FEW people would associate Henley with heavy metal or punk rock groups but two teenagers aim to change that.
Jake Clark and George Buckett formed four-piece band To Burn and Blossom more than a year ago and hope to record their first EP soon.
The 16-year-olds rehearse weekly at the home of George’s grandmother Pauline in Western Avenue. Mrs Buckett is the widow of former Henley mayor Terry Buckett, who died in 2009.
The boys, who are in year 11 at Gillotts School, put the band together for a school talent show in March last year, which Jake organised.
Jake plays bass guitar and George the drums while the group’s vocalist is Josh Clapham and the guitarist Jake Burford, both 19 and from Whitley.
The older boys only joined the group just before Christmas after meeting the Henley duo on the live music scene in Reading.
Before that, Jake used to sing and the group had a number of different guitarists including Dougie McGrory and Marcus Bagshawe, classmates at Gillotts.
To Burn and Blossom, who used to be known as Blackjaxx, have experimented with a range of styles before settling on hardcore, a style influenced by heavy metal and punk.
It is characterised by aggressive, heavily distorted guitar playing and vocals that are often screamed or growled rather than sung. By contrast, Jake and George have raised more than £2,500 for charity with the gigs they have played so far.
The school talent show raised £500 for the Helen and Douglas House youth hospice in Oxford.
A gig at the Salisbury Conservative Club in Queen Street, Henley, where they supported punk rock band Launch Control, raised more than £1,000 for Cash For Kids, a charity that gives grants to young people in deprived areas.
The band also played in front of hundreds of people at Henley’s first Music on the Meadows event, which took place on Mill Meadows last June, as well as a warm-up gig at Magoos bar in Hart Street.
These two shows raised £1,000 to launch a trust for young people who want to become professional musicians.
The group also played several gigs at Henley Youth Centre, raising hundreds of pounds towards the upkeep of the Deanfield Avenue centre and the new skate park at Makins recreation ground — Jake and George are members of the Henley Skatepark Initiative.
Jake and George used to only perform cover versions of songs by heavy rock bands such as Quiet Riot, Kiss and Metallica.
But after joining forces with Josh and the other Jake, who are fans of hardcore, they began writing their own songs, including Beneath, Green Hands and Face (The Pain).
They have written enough songs to record an EP and are saving up to pay for studio time. Josh has also designed a logo which they plan to have printed on T-shirts to sell.
Between them, the boys own more than £1,000 worth of instruments, amplifiers and effects units, paid for by saving up money they received as birthday and Christmas presents.
Jake, who lives in Highmoor with his mother Angela, was given some of his equipment and cases by his father John, of Luker Avenue, Henley, who played bass in the Nineties in a heavy metal band called Gomorrah.
George keeps his drum kit at Mrs Buckett’s house because there is not enough room at his home in Gainsborough Crescent, Henley, where he lives his mother Susan.
Jake and George are both self-taught having first picked up their instruments when they were young children.
George said: “We’ve never had any proper lessons and we’ve done everything off our own backs. We’ve already played in front of thousands of people so I suppose we aren’t doing too badly for non-graded musicians.”
Jake said: “I guess you could say we’re like a heavy Sex Pistols. I’m more into the older stuff like Metallica or a bit of Mötley Crüe whereas George is into more hardcore, aggressive kinds of music.”
George added: “We’re not like that as people. We’re really nice — it’s just the way our music sounds.”
The group practises for about four hours on Sunday afternoons in Mrs Buckett’s conservatory.
George said: “I’m pretty sure the neighbours are okay because we haven’t had any complaints so far. I think they’re getting used to it.
“My nan really likes it. She has been on her own since my grandfather died so it’s nice for her to have the company of the boys. She cooks for all of us and cleans all around our kit and instruments, which is fine with us.”
Mrs Buckett said: “I would rather them be here rehearsing than out on the street getting up to who knows what.
“It’s not constant noise — they do take breaks and I think neighbours have now got used to them. We’ve had no complaints. They aren’t doing anybody any harm and I feel I’m giving them a chance to make something of their lives.
“I am very proud of what they have done. Their music is a bit different from what I would choose but a lot of people would enjoy it.
“They just need a chance to be heard and perhaps someone will offer to help them make a recording. They have done a lot of charity work so hopefully someone will give something back to them.”
George said: “Playing gigs is one thing but it’s hard to promote that to some people. They don’t necessarily want to come because we’re a hardcore band and they’re scared of what we might do.
“There’s a contrast between our sound and what a lot of other bands play but anyone who likes music should come and check us out.
“I’ve got friends in Reading who also know Josh so they all come and push each other about to our music, which is fun.”
Jake, who helped book bands and run the sound desk at Music in the Meadows, said: “We have to sugarcoat our act a bit when we’re promoting it and then surprise people on the night. There is no one else like us around.
“Our friends at school always come to see us — we’ve packed out all the venues we’ve played at. The night we played at Magoos, it was full of Gillotts’ students.
“In the long term we would like to do more gigs locally and then further afield. It would be great to get out of the UK — we’d love to be jumping on European tours and ultimately going around the world.
“We’re just big music fans and we’re doing this for the opportunity to share our love of music with people.”
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