Sounds Like Teen Spirit 

Panda and Please Quiet Ourselves prove that the music industry is not just for grown-ups anymore.

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On this point there is consensus between the generations. "It's his playing field, and he's calling the shots, and if he needs anything, he just needs to talk about it," said Petros' mother Jane Anastos. Mel Lyons, father of Please Quiet Ourselves drummer Eli Lyons, agrees: "I let them have their fun, trying to keep off it, and let him share what he wanted to."

A convergence of factors including increasingly accessible technology, a decentralized music industry, and the availability of local kid-friendly musical venues has allowed these young musicians to write, rehearse, perform, record, distribute, and market their work almost entirely on their own. Backed by rare talent, tireless drive, and the unconditional yet passive support of their parents, they've already accomplished something extraordinary — regardless of what the future holds.

For Please Quiet Ourselves, it all started back in elementary school, when Jojo, classmate Haran Stern, and some other friends had what Jojo calls "a weird idea to start a band." Then in eighth grade, he wrote and recorded a song named "Color Chart" for a school project. A simple, short pop ditty about colors (What about orange makes it so damn special?), it inspired him to found Please Quiet Ourselves as a vehicle for similar material, and appropriately kicks off the band's first CD.

"Music's my only thing," Jojo says. He's not kidding, either: Every night after school he'll spend as many as five hours in his room playing guitar, working on new songs, and recording on his four-track reel-to-reel. "It's not like I think about it every day, it just kinda happens," he says. "I'll just play music for a long time."

On a sunny February afternoon, in guitarist Adam Becker's basement, five of the band's seven members are gathered for one of their infrequent, informal practices. The room that has been the band's rehearsal home for nearly a year is cramped with instruments and equipment, and amps have become chairs. Braces, acne, and nascent facial hair, along with the beverages of choice — water and Hansen's juice — leave no question as to their age. The music, however, is another story.

The band runs through a punked-up version of "Color Chart," and though it's been weeks since they last played together, their chemistry is inescapable. They watch each other casually as they play, looking for cues to stay in sync while keeping the corner of an eye on Jojo. But this comes across as a mere formality; the young musicians don't seem to be playing the song so much as allowing it to flow through them in unison.

Next the band launches into a cover of the 1997 Modest Mouse song "Trailer Trash," which incidentally contains the line "Goddamn I hope I can pass, high school means nothing." Avowed Modest Mouse fans all, they learned to play the song a couple days before debuting it at a showcase in Davis. They nailed it, and do it more than justice even in today's laidback rendition. Jenn De La Vega, owner of the band's Davis-based label, Mushpot Records, says she's been trying to get the band to record the song. For now they're content to keep it casual.

This is, after all, Please Quiet Ourselves' style. What's most notable about the rehearsal is their easygoing nature and confidently loose performing style. They don't spend much time fussing and are content to play all the way through a song without critique. Their technical abilities are beyond adequate for the straightforward demands of their songs, even when Max Burstein, the greenest musician in the group, has trouble remembering the melodica part for the band's best number, the Arcade Fire-esque "The Light." "I can't play music; this thing pretty much plays itself," he says, adding that his instrument seems perpetually out of tune. No matter. This spontaneity lends the band's music a playful scrappiness that translates to irresistible charm.

It's also precisely why De La Vega signed them, she says. "I'm drawn to very lo-fi recordings and things that are do-it-yourself." In fact, she's found the majority of her fifteen bands through MySpace. Though Please Quiet Ourselves has had a page up to network, announce show dates, and share music with fans since December of 2005, it was discovered the old-fashioned way. In 2006, when De La Vega was music director at the UC Davis radio station, KDVS, Jojo's cousin Elisa passed along a demo. "I finally got to it, and it was very rough," De La Vega recalled. "They recorded it on an iMac. It was messy and I really liked it."

When she first made contact with Jojo, she knew from his cousin only that he attended school in Berkeley. "I asked him, 'So, what are you studying at Berkeley?' Jojo said, 'I don't know if Alisa told you, but we're in high school.'" Surprised but undeterred, she signed the band to her fledgling label and commissioned an album for a 500-copy pressing. "I idolize them sometimes," she said, "because I didn't get to do that stuff when I was their age."


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