The notion of pulling together a contemporary musical group with members spanning broad spectrums in terms of age and experience is certainly not a new one; indeed, in the world of popular music, musical combos such as The Partridge Family and The Jackson Five come readily to mind; but in the world of rock 'n roll it is somewhat of a rarity, and even more so when the younger members possess a similar alignment of professionalism, talent, and creative energy with the more experienced and road-tested members of the collective.
Operation 13 decidedly falls into this category and is not your typical ensemble of musicians. Consisting of 14-year olds Jason (Jay) 'Bonez' Cox on guitar & vocals andNolan 'Stix' Bellinger on drums & backing vocals, the band is grounded by the foundational focus of bassist & vocalist Mike 'Beeker' Beeckman, who ironically has children older than the other two members of this creative alliance.
The involvement with these three seemingly unlikely musical mates commenced when both Jay and Nolan started taking musical lessons as students of Beeckman, who has been giving private instruction on multiple instruments for over 15 years now.
Jay and Nolan began practicing together shortly after they started lessons with Mike; and their parents quickly requested that Mike conduct band classes with the two of them to help them develop a sense of musical structure and dynamics. In need of a bassist, Mike started filling the position while the two held auditions; but after several months of searching for the right member and finding no solid candidates, Jay and Nolan asked Mike to become the bassist for Operation 13. A proposition which Mike did not hesitate hitching his amplifier to. “I'm having the time of my life and these boys are both very serious about our success and possess the motivation to achieve it,” he explains.
The group has just completed a 5-song EP subtitled EPic that they recorded at Indie Spot Studio on Broadway in Bay City. Cover art and design were a collaborative effort with art by Robert Conway of 'The Elephant Riders' while Charles Conley of Indie Spot handled the graphics and layout.
On July 20th Operation 13 is staging a CD Release & Video Party that will be held at The State Theatre on Washington in Bay City, which will also feature special guestsChop House to open, along with possible plans to perform a double-band jamboree as a show climax.
The group's name Operation 13 was determined by Jason and Nolan as they were still 13 years old when the band was formed. Formerly the two had a 2-piece band called 'Radioactiv' that would perform concderts in basements, backyards, and garages for friends and family. Since their formation, Op13 has performed at several venues and festivals throughout the Great Lakes Bay area and is rapidly gaining both popular and critical attention.
In terms of their sound, the band's influences range from Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Green Day, KISS and Metallica. Currently their list of cover songs are substantial, broad-based, and enough to entertain an entire evening when sprinkled in with nearly a dozen original compositions that the band has created.
Family and friends of the band have helped raise the funds for their upcoming CD Release Party at The State Theatre on July 20th which has been supplemented by earnings from recent performances. Once their DVD, which is also being produced by Indie Spot is completed, they group intends to distribute it to major recording labels as well as local and national broadcast stations. “Both Paul and Charles of Indie Spot are great people to work with and their facility is state-of-the-art,” says Beeker.
The band's involvement with The State Theatre started when John Bellsmith of Hairball Promotions caught an Op13 set during a 24-Band Battle of the Bands at the Willew Lounge, which the band secured second place at. John has been involved with promotion and graphics for decades, as well as hosting 'Hairball John' on Z-93 The Rock Station. Knowing John was an avid 80's rock enthusiast, Op13 dedicated Youth Gone Wild by Skid Row at that battle to Bellsmith, who subsequently suggested they open for a recent concert headlined by Like a Storm who hail from New Zealand and are currently on a U.S. Tour. That concert also included opening guests for the CD Release show, Chop House.
After rehearsals it is a common ritual for the three to lift weights and work out. “We always agree that any member of our band will need to be able to hang with us like brothers,” says Stix. To which Bonez adds, “We're going to the top and its going to be a fun ride all the way there.”
Nolan's mother Wendy Diem-Bellinger and grandparents Bud & Roxanne Diem are also helpful with making sure the group gets to performances and is constantly video taping their performances so the group can critique their show. While Nolan's favorite drummer is Lars Ulrich of Metallica, he is constantly working to improve his own musical signature. “The impression Nolan leaves people with isn't a huge eleaborate drumset, but his talent and memorable stage moves,” notes Beeckman.
Jay's dad Dave Cox and mother Kim are also solidly behind the group's endeavors. Dave is one of the band's strongest financial supporters and handles much of the merchandising, while Mike's wife Dawn Gonzalez-Beeckman is one of the band's photographers and attends as many shows as she can. Mike's basses are 4 and 5 string Ibanez with typically one cable between the guitar and amp, as opposed to a wall of pedals and patches. Similarly, Jay also goes for a minimalist approach. “I want my guitar tone pure,” he states.
When asked what it was about Jay & Nolan that distinguished them from other students he had taught, and also struck him enough to move forward with the commitment of forming a band together with them, he points to their motivation and ambition. “At the same time their abilities are exceptional, coupled with their willingness to listen and learn.”
As for Jay and Nolan, they each knew Mike would be the perfect bassist for the group early on in the game. “It was always fun when having lessons and once we had a few under our belt there was no doubt in my mind that we clicked,” says Jay. “We knew he was perfect becase he was creative about writing songs and we share the same musical interests,” adds Nolan.
When asked about the qualities that Operation 13 possesses that distinguishes and sets the band apart from other groups in the area also pursuing their musical dreams, Mike points to the collective chemistry. “When someone sees an Op13 show for the first them they know we are a TEAM of musicians and love what we do.”
“I feel its because we are dedicated and know how to put on a show,” reflects Jay. “That' makes the biggest difference in the world.” “We don't just play one genre of music and each of our songs have and carry its own musical personality,” states Nolan. “My dad used to play drums and he had a kit that looked just like Lars Ulrich's from 1992. I wanted to do something like my Dad and signed for the school band,” explains Nolan.
For the eldest member Mike Beeckman, he explains how his dad's side of the family was always musically involved. “My cousins Bob & Greg would entertain the family with guitars and piano as young as I can remember. They really inspired me to become a musician,” he notes.
As for their original material and the songs showcased at the CD release party, the group says once the tunes were written they would practice laying tracks and recording during rehearsals, so the recording at Indie Spot took less that a week. “We work as a team to refine ideas into songs,” states Mike. “Typically Jay is our initial generator of the ideas and then we work as a team to refine ideas into songs. It's when we're all together at the same that a song is truly born.”
With nearly a dozen original songs completed when the group isn't putting on shows they rehearse once a week as a full band, with Jay and Nolan hanging out several times a week to jam, write, and also rehearse.
When asked what they feel pose the biggest challenges to moving the band forward in our current contemporary climate, Mike says the biggest obstacle is “getting people to take us seriously because of the difference in ages. As far as our contemporary climate, we don't know what that means and that's probably best because if it's going to get in our way we won't notice it as we do all of our adversities.”
The CD Release show will be recorded by Indie Spot Studio and the video used as a demo to send to major record labels and as a promo pack for booking. The groups says that fans and patrons can expect to leave the show feeling like they've just made a lot of new friends. They point out that they aren't doing this for themselves, but want to inspire people.
When asked if they have any additional comments on the upcoming CD Release show or the band in general, the group runs down a riff of thankfulness. “We want to thank God for the gift of music, Dave & Kim Cox, Spatz Bakery and Fastlane Drive Thru, and all the family and friends that helped us raise the funds to put this event on.”
Tickets for the July 20th Operation 13 CD Release Show are only $2.00 for students and $3.00 for adults and are available now at the State Theatre Box Office or by going to statetheatrebaycity.com