As I’ve written in these pages probably a few too many times by now, one of the great joys of living in Cleveland, Ohio is a tight-knit music scene bursting with exceptional talent. From the Ur days of the eels and Rocket to the current scene that’s home to Cloud Nothings and Obnox, there’s always been enough great stuff happening that choosing what to do with one’s night out can be a FOMO-laden roll of the dice. But for the last few years, we’ve had something no other scene can boast—Cleveland music fans have had a front row seat to watch the evolution of Archie and the Bunkers.
The band—a garage-punk duo of brothers Emmett and Cullen O’Connor—first started turning heads in 2014, when they played WRUW FM’s annual Studio-A-Rama festival, a long-running event that’s served for decades as an at-a-glance picture of what’s up in Cleveland’s underground. Drummer Emmett was fifteen years old at the time, and organist Cullen was just thirteen. While curation of that fest is pretty stiff, due to their ages, expectations for Archie & the Bunkers’ set were modest, but they exceeded them wildly, kicking some pretty high ass and becoming the talk of the show. Since then, their popularity has increased exponentially, leading to opening slots for the likes of The Sonics and Iggy Pop, and releases on prestigious and storied labels like Norton, Third Man, and In The Red. They’ve logged more miles in the van than many bands twice their age, and they can’t even legally drink yet. Their major releases so far are a self-titled debut LP, the Mystery Lover EP, and the forthcoming Songs from the Lodge, on Dirty Water Records.
While the not-actually-a-gimmick gimmick of their youth can account for some of their novelty appeal, there are LOTS of bands made up of high-schoolers, and of course few of them are worth discussing—A&TB wouldn’t be on this trajectory if they didn’t merit the attention for any other reason. Their live sets are every bit as energetic as you’d expect; Emmett is a large ham, and even the more taciturn Cullen is as Iggy as one can possibly be when tethered to a keyboard. But what’s really exciting about them, beyond just their prodigious instrumental gifts and compelling shows, is watching talented kids responding creatively to music they’re still discovering, at the age when those discoveries feel the most Earth-shaking.
Much, much, MUCH more after the jump…