While Will and Nick have been playing for years first inspired by playing the video game "Guitar Hero" the band has only been together since February. Since then, the boys devote nearly every spare moment of free time to rehearsing. The band performed in front of 400 people at Salt Lake City's Mestizo Festival in July, as well as to a crowd of 600 people at the Utah County Fair in August.
Well maybe not every spare moment is spent rehearsing. "They'll play for a while, then play [video game] 'Halo' for a while, then play some more, and then go outside and shoot each other with [play] assault rifles," said Kate Wheeler, mother of Will and Ben.
Nevertheless, the devotion to musical craft has drawn admiration from Nick and Ben's guitar teacher, Salt Lake City's Mathew Wennergren. "The thing that makes them unusual is their dedication," he said. "You don't see that too often at that age level."
The trio are so intent on making it big that they have started creating rock characters. Will likes fake moustaches and always wears green pants onstage. Nick wears unmatched socks to perform and also often offstage. Ben favors purple pants and makes sure people notice his braid, which he hasn't cut in the six years since he first saw Jedi warriors wear Padawan braids.
Ashley Hoopes, of Salt Lake City, was so impressed with the band that she booked it to play her 9-year-old's birthday party earlier this summer. "We were pretty blown away," Hoopes said. "These kids were just as good as bands twice their age. It's pretty incredible the hours they log [practicing] every day."
Before the party, Hoopes' son rarely practiced a guitar she had bought him. After the party, he has been inspired by seeing role models in the band's kid musicians.
StankBot Tyranny was selected to perform at the Avenues Street Fair because the selection committee was impressed with the musicians' talent, not just because they were young and unique, said Nichol Bordeaux, a member of the committee.
In some ways, the street fair performance is full circle for the family. Kate Wheeler met her husband, Jay, there back in 2002, when he was performing in a blues band. He's now the producer of his boys' band, while Kate serves as their manager.
StankBot Tyranny began in earnest in February, when Nick, a family friend, told Will and Ben's father he was interested in playing the bass for the band. At the time, he had no musical training. Jay Wheeler assigned Nick a three-week deadline to learn the bass part of Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills," the 17-year-old recalls. The next day, he returned and played most of the bass part of the song. He has barely stopped playing since.
Nick doesn't mind playing in a band with a 13-year-old, much less a 10-year-old. "I don't view it as a hierarchy," he said. "We're all equals. I don't look down on them."
It's hard to look down on a drummer who plays like the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Then again, Will likely doesn't know who that is.
StankBot Tyranny at the 2010 Avenues Street Fair
When • Saturday, Sept. 11, at 3:30 p.m.
Where • 7th Avenue between I and N streets, adjacent to Lindsey Gardens
Tickets • Free
More information and complete schedule • www.slc-avenues.org/streetfair10.htm
To listen to StankBot Tyranny • www.reverbnation.com/c./rpk/92001?accesscode=3d5573d72a7208c26007&auto_play=true#bio