What started out as a casual jam band five years ago has grown into a fairly serious venture for the young musicians of Project 324. While most of their classmates at Kirkwood, Lindbergh and Chaminade high schools are bagging groceries or scooping ice cream for minimum wage, the band brings in up to $500 per show.
There is no shortage of blues rock cover bands in the St. Louis area, and these guys certainly aren't the first high schoolers to decide they should start a band, either. What sets Project 324 apart from its peers is what lead guitarist Trevor DeHart calls its "age to skill ratio."
"We have a big focus on the music quality," said drummer Julian Loida. "We like quality music and we want to reproduce that. We don't play that kind of emo rock that most people our age play—we play music that people from (age) 30 to 60 like, so our crowd has always been older."
Lead singer Danny Sly's mother, Mary Sly, works as the unofficial band manager, finding opportunities for shows and negotiating with venues. Their repertoire of blues and garage rock classics, like "Have Love, Will Travel" by the Sonics and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones got the band their first regular bar gig at 's in summer 2008—a venue that normally would never hire a band of 16-year-olds.
"I think our age is an advantage and a disadvantage," DeHart said. "It's an advantage because people are like, 'Oh you guys are good for your age,' and stuff like that, but it's kind of a disadvantage too, because you kind of don't get the recognition that you would get if you were older. And, it kind of keeps us from playing certain places."
Project 324 was barred from Helen Fitzgerald's after too many underage fans started showing up for their shows, but they still regularly play gigs at , Kirkwood Station Plaza and Sky Music Lounge in Ballwin.
About a year and a half ago, the band began writing their own music and mixing in original tunes with the covers at their shows. Keyboardist Ian Miller generally comes up with the basis for the song, with the rest of the band building their parts on top of it.
"I write a lot of stuff in my room, basically, and then I'll kind of bring Danny in to do some vocals and stuff, then we'll show it to the band and go from there," he said.
"It usually comes to me next and I'll kind of put the rhythmic structure in. Then we'll get the guitars and that melodic stuff," Loida, the drummer, added.
"It actually really helps because they'll kind of build off my ideas with stuff I never would have thought of," Miller said.
As the end of senior year approaches and Miller, Loida, Sly and DeHart make plans for college, the future of the band is uncertain. They joked about having shows over Skype, with each of them playing via video chat from their own dorms.
"I don't know about continuing during actually being away at college but hopefully we can resume when we come back on breaks and stuff and play together," Miller said.
Loida and Sly both intend to study music in college, Loida in percussion and Sly in vocals. Loida has auditioned with Indiana University's school of music and Berklee School of Music in Boston, and Sly with Belmont University in Nashville. Miller has also auditioned with Indiana and Belmont.
"Really I haven't made up my mind about whether I want to do music yet or whether I want to keep it as a hobby type thing," he said. "But that's definitely going to dictate where I go to college, whether I do it or not."
DeHart isn't sure whether he will study music either, but both of them said that no matter what their majors are music will continue to be a major part of their lives.
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