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Cleveland.com: Archie and the Bunkers

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Emmett and Cullen O'Connor didn't really start out to be a duo when the brothers put together Archie and the Bunkers, one of the hottest new bands in Northeast Ohio.

Emmett, 17, plays drums and is the primary vocalist for the group. Cullen, 14, plays keyboards – specifically an organ. Hence, the band's sound is defined as "Hi-Fi Organ Punk.''

They and their first full-length album, cleverly named "Archie and the Bunkers'' are the guests of honor at an album release party Friday night at the Beachland Ballroom Tavern.

The guys have been around as a band since 2013, and have put out a couple of EPs, recorded in their basement, that have put them on the musical map here and – with luck – across the country.

It's not that the two, who live in Rocky River with their parents, Martin and Jen O'Connor, are intentionally following the footsteps of two-man bands like Twenty One Pilots or Akron's the Black Keys.

"It didn't start out that way,'' said Emmett in a call to their home last week. "My brother at the time was playing bass and we were looking to start a band, and looking for a guitarist.  "We went through quite a bit of guitarists and it really wasn't working out,'' Emmett said. "They were too busy or they weren't the sound we were looking for.''

So Cullen came up with the idea for the organ. His older brother wasn't quite sure, and then he found the '70s band the Screamers – which boasted a singer, a drummer and a pair of organ players.

Bingo. Hi-Fi Organ Punk.

"The hi-fi part – we're not necessarily like lo-fi,'' Emmett said. "You can hear our lyrics and the organ is crisp and clear. The organ . . . is the only melodic form of music other than the vocals, and our sound was always kind of punk.''

Emmett handles the bulk of the singing chores, and handles the vocals with aplomb – which isn't always easy for a drummer, considering that the instrument requires all four extremities to be in action, and could be especially tough considering the rapidity of Emmett's beats.

Note "could be.''

"I've been playing drums for 11 years – ever since I was 5, so it's kind of instinct to play drums,'' he said. "I started singing and playing when I was 10, so I've been doing that for quite a while.''

As you might expect with siblings, the band is very much a collaborative effort.

"[Cullen] writes all the organ and all the melody,'' Emmett said. "It started out with me writing all the lyrics, but he's done quite a bit of it now, with vocals as well.''

As you might expect, the family ties are pretty strong. The boys' father is a former drummer and serves as their manager. The mom is a ballet teacher.

"Our dad being a drummer, he got us into some good music,'' Emmett said. "From that, we branched out and started looking up bands and really getting into music. And our mom being a performer, well, we love to perform.''

The band's stage presence is professional far beyond their years, but it's the music itself that has a different vibe to it. Partly that's because both teens are outstanding musicians, technically speaking. But more than that, it's the songs themselves.

"I like to think of [what we do] as rock 'n' roll, taking from the blues like the Rolling Stones did, or the damned,'' Emmett said. "You see things and they really don't rub you the right way.''

It's one thing for someone in their 20s to see those things and compose complete songs, and quite another for two boys in their teens to do it, which is one reason the band has created such a buzz in their hometown.

"We never tried to play on our ages,'' Emmett said. "We thought that could be a deterrent as well. What happens when we grow up and I'm not 17 anymore and my brother's not 14?

"We just play our music.''

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