Anyone who has been in the area for more than five or so years would surely recognize the long-haired, ever-mercurial Joe Centeno as one of the most droolworthy guitar players around. From his time in late '90s rock lords Plug Spark Sanjay to his post-millenial stint in American Watercolor Movement, along with various other sit-ins, cameos, drop bys, et al, Centeno has been a mainstay on the stages of Hudson County for nearly two decades.
His newest endeavor, however, is a decidedly fresh take on the modern rock and roll band.
Like everyone else, as time went by, Joe grew up. He married his sweetheart, moved to the suburbs, bought a house, and eventually started a family. However, unlike everyone else, Centeno's young family doesn't impede his path to rock. Rather, they help pave its way.
Whereas most rockers who start having families tend to hang up their axes, noodle at night and on the weekends, and dabble in the occasional jam session with pals, Centeno has enlisted his family to start their own band – the amazingly named Rock and Roll Hi Fives.
With Joe on guitar, matriarch Gloree on bass, and rocking offspring Eilee, 12, and Evren, 9, on lead vocals and drums respectively, the Rock And Roll Hi Fives are taking cues from the family bands who came before them – AC/DC, The Stooges, Van Halen, Kings Of Leon and The Ramones – and creating their own brand of mom, dad, brother, sister ROCK and ROLL.
Who are the Rock and Roll Hi Fives?
Evren: We are an awesome rock n roll family band. We are Joe Centeno, Gloree Centeno, Eilee Centeno, and Evren Centeno.
Eilee: We are 2 kids and 2 adults that practice really hard and all have a passion for music.
Tell me about your songwriting process a bit.
Eilee: Usually when we are at school and mom is at work and dad is working from home, he'll pick up his guitar taking a break from work, and he'll come up with some chords and melodies and record it on his phone. When he picks us up from school, he will play it for us. Then Evren and dad will work out some drum parts, and the next day me and dad will sit down and I'll write the lyrics. Dad will help me with topics, and to find inspiration.
Dad/Joe: Sometimes the whole band will help out with some lyrics or a title to a song. We try to keep the music and message upbeat. I'll show the song to Gloree and she will work on a bass part…
Mom/Gloree: No, you work out my bass part and I have a nervous breakdown. Eventually I can play it.
Where'd the name come from?
Eilee: I came up with the name when I was 2?
Eilee: We were fooling around and dad said if we had a band what would we name it, and I said the Rock and Roll Hi Fives.
Dad/Joe: Yep, exactly. Matter-of-factly she said it like it was our band name for years, or maybe what every rock n roll band name should be. Then with her right hand she made the sign of the horns and said rock n roll, then she put up her left hand and said, "Hi Fives," and I was like that is so cool. That's it, it was that easy. Done.
How long has everyone been playing?
Evren: Welp (chews his food at the dinner table), Dad has been playing for 105 years.
Dad/Joe: Hey now, it's 106.
Evren: I started playing in October 2012, but wasn't putting a lot of time into it.
Mom/Gloree: Then we came up with a rule that if Evren wanted to play video games, he had to play drums first.
Dad/Joe: Then I would come down to the basement and jam with him to make it more fun and then play video games too. (laughs)
Evren: So yeah, I started playing a lot more in 2013.
Eilee: First I started out wanting to play the drums at 3. I got my first drum set for Christmas, but I wasn't dedicated. I didn't really try. I can do the 1,2,3,4 thing, but that was it. I found the love of singing, singing in the car, in my room, anywhere. Yeah, so I think I've been singing for maybe about 3 to 4 years.
Mom/Gloree: Ok, um, a few years ago I got a Christmas gift of a year's worth of bass lessons from this super hot bass teacher.
Dad/Joe: Um, that super hot bass teacher was me.
Mom/Gloree: Joe dressed up as a glam rocker, put on his best bass rock pose, and Eilee took his picture. He made a gift certificate for a years worth of lessons. After a few lessons life got a little crazy for us and we just couldn't make time to jam. This past October, that same hot bass teacher bought me a bass for my birthday and I started playing and I wanted to do it. I wanted to play with my husband, my son and my daughter. I was really dedicated because it was something I really wanted to experience.
