While rock 'n’ roll is often a family affair, it’s usually siblings who are at the forefront of the action. Oasis, Haim, and The Avett Brothers are examples of combos that have set the music world aflame, but the familial aspect goes back even further to the days of AC/DC, The Bee Gees and The Jackson 5.
What’s rare are parents joining in on the hit-making process. But that's the case with the RocknRoll Hi-Fives, a four-piece band from New Jersey. They make hopped-up, catchy rock music and travel the country together in an RV.
It's sort of like The Partridge Family, only they've traded that groovy school bus for a ride with indoor plumbing.
“We always loved traveling as a family and would go to RV expos and stuff,” explains Eilee Centeno, a high school junior and the group’s lead vocalist. “We had a Toyota minivan that was getting cramped. A friend of ours suggested that we get an RV, and it’s worked out well. We’re traveling the country, playing music and meeting people. Dad does all the driving.”
The dad in the conversation is Joe Centeno, a New Jersey native who has played in many bands while maintaining a steady presence in the indie rock scene. His wife, Gloree, had no musical background but now plays bass, and the couple’s other child, eighth-grader Evren, bangs out the beats on the drum kit.
The family RV will roll into Dallas for an in-store performance July 19 at Good Records. Throughout the summer, they’ll be out touring behind their debut LP, Re-introducing The RocknRoll Hi-Fives, the release of which, despite a few prior EPs, will serve as quite the landmark event in the family history.
“We always thought about recording an album as a keepsake for ourselves,” Joe explains. “My friend who is a recording engineer invited us all in for sessions. I said, ‘Dude, you sure? [My kids] at the time are 9 and 11. But he brought us in and then other band friends we know asked us to open for them, and that’s how things got rolling.”
Over the years, the family has developed a steady and encouraging following. They cite North Carolina as a particularly welcoming environment — so much so that they are exploring the possibility of relocating there full time at the end of summer.
Exploring new American territories and entertaining first-time audiences will be an exciting aspect of this summer’s tour.
“We’ve toured in Japan, which was great, but we haven’t made it further west than Indiana,” Evren says with a youthful sense of wonder.
At heart, the band traffics in adrenaline-fueled, tight riff rock music that pays homage to acts like The Ramones and Blondie. Joe says that wasn’t always the intention.
“We started writing songs in the vein of Archers of Loaf and Guided By Voices, but those songs just don’t work for us," Joe says. "Our music evolved, and we hope to continue to evolve, but we’ve hit a stride now where we can play tight and be not afraid to be onstage.”
“We just want our songs to be fun,” Eilee adds. “I listen to a lot of new music, so that obviously influences things. Recently, I’ve been listening to Twin Peaks. I mentioned them to Dad, and their sound has crept into ours a bit lately.”
Fun is what lies at the heart of this family project.
“Concerts were always fun back in the day and like a circus,” reminisces Joe. “Bands wore outrageous costumes and had elaborate stage designs. Later, T-shirts, jeans and slouching onstage became a thing. And I love that, but I also want people to be entertained and to rock out.”
“When people smile and move around in the crowd, that makes me just want to rock harder,” Gloree adds. “I don’t want them to just stand there and stare. That can be weird.”
Indeed, this bountiful energy is a hallmark of the family's performances. A quick gander at their online video content shows the quartet banging away at their instruments, gleefully focused and locked in step with each other’s rhythms. They give it their all, no matter the circumstances. Whether they’re packed into a tightly compressed stage at a record store, given more room to roam at an outdoor event or, as in the video for “Glass Towns,” rocking out in a campsite in front of the parked RV, you’ll appreciate the fireworks created.
Soon, Eilee and Evren will grow up and embark on journeys like college and day jobs. With that in mind, the family has made no promises about the future direction of the band. What happens will happen, and for now, they all seem to be taking it in stride.
“We always made music together, but as the kids started growing up, it became much more of a fun thing to do, like playing tag or something,” Joe says. “Maybe we can be in the front row as proud parents watching their bands one day.”
Both Eilee and Evren seem determined and excited at the prospect of continuing with music.
“Sometimes families aren’t all that close, and kids and parents don’t relate to each other," Eilee says. "With us, it’s just so cool and lucky that we can share music and talk about it. I want to keep doing this until I can’t anymore. I’d love to play South By Southwest or some other cool festivals down the road.”
“I want to keep this going," Evren adds. "We don’t have a set goal other than playing our shows and doing the best we can.”
There is ample time to decide on the future. For now, it’s all about finishing school and packing into the RV for a summer of rock 'n’ roll. The Centenos are unusual that way. There aren’t many other families who will spend their summer vacation this way.
The RocknRoll Hi-Fives will play the Live From the Astroturf series at 7 p.m. July 19 at Good Records, 1808 Lower Greenville Ave.
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