Some time between recess, homework and bedtime, Kayleigh Hepburn, Ryan Horan Nick Morper and Maanus Mahay like to hang out and jam.
Brought together by their love of music, the four elementary and middle school students make up Octopus Army, a punk band that claimed a runner-up spot out of 30 bands at the B2R Battle of the Bands elementary school division competition, held June 5 at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
The quartet came together at Bach to Rock, a music school in Gaithersburg where each began taking lessons in late 2010.
“[Without this], I’d be sitting in a corner asking myself, ‘What the heck am I doing with my life?’” said Rockville resident and drummer Nick, 11.
Since forming five months ago, Octopus Army has scored gigs at Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg and the National Children’s Museum in Prince George’s County, and has even caught the attention of one of their favorite bands.
After learning how to play “Because I’m Awesome” by the Dollyrots, the band uploaded a video of the performance online. It caught the attention of the Dollyrots themselves, who uploaded the video to their website.
“They thought it was amazing and wanted to hear more from us,” said guitarist Maanus, 12, of Germantown.
Luis Cabezas, the guitarist for the Dollyrots, finds it inspirational to witness younger generations enjoying rock music.
“It's not uncommon to see our songs covered on YouTube. Sometimes it's a kid in their garage rocking out on their guitar, sometimes it's somebody in front of their webcam with a ukulele,” Cabezas wrote in an email.
“But what sets Octopus Army apart is the quality of the performance for kids of such a young age. I certainly didn't have the guts to get up and rock out like they do when I was that young.”
Nick began exchanging tweets regularly with the Dollyrots drummer, Chris Black. Before long, the Dollyrots invited Octopus Army to meet them backstage at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Va., on June 10, where they were opening for the Go-Go’s.
Along with the Dollyrots, the band’s sound is influenced by rock acts like Green Day, blink-182, Linkin Park, the Beastie Boys, as well as pop singer Katy Perry, thanks to vocalist Kayleigh, 10.
Octopus Army mostly covers songs by other bands, but has begun composing their own tunes, like “Let’s Go,” which the band performed June 5. Their Bach to Rock instructor Billy Gunst described the song as impressive and original.
The band’s unusual name came courtesy of Nick’s father, Mike. On a visit to Japan, he came across a popular clothing boutique called Octopus Army. When the quartet tried to come up with a name for itself, Morper kept chanting “Octopus Army,” Kayleigh said, and the name stuck.
If the band ever performs in Japan, they may run into legal problems, Nick said.
“Their personalities just mesh,” said Bach to Rock Gaithersburg director Billie Jo Joseph. “Octopus Army has been a lot of fun. They created their names, logo. It starts young.”
Artistic talent and all, the four still crack jokes and argue like other kids their age.
As Octopus Army’s frontwoman and only girl, Kayleigh holds her own in a group of three guys.
When Maanus playfully indicated that he, Nick and guitarist Ryan, 11, were “alpha,” and Kayleigh was “omega,” she countered by calling them omegas and giving Maanus a punch in the arm.
“I’m awesomer than all of you!” Kayleigh said.
As the band continues to master their instruments and songwriting, Nick, Maanus and Ryan have greater goals in their quest to be “like the Beatles,” according to Maanus.
It’s all part of rock ’n’ roll.