By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN “If you can put a band together and play “Things Goin’ On” by Lynyrd Skynerd, I’ll give you $300 to split.”
That was the challenge Kourtney Ryan’s dad gave to Kourtney and her cousins, Erin and Tom Ryan, about two years ago.
“He just wanted to give us a push,” said Kourtney, who is now a sophomore at Delano High School.
The musically talented trio recruited a drummer, practiced the song, and did a striking performance for Kourtney’s dad.
After that, there was no going back.
“Everyone was asking, ‘when’s our next practice going to be?’” Kourtney recalled.
The band now consists of Kourtney, Erin (of New Hope), Delano sophomore Lukas Sorensen, and Delano junior JT Petersen.
“We’ve been together for one year and three months,” JT said. “We all have determination and a passion for music.”
“It’s really cool we are all really close,” Kourtney said.
The band’s initial performances were at Delano High School talent shows and social gatherings. They also played on a float in the Delano Fourth of July parade.
“Our first paid event was the Verizon Wireless store grand opening July 24,” Kourtney said.
At the end of August, they won first place in their age division at the Victoria Volksfest and Art Fair “Battle of the Bands.”
Their prize was a gig at Floyd’s Bar in Victoria Sept. 26.
“We were kind of nervous,” Kourtney said, but added that everything turned out better than they expected.
“We ended up getting over $100 in tips,” she said.
The audience kept asking them to do “just one more” song, and they ended with one of their favorites, “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Another song they love to play is “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” by The Clash.
Writing and recording
In addition to playing alternative and classic rock from the 1980s through the present, the band members have written a few of their own pieces.
“Depending on who writes the song, it has a different sound,” Kourtney said. “We have a lot of the same taste, but it branches out.”
Artists they’ve been inspired by include Nirvana, Gorillaz, Guns N’ Roses, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, to name a few.
“We just all love music,” Lukas said. “We all have our own little spin off the alternative.”
They’ve been approached to do a sample recording, but Lukas said they aren’t quite ready for that yet.
“We improve, and then our songs improve. We’re trying to figure out what would go into the album,” he said.
Finding their niche will take time, but the band is more than willing to put in the effort.
During the summer, they practiced 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday in Kourtney’s dad’s garage.
“It was just like school, except a lot better than school,” JT said.
During the school year, getting together for practice is more difficult, especially because their lead singer, Erin, lives in New Hope.
But even when they can’t be together, music is never far from their minds.
“I always make time for drums or guitar. If I don’t, I go crazy. It’s like my healthy drug,” JT joked. “I can’t function without playing music.”
All of the band members are involved in jazz and concert bands at school, playing a variety of instruments. In addition to playing drums, JT also knows how to play piano. Erin plays piano, guitar, and takes voice lessons; and Kourtney plays bass, does backup vocals, and plays flute. Lukas, the band’s lead guitarist, also plays trumpet and piano.
Music: a lifelong love
JT’s passion for music was passed down from his father and grandfather, who were both drummers. JT’s dad was in two bands, and is highly supportive of his son’s musical ambitions.
“He calls himself the ‘agent’ of the band,” JT laughed.
JT has never had drum lessons, but it hasn’t hindered his ability.
“I basically taught myself. I just had a talent for it and a good sense of rhythm,” he said. “I picked up wooden spoons and played on pots and pans in the kitchen as a 2-year-old. When I was 5, I got my first real drum set.”
Lukas also has had a long-time love of music. He started with piano lessons in first grade, and about two years ago, he picked up guitar lessons.
“That really took off,” he said.
One of the unique parts of the band is that there are two girls in it.
“We’re different,” Kourtney said. “It’s unusual to have a girl playing base.”
The band doesn’t know what the future holds, but hopes that music can always be a big part of their lives.
After graduation, JT hopes to go to college for drum performance/music business, and later have a career in the music industry. The band members said that their dream would be to write music, record albums, and go on tours someday.
“That would be like, our life is perfect,” Kourtney said.
The band also recognizes that making a full-time career playing music isn’t the easiest thing to do, however.
“So many things can happen,” Lukas said.
For now, though, Chemical Defense is thankful to have great encouragement from their families and friends.
Lukas’s dad had 90 t-shirts made with the Chemical Defense name on them, and about 50 have been sold so far.
“A lot of people are wearing them at school,” Lukas said.
“Our families are really supportive,” Kourtney said. “I feel extremely lucky.”
Throughout the band’s existence, it’s kept the name Chemical Defense, which they found online by clicking on the “random article” button on Wikipedia.
“We just did that for about an hour,” Kourtney said. “We had no idea what we wanted.”
One of the random articles had the words “chemical defense” in the title, and the name stuck.
“We were like, ‘chemical defense.’ I like that,” Lukas said.
To see more information, photos, and videos of Chemical Defense, go to their Facebook page.