Teenage love rock

Seventeen-year-old Bryce Avary prepares for The Rocket Summer

Everyone knew a kid like Bryce Avary. Some -- not many, but some -- were kids like Bryce Avary, a young rocker wannabe. A spiky-haired 17-year-old junior at Grapevine High School, he lives with his parents and younger sister in Colleyville. He's an aspiring photographer and drives a 1972 Camaro, a car he refers to as "a piece." He's been in a handful of bands, but not one of them was around long enough -- or was good enough -- to be missed. He now plays in a group with some of his friends called The Dudes of Hazzard, which he points out is both a joke and "a complete rip-off of The Old 97's." Right now, Avary doesn't have much time to talk, because he has to go to band practice, so his joke band won't embarrass itself.

Like most kids his age, Avary is also beginning to worry about college -- but not for the reasons you may think. He's not concerned that he won't have the grades to get in or nervous about scoring well enough on the SAT to get a scholarship or anxious about leaving home. Avary is worried that a record label will want to sign him in the next year or so, and his parents won't let him because they want him to go to school instead. OK, maybe everyone hasn't known a kid like Bryce Avary. Maybe a few -- not many, but a few -- were a kid like Avary, but everyone wanted to be.

Because even though his optimism is certainly stoked by wishful thinking, Avary still has good reason to believe some label suit will soon knock on his door, recording contract in hand. Avary is the sole member of The Rocket Summer, a one-kid band that released its first recording, a five-song self-titled EP, a few weeks ago. He wrote the songs and played all the instruments on the disc, which has already led several labels to reach out and touch him. Despite all of this, Avary is trying not to consider himself signed and sealed. Trying not to do so, which is like trying to stay calm when someone promises you a map to buried Yahoo! stock.

"I don't know if anything's going to happen to it," says Avary, who sent out copies of the EP to "a million labels." "I've gotten some offers from labels who've heard it on the Internet that I've never heard of before at all. I have to start thinking about college soon, and if I get signed, I'll really want to do that. But I don't know if I'm going to get signed or not. I don't know if I should get a band, because if I get a band and I get signed..."

He trails off, because one of the biggest questions he's faced in his short stint as The Rocket Summer is whether he should form a band. Listening to the quintet of songs on the EP, you'd never guess it was a problem. It doesn't sound like the work of one person; there's too much going on. Most solo recordings take a decidedly lo-fi approach, and even the ones that don't are generally stripped-down affairs, sticking to a guitar-bass-drums arrangement.

Avary, on the other hand, crams each song with extra sounds -- keyboards, bells, more guitars, synthesizers, electronic drums, piano, and track after track of vocals. Working out of Arlington's Deedle's Room Recording (the studio owned and operated by 19-year-old Darrell "Deedle" LaCour), Avary took advantage of the studio's 24-track recorder. In fact, he recorded so many tracks for each song that you can't hear all of it. "If you listen, there's a whole bunch of stuff going on," he says, "but on some songs, you can't hear any of the stuff I took hours on."

He began working on the disc at the beginning of last summer, dropping by the studio every couple of weeks for a few hours. LaCour helped engineer the recordings, but everything else is the product of Avary -- and there is nothing lo-fi or stripped-down about any of it. Each song reminds you of what being young and rock and roll is all about. Which is why, to live up to the versions of the songs on the disc, he needs a band to play them.

It's not a unique situation: Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters began as one man and a room full of instruments. Locally, Centro-matic became a full band only after Will Johnson had recorded Redo the Stacks, and The Deathray Davies was all John Dufilho all the time until he'd already finished the debut album by his "band." But Avary, though he says he's had many offers, isn't quite ready to let anyone else into The Rocket Summer. He doesn't want to play by himself anymore, either.

"I've been playing acoustic for a while, and I'm kind of wanting to stay away from that," he says. "I don't want to play any shows, because I've sold so many records already that I think a lot of people would come." Which would seem to be the point, right? "I don't want to disappoint anyone unless they know it's going to be acoustic and all that stuff, and they're expecting that," Avary explains. "If nothing happens in the next month or two, there's a whole bunch of people that have e-mailed me and sent me stuff saying how they want to play [with me]. I could have a band really easily, but I'm really picky and that sucks. It sucks, because I don't want people to think I'm already a picky jerk and I'm just 17. It's tough, you know?"

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