Arts & Entertainment

Talent contest winners to rock in the New Year

Elm & Olympia are much more than two intersecting streets in Richland.

It's the name of a band that will rock the house New Year's Eve at this year's First Night Tri-Cities event, which happens Dec. 31 on the campus at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

There a perfectly good reason this trio of musicians named themselves Elm & Olympia, said Derrek Michael, the drummer.

"I live on Olympia Street and JJ and Geoff live on Elm Street, so we figured the connection would make a cool name for our band," Michael said.

The trio is made up of Michael on drums, JJ Tagg on guitar and Geoff Henry on bass and lead vocals. Michael and Tagg were formerly with the defunct band Silverback Suicide.

Though Henry never played with Silverback, he and Michael have been jammin' since they were 3 years old.

Elm & Olympia's name was inspired by their cross streets in Richland, which bonds their band literally and figuratively.

"Our sound could be described as garage rock with funk, jazz and punk influences," Michael said. "It's a mix of our wide variety of influences, and our main goal is to write music that is unique and catchy and isn't confined to a subgenre."

Some of those influences come from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Rise Against, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, the Marks Volta and Gosling (previously known as Loudermilk).

Michael, 22, and Henry, 23, are both Richland High grads and Tagg, 21, graduated from Pasco High. They've been jammin' together since 2007 after Silverback Suicide broke up, Michael said.

"We jammed for a couple months but didn't start seriously practicing and writing music until about December 2009," he said. The band decided it was ready for its first show earlier this year when it opened for A Killing Dove at Ray's Golden Lion last June.

The trio also recorded a three-song demo CD last May.

"Right now our musical plans are to focus on putting on our best show for First Night, and to learn a lot of cover tunes for our gig at the Rock Reactor (on Jan. 28)," Michael said. "We've evolved substantially since our demo was recorded, and we want to capture our live show energy onto a disc."

Elm & Olympia don't have any plans to tour any time soon, simply because they have day jobs.

Tagg and Henry work at Cousin's Restaurant on Road 68 in Pasco, and Michael works for Les Schwab Tire Center in Richland.

The band earned honors last summer when it won the Shine the Spotlight Talent Show held at Kennewick High in July.

"We've been very fortunate and would be nowhere without the help we've had from our parents, as well as Bess Byers, Ed Dailey, Eclectic Approach and Brook Floyd of Rainmaker Studios," Michael said. "And Geoff's dad Wayne has also provided a lot of support to us as our manager."

The guys do their rehearsing as often as possible and in various locations, even a spare bedroom in Michael's home, which not long ago caused a bit more attention than they anticipated.

"We were under the impression the sound ordinance (in Richland) was at 10 p.m., but apparently we were wrong," Michael said. "A police officer knocked on our door and informed us that (it was) 9 p.m."

Though they were grateful for a warning instead of a citation, the cop also told the band members something they never expected to hear from law enforcement.

"He told us we sounded good before he left," Michael said.

Elm & Olympia will rock First Night events Dec. 31 starting at 11 p.m. in the Hawk Union Building on the Columbia Basin College campus in Pasco.

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