Musicians on the Move

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

First step Soldotna, next step, the world.

That's what local band Peal has in mind as they prepare to journey to Austin, Texas, next month to make their mark on the music scene.

The band has been conquering the local music arena for three years and is itching to expand its horizons.

"We want to gather acceptance down there," said Neil Darling, who does lead vocals, guitar and songwriting in the band. "We feel like we've got a pretty good grip on Soldotna, so we want to try a new venue."

Peal has been gathering fans with their eclectic performances since it formed when the members were still in high school. The band got its start when Darling, who graduated from Skyview High School in 2002, was a sophomore. His swing choir teacher wanted to get a group together to do a cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly." That paired Darling with Ryan Phillips, a drummer and singer who graduated from Skyview in 2001, and a bass player.

"It came together and after that we thought, 'Hey, that was pretty fun,' so we stayed together," Darling said.

Along with Darling and Phillips, Peal consists of guitarist, singer and songwriter Paul Hays, who graduated from Skyview in 2002, and bass player Ian Parks, who will graduate from Soldotna High School this year.

Peal's music style defies specific description, or at least the band members defy attempts to label their music.

"We don't like to classify (our music)," Darling said. "We just like to say (we play) good music and rock and roll."

The band has covered and written songs in just about every style, according to Darling, including reggae, jazz, blues and hip-hop.

Their roots are easier to pinpoint, however. Phillips' favorite band is the Dave Matthews Band. The rest list more classic music icons as their inspirations, like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

"Blues and classic rock, we grew up with that," Darling said. "It's all that we've had pounded into our heads. ... We love the '60s sound. We're trying to put a new twist on an old sound to put kids back in love with it."

For the last two years, Peal's members have been dreaming about becoming full-time musicians.

"We would like to make a living doing what we love, which is writing our own music and rocking out and making a living purely off our music," Darling said.

Now that they're leaving the comfort and following they've developed at home, the band members hope people in Austin will fall in love with their sound, as well. Darling said they are recording a CD now to distribute when they get to Austin and are planning to play in whatever local venues they can land in Austin when they get there.

"We'll probably hit the bar scene and play until we convince people we've got something worth listening to and just sort of make our way up the ladder," Darling said.

To aid their relocation efforts, Peal will give a fund-raising farewell concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Admission is $7 and door prizes will be awarded.

The band plans to head to Austin minus Parks, who will join his band mates after graduation Sept. 1.

"We are chomping at the bit," Darling said. "We are so excited right now. We want to get out of here so bad. We've been talking about doing this for two years now, and we're finally doing it."

For all the local Peal fans who might be sad to see the home-grown musicians leave, they will likely make another Kenai Peninsula appearance at some point although probably under a different name (they are dropping Peal for A Southbound Blues Band until they come up with something more permanent in Austin).

"No matter what, our journeys will bring us back to play in Alaska sooner or later," Darling said. "We're 100 percent Alaska-made, we'll never forget about Alaska."

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