Dad/Joe: I've been playing for 106 years. Well, actually, I started playing around 30 years ago. Somewhere in my teenage days.
Without referencing any other bands, describe your tunes to us.
Eilee: We have build ups that make you get excited and burst out with energy, and our tunes have a nice flow to them and they make you feel good inside.
Evren: They're very raw songs, just plain rock n roll. Bass, drums, guitar and vocals. There's no big intros like in…oh wait, I can't use band names. (Everyone laughs)
Mom/Gloree: We are straight forward rock n roll.
Dad/Joe: I think our tunes are energetic and hyper — there's an urgency to them. They want to chase you down and rock you like a hurricane. We're not schooled musicians, so we have a natural rock or punk, if you you will, vibe to our songs. They're sloppy and loose, like rock n roll should be.
OK, now tell me three other bands you think you sound like.
Evren: AC/DC, Nirvana, and dad, you said that "Come Around" was inspired by Teenage Fanclub.
Dad/Joe: Yeah, the ending.
Eilee: Pavement because they can sound all pretty and then get really loud and noisy.
Mom/Gloree: I think that we are heavily influenced by the '90s indie rock thing, and that's from us and the way we raised our kids, because that's still some of the music we listen to a lot. I can't say we sound like Dinosaur Jr. or Teenage Fanclub or Pavement, but I think you can hear some of that influence in our music. But you also hear a lot of the classic rock as well. It's really hard to pick 3 bands.
Dad/Joe: Pavement. Yeah, I like that reference. Also, I would add an early Rolling Stones and Superchunk, cause our songs are melodic, loud, and have a high pitched vocal.
When it comes to most bands, songwriters often use other bands as sonic hallmarks to get their point across. Example, "Play it like Geezer Butler" or "this part should sound like AC/DC meets Dino Jr." How do you communicate like that with ten year olds?
Dad/Joe: I guess this one is for the adults. This question is funny, because that is the beauty of playing with kids. I'll just say "play harder" when something needs to be played heavier, or "put some heart and love into that" when a vocal should be a bit sweeter. "Those drums are meant to be pounded. Don't worry, you wont break them." "Sing your little heart out." Then I'll make funny gestures of rock idols getting lost in the moment, head banging, throwing kicks and kisses in the wind. They'll laugh or roll their eyes at me. So I guess we go about it the same way as we do everyday, with support, love and humor.
Who are your three favorite bands right now?
Eilee: Vampire Weekend. I love them, their songs are so catchy. Black Keys are really good, and I like Group Love, too.
Mom/Gloree: Arcade Fire. I'm a Beck fan, and it's so tough. This is a hard question. I like the Black Keys too they put me in a good mood when I hear them.
Evren: Jack White/White Stripes, Black Keys, and Cage The Elephant. I also do like Vampire Weekend, but it's kinda a little poppy.
Dad/Joe: I like all those bands as well and maybe like Bon Iver for my mellow needs, but I'm still hung up on indie rock like Pavement and Built to Spill.
Eilee: Beatles, Tom Petty, and Elton John. Or White Stripes, because I grew up listening to them. Oh and Run DMC…wait that's too many.
Evren: AC/DC, Black Keys, and Iron Maiden. And Queen, too.
Dad/Joe: Yeah, Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and something from my teenage days, like Iron Maiden or Metallica.
Mom/Gloree: Me too, one more for the Beatles, and I think Tom Petty because he's one of the greatest, and I wasn't sure what to say for my third, so I'll follow Joe's lead and throw one in from my teenage days, and what really influenced me and what was my drive, and yeah, Zeppelin. But I always had a soft spot for Sabbath. So Black Sabbath is my third choice.
Joe/Dad: Yeah, I remember when I met you and I saw your cassette collection, you had every Sabbath record. I was like wow, Technical Ecstasy.
Mom/Gloree: That was one of their best albums. Ozzy at his best.
Have you guys played many shows thus far? Or is it still basement jams?
