The trials of Scofflaw

The+trials+of+Scofflaw

Caroline Jones

Sasha Larson

From the depths of a cluttered, unfinished basement came the sounds of Scofflaw: a blues-rock fivesome sporting heavy riffs, screaming vocals and bared flesh. Nine months, 20 gigs and one EP later, the band of juniors faces their biggest hurdle yet: can they survive a year-long hiatus?

AIDAN

According to rhythm guitarist Reid Koski, Aidan Sisler is the member who’s “been there 100 percent.”

While other members have come, played and been replaced, or missed the occasional gig, lead singer Sisler counts every Scofflaw concert under his belt.

It was Sisler who initially established Scofflaw with best friend Luke Kreiner, the pair forging their musical passions into a lead singer/lead guitarist duo.

Come late summer, however, the pair will live on opposite sides of the country.
Sisler’s father accepted a job with Amazon that would’ve transplanted the family in London, but a new company decision will send him to Seattle for his senior year.

“I’m sure [Seattle]’s gonna be crazy different, but London just would’ve been cool, ‘cause London is London,” Sisler said.

“Seattle is the suicide capital of America,” Koski interjected from atop an amplifier, although according to a 2012 study, Las Vegas actually claims the title.

“Nah, but Seattle will be good,” Sisler said. “I’m not excited for the weather, though. I don’t know if that’s a myth.”

He remains optimistic about his time in Washington and about the fate of the band. Sisler plans to attend a music camp at Berklee College to hone his craft before the move and wants to return to Decatur as soon as possible.

“Hopefully after I’ve graduated online school – I only need, like, four credits – I can move back [in December] when I’m 18,” he said. “Back to the band, back to the grind.”

Kreiner, however, doubts his friend’s plans, which Sisler acknowledged with a grin.

“I mean, it’s not definite,” Sisler said. “Nothing’s really definite. Me moving to London apparently wasn’t definite. That’s ideal, but we’ll see.”

While Koski admires Sisler’s energy and stage persona, Sisler treasures the band dynamic as a whole – just one of the things he’ll miss in the fall.

“We’ve kinda made a home here in the basement. It’s gonna suck leaving it,” he said. “One of the things that you can’t really find easily is that sync, and I think we’ve built that a lot.”

He fears losing this common rhythm when he returns.

“We probably wouldn’t be as tight,” he said. “Not friendship-wise, just musically. I hope they continue to jam and and continue to be tight in writing [music] and stuff.”

Sisler stays in sync with Koski and Kreiner even at practices unattended by drummer Chris Bass, working through tracks like “Mine” and “Hailey” beat-less. He thrusts his torso to the tune, contorts his body as he belts into the mic and turns redder with each scream.

“I don’t think Aidan realizes how much he’s influenced by Iggy Pop,” Kreiner said.

Sisler’s flattered by the comment, but always finds room for improvement.

“It could always be better. There could always be more,” he said of his stage antics and tendency to sing shirtless. “Maybe next I’ll play with my pants off.”

He knows Kreiner will support his musical career, jeans on or off.

“We’re best friends. We’ve gotten in a bunch of fights, but it always just makes us stronger,” Sisler said.

How hard will it be without him next year?

“Oh no, that’s a hard question. It’s gonna be hard. I don’t hang out with a lot of people…it’s gonna be tough. He’s my brother.”

 

LUKE

Luke Kreiner can’t play the guitar.

Not at the moment, not while the fractured bone in his left arm heals. Until then, he sports a hot pink cast decorated with Sharpied names and doodles. Sisler’s handwriting spells out “the three amigos” above an illustration of the two and fellow junior Jhalen Billingslea.

This is his fifth broken bone, not counting four previous dislocations. His timing was “impeccable.”

“Bad things happen,” Kreiner said, “and a lot of bad things got clustered into one small section of time. I could see how people could think we’re failing, but I don’t think we’re going anywhere until Aidan moves.”

Sisler and Kreiner became friends in Terri Schilling’s fourth grade class. They rekindled their bond as freshmen, discovering a mutual love for “In One Year” by Cage the Elephant during a night of Grand Theft Auto. Kreiner hadn’t yet fine-tuned his guitar skills, so the pair sang along to an instrumental version of the song on YouTube.

“We found what we had in common, and that common thread was so thick and so strong that I think it’s kept us together,” Kreiner said.

Kreiner knows about Sisler’s passion, his love for music and the telltale signs he’s about to puke (if he presses a fist against his forehead for a long time, watch out). Despite a come-what-may attitude, Kreiner still worries about their looming separation.

“I’m not so much worried about losing a musical counterpart, just because I know both of us will be musically successful no matter what,” he said. “I’m more worried about losing such a good friend.” Then, after a pause: “I think we’ll be fine.”

Kreiner admits he’s quick to be dismissive. He often responds to questions with a smile, only to divulge the truth seconds later.

Carpe Diem: Sorry about your arm.
Kreiner: It’s cool.
Carpe Diem: Is it?
Kreiner: No.

Despite his setback, he makes the most of the situation.

“It’s definitely not easy, but I have a belief that all good things come from bad things,” he said. “During this process, I purchased a lap steel guitar. I think it’ll bring new dimensions to my music, to Scofflaw’s music and to my whole creative outlet.”

The initial eagerness wore off during practice when, between songs, he squeezed tufts of blond-brown hair in fists and leaned over the lap steel. “I wanna play the guitar so bad.”

“Poor Luke,” Sisler laughed.

“Shut up.”

