It's safe to say that most bands are in touch with their inner child, but Seattle indie rockers Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band have an actual adolescent keeping the beat: Marshall Verdoes, 14. "He destroyed drum sets when he was two," says bandleader Benjamin Verdoes, 27, whose mother adopted Marshall as a baby. "He was the only seven-year-old who'd say, 'That's Elliott Smith, this is the Who.' He forgot everything else, but not bands."
Of course, Ben had passed on much of this knowledge to his younger brother, home-schooling him on the Ken Burns Jazz miniseries and teaching him to pick out the timpani parts in Tchaikovsky symphonies. So when Ben's longtime band, melancholic rockers In Praise of Folly, split in 2006, the two started jamming. "I know it sounds crazy," he told his wife, Traci Eggleston (whom he calls Marshall's "sister-mom-in-law"), "but I really want to play with Marshall." Ben had been planning a new group with Eggleston and former bandmates Matthew Dammer (various instruments) and Jared Price (bass), and once they witnessed Marshall's skills, MSHVB was born. Price admits he was skeptical at first. "I never thought it would turn into a real band," he says.
Instead of building hype the usual way -- releasing music, playing shows -- they promoted the band on YouTube with parodies of the Reading Rainbow episodes that Ben, a former special-ed teacher, used in his classes. In their first clip, Marshall solemnly warns of the nonexistent malady homeostasis, when people "become too comfortable with traditions and customs, and are blind to the beauty of the future.""It was strategic," Ben says of their jujitsu marketing. "We just chuckled to ourselves." After teasing salivating bloggers for three months, they posted a few rollicking guitar-driven tracks -- including the Modest Mouseesque "Who's Asking" -- to their MySpace page and played their first show to a packed crowd last July. Three months later, they signed to indie Dead Oceans.
Filled with raggedy, dueling guitars, rumbling Moogs, gang vocal harmonies and, of course, explosive drums, their self-titled debut surpasses the hype. Not that Marshall is too concerned about that. "I don't think he quite realizes [our trajectory]," says Ben. "I mean, he just turned 14."
"Cheer For Fate"(DOWNLOAD MP3)
Watch: Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, "Homeostasis"