My friend, Joe Bland, and I started Lai Lai Lai at the beginning of our junior year of high school. Joe was the best drummer in my class of 200+ and we had one awesome year. After 7 years playing in other bands, Lai Lai Lai amounted to the peak of my musical experience thus far in my life. However, Joe has gone strong since, and is currently the drummer for MELT. The lead singer of MELT, Dylan White, was my best friend and bandmate from 5th to 8th grade. He sang for our punk band called ‘Blame Canada’. (You can see a video I took of MELT here.)
People generally don’t understand how much band politics plays a part in this scene. There had to have been a dozen people who were, at one point, members of that band. In short, it can be explained by the two general visions for it: mine - to take it seriously and focus on the art, and everyone else’s - to take it easy/ be a party band. The band’s core never changed, though. Joe and I were in it ‘til the end. I think the question of whether I was an insane control freak or whether I was right to take the music more seriously than anyone else is ultimately best answered by the listener’s judgement of the quality of the music. If you think the EP below is good for a high school band then I guess it means I had some merit to my approach. If not, then well… You can consider the high school me (and hopefully not the current me) to be a stiff. As someone who still appreciates the music, I can say I’m glad I took it seriously, but if I did it again I would change a lot about my approach to band leadership.
Up until this point in my life this was my most educational leadership experience since it was my first time stepping up to the role of both lead singer and primary song writer. I was awful - there were a half dozen people I kicked out of that band. In hindsight I laugh about it. Over time, luckily, the drama fades. Generally the good memories stick more than the bad ones - both for me and the ones at the receiving end. Some friendships were definitely strained from Lai Lai Lai at the time, but people can surprise you with their ability to forgive.
The most embarrassing experience I had with Lai Lai Lai (and possibly my life) was kicking out Sam Schacter, a lead singer of ours before I stepped up to it. I wanted to propose the idea that we find a better fit for our music to Joe and try to come to a consensus. It was after I sent that idea in a text that I realized it was accidentally sent to Sam - not Joe. Sam has since proven himself to be a man about it. (I showed him this article before anyone else - it’s no big deal.) He even reminisced about the Lai Lai Lai glory days just a couple months ago when he brought up the “basement show starting at 3am… Do you remember the cakefight?”
Matt Olsen’s response to this post (the bassist for most of Lai Lai Lai): “Wowza! I remember a lot of Lai Lai Lai stuff, all of it fun–but I think you’re right to choose this one. I still tell people that I played a parent-sanctioned 3 AM party in high school… even after college playing 3AM parties is as peak rock star as it gets. Love it.” (Matt reflected on the great times recently, too.)
We found frosting in my family’s kitchen in the most random places months after that fight. We’re talking about an extra large sized CostCo cake thrown every direction by 30 people, stuffed in girls’ hair, slapped on people’s faces, etc. And this wasn’t the only 3am concert in my family’s basement in high school.(From left to right: Endri Petrela, Willie Nedrow, and Matt Olsen)
Talking with ex-Lai Lai Lai members has made me realize that Lai Lai Lai was one of the best things about high school for just about all of us. Working hard together to create and perform our art is an enduring source of meaning.
People value childhood sports for the life lessons they teach, but from my experience, starting a band taught me more. Forming bands is forming relationships. I would even say that it was one of many experiences that prepared me for my marriage. As for non-romantic relationships, though, I would say I was a better mission companion because of Lai Lai Lai and I’m currently a better coworker and cofounder because of it.
More than relationships and team work, it takes a lot of initiative. As a band member you don’t have an overarching organization setting up your game schedule. You have to set up your shows yourself - that requires hustle. You don’t have a coach. You have to assume leadership, yourself. I suppose the risk of going off the deep end is greater, though, for a high schooler in this scene than in athletics. That’s why so many Protestant churches get involved, which is something I always admired about them. We played in multiple shows of theirs.
Just before I moved to Los Angeles for my senior year, Joe and I recorded this EP to immortalize our four best tracks. Our latest incomplete song was thrown in as a hidden track on track 4. It’s only an EP because there were four or so other songs we didn’t think were good enough spend $1,000+ more. Special mention of Hal Galardi, who provided some back up vocals, and Tim Yeskoo, for laying down the trombone tracks in the first two songs.
This music is publicly available for download and any form of distribution. Just accredit me and Joe where reasonable.
Here are tracks 1 and 3 without vocals, in case your purposes for using this music would be better served with less distracting audio accompaniment.