Houston Music

Anything But Bieber: Houston's Summer Street Ain't No Boy Band

To call Houston's own Summer Street Band a boy band would only be a partial truth. Yes, these five teenagers who attend high schools across the city could technically qualify as a "boy" band, at least semantically. But unlike those One Directioners, there are no Zayn or Harry-like antics – or even pop songs – to be found here. But nothing, really, could quite prepare you for what you will find coming out of the mouths and guitars of these teens. Think of Summer Street as an anti-boy-band boy band.

Featuring front man Fuller Debes; guitarists Jack Arnett and Larson Moye; bassist Grant Peters and drummer Chris McNamara, the guys in Summer Street are barely old enough to get behind the wheel, but are certainly old enough to test-drive an old rock song or two. Rather than focusing on harmonized pop lyrics and synchronized dance moves, the quintet spends their time trying to synchronize "Paint It Black" riffs and Santana songs instead.

Not that they couldn't pull off some mega-Disney-group antics, mind you. These sophomores and juniors at Episcopal, St. John's, HSPVA and Katy Taylor are every bit the clean-cut, polite kids that are so easily marketed to the tween set nowadays. And Fuller's crisp and poised vocals — belted out through a full set of braces – could just as easily sing a Bieber line or two.

"Not Bieber. Anything but Bieber," he laughs.

The boys of Summer Street have no desire to head that baby-baby-baby-ooh route; they're rock fans, and are doing just fine on that classic-rock-cover beat. For now, they're OK playing songs their parents love at venues like MKT Bar and Discovery Green, where their self-proclaimed "waiter outfits" — black jeans, white button-downs and ties — and that old-time rock and roll sound has earned them many a fan.

But the guys have also made it clear that while the sounds of their parents' generation will always be a musical influence, they're itching to get into some original music. They won't have to wait long, either; Summer Street's debut album, an as-yet-unnamed compilation of original indie/post-rock tunes, drops this summer.

While you can count on an anti-Bieber theme, there also won't be much of a dance music influence in the new album either, despite Fuller's apparent fondness for it. When asked about their musical preferences, the boys are quick to call him out on it.

"Fuller likes dubstep," laughs one of his bandmates. "He's the only one that likes dubstep."

True to their classic rock beginnings, the boys of Summer Street have gone with more of an indie sound for their album instead. Well, sort of.

"The album sound changes from song to song," says Larson. "There are some kinda chill songs, kinda psych, and others are more intense. It's hard to categorize our sound."

"We probably sound closest to a band like Tame Impala," says Chris, the shaggy-haired HSPVA percussionist. "We're kind of post-rock sometimes, and kind of indie."

That kind of sound seems like a no-brainer for a band who regularly covers Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. But as happy as Summer Street says they'll be to still throw in those old tunes with their newer album-ready stuff, there is one song they'd prefer to never play.

"Every show," laughs the band after one member yells "Free Bird." "Every show someone in the audience yells 'Free Bird.'"

It seems the olds who gather to see these young'uns play songs from their youth can't help but throw in some good-natured concert taunting.

"We never play it, though," says Jack.

They also won't play any "Stairway to Heaven" or Guns N' Roses, after what Fuller calls a "terrible" attempt to cover Axl Rose's vocals. He doesn't elaborate.
But with any luck, those cover-song problems will be a thing of the past after their album comes out. While Summer Street will always count bands like The Beatles as major influences on their music, they're still teenagers, with teenage taste in music (and probably fans, although they just laugh when we suggest such a thing). Ultimately, Summer Street says it would be awesome if their music helps open the doors to play with their more current idols.

"I'd really like to play with bands like Fidlar or Wavves," says Chris, "Or Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl would be insane.”

His bandmates nod.

But even if those Grohl dreams take awhile, the boys are hopeful that the new album will just give them room to drop those dreaded waiter outfits. That rule is enforced by their manager, Alex, and the boys all agree it should go. (Alex isn't so sure.)

"We were playing a show at a party one night," says Jack, "And someone came up and asked me if they could get a beer. I looked at him and was like, 'I'm only 15!' But I guess I was wearing the same outfit as the bartenders."

You can catch Summer Street band and their coordinated outfits tonight at Discovery Green, where they'll be playing a set of songs from 1965 alongside Picture Book and Second Lovers.

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Angelica Leicht
Contact: Angelica Leicht