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