It’s one thing to dream, and entirely another to make that dream reality: If you’re not willing to lay it all on the line, all the talent in the world still won’t bring you any closer to your goal. Despite their youth, this is something that School Boy Humor knows all too well.
From their not-so-distant days playing the clubs and basements of Little Rock, Arkansas all the way to your stereo, SBH have already traveled far and wide to get here, and their time has just begun. Running down the list of setbacks endured and sacrifices the band have made—everything from poverty to estranged parents to axed athletic careers—you have to wonder just what keeps the quartet going. Then you hear the songs, and it all makes sense.
“It’s rough not knowing when you’re going to eat again, or having to beg the promoter to buy you a pizza,” says vocalist/bassist Caleb Spillyards. “But I don’t have to wake up in the morning for a 9-to-5 job, and stress out about homework, and all of the other things we left behind. I think every path you take until you become successful is going to be tough in its own right.”
That spirit pervades the material the band recorded for its digital EP, Camera Shy But Still A Star, and their full-length debut on Vagrant (February 2009). Produced by the Geoff Rockwell (Forever The Sickest Kids, Sky Eats Airplane), the songs marry the band’s love of giant hooks and frenetic riffs with Rockwell’s flair for atypical rhythms and pulsing electronica, making for a sound that’s contemporary but also driving and eclectic. And lyrically, although relationships are a core topic as in most pop music, with powerful compositions like “This Is Your Life,” and “Don’t Look Back,” the band have also focused on something else they know all too well: what it means to be young kids chasing a dream.
"’Don't Look Back’ was written to be pretty self-explanatory; the lyrics are about as literal as they can be,” says guitarist/vocalist Anthony Evans. “[Vocalist/guitarist] Phil had to sell his car and is currently living on [drummer] Greg's floor. We've been broken down for weeks in New York, been in 110-degree weather with no air conditioning, and have loved every minute of it!”
Comprised of four childhood friends who grew up listening to melodic punk icons like Blink-182 and New Found Glory, SBH spent their teenage years playing in various Little Rock bands. The lineup was crystallized two years ago with the addition of Spillyards, who formerly fronted his own band as a singer/guitarist, but laid down his axe for a bass when given the chance, having heard the latest round of demos brothers and singers/guitarists Phil and Anthony Evans had cooked up.
“The stuff they were writing was just so good, and sounded so incredibly professional,” he recalls. “My band wasn’t going anywhere, and I had to do this.”
Recognizing that they were on to something special, the band, most of whom are just 21 years old, have risked it all to pursue their passion—for some, it’s meant dropping out of college; for Phil and Anthony Evans, it’s also meant alienating parents; and for Spillyards, a life in music led to personally discarding an extremely promising career in gymnastics, which was likely headed all the way to the Olympic stage. But it isn’t all for naught—songs like “Turn It Up” and “Everyone Who Breathes” are so catchy and energetic, they become lodged within your defenseless brain for days at a time.
"When we wrote [‘Turn It Up’], we were really hoping to come out with a driving, sing-a-long chorus,” explains Anthony Evans. “The radio is such a pop culture institute; we really wanted to use it as theme for wanting to keep in touch with someone. Hey, what better way to let someone know you want them back then from a car stereo?”
Simple hard work has also played a huge part in the band’s rise. Although SBH seem to weave together super-smart arrangements and unforgettable melodies with the greatest of ease, they would’ve likely never made it out of Little Rock were it not for the tireless efforts of the group’s members. Very much a modern-day success story, SBH tapped Internet-age resources like MySpace to help reach potential fans, and the results speak for themselves. Interested record labels came knocking soon after, including some majors, culminating in the group inking a deal with indie giant Vagrant Records.
“It was because we were making all these relationships and spreading the word,” Spillyards says of the MySpace phenomenon. “Since we were getting on a personal level with them, they wanted to spread the word. They wanted to tell their friends, because we were a cool band, and were being nice to them.”
With the recent EP and full-length serving as SBH’s formal introduction to the world, fall 2008/winter 2009 mark a new milestone for the group, who’ve worked so hard and come so far just to get to this point, they have no intention of letting the opportunity slip away. Considering how infectious SBH’s music truly is, there’s no level of success outside of the realm of possibility. As ever, playing in SBH is simply an all-or-nothing proposition.
“When you’re in a band, people tell you you’re not going to do anything with it, and to stop wasting your time. It’s kind of discouraging, but at the same time, we’ve gone through so much, and I’ve given up so much, there’s no quitting for me now,” Spillyards says. “I want to have a platinum-selling record, and that’s the honest truth…. I want to reach a million people, and we won’t stop until we do."