In February 2009, a group of seniors at Mira Costa High School, along with one from Rolling Hills Preparatory School and Bishop Montgomery High School, formed a party band, Slow Kids at Play. College interrupted the band’s momentum, but they were still able to record original music that hit the iTunes charts. Now free from the school grind, some of the original band members have reignited the band to create a new chapter in its history.
The original members of the band included Hunter Porter (keyboards), Max Hamilton (vocals), Ryan Hadley (bassist), Steve Beuder (guitar), Ben Biener (guitar) and Dylan O'Brien (drums and vocals). The new lineup has seen some changes. Hadley has moved to San Francisco, so Porter has been filling in on bass. O'Brien has become a TV star with one of the lead roles in “Teen Wolf” so he has taken a hiatus from the band because of his hectic schedule. Beuder's younger brother, Chris, is now playing drums.
Hamilton, who is an actor himself, said the new band has shifted from its California reggae roots.
“With the reggae genre there’s only so much you can do with it ... but we already expressed that avenue with three EPs we’ve already done,” Hamilton said. “We had a choice, do we want to do that again and add on to that or we have all this excess energy that we can funnel into a new avenue. It’s a different sound. It’s still beachy and still very local in a sense ... but it's a little louder and more aggressive this time around.”
Slow Kids at Play will next perform locally at Saint Rocke on Saturday, Oct. 19, opening for the Hermosa Beach-bred Tomorrows Bad Seeds, who will be performing its last two shows at the club this weekend before the band goes on hiatus.
With reggae influences as well as from the historic local punk scene stars such as Pennywise and Black Flag, Safe Kids at Play was formed during the second semester of their senior year when they had already been accepted to their colleges and they had a lot of time on their hands. Their first gig was at a house party on Sixth Street.
“We performed a couple originals ... at the time we were influenced by mainly three bands – The Expendables, Slightly Stoopid and Pepper,” Porter said. “The California reggae scene was really big then ... that was the whole vibe. Costa had a really party culture to the school, every weekend there was a party at someone’s house.”
“Right when we started it kind of ended ... there were gradation parties, we were all over the place,” Porter added.
The band members went to their respective schools – Hadley to UC Santa Barbara, Beuder to UC Santa Cruz, Biener eventually to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, O'Brien to Santa Monica City College, Porter to USC and Hamilton to UCLA. But they did try to keep the music alive.
“We tried to make it work during college, but everybody had something going on, people were going away and there was no way we could get together on a regular basis,” Porter said. “We had people up the coast, out of state.”
“We never ended it, but when we’d come back for winter break or summer we’d have like our we’re back in action tour and kick it off ... we’d be the event to get everybody together,” Hamilton added.
“We kind of use the nostalgia effect to our advantage because all of our friends would come home for school ... we throw shows and play all of our old stuff, that’s what everybody knew, and had a good time,” Porter said. “It was always a party and that’s what we were known for. It was a good time for our friends to just get together.”
Slow Kids at Play was able to record a couple EPs after the band members graduated from high school and after freshman year in college. They combined the EPs and released them on iTunes in September 2011. O’Brien went to college for about a year when he landed the role of Stiles in “Teen Wolf,” which was just renewed by MTV for its fourth season, and his acting career took off. O’Brien’s fans, many of them ’tweens, then caught on that he was in this band called Slow Kids at Play. When the EP was released, sales went through the roof, at least for a couple of days, when they were “riding in the wake,” of O'Brien's popularity.
“The coolest thing is we got into the top charts of reggae on iTunes,” Hamilton said. “To be honest, we were cracking up that this was actually happening. Eventually it got to the point where we were the No. 2 spot in reggae behind Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ album.”
Hunter said that it has been ‘kind of a blessing and a curse” with O’Brien's social media fan base.
“We don’t have much of a following here, but we have fans in Germany ... It’s been cool that people are genuinely interested in our music,” Porter said. “It’s just hard for us to figure out which fans dig us or dig us because of Dylan. We just had a girl hit us up in P.V. to play her sweet 16 and she specifically requested Dylan. We‘re like, ‘Sorry, he doesn’t play with us anymore, he’s been busy with his acting stuff'’... the interest was lost for her.”
But since the band is now out of ‘life support,” according to Porter, they are moving in a new direction, broadening away from their “jumping off point” of reggae and looking for respect with their new band members.
“We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take what we do seriously and we want something that has a lot of depth in terms of what we’re saying,” Porter said. “We were talking about ... the concept of time and how it affects you mentally and it’s something that every human being goes through. We don’t want it to be lost on 13-year-old girls. We want people to really listen to this like it’s a piece of art. We want to be taken seriously. We want people to enjoy it because it’s good music and they get a lot out of it at the same time.”
They will be playing some new music Saturday at Saint Rocke. The band will also be performing at DiPiazza's in Long Beach on Oct. 31 and Sharkeez in Manhattan Beach on Nov. 5. Then they hope to hit the recording studio soon after.
“We’re listening to the crowd,” Hamilton said. “We’re seeing what people react to. We’re really playing with it in a public sense ... we're adapting to the energy we're going to record with.”
For more information, search for Slow Kids at Play on Facebook or visit saintrocke.com.