A bunch of teenagers gather in a living room inside a 900 square foot house in Norman. There’s a bowl of macaroni sitting by a drum set and a Grand Theft Auto game case sitting by a houseplant named “Palm McCartney.”
Their practice space is Cole and Wesley Bergersen’s house, who play drums and bass, respectively. Other members of the band include Evan Kelly on keyboard, DJ Locke on guitar, David Lindensmith on trombone, and Ian Torres on guitar.
With the sound of an amp buzzing in the background and the smell of Cole and Wesley’s mother cooking dinner, I interviewed the band about their new single, the advice they’ve gotten from local ska bands, and what being in a band has taught them.
The Source of the Sound
Ska is a blend of reggae and punk with some elements of jazz. Fifteen-year-old Cole said Irrational Consumers started off more pop-punk, but they’re trying to become more straight-up punk. They add other elements like hip-hop with collaboration from their rapper friends.
“We’re punk ska…skunk…or pa,” he said.
Cole described the history behind the ska genre and the importance of the checkerboard pattern in the ska scene. During the interview, Cole wore the pattern on his shows, and Ian wore the pattern on his guitar strap.
“Originally, people from Jamaica had reggae and moved to England,” he said. “The scene is kind of mixed. The reason the checkerboard is so important is that it was one of the first styles of music that embraced integrating different races.”
When asked to describe their music, they listed such influences as St. Cloud Possy, Nickelback, Coldplay, the NPR hosts, Jesus Christ, and the airhorn sound (which according to Cole, says “Paul is dead” when played backward.) Joking aside, their biggest influences have been local ska bands The Big News and LFNC.
DJ, who sat on a bucket during the interview with pen ink all over his arms, said Jacob Nicely gave them advice to not break up, which is what happens to a lot of bands in the scene.
“We wouldn’t be anywhere without the Big News and LFNC,” DJ said. “We probably wouldn’t even be together if not for the Big News.”
For their live shows, they mostly play originals, but they do have one favorite cover they like to close with – A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton.
Although it’s a hit among audiences now, some of the members weren’t on board, and the original drummer actually quit the band because he didn’t want to play the song. Cole taught himself drums shortly after to fill the position.
After being together a few years, they won a battle of the bands hosted by Clint Hardesty. The prize was five hundred dollars and five hours in the studio, so they recorded drums in the studio and then recorded the rest in Cole and Wesley’s house. From that recording, came their first single, “Good Day,” which was released in October.
“Within these walls came Good Day, the most mediocre song you’ll ever hear,” Jacob said.
Let’s Start a Band
They formed the band several years ago with Cole on saxophone and Wesley on bass. After a couple lineup changes, they added Evan, Jacob, DJ, and David.
DJ approached Cole in English class asking to be in the band. Once the band found out DJ could sing, they kept him around.
“Well the thing was, DJ was kind of a thug in middle school,” Cole replied. “I didn’t even talk to DJ until eighth grade when he joined the band.
DJ nodded and answered, “I was a dick.”
DJ said, as soon as he joined the band, they asked him to learn all the songs by the next practice.
“So I stayed up all night until my fingers bled, just learning the songs,” he said.
The most recent addition to the band is guitarist Ian.Cole said he feels like Ian is the most seasoned at this instrument out of the band members. Ian said he feels lucky to go to a music school, but he likes collaborating with Irrational Consumers more authentic way.
“The first practice, I was kind of scared how things were going to run,” Ian said. “But we bonded like brothers.”
When asked why they decided to start a band, the members jokingly replied they were in it for the drugs, fame, and fortune.
“I always wanted to have a band,” Cole said. “I don’t know about you guys.”
He said it’s the best extracurricular activity they’ve ever had, to which DJ replied – it’s not an activity, it’s a full-time job. Jacob said he didn’t even know he wanted to be in a band until he actually joined, but now he’s realized how much he’s learned.
“I feel like since I’ve joined this band, I have a better chance of getting into college to pursue music,” Jacob said. “My highest choice is UNT, but I don’t really care as long as I study music, and even if I can’t do that, I just love to play music. I think my life has changed or the better, as cheesy as it is.”
Jacob and Wesley are the oldest of the band and will be graduating in May. Wesley will be attending OU in the fall, and he feels like the band has made him a more well-rounded person.
“I started this band in ninth grade, and ever since then, It’s been one of the biggest parts of my life,” Wesley said. “It gives me something to do. It’s pretty cool being a high schooler and being in a band.”
Ian feels like he’s opened his range of music. The members teased him for his favorite band being Coldplay.
“I wasn’t very used to loud music, I just play classical, and I play the guitarron in mariachi bands. It’s very quiet, but here I can rock out,” he said. “I can let it out. In other bands, I’ve had to control myself.”
Cole said he appreciates Ian’s presence because he gets the crowd involved while the rest of them go crazy on stage.
“That’s pretty punk rock,” Cole said.
All of the band members come from different backgrounds, so their day-to-day life is a little bit different, although each of the members joked their daily routine involved snorting a lot of cocaine, making a lot of money, and sticking it to the man.
“We go to school, try not to get in a food fight, or if you’re DJ try not to get in an actual fight, and attempt to get some reasonable grades in schools,” Cole said. “Then we go home and, a couple days a week, we all practice our respective instruments.”
Despite the work they’ve put into it, the band feels like they don’t get a ton of recognition from kids their age, which is why they’re so thankful the ska scene has welcomed them in.
“I think, back in the day being in a band was what cool people did, but one of us are very cool,” Cole said. “High school kids don’t really like going to shows as much unless you’re a popular kid, which sadly none of us are very popular. We have to find our audiences elsewhere sometimes. You would think, being a high school band, you could build your fanbase at the school, but people just don’t care anymore.”
After the interview was over, they resumed to band practice, blasting Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit through the Norman suburbs.
Irrational Consumers plans to release their EP “Straight as a Rainbow,” and they’re looking forward to playing shows in more cities in Oklahoma and possibly Texas.