Friday, July 6, 2012

The ultimate dream: Frisco band performs at Warped Tour - Star Community Newspapers

Jonathan Conrad, left, and Taylor Thrash perform at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas for Vans Warped Tour on Tuesday. Photo by Kelsey Kruzich.

Front-and-center on a steamy July night at the Ernie Ball Stage in Dallas stood Taylor Thrash, the frontman of a Frisco band that has a spot on a nationwide tour.

Performing on the popular Vans Warped Tour, the band took a hopeful shot at stardom.

"This whole experience had been incredible," Thrash said. "Utterly incredible. I'm the happiest dude in the planet."

But before the band got to this momentous point in its career, they had to start from scratch.

Music, a ruling element in Thrash's life, was something he knew wanted to be a part of from a young age. When he was just 14-years-old, Thrash began writing songs on his parents' piano for his girlfriend. He would then go on to form his first band during high school.

"My buddy had a small recoding studio-type setup in his house so I would go over there to record some songs," Thrash explained. "I played the songs back to [my girlfriend] and she liked it. Then she played it to her friends, and her friends played it to their friends, and it turned out that other kids in school really liked it too."

A few years later, Thrash set out to pursue his long-time dream of becoming a professional musician; recruiting his best friends Jonathan Conrad on guitar, Michael Sanford on bass and Caleb Shultz on drums, to join him. After dropping out of Dallas Baptist University, Thrash headed to the west coast with his new band to record its self-titled EP.

Hollister, the clothing store, helped the band's song "What's Her Face" generate an enormous amount of popularity. The song played in all Hollisters internationally for one month after its independent release. Other songs, such as "La La Love" and "Run Into Me," consequently grew in popularity as well.

Then in late 2011, the band participated in the annual Ernie Ball's Battle of the Band competition and placed in the top four, earning a spot on the nationwide Vans Warped Tour. Last month, the band set out for an adventure they, at one point, never thought possible.

"At 14 when you're writing songs for your girlfriend in your parents' house, you would've never thought something like [playing at Warped Tour] would come true," Thrash said.

The band recently wrapped-up their stint on the tour, including a July 3 performance at the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas.

"It's really cool to be in different parts of the country -- places you've never been -- and see these kids wanting to come up close to the stage, wanting to meet you and are singing along to every song," Thrash said. "But Dallas is where it's at. Everyone there has been so supportive of us, from the time we were just starting out until now. We just want to say thank you for your genuine, caring hearts.

"You can say that what we have achieved right now is attributed to our hard work and dedication," he continued. "At the end of the day though, it's been the people who have been supporting us for all this time that have helped the most."

Being on a large concert series -- a dream of the bands' -- has been more difficult than anticipated. To prepare, the band rehearsed its set for friends a few weeks before taking off for the tour. They also played a show, one of their favorites, at the House of Blues in Dallas. Despite these preparations, the band wasn't ready for everything Warped Tour threw their way.

"It's a whole different animal," Thrash said. "[Other bands] say it's the hardest tour to be on -- especially as an independent artist. Each day we're getting better. We've just been learning and growing and having a blast every day."

Money has also been another issue the band ran into while touring. Since the band is unsigned, it has to provide everything it needs out of pocket with no help from a record label.

"We're not on a huge tour bus. We don't have a crew. It's just us," Thrash said. "We're the ones who are carrying the equipment a mile to the stage at 7 a.m. and a mile back at 11 p.m. It's exhausting in every way -- physically and mentally. And on top of that, you have to give everything you have within you to the people in the stands. You show up there and are basically like 'Hey, this is what I do. I hope you guys like it.' It's been tough on everyone."

Though the struggles of being on tour can sometimes seem unbearable, the band said the tour was an eye-opening experience they will never forget.

"Other bands can relate to when they were just starting out so they know what we're going through," Thrash said. "It's been hard, yet so incredible at the same time."

Touring for a week on one of the nations largest summer concert series with simply a Chevy Tahoe, a trailer, equipment and themselves, has had its ups and downs. The journey began as a dream to become musicians as teenagers, and has manifested into a reality the band thought not possible.

"We are grateful to be able to do this," Thrash said. "Everyone has been so amazing and we're so thankful."

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