westlife.northcoastnow.com: Archie and the Bunkers
Emmett and Cullen O’Connor may be teenagers, but there’s nothing “boy band” about their duo Archie and the Bunkers.
“We’re pretty loud and the organ is the only melodic instrument. It’s got that fast, heavy, raw edge to it,” explained drummer Emmett, 17, describing the band’s “Hi-Fi organ punk” sound during a recent interview with West Life at the family’s Rocky River home.
“Punk is just the general attitude of our music,” added Cullen, 14, who handles keyboard duties.
The brothers, who just released their first full-length, 12 song album at the sold out Beachland Ballroom on Sept. 25, have been making waves in the local music scene since their debut at the Grog Shop in 2013 and are hoping signing with UK label Dirty Water Records will bring international interest. But first, they had to overcome preconceptions about their ages.
Recording tunes in their basement studio, the teens put together a nine-song demo, which they sent to Beachland and the Grog Shop. The response was immediate, and the band was booked for the Grog Shop.
“You should have seen the faces when we rolled in,” Emmett recalled.
“Every single place we played the first time, we got dirty looks from the sound people,” added Cullen, who was just 12 for the Grog Shop show.
But then, there was the raw, intense sound. “As soon as they started playing music, it was like, ‘Oh, I see’,” observed their dad Marty, himself a drummer.
“As their manager, I was not going to play up the youth thing. I just want to get them shows on their merit,” said Marty. He laughed, recalling an early Facebook page where he posted a picture of an older organ/drum duo with” Archie and the Bunkers” photo shopped onto the drum.
“Once you’re older, you don’t have that (youth) aesthetic anymore and you’re going to have to do it on your music,” added Emmett. He noted that their audiences are not just young people, running the gamut of ages.
Although the brothers don’t watch much TV, it was a rerun of “Maude” that inspired their band’s name. After Cullen suggested “Maude and the Findleys,” they decided on Archie and the Bunkers, after the “All in the Family” patriarch.
Asked why their band is minus the rock staple guitar, Cullen, who also has played bass, said, “We tried to put something together with guitar players, but it never happened.”
“It never started out like we wanted to be a duo. It just kind of happened,” added Emmett.
With a family of performers, including mom Jen, a ballet instructor and former dancer, music has been a mainstay in the O’Connor home. Emmett said he first picked up drumsticks at age 5, gradually adding the challenge of singing while playing. Cullen took piano lessons at an early age, switching to bass guitar, then back to keyboards when he was 12.
Emmett said his inspirations include jazz drummers such as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Cullen added that punk bands such as the British group The Damned influence his style.
Writing most of the tunes for the band’s songs, Cullen revealed, “The melody spontaneously gets in my head, and I have to do something with it.”
“We’re big old Hollywood movie buffs,” continued Emmett, who said he gets some of his lyric ideas from classic films. “I do the drums, he (Cullen) does the keyboard and the lyrics get tossed in after that’s done,” he added.
While every performer aims for the stars, fame should not be the only goal, according to the O’Connors. “The modicum of success they’ve had so far wasn’t a forethought,” remarked Marty.
“We just said, ‘Let’s try to write a song. Then let’s practice and play in a show sometime,’” said Emmett.
A lot of practice and originality are key to success according to the duo. “Put your own spin on something. Don’t copy. Be original, but not (so) original that people don’t like you,” advised Cullen.