Back to School

"We were doing this interview on KGRG," Schoolyard Heroes' bassist Jonah Bergman says, innocently enough. "And they were like, 'So have you guys ever met any rock stars?' I was like, 'Yeah, one time when I was 18, I was working at Guitar Center, and Duff [McKagan, ex–Guns 'n Roses bassist] came in.' I was pretty starstruck."

Fair enough. Duff's a local boy who partied his pancreas to death alongside Axl and Slash—definitely a rock star. Bergman then relates the reply of his guitarist, Steve Bonnell—in the ultimate weenie-boy mimic: "Dude, this one time I was in Bellingham and I saw Minus the Bear and . . . " Dramatic pause. " . . . Dave K. was there."

The K. is for Knudson, the Bear's innovative axman. He can generally be seen, oh, at any bar in the Seattle metropolitan area, but a muse is a muse, if not always, technically, a star. Frontlady Ryann Donnelly gets in her own shoe-shuffling Bonnell imitation: "'Oh, hi Dave, I really like your guitar playing.' And he was like . . . 'Thanks.'"

Bonnell is not at the Ave's Tully's on an infuriatingly chilly late June afternoon to zing back (dude, no need; Knudson shreds). It's just fellow Husky undergrads Donnelly and Bergman, respectively the singsong yin and screamsong yang of Schoolyard Heroes, talkin' shit (certain local fashionistas biting Blood Brothers' faux-hawks), talkin' bullshit (the next album sure could use a 2 Live Crew cover), and existing as living proof of the dicey theorem Misfits + No Doubt = Good Band.

On debut The Funeral Sciences (The Control Group), Schoolyard swagger like a gang of pre- Epitaph pinball-tilt four. They derive plenty of imagery (sample titles: "Sincerely Yours, Jonathan Harken," "Dawn of the Dead") from sci-fi and horror. The latter, one of three Schoolyard originals enjoying rotation on alt-rock standby KNDD, exemplifies the band's curious combustibility, spiraling from a stutter-step moshdown to a buoyant shout-and-pump chorus à la Tragic Kingdom–era No Doubt.

"It was weird being on a countdown with Blink-182 and Incubus and Outkast," Bergman says. "Everyone there is out touring the world and I have a paper due tomorrow morning."

The 18-year-old Donnelly, a "musical theater kid," has similarly unique age-related misgivings. Mom warned that she'd be deluged with beer bottles and gropers upon fronting a rock band, and she was right, kinda: "Two years ago we set up in front of a pool table," Donnelly says. "In the middle of a song this guy poked me with his stick and goes, 'Honey, could you move over a little bit? I'm trying to get this shot.'"

Back off, dude. Donnelly and Schoolyard are trying to monster mash. And maybe graduate. And maybe get Dave Knudson to sign a pick.

abonazelli@seattleweekly.com

Schoolyard Heroes play Graceland at 4 p.m. with Alien Crime Syndicate, the Hollowpoints, Poorsport, and guests. Sun., July 11. $5.

 
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