Two years ago, guitarist Nate Merli, bassist Chris Cool, and drummer Tanner Cooper enjoyed their first experience on the Music Farm stage playing with blues-rock band ColeTrain as part of a holiday benefit show. This week, the three return as a power trio with a new set of progressive indie-rock material and a new band name.
"Heyrocco was an ongoing joke with ColeTrain," says Cooper. "We always thought it was a great name, and none of us know how it came about. So when ColeTrain was done, it just fit that we'd keep that joke."
Cooper and Merli, both 16, started playing together three years ago while attending middle school at the Charleston County School of the Arts. Their first band was the Blackbirds. Their next project involved singer/guitarist Sarah Cole, a skillful up-and-comer and starlet of the Lowcountry Blues Club's weekly jam sessions (and recent City Paper cover girl). With the addition of Cool (now 18), they formed ColeTrain and worked up an eclectic set of classic hard rock, electric blues, and funk.
"ColeTrain was a warm-up gig for us," says Cooper. "We learned how to conduct a professional show and got our feet wet with songwriting, but you really can't compare what we're doing with Heyrocco to ColeTrain. It's apples and oranges. Now, it's definitely more modern and mature."
Last year, Cole and the fellas amicably came to a musical crossroads. She wanted to pursue blues-based material while they were determined to create their own more contemporary style.
"We take from our influences in many ways," says Cooper. "We are an indie rock band, but we also come from listening to music with a heavy groove. We're big into John Mayer and soul music, too. All of these influences come together."
They seem to be on the same wavelength. With Merli handling lead vocals, Heyrocco write their songs with a spirit of collaboration.
"Nate might come to practice with a melody, and Chris will start slapping over it, and I'll lay down some grooves," says Cooper. "Then we jam on it. Jamming on a groove is how we get the song going."
Heyrocco's recent demos display sharp chops and technique as well as a creative use of melody and dynamic. The music resembles the more sophisticated underground rock of recent years more than a set of green tunes from a garage band of teenaged buddies. Writing, recording, and performing so well at such a young age is impressive, but their age is part of their biggest challenge.
"The only struggle we have as a band is getting the music out there," says Cooper. "Being young, no one wants to book you, or they want a demo CD at least. We can't record a demo until we get money from gigs. It's upside down. But if those are our only problems, I say we're doing great."
Heyrocco have a home-recorded, five-song demo disc available this week. They hope it's a decent teaser for a serious, full-length album in the near future.
"This Music Farm show is the highlight of our winter," Cooper says. "We're booked back at the Music Farm opening for the Makeshift in January, too. We're really looking to get a fanbase here and then do regional tours opening for bigger acts. Hopefully, summer will bring us those opportunities.
"Making good music and playing it for people — that's our goal," he adds. "We are a live band and all we want to do is tour, playing for hundreds of people every night. That's the dream. We're young and ready to be crammed in a van and on tour."