by Lou Mancinelli
Skyline is an original rock band composed of five young Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy teenagers who already know what it is like to perform in front of a big crowd. At its Aug. 23 show at the Mt Airy Train Station, the band played for about 200 people.
Its next show is at the Greene Street Friends School Fall Fair on Saturday, Oct. 19, 1 p.m.
“We were not really nervous for the most part,” said Henry McDevitt, lead singer and rhythm guitarist, about playing for such a large crowd. “We’re getting really comfortable with it now, and dealing with [the shows] one by one.”
Bassist Graham Arms and drummer Matthew Overholser, of Chestnut Hill, and McDevitt and guitarist Jackson Craig, of Mt. Airy, are all 13 and in eighth grade (except for Overholser, who is in seventh grade). They started the band at the beginning of 2013.
But the four have known each other for years, and have played together under different band names like Nuclear Takeout. McDevitt and Craig have essentially known one another their entire lives because their parents were friends.
When three of the four went to Settlement Music School summer camp this August in Queen Village, they met Gabriel Garcia-Leeds, also 13, an eighth grade student and Chestnut Hill resident.
McDevitt already knew Garcia-Leeds from school and played with him previously in a band called Aquahead. They all got along to the point where they invited Garcia-Leeds to join the band this August and play lead guitar.
Before that, Skyline made its debut in the spring of this year at a Memorial weekend barbecue at Silk City, 5th and Spring Garden Streets, where a few nights each week college-aged and older bands play.
Since then they have been as busy as many local indie bands. They have played five shows in all. In June, they played the Plymouth Meeting Friends School Strawberry Festival. In July, they performed at the Walk a Crooked Mile Books weekly concert series in Mt. Airy.
“It’s hard to imagine something like that happening, and then it’s there,” said Garcia-Leeds about the band’s recent reception.
Skyline writes songs that are sneakily mature for a group of songwriters who have yet to experience high school. One can watch performances of live songs like “Sailor” on YouTube. On the song “Shivers,” there are well-placed harmonies, sung by Craig. Garcia-Leeds adds a lead guitar line that’s at the level you’d hear any day on WXPN. They also have songs true to their age about things like waffles.
The way the band finds new shows is by talking to musicians in other bands and by keeping their ears open for any opportunity that surfaces. Based on the band’s performance at their 200-person show, they were invited to perform the following week for a Finally Friday event at the Sedgwick Theater in Mt. Airy.
Some of the band’s song writing stylings come from McDevitt’s background with classical piano lessons. He studied piano for five years but wanted to play guitar. He begged his mom until she agreed to let him play.
Skyline’s members have written nine songs the band performs at their shows, which have also included covers like “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. They point to influences like the Beatles, alternative rock bands and blues revival-duo The Black Keys.
Overholser, Arms and Craig attend Germantown Friends School, and McDevitt and Garcia-Leeds are Greene Street Friends students. McDevitt, Garcia-Leeds and Craig have been playing the guitar for three years. Arms picked up the bass three years ago, and Overholser took to the drums last year.
The callow band members book and promote their shows, conduct interviews and arrange schedules for practice and transportation. And they are saving up for their own public address system for live shows. Of course, they will still depend on their parents, who have thus far played manager, for rides to practice and gigs.
“We’re guiding them into taking ownership over their skills,” said Jonathan Leeds, Garcia-Leeds’ father.
For more information, look for Skyline on Facebook or YouTube. Greene Street Friends School Fall Fair will take place at the school at 5511 Greene St. on Oct. 19. For more information, visit greenestreetfriends.org.