In high school everyone I knew played in punk and grunge bands, because as teenagers we are forced to by law. Toledo School for the Arts was a breeding ground for these kinds of bands: Kitty Genocide, Drone, Thee Trio Three, AM Error, Jude The Obscure I could go on but that was almost a decade ago. My friends and I would spend our weekends screaming into microphones and pretending to be Mark Arm. We were 15 or 16 years old playing out at dive bars with guys in bands who were 30 years older than us. We’d blow out speakers, throw shit off the stage and once we even ruined a high school gymnasium floor. It was a teenagers dream come true.
I don't think we would have gotten that at any other high school. TSA was different. We had teachers who actually gave a shit who encouraged us to follow our passions, not necessarily the breaking of the gym floor but still. They allowed us to use the practice spaces after school to hone our buzzing guitar screeches and our way-too-loud-for-comfort drumming skills.
After the dust had settled, the ringing in our ears stopped and we were forbidden from ever performing at another battle of the bands at Maumee High School (gym floor incident) it was time to settle down. That’s when brothers Greg and Joe Beck and I started actually writing music instead of making noise - on the insistence of out teachers. We put our distortion pedals away and picked up some acoustic guitars - only to later on take the distortion pedals back out. That’s when Jolly Molly began.
We practiced, we wrote arrangements, we demoed songs out and eventually we got pretty good. This was due in part to all of stage time we got through TSA events. Our teacher Dave Gierke had just been promoted to Director of Development and along with that came a huge slew of shows that TSA put on. We played close to every one. Gierke got us on stage at Toledo's Fourth of July Fireworks Event, Taste of Toledo, Concert for Culture and a whole laundry list of other events we weren't quite qualified to play. He also introduced us to Travis Knepper, who would be his replacement as percussion teacher at TSA.
Over the three years at Toledo School for the Arts we wrote close to 200 songs. I know this because I have kept every demo we ever made - my laptop is literally exploding with them. Out of these 200 we managed to push out two full-length albums with a little help from our friends.
Our first album, The Twenty-First was recorded at Studio in the Woods with help from Travis. One day in class Mr. Knepper, as we called him during school hours, was telling us about his dream to build a studio in his backyard. It sounded insane. How could one person know so much about sound? The plans were drawn up and a couple months later he was doing it. The Beck Brothers and I would travel out to the middle of the woods on the weekends and after school and helped Travis with some of the building of the studio. We sawed wood, hammered nails, chopped down trees and just about everything we had never done before. In exchange Travis taught us about the art of recording sound and mastering (and keeping our guitars in tune) but also about following your passions. It took us a couple of months to get the studio up and running and another couple to record our album. I can honestly say it was one of the most educational moments I had in high school.
A couple years later Jolly Molly hit the studio again, this time in the brand new Toledo School for the Arts recording studio. The studio was built one year after Greg and I graduated, we just missed it. We were psyched to be able to come back and use the facility, the same place that brought us together. Our friend and fellow TSA alum Aaron Pickens, Phantasmagoria, engineered and produced our self-titled album. It was recorded in the middle of winter over two weeks. The school was empty, hallways were dark and we were once again left to our devices, or rather their devices. We collected instruments from around the school that we would have never had access to otherise and put together, what I think, is our best work. The making of these two albums; the couple months with Travis and the two weeks with Aaron are collectively my favorite time of my life.
It has been almost three years since JM last played together. We're pretty much adults now, we're out of school and two of us are now living out of town. I look back on my high school experience fondly. Most people have such a negative view of high school, and I would to had I stayed in public schools. What I have found, after a year of not seeing the Beck brothers, is that it doesn’t matter if we’re good or if we “make it” or if one day Paul McCartney hears one of ours songs and hums along. What matters is that we were brought up in an environment that allowed us to pursue it. TSA gave us a place to foster these passions and literally gave us a place to record them. Not many high schools can say that.
That’s why we have put our two albums up for download with the proceeds going to the Toledo School for the Arts recording studio. We're doing it so that some dumb, snot-nosed high school jerks can record their songs too. Because everyone should have a chance to and because I can't imagine anything better than making music with your friends. The faculty at TSA have fostered a community where learning and creating are the same thing. That's the world that I choose to live in. You can check out the music below this post. Thanks.
"My band Jolly Molly formed 10 years ago at Toledo School for the Arts. To celebrate our 10th Birthday we are finally putting our albums up for sale online, previously only available in physical form. To honor the past 10 years and the place that made it all possible we are donating 100% of the profits to TSA. Each album is $5 and the sale of these albums will go on from Friday June 29th -Friday December 21st, 2012 at http://jollymolly.bandcamp.com/"