Lane Change is practicing a new song for its set list, Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.” The manager is coaching the vocalists on the harmonies: “This note needs to be higher.” “This part is too early.” “Let’s start from this part.” Then they start at the recognizable chorus.
It’s a typical practice. The Ahwatukee band has a few shows coming up and they want to be ready. But the band isn’t typical.
The members of Lane Change are teenagers, their manager is also the drummer’s dad, and their practice room is his living room.
The four musicians came together six months ago at a local youth music program. Sam Lehtinen, 17, Elijah Alvarez, 15, Riley Bash, 14, and Cameron Holladay, 13, quickly moved past the program and became a band in their own right.
And this rock band is good. And not just good for a bunch of teenagers. They are just plain good.
Formed in early September of last year, their first show came in just a few short weeks. With three songs and a few practices under their belts, Lane Change took the stage at the Brett Saks Safety Festival on Sept. 30.
“We’d never played before,” Lehtinen said. “We’d all been on stage separately, but as a group we’d never been on stage together. It was a different experience.”
But that performance, as raw as the band was, showed there was something there.
“It was enough to know we had something to move forward with,” said Kevin Holladay, the band’s manager.
And move forward they did. Six months, a half a dozen shows and a demo recording later, Lane Change has gathered quite a following in the Valley.
“It’s crazy, like six months ago we knew three songs and we were playing at the Brett Saks bicycle thing. It’s amazing how quickly people are reacting and how quickly we’ve grown together,” Lehtinen said.
Despite their ages, Lane Change shows a level of maturity some adult bands don’t show.
“It’s not hard to find gigs for these guys,” Holladay said. “Most people realize their not just a bunch of kids and they see the professionalism that they play with.”
When it comes to the band, these teenagers show a level of commitment some of their peers lack.
“Committing to always coming to practice, learning your part, it’s a full-time job, that’s why I’m not even going to traditional high school anymore,” Lehtinen said. “Taking all of my classes online takes up less of my time.”
Lehtinen is finishing high school online at Primavera Online High School to concentrate on being a musician, but the other three still have to attend school every week.
“It’s crazy,” Lehtinen said. “I don’t understand how these guys do it, but it takes up a lot of time. The hardest part is being committed and learning all of the songs and coming to practice prepared.”
These teenagers know that school is important. They all keep their grades up and if need be, take time out of the band for school. But they admit that being in a rock band has its benefits.
“It’s made me a little more popular and gotten me more attention,” Holladay said.
And Bash says it’s nice “having stuff to look forward to besides school.”
Lane Change practices two to three times a week in the Holladay’s living room. The couches and end tables have been replaced by amplifiers and microphones. But Kevin Holladay says furniture is overrated anyway. If you want to sit, there is always an amplifier.
Despite the level of maturity the band shows, they are still teenagers.
“Everything gets passed through the parents and we make sure that everybody approves. They kind of trust me to make those decisions, and if there’s a question about it, to make sure everybody’s on the same page,” Holladay said.
What’s up next for Lane Change?
Each member as taken a stab at writing, but nothing has happened as a band, but they are up for the challenge.
And these four young musicians would love to continue to grow as a band.
“I’d love to keep playing, these guys are a lot of fun,” Lehtinen said.
Being part of a growing band is an experience like no other.
“It’s fun to witness, it’s fun to be a part of, but it’s really fun when we’re out of this room and we’re doing stuff collectively,” Holladay said. “To sit back and not be band manager or band dad or whatever, and watch these four interact. It’s really cool.”
To learn more about Lane Change, including its upcoming performance schedule, visit www.lanechangerocks.com or call (480) 845-9272.
• Brittany Stehmer is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.