“I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

 

REID

Reid Koski ambles into practice, Telecaster in hand, dragging the toes of his Vans across the cement floor.

“My boss told me, ‘Reid, you don’t walk. You meander,’” he said.

Koski is not a founding father of Scofflaw but discovered a common groove after jamming with Sisler in 2014’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue. In his months with the band, he most appreciates writing songs with like-minded people.

“And being, like, the best band in school – that’s cool, too,” he said.

While he remains stoic onstage – face expressionless, eyes unblinking – Koski is enthusiastic when it comes to the band’s sound. As for the rumors that he blasts Scofflaw on his iPhone, he laughs before confirming the truth.

“You listen to it, I feel like, to know what you can do better,” he said. “I don’t only listen to Scofflaw, but it’s also fun. It’s like, ‘I wrote this.’”

Him, and the other members. He admits they are all integral parts of the group, and things won’t be the same without Aidan.

“I feel like the biggest thing he brings is his energy when he sings onstage,” he said. “The most important part about Scofflaw is the energy. So, like, we can’t really play shows without him.”

 

THOMAS

Sophomore Thomas Sinclair isn’t officially a member of Scofflaw. Since junior Gib Ruby’s departure, he fills the slot for temporary bassist, pinning his bangs back with bobby pins as he bobs his head to unfamiliar bluesy tunes.

He considers himself a producer before a guitarist, and a guitarist before a bassist.

“I’m into recording stuff,” he said. “I work with a write-as-I-record deal. I was like, ‘Maybe I should perform some stuff. I’ll help these Scofflaw guys out.’ Normally I do manipulations of recordings rather than live things.”

What kind of music does Sinclair like to produce? “Not blues-rock,” he’s quick to respond. He prefers electronic and pop genres and still works with fellow sophomore Caroline Barber to release an album.

“It’ll be a while [before it comes out],” he said. “It’ll be a long while. Probably, like, next school year.”

In the meantime, he’ll keep fingering his fretless Stratocaster as part of Scofflaw’s rhythm section. He hits roadblocks, though, in trying to jam with Bass.

“I love [Chris]. I love him so much,” he said. “I’ve tried to play with him six times. He’s not showed up all six times. Oh my gosh…but if I had to pick a favorite in Scofflaw, it’d be the only one I haven’t played with in Scofflaw.”

 

CHRIS

Chris Bass was supposed to be a Scofflaw member from the start but declined due to a summer tour with Drum Corp International (DCI). Until sophomore Cole Holden left the band – then the members asked to recruit Bass again.

Bass discovered the drums at age four, when he fell in love with a First Act kid’s drum set. Recognizing his appetite for the instrument, his mom enrolled him in lessons. Twelve years later, those lessons paid off.

With Scofflaw, Bass bangs it out on a PDPx7 kit to crowds at the Masquerade or the Vinyl. This past summer, he played Mapex Marching Snares at much larger venues – the Georgia Dome, for example.

While DCI took Bass around the country, right now he’s content working out songs in Sisler’s basement.

“I really like our style of music,” he said. “We might be playing something super bluesy, then it might go to something psychedelic.”

Bass believes in the power of music, no matter the genre.

“Music is universal. It kind of transcends everything else around the world,” he said. “It gives off certain emotions. You know, you can play a sad song, and you can feel sad.”

Without Sisler, Bass says, Scofflaw loses the frontman who “organizes” and “gets us hyped up.”

When this key puzzle piece moves to Seattle, Bass will keep on jamming.

“I plan to just practice and improve,” he said. “When he comes back, I’ll be the best that I can be.”
In the long run, he knows drumming will carry him far. Bass dreams of a career in music, of being in a band as an adult or working as a freelance drummer and touring with various musicians.

In the meantime, he enjoys his position as “the happy guy in the back.”

 

THE BAND

It is April 14th. If Kreiner had listened to doctor’s orders, he would have a week before getting his cast off.

“I just didn’t want to do that,” he said with a shrug.

So three days prior, Sisler helped Kreiner saw off his cast with a steak knife.

“The day after that, we had a practice, and it was really good,” Kreiner said. “I hadn’t played my electric guitar in about a month. On the way there we listened to the song “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, and the first line is ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve rock and rolled.’”

His arm might’ve healed, but a migraine kept Kreiner on Sisler’s basement futon all day. He spent his hours duct-taping his Les Paul Special with white tape, waiting to practice with the rest of the band.

Sinclair couldn’t make it, but Bass and Koski tune up while Sisler fixes a salad upstairs. He arrives at the mic chewing a carrot, the rest of the band already playing at full volume. They kick off several songs, reworking certain riffs and drum numbers. They tease one another mercilessly for verbal slip-ups (“John Bonham, not Joe Bonham!” Kreiner tells Bass). Sisler makes tea for one while the rest noodle around on their instruments.

Looming over their heads, fastened to the exposed pipes, is Sisler’s black and white American flag, a piece “symbolic” to the nature of Scofflaw, he says.

“Our black and white flag has always been hanging on the wall,” he said. “When Gib [left the band], a little bit of it fell down. When we were in a debacle – is that the word? – it completely fell down. And then we put it back up, and then Luke’s arm broke, and then it fell back down. And then everybody was here, and then we got Thomas, and then we sawed off Luke’s cast, and then we all had a great practice, and we tied it up so it’ll never fall again.”

Even when Sisler lives across the country, the flag will most likely be lying in wait.

“It’s Luke’s flag, so he’ll probably keep it,” Sisler said. “Unless he wants to give it to me as a farewell gift.”

 

Photo courtesy of Caroline Jones