Youth Be Told, a teen band, opens for Zebra at NYCB Theatre at Westbury
Madden Klass traces her fascination to watching Nickelodeon's "The Naked Brothers Band" kids' TV series. Jessica Kantorowitz says her "aha moment" was seeing "Wicked" on Broadway. Alexander Taub was inspired by the Guitar Hero video game; Lennon Ashton was stirred hearing Beatles' songs his parents love.
The four Long Island teenagers' devotion to music -- more specifically, classic rock -- came together onstage for the first time in December 2012, when they performed at a holiday toy drive benefit in Franklin Square.
Since then, they've evolved, matured and jelled into Youth Be Told, a band whose first EP of six original songs has been produced by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon and Cheap Trick) and is available on iTunes. The teens have performed at the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue as well as The Bitter End in Manhattan. And on May 31, they are scheduled to open for Zebra at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury.
"That's going to be a really different performance," says Klass, the band's drummer and a ninth-grader at Hauppauge High School. "We've played in front of a few hundred people. This might be like 2,000."
Says Randy Jackson, singer-guitarist for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame rock band Zebra: "They're good, and they deserve a shot to get some more exposure."
Ashton, 15, Klass, 14, and Taub, 15, met taking classes at School of Rock when it was in Melville. Ashton, a guitar-playing ninth-grader at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, is the mastermind. He wanted to form a band, and his first target was Klass in 2010.
The two played under other band names until Taub, now a sophomore at the Schechter School of Long Island in Williston Park, sat in for a gig on bass. He brought in Kantorowitz, 15, a Schechter classmate, on vocals.
Some of their friends don't get how serious they are, they say. "They just think we get together in a garage and play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,' " Klass says. But the teens practice at Dare Studios in Deer Park every weekend, and they end each rehearsal with a brainstorming session for original material. Ashton says one of his favorite songs is "As Time Moves On," which he wrote after the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing.
"Right now, the music industry is more focused on pop and rap," Kantorowitz says. "We are trying to bring back rock and roll, because that's the music we love."
Band manager Rick Meuser, 56, of Huntington Station, is a music-industry lawyer who played with a Long Island band called White Fire in the 1970s. He first heard Ashton and Klass by chance at the 2011 Long Island Fall Festival in Huntington, playing Rush, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd covers.
"I heard a commotion at the main stage," he says. "I couldn't believe my eyes. Lennon was about half the height he is now. Three little pipsqueaks making the sound they were making." He was floored that kids were playing music of "bands of yesteryear, as if they should have been growing up in the '70s instead of now."
Meuser connected Youth Be Told with Jackson of Zebra, whom he knew from his own musical experiences. Jackson was impressed by the way the kids were interpreting classic rock. "They were doing it really, really well, as good as anybody I'd seen, regardless of age," he says. Jackson expects Youth Be Told to perform about eight songs, a mix of covers and originals, for an audience that will overwhelmingly be the age of the kids' parents. The kids will be paid, but Jackson declined to say how much.
Jackson also suggested Meuser contact the renowned Douglas; Douglas says that because he produces big-name bands, he has the freedom to help smaller bands he likes. And he likes Youth Be Told. "They are really impressive," Douglas says. "As they mature, they're just going to get better and better and better."
Says Meuser: "The goal, of course, is to have them becoming recording artists, recording their own music."
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. May 31 at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury
INFO $52; 800-745-3000, livenation.com