The Doors, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin, but with the passion he attained from playing and practicing their tunes on his stringed instrument.
"Austin really developed his musical skills from what I played best - the radio," added in Austin's dad, Nathan.
In 2009, he decided he wanted to start a band. Austin said he went through a few band member rotations over the first few years, but then landed with his current core group in Ethan, Ashton and drummer Blaine Jarrett.
"Ashton joined the band in December, Ethan has been with us for about a year (as has Blaine) and John is just coming to the band," the 16-year-old said, noting that John will fill-in for the group on the drums, attends regular practices and will play at some upcoming gigs.
Ethan was also about 11 years old when he picked up his first guitar to play, inspired by his dad's musical talents and prior band involvement. He quit lessons for a few years, then picked up the guitar again at 13, really getting into learning the craft and buying additional equipment for his instrument.
"Then, I met Austin through an ad at Will West Music (in Jefferson City), saying that he was looking for band members," the 15-year-old stated. "I have a lot of the same influences as Austin, liking Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Doors."
Where Austin and Ethan are like-minded, along with many of John's influences and band favorites, in the classic rock era, Blaine enjoys "death metal" in his musical line-up and Ashton enjoys some of the more grunge and "good" alternative rock sounds, as well.
Much like Ethan, Ashton met Austin outside of the schoolyard, which is how the band leader met John and Blaine. When they did connect in bringing Ashton into Project Hysteria, Ashton carried in with him a love of bands such as Green Day and Nirvana from a young age of 8 years old and a strong guitar background derived from age 12. Now, the currently 15-year-old musician has added bass to his instrument checklist and also has encouraged his band mates to perform some of his favorites on stage.
"We do play some Green Day and Nirvana on stage; we play Green Day's "Brain Stew' and "When I Come Around.' I am also pushing the band to play a Blink 182 song, "Dammit' for quite a while," Ashton said, blushing a bit when he realized he might have cursed, even though the boys noted it is not spelled like the cuss word.
Overall, Project Hysteria, who got its name from trying to find a "darkish" word in the dictionary, selects songs that appeal to the majority of the crowd they perform to at bookings, Austin said. They pick out songs they like too, practice them at home first, then at their three-four practices a week and learn them in a short period of time to play on stage.
Regardless of their unique musical blend and stage presence, Project Hysteria's members also have bonded together as friends in and outside the studio.
"We all have different styles, but it really comes together nicely. We have all become friends and as far as the music goes, it melds together really well," Austin added.
"Austin's main goal was to keep rock and roll alive in today's on-stage music scene. It's hard to find kids who want to play that kind of music nowadays, so it is great that they have that shared interest and bond," added Austin's mother and band manager, Sally.
Rallying around the "roadies'
Project Hysteria plays numerous gigs throughout the year, more frequently during the summer months when they are not in school. In fact, Project Hysteria has a re-occurring gig at the MDA Car Show in downtown Jefferson City, held the last Saturday of each month from March through September. They also will return for a contributing gig to the Salute To America Fourth of July Celebration in downtown Jefferson City again this year, and will perform at newer gigs such as Hot Summer Nights and Fulton Street Festival June 15.
Where the band concentrates on their songs and upcoming performances, they also find added support in their "roadies," a.k.a. Mom and/or Dad.
"One of the biggest parts of our band is the parent involvement. We wouldn't be able to do any of it without them," Austin said. "My Mom sits in on the practices and all the parents are here, too, most of the time. It's really appreciated by the band, too."
From providing "bodyguard" services against incoming cicada microphone attacks during the heat of the summer concerts to setting up equipment and transporting band mates to practices and gigs, Project Hysteria's "roadies" are in full of support of their talented young men. There are also in support of their common goals to commitment, responsibility both in the band and school, and their passion for musical performance.
"Ashton lives in Fulton and Ethan lives in Russellville. Their parents drive them here to my house (in Jefferson City) to practices every week. You have to have parent involvement at their age, because it is really the only way the band can work," Sally said.
