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Tedious Takes the Stage at ORHS

      I first saw Tedious, an eclectic rock band composed of Oyster River juniors, take the stage in the spring of last year. It was the night of the quarter four Coffeehouse, and I had arrived just in time to hear the MC invite them to the stage.

     “Alright, please give it up for…,” the MC paused to ask the band what they wanted to be called. Thinking about it only briefly beforehand, Micah Bessette (‘24), the bassist, called out Tasty. The band shrugged, then nodded in agreement. “Ok,” the MC continued. “Everybody put your hands together for Tasty!”

     When Tasty, who later renamed themselves Tedious, first walked onto the stage, you would never have known it was only their second time playing together. As they adjusted their mic stands and plugged their guitars into amps, they seemed to carry themselves with a certain professionalism, despite their shaky hands and nervous glances back and forth at one another.

     But, after Molly Schmidt (‘24), the band’s singer, gave a firm head nod toward lead guitarist, Logan Jabour (‘24), as if to say, “there’s no going back now,” the band’s drummer, Miles Gans (‘24) counted the band into their first song: “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.

     I still remember how pulsating the opening riff was, so much so that audience members with their backs against the stage physically turned their heads to see who was playing. The band, who was gaining confidence with every chord change, was tight, and their chemistry was palpable.

     Jabour later confessed that although he looked composed, he was terrified, given the most he had ever performed in front of a crowd was during his middle school jazz band concerts. “When it’s just the four of us up there, it’s different; all eyes are on you,” he told me. However, whenever Jabour would begin to clam up, he said looking down at his guitar, closing his eyes, and just “feeling the music” calmed his nerves. Getting through those rough patches, and nailing the riffs he had expected to bomb, reminded him of how hard he had worked to get to that moment and how right it felt playing with his bandmates.

      For me, one of the most interesting staples of high school life is the high school rock band. From long-haired Jimmy Page wannabes to rap groups formed in the wake of Wu-Tang Clan stardom, every school and every generation had that one group of kids who communicated more effectively through pentatonic scales than the English language.

     When I set out to cover Tedious, I expected it would be a typical story on a young rock band. Something that showcased their talents, reflected on the obstacles they’ve overcome, and highlighted their hopes for the future. But, when I learned of how the band came together, and of their plans to split up after high school, I was surprised by how blunt they were. Don’t get me wrong, I know most high school bands don’t last past graduation, but typically band members will uphold the dream for as long as possible, until they’re finally able to admit such an ending is inevitable.

I was shocked by the band’s honesty with themselves, and this honesty revealed a whole world of questions I hadn’t previously considered: Why dedicate so much time and energy toward something that’s eventually going to end? How do you form a cohesive band when everyone has different music tastes and styles? What purpose does the band fulfill that other things in their life can’t?

     Like most high school music groups, none of the band’s members ever expected they would end up performing together. In fact, when the idea to form a band was first proposed in the spring of last year, Bessette, Schmidt, Jabour, and Gans had barely played alongside other people.

     “Up until that point, all of our music journeys had been pretty individual, meaning we all pretty much developed a love of playing and creating music on our own before joining any sort of group,” said Jabour, who laughed when he admitted that instead of seeking out people to jam with, he would spend hours isolated in his room, learning Iron Maiden riffs by ear.

I. The Instigator

     With his “half-shaved, half-Lennon flow” hairstyle and his refusal to wear anything but band tees, it’s hard to imagine Jabour as anything other than a lead guitarist. However, Jabour says his musical career kickstarted in elementary and middle school band rehearsals, where he first learned “the art of the trombone.” It wasn’t until the sixth grade, when he taught himself both piano and guitar, that he began to crave the feeling of “release” that playing music gave him.

