By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Although Arizona's Scary Kids Scaring Kids are generally stamped with the emo label, the performer they name-check most frequently is Michael Jackson. Is that because most kids would find him far scarier than any of the allegedly Scary Kids? Not quite. "We like to have dance parties on the bus," notes Kids bassist DJ Wilson, "and Michael Jackson is a constant in there." As for his private listening habits, Wilson concedes that he generally prefers softer stuff along the lines of Counting Crows, in part because he grew up listening to albums such as the soundtrack to Les Miserables. "I love the music that we play," he emphasizes. "It's fun to play. I can listen to the music and I enjoy it — but it's not my first pick, you know?"
That doesn't sound like a resounding endorsement of Scary Kids Scaring Kids, the band's ambitious sophomore full-length for the Immortal imprint. Nevertheless, Wilson lauds the new disc as "something we're more proud of than anything we've ever done" — and while the newfound maturity on display may frighten fans of the group's more typical first release, 2005's The City Sleeps in Flames, he's fine with that. "If we continue to make the same record over and over," he says, "it's going to just leave us stagnant and bored."
Wilson admits that tedium had a lot to do with the Kids getting together in the first place. He likes his home town of Gilbert, a Phoenix suburb, but maintains that "there's just not a tremendous amount to do in town." To pass the time during their high-school years, Wilson, guitarists Chad Crawford and Steve Kirby, keyboardist Pouyan Afkary and vocalist Tyson Stevens got together to practice in the garages of various parents "until they'd kick us out," Wilson says. The outfit hit the road with a vengeance after graduation, and despite what Wilson refers to as "all those are-you-eating-well" phone calls from back home, the players flourished. Still, they were hardly old pros when it came time to cut Flames. "When we went into the studio to record, we had six songs done, so we had to write the rest of the album while recording it," Wilson recalls. "We were very rushed. And we were really new to it."
For the follow-up CD, the Kids (joined by drummer James Ethridge) took their time, emerging with anthemic, melodic ravers such as "Degenerates," as well as big ballads like "Watch Me Bleed," which has more than a touch of Les Mis to it. Wilson's heard criticism of such pace-changers, but he stands by them. In his words, "This is a Scary Kids Scaring Kids record, not a record we wrote to please some kid on a message board."
Can a Michael Jackson homage be far behind?