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Teens' band plays for keeps


Everything I said, you said "No!"

Should we keep on trying or should we go ...?

-- from "It's About Time"

Rehearsing in the drummer's Clarksville basement Tuesday night -- surrounded by silver insulation and Christmas lawn ornaments -- the boys of Easy Access were all about vertical energy. They bounced on cue like kangaroos in shorts, stole stage moves from Blink 182 and generally mugged shamelessly for the camera, swearing afterward that image is nothing.

It's a tried-and-true formula for suburban pop/punk/alternative bands: dress down, act goofy, pledge allegiance to apathy and jump like fleas on stage. And it's working for them.

The four River Hill High School seniors -- Justin Bakhshai, 16, on lead guitar and vocals; John Holmes, 17, on guitar and back-up vocals; Chris Engle, 18, on bass; and Kyle Kralowetz, 17, on drums -- just got a gig at Recher Theatre in Towson. Tonight, they will be the second of three bands, playing a one-hour set on the same stage that's held Fuel, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Macy Gray, Ziggy Marley and even Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"Bands we idolize have played there," Engle said. "This is really big."

Used to rockin' at backyard barbecues and birthday parties (with the occasional paid performance at Cafe Tattoo in Baltimore), the band now shows up on Ticketmaster's Web site.

Part of a generation that has watched unknown musicians become popular in a short time, the guys are hoping the performance will be the right networking tool to help them snag a recording contract before college rolls around.

"They started out as just a gang of friends fiddling around," said Kyle's father, Joe Kralowetz. "But as they became better, they became a little more serious."

Now, two years after getting together, they're counting on becoming superstars while juggling classes and after-school sports.

But in case it doesn't happen this year, they will still fill out college applications. Kralowetz will study law if he has to, Engle will be a filmmaker, Holmes is interested in biology and Bakhshai wants to be a doctor.

"We have some lofty aspirations," Kralowetz said.

The band's sound fits right in with today's alternative scene, falling into the poppy-punk niche with a bit of an edge. They're loud, fast and sing mostly about high school experiences and girls.

"We make songs that are catchy and fun, songs people like," said Bakhshai, who writes most of the band's music. "We're not trying to make people think too deep."

"It's About Time," the title song of the band's second compact disc, is something of an anthem for the group. It's about record producers not giving bands a chance unless they have the right connections, which Easy Access is trying to set up before its members give up.

They have begun a blanket promotion campaign that involves dropping off their CDs at radio stations, distributing press packets and hundreds of fliers and courting managers.

Holmes says band members are no longer known among their peers as John, Chris, Kyle and Justin. They tend to travel in a pack and are just "the band" wherever they go -- as in "Oh, the band's here" or "Hey, where's the band?" It's a picture they seem to like, and one that fuels their rock-star dreams.

And though their parents all want them to go to college first, they are generally caught up in the guys' excitement.

"It would be interesting to see if they had a crack at [making] it," Kralowetz's father said. "I think they're talented enough, and you never know. Some of it's just being in the right place at the right time."

Easy Access plays tonight at the Recher Theatre at 512 York Road in Towson. Doors open at 8 p.m.; the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5. Information: 410-337-7178, Some of the band's songs are online at

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