Deceptively Innocent is honestly talented
Teenage pop-punk band tears up the Tucson scene
Kyle Wasson/Arizona Summer Wildcat
Deceptively Innocent plays in front of Chicago Music Store on Congress Street.
Deceptively Innocent may be a teenage pop-punk band, but they’re not just neighborhood kids playing in their garage. Brent Burdett, 15, Toby Chivers, 14, and Daniel Blanchard, 17, have accomplished more than most kids their age: they are skilled musicians who work solidly as a group.
Originally formed for a fifth grade talent show, Deceptively Innocent went through some lineup changes before settling on the current power trio. They play unapologetic pop-punk heavily influenced by bands like Blink-182, Green Day and Sum 41, and have been nominated for a Tucson Area Music Award for their efforts.
The three members of Deceptively Innocent look like fairly typical teenage boys, sporting skinny jeans and band shirts, but their demeanors belie that assumption. All three have the kind of calm self-assurance — both onstage and off — that comes from repeated performances and modest success. They take making and playing music seriously, but they also greatly enjoy themselves doing it.
“I’ve wanted to be a rock star ever since I was little,” Burdett said. “My dream is to live on a tour bus.”
With that goal in mind, Deceptively Innocent has plans to release a full album soon, as well as embark on a tour.
Band members expressed that they had “dozens of songs — enough material for two albums.” The only problem, they said, is getting it recorded. The band has a home studio that they use but they’re hoping to record in a professional studio.
Being on the cusp of such a serious musical endeavor hasn’t gone to their heads, however. They freely admit that they owe much to the enthusiasm and dedication of their parents. “They’re super supportive. No matter what we do, they’re like, ‘Alright, let’s do this!’” Burdett said.
“His dad’s the manager,” said Blanchard of Chivers’ dad, who is also the bus driver.
Still, they don’t play like they’re just kids. A Deceptively Innocent show is a loud, fast, hard-hitting experience. Their set in front of the Chicago Store for Second Saturdays Downtown began with a spot-on cover of Green Day’s “When I Come Around,” with Chivers nailing the nasal, sneering vocals. Their selection of covers is eclectic but still mainstream, making up about a quarter of their setlist. A highlight was their snotty, revved up, balls-out version of “Pumped Up Kicks,” which made more than a few passersby stop and watch.
Deceptively Innocent’s original songs are consistently on the rocking side of the pop-punk genre. Sum 41’s influence shows in their guitar riffs and blasting drumbeats, while the vocals display the melodically and lyrically simplistic strains inherited from Blink-182 and early Green Day.
Every song at the Second Saturday show was tight and focused, with no false starts and no noticeable mistakes. More extraordinary was their rotation of roles: All three of them sang and played guitar, bass and drums at some point — and as they switched instruments from song to song, they seemed quite at home on all of them.
The songwriting process is just as egalitarian. Sometimes they all sit down and write a song together, they explained, while other songs are written by one member and brought to the group. Regardless, everyone has a hand in shaping the final product.
“There’s a piece of all of us in every song you hear,” Blanchard said.
These young men exhibit every quality required for musical success. The impression one receives, in fact, is that they are almost overqualified for the kind of music they play. Glimpses of virtuosity shine through from all of them occasionally, but the three-chord, straight-ahead style of pop-punk contains them within the realm of simplicity.
There is only one conceivable obstacle between Deceptively Innocent and lasting success. The band is, frankly, selling themselves short by focusing on their age in their branding efforts. In this era of YouTube and “America’s Got Talent,” the gimmicky appeal of really young musicians is waning. It’s already been done. Power metal band Black Tide released its 2008 debut “Light from Above” when their lead singer was just 15. Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit was 18 and 15 when they had their first viral hit covering “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” also in 2008. Hard rock band Crooked X were opening for Disturbed when none of them were older than 17. Young musicians like these deserve recognition and respect for their dedication and skill, of course, but they can’t rely on the virtue of their youth alone. The point becomes moot as the years pass and the musicians are no longer astonishingly young, and this is something that Deceptively Innocent should keep in mind. Milk the age thing for what it’s worth while it’s relevant. Their skills as musicians and their harmonious group dynamic will be a lasting resource.
Deceptively Innocent is not a group of bored kids with indulgent parents, they are talented musicians with the drive and skill necessary to go somewhere. Their nomination for the TAMMIES is evidence enough of that.
Fans of Blink-182 or Green Day will love Deceptively Innocent and what they’re doing, and even those who don’t care for that particular genre will appreciate the talent wielded by these three teenagers. See for yourself: Go to a show, watch them perform, and pick up their EP “Ebay This When We’re Famous.” The way things are going for this band, it might just be sound financial advice.
To vote for the band in the Tucson Area Music Awards, go to tucsonweekly.com and click on the TAMMIES Ballot, where they can be found in the punk category.