     When I spoke with Jabour, it was apparent he was one of those people who doesn’t just love music, but lives for it. As I peppered him with endless questions about artists and albums, he told me about his favorite bands, the addictions they battled, the albums they sold out on, and the songs that made them. His mind functions as a sort of pop culture repository, where obscure music trivia and the hundreds of band names and song titles he’s committed to memory have accumulated over the years.

     By sophomore year, Jabour was dedicating more time outside of school to perfect riffs and was striving towards rocking like some of his idols, Corey Taylor and Tony Iommi. But even though he was sounding better every day, Jabour was convinced his lack of confidence was obstructing his ability to take his music outside the security of his bedroom. So, when he heard someone playing “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden during Flex one day, he suppressed his nerves and jumped at the opportunity to join in on the harmonies. “That was the first time I ever played with someone, and it just struck a chord in me, you know?…When I play on my own, I feel great, but after that moment, it just felt complete. It was the final piece I needed; I needed to play with people,” said Jabour.

II. The Backbone

     A couple of days after his “Flex jam session,” Jabour asked his longtime friend, Miles Gans, during advisory if he wanted to start a band. Like Jabour, Gans is also a musician (even though he denies it when people call him one) and got his musical start playing the trombone through the fifth to the ninth grade. He switched over to drums after he got tired of pretending that brass instruments were his thing.

     “There’s not a lot of expression in playing the trombone ‘cause everything’s very structured. Part of drumming is learning to be free and learning to improvise and express your feelings through the beat. Drumming just always seemed more me,” said Gans.

     My first conversation with Gans, which consisted of me pestering him with questions as he sloppily assembled his electric drum set in the corner, occurred an hour before the band was set to perform at the Freedom Café. Almost immediately, I could tell that Gans was a deeply private person by the way he anxiously tapped his fingers on the table and, within the first five minutes of our interview, ironically told me he “disliked the idea of publicity.” However, as soon as he switches out his finger drumsticks for real ones, it’s as though he adopts a new rock and roll persona. One that allows him to let go and leave everything —the sadness, the stress, the anxiety— on the floor, in front of everyone.

     When Gans admitted that he hoped to someday rock like John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and jam with some of his other inspirations, I questioned why drumming had a hold on him that some of his other passions, like singing, didn’t.

     “I think being the backbone of the music is where I like to be,” he told me. “You know, keeping the beat and the tempo, I feel like I have power and responsibility. That’s why when Logan was talking to me about starting a band, I was in… I guess I was ready to be that backbone for people.”

III. The Mitski Lover

     During Jabour’s and Gans’ advisory conversation, Molly Schmidt, who also happens to be in the same advisory, claims she was “sucked in” when one of her friends advertised her singing abilities to the boys. “At first, I was convinced [Jabour and Gans] were joking about [forming a band], but when they kept bringing it up days later, I was like, oh, so this really happening.”

     Schmidt, the group’s lead singer, said she finds it ironic she wound up in a band with two guys who love metal, given her taste is a mix of indie, alternative, rock and “so much Mitski she should basically qualify as her own genre.” Unlike Jabour and Gans, Schmidt’s love of music developed at the age of seven through her love of musicals and singing. She finally picked up the piano and guitar over quarantine because she was sick of performing alongside cheesy karaoke tracks on YouTube. 

     Schmidt told me she mostly uses music to be honest with herself and to document her life, something she accomplishes through frantic songwriting sessions where her only goal is to dump her thoughts onto the page. Although she enjoys shredding with the boys on electric guitar, she told me she feels most herself when the music is stripped down so that it’s just her voice and her acoustic guitar; no gimmicks.

     “It’s nice to play alone because you don’t have to worry about all these extra things coming together. It’s just you, and you can just be super authentic,” said Schmidt. However, while Schmidt finds value in playing music individually, she also admitted she was ready for more than just playing acoustic songs in her bedroom. Shmidt didn’t know what the band would amount to, but she didn’t care; she just wanted something fun to do with her free time.

     Now, with Schmidt on board, “it felt like it was actually going to come together,” said Jabour.

