Opening for the Jonas Brothers during their current U.S. tour is the pop rock band Honor Society. Their hit single “Where Are You Now?” is featured in the new high school musical “Bandslam” starring Aly Michalka and Vanessa Hudgens.
The foursome – Michael Bruno, Jason Rosen, Andrew Lee, and Alexander Noyes – will release their debut album Fashionably Late on Sept. 15, 2009. They sat down with me for a chat before their concert in San Antonio.
This is your first major tour. How excited are you to be able to finally do this and get to open for the Jonas Brothers?
Andrew Lee: We’ve been going for a couple of months now and it’s just been amazing touring with the Jonas Brothers. It’s been an incredible opportunity and so much fun. Day in day out we get to do what we love for so many people. The Jonas Brothers have been so gracious in giving us this opportunity. Plus, they’re good friends of ours so we get to do what we love to do with good friends. It couldn’t be better.
All of you are obvious not in high school anymore but your single “Where Are You Now?” has a lot of high school themes. Can you tell me what your high school years were like?
Michael Bruno: I had a great high school experience. I found what served me best was being friends with everybody – the athletes, the kids that were more into their classes, the artistic kids, the musicians. I really got to learn a lot from having such a wide variety of friends. I would encourage a lot of other kids in high school and junior high to get to know people outside of their comfort zone.
Yeah, a lot of times kids just want to stay in their cliques. Were any of you like that? Who did you hang out with in high school?
Jason Rosen: Well, actually, Michael and I went to high school together. We sort of had the same experience where everyone hung out together. It was like everyone could hang out and make friends. There were no distinct lines and cliques. There was more openness. I think it was great. I know the song “Where Are You Now?” has that sort of nostalgic feel of high school and that moment where you have that ultimate experience with everyone and can look back and think about those experience that make you who you are.
Talk to me about the song “Where Are You Now?”
Alexander Noyes: We recorded the song for the “Bandslam” soundtrack, which came out earlier this week. It’s been a great opportunity. We’ve been able to partner with Summit Entertainment and actually show up at theaters and play acoustic sets for fans of the movie and fans of the band. It’s been a great summer. We’re so thrilled that it’s finally out.
“Where Are You Now?” seems like an obvious choice for a senior class song at the end of the year. Did you think about that?
Michael Bruno: Yeah, I think that final song in the senior montage video always sticks with you. If we could be part of someone’s memories for high school it would be awesome.
The song talks about different people one would have experiences with throughout life, including a favorite teacher, a 5th grade crush, a first kiss. I was hoping each of you could pick one of those and give me the name of that person and tell me why you remember them.
Andrew Lee: I’ll pick my favorite teacher. It was my math teacher in 8th and 9th grade, Mr. Kurto. He was just awesome. I still see him when I go home. I see him at the farmer’s market when I go there with my parents. He was a really supportive teacher.
Michael Bruno: Um, favorite teacher, Mrs. Tapalachi. She had a great sense of humor and was really smart. She was an English lit. teacher but she really took interest in me as a musician. She was a great supporter of my dreams.
Jason Rosen: Yeah, she really was a good teacher. Um, I’ll say my first kiss. It was this girl named Holly. It was in 7th grade. She was a cute girl and it was a nice experience.
Alexander Noyes: Well, my teacher would be Ms. Spearman. She was a music teacher I had back in middle school. She really got me into music and choir at a young age. I was also in the cross country team in high school, so I would say that being in a community of peers you becomes such a tight-knit family.
How does a movie like “Bandslam” help emphasize the message of your song?
Andrew Lee: I feel like the song and the movie have a similarity in that the song is about those moments in your life that shape who you are. When you watch the movie, you kind of get that same feeling. When I saw the movie it took me right back to high school.
With the new school year just about to begin, do you have an advice for high school seniors who, after this year, will have to go out into the real world?
Jason Rosen: I would just say enjoy yourself and have fun living in the moment. Also, think about the future and live and experience as much as you can.
Starring: Alyson Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, Gaelan Connell
Directed by: Todd Graff (“Camp”)
Written by: Todd Graff (“Camp”) and Josh A. Cagan (debut)
Until someone adapts “Twilight” into a vampire musical, tweens everywhere will have to put all their hopes into the coming-of-age music flick “Bandslam” to be the sensible replacement for three years worth of “High School Musical” dance sequences.
But when most of the young characters in “Bandslam” prove to have the personalities of cardboard cutouts one would find displayed in a mall music store to peddle new CDs, there’s not much to expect other than a few catchy songs and a script as fascinating as a cheesy message scribbled in the back of a high school yearbook.
In “Bandslam,” director Todd Graff, who helmed the 2003 film “Camp” about the students of a New York performance art camp, doesn’t have much of a leading man in Gaelan Connell. Connell, who looks like the lovechild of Shia LaBeouf (“Transformers”) and Jesse Eisenberg (“Adventureland”), plays high school dweeb Will Burton, an encyclopedia of music knowledge who is misunderstood by his peers and has become “comfortably numb” with his average life.
Aware of her son’s unhappiness, Will’s mom Karen (Lisa Kudrow) decides they will pack everything up and start a new life in New Jersey. At his new school, Will quickly makes friends with loner hipster girl Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens, who explains that the 5 in her name is silent; how very clever) and ex-cheerleader Charlotte Banks (Alyson Michalka of Aly & AJ fame).
Will enrolls in school just as everyone starts talking about the upcoming music competition known as Bandslam. The talent show features the best high school bands (we’re not talking about the ones that march during halftime) in the city that are all vying for a record contract. Charlotte is set on being one of the two band chosen to represent her school. The problem is that their band Glory Dogs, a splinter group of Charlotte’s former band Ben Wheatly and the Glory Dogs, isn’t ready for the spotlight.
In steps Will as the band’s new manager ready to whip the group into shape and make the necessary changes they need to win. Everything basically falls into place pretty easily with Graff’s script. The band becomes too good too fast while Will and Sa5m discover that their friendship is turning into something more meaningful.
While Hudgens tries to break out her “High School Musical” mold and portray a character with a little more attitude, Sa5m, along with the rest of the characters, just aren’t fleshed out well enough to get past all the clichés and familiar storyline. It’s also not as witty as Graff would like it to be. Much of the dialogue is unnatural (“Emotions are overrated,” “I don’t do whys”), which drains the high schoolers of their charm.
All the rocking out leads to the Battle of the Bands-type competition and a surprise twist in the story that tries to tie everything together in the film’s waning moments. Emotionally, there’s not much to care about in the lives of these students other than their musical talent. But even that’s not enough when everyone – with the exception of Hudgens – seems like they’re lip-syncing and playing air guitar.