The Bay Area has been home to many top rock and roll bands. From Jefferson Starship/Airplane, Santana and Journey, to Metallica, Green Day and Train, this area has been a hotbed of rock talent. With such a rich and treasured past, could MdK, a band consisting of four teenagers from the I-680 corridor, be the next big thing?
MdK originally consisted of Matt Salavitch (bass), Keller O’Rourke (drums), Nick Hays (lead guitar) and Tyler Stimspon (lead vocals and rhythm guitar). The boys met while participating in the Grizzlies Jazz Band at California High School and formed MdK roughly fourteen months ago. Since then, it has been a whirlwind adventure with this young band accumulating accolades and notoriety along the way. Recently, the band replaced Tyler with Kyle Paquin of Pleasant Hill. Kyle (19) graduated from College Park High School in June and will be heading to Diablo Valley College this fall.
MdK is a fresh mix of alterative, pop and classic rock along the lines of Good Charlotte, All American Rejects and Yellowcard. Their debut CD, Its Never Over, released in January of this year by R-Tist Records, is a powerful collection of high energy songs with great hooks, catchy lyrics and solid musicianship. When I sat down with Keller (18), Matt (16) and Nick (18), the boys had been in the midst of a two hour, mostly instrumental, rehearsal where they played a new song for me entitled, Left Side. “We’re working on an edgier, more mature sound,” says Keller, who the guys admit is the strongest musician in the band. Keller and Nick write a majority of the band’s songs. Nick explained, “As we get older, our lyrics take on a deeper content.”
Like most successful bands, each member of the group brings something unique to the table. Keller, also a freshman at DVC this fall, is very much into the sound and technical side of the music—not a big surprise since his dad is the band’s sound technician. Matt, a high school junior, is the charismatic outgoing one in the group. He is the best athlete and student within the MdK ranks and understandably gets most of the female attention with his muscular frame and charismatic smile. Nick, a senior, is much more serious and intense. He has “old soul” rock roots (Brad Gillis of Night Ranger is a close family friend) having been raised around musicians his entire life. Kyle, is the new kid on the block. He brings a dynamic change of pace to the MdK lead singer role. His strong vocal chops and vivacious stage presence should appeal to the band’s existing fan base and industry insiders evaluating the group’s potential.
While the guys admit there are the typical minor band disagreements, they all count on each other to make the group stronger as a whole. “We are always trying to perfect our playing and expand the sound,” says Matt. At the photo shoot, Kyle joined the band for two numbers, The Concert Song and Montana. Having just seen the band at the San Ramon Art and Wind Festival, I can already tell the band’s sound is maturing.
When asked what their goals are and how they would define success, Nick explains, “Making it” is what it’s all about. “We want the big fan base, big gigs, a big CD release with national airplay and video rotation.” “We want to play great music,” Matt states. “We want to be EPIC and get our music heard”, Keller adds. A definable goal is to play the main stage of the WARPED tour. This is another reason for the harder edge sound that the WARPED tour is known for having showcased bands such as Fall Out Boy, 30 Seconds to Mars, Simple Plan and Paramore, to name just a few who have headlined the festival over the years.
The boys of MdK plan to accomplish this feat with the help of their team which consists primarily of their parents. In additional to Keller’s dad, Cameron, handling sound and the website, Matt’s parents handle logistics and the band’s nutritional regimen, and Nick’s mom, Danielle, is the group’s Manager. “The parents have handled the business end of the band to allow the boys to focus on the creative process. We have goal setting sessions, planning meetings and the guys are learning more and more about the music industry a little at a time,” Danielle says. For their part, the boys appear to be sincerely grateful. The band has also added seasoned Road Manager Jesse Battle. Jesse has a long and storied history working with bands such as Journey, Eddie Money and Y&T.
While the band has already appeared on Television twice, it was a gig at a Youth to Youth Conference that they all agree has been the best experience so far. “There were over 600 people at the show and it was crazy,” Nick tells. “The boys hung out for close to 90 minutes after their set signing autographs,” added Danielle.
Keller says for now there is no Plan B. “We are going to give it everything we have and hope this all comes together.” The guys seem more than willing to make the sacrifices needed to crack the big time. The devote two hours daily to rehearsal. “It’s no worse than playing high school sports,” Nick says. Matt adds, “We don’t feel like we’re giving anything up. Our lives are very balanced.” Keller adds that playing every day with the band and getting to play live shows is worth all the practice. However, “Nobody likes lugging gear,” Keller states, although Danielle is quick to point out that the parents are usually performing roadie work while the guys usually interact with fans after a show.
Having followed the Northern California rock music scene for most of my life, MdK impresses me as a band with all the potential in the world. Matt, Nick, Keller and Kyle exhibit the type of heart and dedication needed to make it in the music industry today. The boys are poised to make their mark soon, having verbally committed to play at the NAMM show, taking place in Anaheim next January. NAMM is one the largest music product trade shows in the world, drawing over 90,000 attendees annually. It’s a good bet that with the team they’ve assembled and the contacts they are accumulating, the big time may not be far away. Given the chance, you may want to say, “I saw MdK live when they were first starting out.” In 1984, Huey Lewis and the News (another band hailing from the Bay Area) released the song The Heart of Rock and Roll is Still Beating. MdK is living proof that the heart beat of Bay Area rock music is alive and well.
MdK will be headlining Crow Canyon Rocks, a concert benefiting the Discovery Counseling Center of San Ramon Valley, on September 23rd at the Crow Canyon Country Club. For show details and ticket information visit the Discovery Center website at www.discoveryctr.net/fundraiseringevents/mdkconcert.html.