Dad/Joe: We haven't played out of the basement yet, but we have played shows in the basement. We played a New Year's Eve show. At the time, we only had four songs, two of which we don't play anymore. One of our friends said we were passable for an opening band so we were like, wow, awesome. Now that is our goal, to open up for a band and have a full set of songs and kick some butt.
Evren: I had a dream we played at my school.
Mom/Gloree: Did people like it?
Evren: Yes, but two people had complaints — the pricipal and the president of the Board of Education. (In a whiny voice) "You guys are too loud, and you're going to disrupt the learning environment."
Where do your kids find new jams?
Dad/Joe: We listen to a lot of music in the house and in the car. We have Sirius Radio and that gives us a lot of listening options. When Evren was like 2 years old, we would go through the dial and he would give us a thumbs up or thumbs down, or maybe it was a head nod. Anyway, it was really cool to go through the dial and see where he would take us. It was always the same thing – something with a good beat and loud guitars, like AC/DC or Social Distortion. He liked his metal, too, but not the stuff that sounds like the singer is choking. He would call that blood talk and shake his head no really fast. So yeah, Siruis Radio, Pandora, and, of course, our collection. I set them up with a bunch of stuff on their iPods, and they like to tune into the iTunes radio stations.
Mom/Gloree: I set them up with the oldies in my car and WFUV. I don't have Sirius in my car.
I think it's great that you're exposing your kids to the wonders of playing music. Between dwindling music and arts budgets in schools around the country, easily accessible and very affordable looping and sampling technology, and the proliferation of EDM and other styles of space bar tapping music, we simply don't see nearly as many kids bashing away in garages and basements any longer. Does the younger half of the Hi Fives have any other side projects with other local kids?
Eilee: No, but I'm in the school band and I play the clarinet. I also auditioned for the Jazz band at school and made it in, so that was really cool and exciting. We have a rock theme this year, so we're doing "Iron Man," "Smoke on the Water," and "Bohemian Rhapsody," and then it goes down hill from there. We're doing "Happy," which is actually really hard, and "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga.
Evren: I play in the school band, too. I play trumpet.
Dad/Joe: We just found out that one of Evren's friend is taking guitar lessons, so you never know, maybe they'll start jammin.
Mom/Gloree: Evren, you better not be moonlighting in another band.
What is the Hi Fives' dream bill? No limitations. Dead. Alive. Broken up. Biggest band in the world. Whoever!
Mom/Gloree: I liked to keep it in the vibe of us. I'd like Nirvana. I think that would be cool, and Pavement, or maybe the Archers of Loaf. That sounds like a really cool bill. Nirvana, Pavement, Archers of Loaf and the Rock and Roll Hi Fives. There you go, my dream. At Madison Square Garden, of course.
Evren: I would like to open for AC/DC, of course at Madison Garden, or maybe the Rangers. They're in the playoffs.
Mom/Gloree: Wait, we're talking music, not sports.
Evren: Yeah, we would open up before the game. That would be fun.
Eilee: It would be something we would like. The Beatles would be awesome.
Dad/Joe: A dream bill? It would be somewhere outdoors in a field, camping for a few days. Beatles, yeah, that would be cool. Jimi Hendrix, Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Ramones, and the list goes on and on.
What is the Hi Fives' dream bill if you could only book local/area bands?
Dad/Joe: Current? Oh wait, dream bill, right? Again, it would be outdoors, camping out for a few days. I've been out of the loop raising kids, so a few reunions would be in order, but there would be a bunch of bands from back when I was playing out in the late '90's in a band called Plug Spark Sanjay. Bands like Prosolar Mechanics, Bob Fields, Aviso Hara, Ex Models, with so many more that I would have to find on Facebook. Lots of current bands like The Everymen, Overlake, Davey and the Trainwreck, Life Eaters, Screaming Females, American Water Color Movement. And then the heroes, like Les Paul, Bruce Springsteen — solo acoustic, we need an acoustic act — Yo La Tengo, and the Wrens. It would be some party with lots of BBQ sauce, horseshoes, badminton, and a roller coaster. Oh yeah, and a trampoline for the kids.