Groms Gonna Work It Out
It’s a rainy afternoon and I’m in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, about to walk into New Monkey, a recording studio in Van Nuys. It’s just down the street from the legendary Sound City Studios (which has seen the likes of folks including RCPH, Nirvana, Johnny Cash and Fleetwood Mac record). New Monkey Studio has some history in its own right. The studio was once owned by singer-songwriter Elliot Smith (who recorded a song of the same name). Smith equipped the studio with a vintage, early-’70s Trident A-Range (there are said to be only eight left in the world), a board that is the same type of A-Range used on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Robert Cappadona and Joel Graves took over the studio after Smith’s passing in 2003 and still run with the same love for warm analog sound. The entrance to the studio is in a back alley, behind a chain-link fence with N.M.S on the door, the only thing that lets you know you are in the right place. Today a few high-schoolers who have turned their garage band into a thrashy live act playing surf and snow festivals and inspiring school-night mosh pits.
The Band is known as The Alive and is comprised of Manoa Neukermans, 12, on bass and vocals; Kai Neukermans, 15, on drums and Bastian Evans, 15, on guitar and vocals.
The band members gave us a behind-the-scenes look at recording at New Monkey Studio
We’re on the very same soundboard legends such as the Police, and Rush recorded on. You guys must be absolutely stoked! What’s the occasion for being at New Monkey Studio
Yes, we literally can’t stop saying “Rush recorded Tom Sawyer on this board” Rush! “Tom Sawyer!” Amazing!! The Police recorded on this board too. Incredible. We’re here tracking six or seven of our originals with Greg Cortez, a sound engineer and Brent Woods (Brent just worked on Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders’ album). We are here at New Monkey because Robert, the studio’s owner, was at a Venice show we played for called Save the Waves at Farm League where we covered “Tom Sawyer.” We couldn’t believe it when he told us about this board! We jumped at the chance to record on it. We are tracking “Tom Sawyer” today to honor Neil Peart and Rush.
I’ve been listening to you play all afternoon, you’re incredibly talented—how long have you been playing? And how did you get together?
Thanks! We’re having so much fun. When we were 8 years old, Kai and I started another band called The Helmets. We played Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Surfrider benefits, BottleRock and tons of shows. We also learned a lot about writing. Manoa [who is 12 now] is Kai’s younger brother, he was always around skating and surfing with us. He picked up the bass when he was 6 or 7 and played for a band from Santa Cruz with shows at skateparks almost every weekend. We started The Alive and needed a bass player and Kai already had one…living at his house, in the bedroom across the hall.
What grades are you in?
Bastian: Kai and I are in 10th grade and Manoa is in 6th grade.
Bastian, your dad said you were the cause of a school-night mosh pit last week? First period in school must be tough for you guys…
Haha… Yeah, that’s true. We were opening for T.S.O.L. up at Mammoth Mountain. It was a Tuesday night and we had a crazy mosh pit going! The show was so fun. We were all sleepy in class after that show but it’s always worth it.
You’ve played a ton of awesome gigs, any of them stand out in your mind as most memorable?
Playing BottleRock Napa’s main stage was insane. It’s a huge stage and an awesome festival. Going to England to play Boardmasters…the whole experience was incredible. Lollapalooza Chile, the waves are so good and we can’t wait to go back this year! We played Spain last year…that was insane too. And opening for Taylor Hawkins with Chevy Metal at a sold-out BottleRock after-show was amazing. But all the shows are fun. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big stage or a local surf shop.
Who have you been most excited to share the stage with?
Perry Farrell jumped on stage to sing “Mountain Song” with us at Lollapalooza Chile with our first band. Between all of us we’ve jammed with Donavon Frankenreiter, Robert Trujillo of Metallica, Greg Bissonette, Peter Harper, Drew Hester (drummer for Joe Walsh and Stevie Nicks), Brent Woods, Wiley Hogden of Chevy Metal, Taylor Hawkins and Stephanie Gilmore. We also got to play a few shows with Ron Artis II and the Truth around the Pipe event in Hawaii in December. Ron’s band and his brothers are next-level talented and 100% aloha!
Who’s better on the chords, Steph Gilmore or Tom Curren?
Hmmm…both are favorite surfers of ours. Stephanie has played Sabbath with us. She’s rad. I guess Tom Curren will have to sit in with us to know for sure! Officially invited.
What musicians most inspire your music?
Dave Grohl, Rush and Neil Peart, Taylor Hawkins, RHCP, QOTSA and Tool. We all listen to everything from Sabbath to the Meters. And our coaches Jay Michaelis, Steve Evans, Spencer Askin and Brent Woods.
Which one of your friends moshes the hardest?
Tahven, Koa and Hawk from Seacliff. Hawk is the first to crowd surf always.
Whose garage do you practice most at?
Probably Kai and Manoa’s garage and my living room sometimes.
What do your neighbors think of that?
Manoa and Kai have at least one neighbor that doesn’t like the noise! I have new neighbors so we’ll let you know in a few months.