With the current assault of digitized, auto-tuned, drum-machined, salon-styled and eyeliner-wearing hit manufacturers dominating airways, cable TV and You Tube, it’s a relief to know there are still kids out there strapping on guitars and cranking out timeless rock and roll riffs that stand up long after one-eyed emo hairstyles have gone the way of the mullet.
El Dorado Hills rockers Jaxx are carrying the torch for rock and roll.
Jaxx is four best friends — Allen and Jack Petterle on guitar and drums, Kyle Maxwell on bass and Nikkos Savas on guitar — determined to make proverbial mincemeat out of Lady Gaga and other factory-produced pop stars. They play about a 50/50 mix of covers from bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Guns N’ Roses, and originals that blend elements of classic heavy metal and prog rock in the tradition of Pink Floyd and Rush with distinct influences from newer rockers like the White Stripes and Them Crooked Vultures. They don’t have a singer, but they aren’t letting that stop them from getting gigs, having played a “battle of the bands” — style competition (which they won against several more experienced bands) — and a handful of local venues.
“We’d like to get a singer,” Kyle said of their missing front man slot. “But we’re not going to push it … we still have a lot to say without lyrics.”
Jaxx formed 8 months ago from school-based friendships between Alan Petterle, Maxwell and Savas. Then-13-year-old Jack Petterle had recently ditched video games to teach himself to play drums, so the guys opted to give him a chance. As it turned out, Alan’s spastic, red-haired little brother might have actually been possessed by the spirit of John Bonham, laying down grooves you could drive a train over (his version of Bonzo’s drum solo in Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” is impressive for any drummer, let alone a 14-year-old).
Big man Alan might look like he belongs on an offensive line. But he prefers to spend his time burning the neck of his Telecaster.
In keeping with the Zeppelin tradition, his lead style is incredibly reminiscent of Jimmy Page’s playing during the ’70s (Page was always seen onstage with Gibson guitars but often recorded with a Tele). He also draws influence from Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Sabbath’s Tony Iommi.
“My dad bought me my first guitar for Christmas one year — he got me a really cheap one because he thought I’d quit right away,” Alan said.
But the elder Petterle has kept at it for four years, building not only excellent chops, but impressive songwriting skills, too.
With his slight frame, Gibson Les Paul (or sometimes an Ibanez RG) and golden-blonde hair, guitarist Nikkos contrasts sharply to his Tele-wielding compatriot. And while he might look a little like a young Randy Rhoads, he’s more of a Slash fan. He’s been playing for three years and takes private lessons at Folsom’s Nickelson Music Co., where he studies both rock and jazz guitar. Nikkos’ dad, Anthony Savas, manages the band and is an outspoken supporter of young musicians.
Often times, bass players tend to be guitarists who grow frustrated and decide juggling four strings is easier than six. Kyle Maxwell is a bass player through and through, happy to provide the thunder to Nikkos and Alan’s lightning. He’s a big fan of progressive bands like Rush and King Crimson, and brings a lot to the table when it comes to songwriting.
When not rehearsing for a gig the band is hard at work writing material for a CD the plan on recording next year. Depending on whether they find a singer, their debut will either feature lead vocals or will be an instrumental recording.
Of course, Jaxx has hit more than a few snags along the way — the members are in a constant fight to find a local place to practice. From their current space — Alan and Jack’s mother’s living room in a semi-rural Shingle Springs development — Kyle explains that neighbors haven’t been fans of the music.
“We’ve gotten kicked out of everybody’s house we’ve practiced in,” he said. “We already had one complaint here … so now we turn down super-low and Jack plays his drums with Hot Rods (bundles of thin pieces of wood that are quieter traditional drum sticks) when we practice. Hopefully that will make things quiet enough for the neighbors here.
“I mean, we could be doing a lot worse things, like running wild around Town Center like gangstas’ or selling drugs at Target,” he joked. “We just want to play music … it would be great if the CSD or somebody would have a place where bands like us could practice (hint hint).”
Jaxx has a running monthly gig at Cameron Park’s Blacksheep Casino and Bar and Grill, 3181 Cameron Park Drive, Suite 108. Check them out live or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/official.jaxx.