Chris Wilson, Ashton's father, said for him, he does not mind supporting his son in his musical amibitions. He said many of the kids have to look hard at other activities they are involved in such as football, hockey or baseball in deciding what loads they can handle or being mature enough to stay with their most desired extracurricular commitment outside of their schoolwork.
"I just enjoy watching my kid do something he really loves to do, and that is rewarding in itself. All the boys have been involved in different activities or had different opportunities. They have learned to progress and make those choices of what they want to do. They put in the extra effort and are committed to something and each other," he said. "They are like brothers and committed to one another and their band, and it shows. They work incredibly hard. You see sports teams and the physical part of how hard they work. But you don't always see that in a garage band. They are fortunate to have met each other. They play good, play good music and songs that appeal to a broad base of people."
Taking the stage and studio
For Project Hysteria, getting some gigs at Lake of the Ozarks was one of their next big goals. Now in scoring the Hot Summer Nights gig through the monthly event during the summer season, they hope to expand their Lake Area performances to additional events and venues in the near future. In fact, they are hoping to confirm a performance in the Lake Area during Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest, as well.
Another big ambition for Project Hysteria is recording a full album of their original songs. With Austin at the helm of lyrics and Ethan adding in riffs and music to the pieces, the band has already got 14 solid singles ready to be recorded for a debut album.
Austin said they do play some of their originals out to certain crowds, as well, and have a few demo CDs available for booking purposes. He said there are two singles they have seen positive reactions from and know will be spotlighted on their debut CD including a seven-minute "good" alternative song about struggling with depression, "State of Mind," and a fast-paced, upbeat teenage love song, "High Off You."
Now, they are concentrating on their busy summer schedule, showcasing their newly made tie-dyed T-shirts complete with the band's originally designed logo, showcasing their memorabilia including shirts and personalized guitar picks, and most importantly, rocking the crowd where they play.
With memories of 100-degree heat melting Blaine's drum, bass-drops leading to accidents during practice and nerves causing first big gigs at venues such as Prison Brews in Jefferson City leaving newer members properly initiated into live performance, Project Hysteria continues to bring a professional, powerful stage presence from a group so young.
Their roadies believe they have a strong future, and the band hopes to continue to bring their "Project Hysteria" of musical exuberance into satisfying delivery for audiences across central Missouri this summer and beyond.
For more upcoming gigs, videos, music samples, booking and other information, call Sally Perkins at 573-230-7037 or visit www.projecthysteria.com. Also check them out on Facebook.
About Hot Summer Nights
Returning in its fifth year, the Annual Hot Summer Nights will continue at Friday evening on Bagnell Dam Strip in Lake Ozark.
Held the second Friday of each month from May through September, Hot Summer Nights is a free, cruise-in event that attracts car enthusiasts and families from throughout the Midwest for an evening of family-family entertainment on the historic Bagnell Dam Strip.
While guests browse through the numerous classic and customized cars, trucks and motorcycles that cruise-in each month during this time frame, they also partake in a variety of family activities such as facepainting, caricatures, clowns, live music, contests and many other festivities. This year, guests will see the return of Sparky the Clown and Merry Mary "clowning around" with a variety of activities including a real clown car down by Luby's Stage, Mz. Loretta showcasing her brilliant facepainting and storytelling skills and encouraging children to help write a story, and "Charcoal Chuck" doing free charcoal portrait paintings for the kids.
In addition, the Lake Ozark Fire Department will have one of their trucks on site at Friday's event, and the Linn Creek police chief will bring a Korean War vintage jeep on display complete with machine gun that actually fires using compressed gas. All these exciting activities will kick off after Project Hysteria revs up the crowd from 4-6 p.m. at Luby's Stage on Bagnell Dam Strip, with rest of the event beginning at 6 p.m.Other events include Leo Case "spinning tunes," live remotes, helicopter rides and live entertainment to name a few.
Dates for upcoming Hot Summer Nights are July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 14.
For more information about Hot Summer Nights visit www.cruisehotsummernights.com or visit the Hot Summer Nights facebook page.