Bet Me I'm Lying is building a following and getting set to release a fourth album, but the future remains uncertain.
CLEARWATER —Halftime shows at high school football games traditionally feature marching bands from the competing schools.
But on a couple of occasions this year, a different kind of musical group took the field for the midgame break at Clearwater Central Catholic High School.
Bet Me I'm Lying is an alternative rock band made up of five Clearwater area teens: two CCC students, junior Jackson Marquardt, 17, and his sophomore brother, Brendan, 15; two Osceola High School students, senior Kirk Adikes and junior Jamie Craske, both 17; and 19-year-old University of South Florida freshman C.J. Harris.
The boys grew up together in the Harbor Bluffs area of Largo, leading typical teenage lives, playing sports and dabbling in music. About five years ago, Bet Me I'm Lying (the name stems from a daring taunt the teens yelled at each other as kids) was formed, and it soon started to gain a following, thanks to the band's unique style and unusual playlist.
“Their music is very organic sounding,” explained Matt Marquardt, father of Jackson and Brendan and the band's unofficial manager. “There's no Auto-Tune here. It's a sound that adults can identify with.”
One reason is that although the band members are too young to drink legally, their list of cover songs consists primarily of older, obscure rock hits from groups like the Beatles, REM and the Violent Femmes.
It's not your typical playlist for a band of teenagers; there's no Metallica or Jay Z here. But the Marquardt brothers say the song selection is a natural fit for a group that got its start playing at a 40-year-old's surprise birthday party. It's also part of their DNA, apparently.
“Our dad was in a band, and he used to play that kind of music when we were growing up,” guitarist/vocalist Jackson Marquardt said. “We took music lessons at a real young age and learned to play instruments when we were 9 and 7, and that kind of gave us our taste for music.”
“We used to listen to older rock music like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the car with our dad, added Brendan, the band's drummer. “So we grew up liking that music a lot. When it came time to play the birthday party, we knew we wanted to play music from that genre for the crowd.”
The tactic has worked.
To date, BMIL has played gigs all over the country, including an alt rock festival in Michigan and at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for a monster truck show, in addition to a slew of local appearances at venues like the outside stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill in St. Petersburg, the Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach and at the St. Anthony's Triathlon.
Matt Marquardt acknowledged that his far-reaching connections as a Princeton grad have helped him in booking shows. But he also said the reason the boys have developed such a large following — they currently have nearly 11,000 Facebook fans — is because they're playing songs people, especially older people, like to hear.
“People want to hear songs they know,” Marquardt, a partner in a Clearwater law firm, said. “The kids have a lot of their own original music, but where they have been successful is they've learned to play other people's songs.”
As Marquardt mentioned, BMIL is not just a cover band; the teens also play original songs and have recorded three albums with producers well-known in the music industry with a fourth due in early 2014.
But with a number of factors like sports and college starting to pull the boys in different directions, they don't know how far the band can go and how long they can stay together.
“We'd like to be a famous band, but we're realistic about it,” said Adikes, a guitarist who is also a baseball player. “I'll be going off to college somewhere next summer, so that might change things for us a bit. I'll definitely keep playing guitar, but I'm not sure where it will be.”
“That's a tough question,” Jackson Marquardt said when asked what the future holds for Bet Me I'm Lying. ”I'm not sure how far you can go when you have a bunch of kids our age, with sports and college and everything.
“But playing music is definitely something I can see myself doing for a long time. I can't stop playing the guitar. It's something I have to do.”
Bet Me I'm Lying is currently on winter hiatus as the band prepares to release its fourth collection of original songs. Find out more on the band and future performances, and listen to its music at www.facebook.com/betmeimlying.