     Before the band’s first official practice, Gans recruited bassist Micah Bessette (‘24), a.k.a “the final piece to the puzzle.”

IV. The Final Piece

     Bessette, whose tall stature, lanky frame, and gentle grip on the bass resembles that of a young John McVie, told me becoming a musician was inevitable, given he comes from a family of musicians. However, despite the fact he’s been surrounded by music from a young age and vividly remembers the hours he would spend banging plastic drums and xylophones with his brother, he claims he didn’t feel a true love for music until he received his bass last Christmas. In his own words, learning how to play the bass “triggered a sort of musical domino effect.”

     “I just played the bass every day and couldn’t stop analyzing baselines whenever I would listen to music,” said Bessette. “After picking up the bass, I found myself listening to more and more music and began playing more instruments, like the piano. I think I could spend days trapped in my room writing melodies.”

     Bessette recalled how the first song the band played lit a spark beneath all of them. Some of them were uncertain if their new arrangement would last past the first practice. They were uncertain how they could form a cohesive group when all of them had different musical tastes, experiences, and ambitions. But, for some reason, as soon as Jabour played the opening riff of Nirvana’s infamous ‘90s anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,”everything fell into place. “The funniest part is, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten it as polished as we did the first time we played it,” Gans said. “Maybe the universe was throwing us a bone and telling us we had to keep going.”

     When I asked them to articulate what was going through their heads the moment the final notes of the song reverberated into the emptiness of Schmidt’s basement, all of them told me the feeling was so gratifying it couldn’t be put into words.

     “I remember looking over at Miles and laughing when we were practicing because the smile on his face just kept getting bigger and bigger once he knew everything was coming together. I could feel it too; we all could,” Schmidt said. Beyond her initial shock that the band didn’t completely fall apart after the first verse, Schmidt recalled feeling an unexpected closeness to the kids she had always passed in the hallways, but never took the time to know.

     “Even though we all have really different music tastes and different ideas of where we want to go individually as musicians, we just work well together…The more we started playing, the more I began to see the band as my in to becoming friends with these amazing people…We had been in the same advisory for almost two years, but it was playing music that actually brought us together,” said Schmidt.

     Even on the days when the performances aren’t great, the practices aren’t efficient, and the rhythm is off-kilter, Gans likes to remind himself that it was never about perfection in the first place. To him, the band only serves a purpose if it’s authentic, if it’s enjoyable, and if they “just show up to play for the hell of it,” not because they’re expecting validation for putting on a good show.

     “Honestly, this band won’t last past high school— I mean, why would it? But, when I’m an adult and look back on it, I know it’s not going to have been for nothing. I feel like this band is giving me musical experiences. It’s giving me this opportunity to make mistakes and to learn from those now, and that’s something I’ll take with me if I ever do something with music in the future,” said Gans.

     Now, over six months after their first rehearsal, I sit and watch as the band prepares for their twelfth open mic night and observe them as they nervously fiddle around with their instruments.

     When they get on stage, you would never know they just spend half of their practice time fooling around, as they play hits from The Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” to The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” After attending their last three consecutive shows, I can confidently say that no performance is the same, and no performance is better than the other. I have realized that, while their musical ability sets them apart from other high school bands, so does their connection.

     A few days after the open mic performance, Jabour told me he had an answer as to why he dedicates so much time to a band that would likely separate within the next two years. “It’s for moments like the one we had last [performance]” he told me. “We never went into this band thinking we could become famous or whatever, we did it so we could just share what we love and do what we love…When I look back on my high school days, I’m going to see us, as one unit, jamming on stage…I’m going to see us in Laforce’s room before Coffeehouse, messing around on his keyboards. I’ll see us during our first practice in [Schimdt’s] basement, hitting every note. At the end of the day, that’s why we joined the band— to be a part of something that’s just…bigger than ourselves.”

– Abby Owens

Photos by Hazel Stasko

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