By John Benson
Local screamo-metal act Sinful Faith — singer-guitarist Nick Deemer, 16, bassist Aaron Mannion, 16, and drummer Dylan Reid, 16 — is keeping its eyes on the prize when it appears Saturday at the Tri-C High School Rock Off at the House of Blues.
“Last year, we did good but weren’t looking to make it in the finals,” said Reid, a Boardman High School junior. “So when we didn’t, we weren’t bummed. It wasn’t high on our priority list to make it in. But this year, yeah, it is, and we’re really trying hard to make it.”
With influences ranging from Attack Attack!, Sick Puppies and Asking Alexandria, the threesome plans to employ more of a show approach to its set. In addition to a special breakdown section, the group will be playing original tracks such as the in-your-face “People Don’t Kill People, Icicles Kill People” and the heavy “Thank God We Had the Overdrive On.”
“All of our songs are kind of different in their own way, so we feel like we bring our own sound to the stage,” Reid said. “We want to win. Hopefully we can.”
The 15th annual Rock Off features 72 bands vying for a solid prize package. The winning band receives $500, a full color 3-foot-by-8-foot vinyl banner printed with its logo, a $500 gift card from Sam Ash Music and 24 hours of recording time. The group also will appear on Tri-C’s cable-television programs “Crooked River Groove” and “Words & Music.” Perhaps the most lucrative prize for the winner is the fact they will have the opportunity to open for a national band at the House of Blues or a Live Nation venue. The winning outfit’s high-school-band fund also will receive a $200 donation.
Second place will receive $200 in cash plus a $100 donation to their high-school-band fund, as well as 12 hours of recording time. Third place will receive $100 in cash and 12 hours of recording time. All finalists receive a $25 gift certificate to Sam Ash Music and record a song for this year’s High School Rock Off CD.
One group looking forward to its Rock Off debut Saturday is Austintown Fitch High School’s Northern Whale, which features bassist Jake Stephens, 15, guitarist Brandon Fisher, 15, drummer Tyler Shaffer, 15, and singer-guitarist Jake Capezzuto, 15.
“We’ve been together for about a year now, and we’re alternative rock like The Cure, Pixies, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Iggy Pop,” Stephens said. “I went to the Rock Off last year as a guest, and I thought it was awesome. This was our goal when we first started the band — to get into the competition.”
Armed with original tracks such as the loud “Janie” and the slower “They Take it All,” the band has been practicing a special cover song it hopes will take the audience and judges off guard.
“We’re going to do Iggy Pop’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog,’” Stephens said. “I don’t think anyone will really recognize it that much, but it is Cleveland, so maybe some people will. It’s a song that I don’t think any other band there will cover. And it’s better than covering The Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ like everyone else.”
Whereas many groups have high expectations for the Rock Off, this outfit, which features all freshmen and one sophomore, is viewing its performance at the House of Blues as a fact-gathering mission.
“We’re going to do the best we can,” Stephen said. “And if we can make it to the next round, that would be great, but we’re not really expecting to. So if we don’t make it, that won’t really bother me. We still have a lot of time ahead of us. I think the fact we’re in it is just very cool.”
For more information about the Rock Off, go to kisscleveland.com/rockoff.