Ellensburg High School has seen its share of musicians chase the dream to great heights, leaving a path to bigger things beyond the boundaries.
Richie Blue’s blistering guitar earned him a place in the Blues Hall of Fame and a job touring with legendary harmonica player Norton Buffalo.
Al Kaatz recorded and toured with legendary players like Bo Diddley, Etta James, Mary Wells, Big Mama Thornton, Charlie Musselwhite and Bonnie Bramlett.
Star Anna’s star rose to great heights, playing a live in-studio on KEXP Seattle with her band Laughing Dogs and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam. Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Duff McKagan called her the real deal.
And of course, the Screaming Trees reached international acclaim, touring with Nirvana and Alice in Chains, on their way to performances on “Late Night with David Letterman” and the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.
The latest wave of Ellensburg High School students and recent graduates chasing the dream call themselves Wavesons.
They consist of Nathaniel Arango (rhythm guitar/vocals), David Coppin-Lanegan (lead guitar/vocals), Leo Robinson (bass), Vivianne Wright (drums) and Elliott Sander (keyboards).
Not one of ‘em is old enough to order a drink, but they are building a decent following and hammering things out with original music.
“I actually took lessons from (Screaming Trees original drummer) Mark Pickerel,” said Wright, who’s 17. “It was just the basics, but I learned a lot.”
Their sound is more distinctive than dark, definitive in where they are going, and a bit avant-garde, as they push the boundaries beyond the status quo. Where the Doors and Velvet Underground carried a flare for the dramatic, riding on the wave of the theatrical.
The Wavesons create an ambiguous, unsettled mood with its original music.
“I would say we’re a heavier form of Radiohead,” Robinson said, who joins Wright in the rhythm section.
Sander graduated in 2021 and Arango (18) graduated a year later in 2022. Coppin-Lanegan (17), Wright (17), and Robinson (17) are all incoming seniors at Ellensburg High School.
“The majority of what we do is practice and work on our songwriting. I’d say, on average, we do three to five shows a year,” Arango said. “We don’t necessarily take inspiration from any local acts, but everybody is really supportive of what we do.”
The aforementioned is proof, you can get there from here and the Waveson’s July 31 performance at the Cornerstone Pie is a tribute to a young group working things out in front of an appreciative high school crowd, as well as drawing attention from the local scene.
Their 18-song, three-set show of original music is a tribute to the work going into the project, finishing strong with songs like “Ride the Rails” and “Something from the Water Boys.”
“Our goal once everybody graduates is to go to Seattle and play. Hopefully, we can sign with a label,” said Arango, who is the main songwriter.
The songwriting process starts with Arango, who formulates the base and direction, but the rest of the band is active in the process.
“I write the words and maybe one or two parts,” he said. “I’ll have the structure of the song, maybe my guitar or a drum part. I bring it to the practice and everybody will contribute their own stuff to it, and we’ll jam and come up with different ideas.”
Both Arango and Coppin-Lanegan share the guitar work. Coppin-Lanegan has a more emotional, sonically confrontational style that follows in the distinctive footsteps of The Edge from U2.
“I don’t tune my guitar any differently. I tend to play on the upper half of the neck,” Coppin-Lanegan said. “We tend to feed off each other as we play.
“These guys are my best friends and the people I spend the most amount of time with. Our music is some artistic vision that I work for with friends that I love and care for, and our plan is to continue when we get out of school.”
Like the Screaming Trees who spent a great deal of time practicing in Van and Gary Lee Conner’s parent’s video store, Wavesons have played shows at Robinson’s garage.
They have done a couple of shows at Cornerstone Pie, Old School’s, the Bearded Monkey in Yakima, the PUNCH stage behind the gallery and a couple of KEEN events.
It’s all good, Robinson said.
“Victor Wooten is probably my favorite bass player. I prefer playing (bass) a little more technically like a guitar,” he explained. “The writing process, when we first started playing three years ago, Nathaniel would come in with parts and I would add my style to them.
“We’re evolving into a style where we all write more. We all do our own cord changes and come up with a line that’s comfortable. We tend to run through it until we’re happy with it.”
Said Wright, “I’d never played drums until I joined the band,” she explained. “So, Leo and I are close friends and sometimes we hang out and practice our parts together,
“I watch the rhythm of his fingers and try to follow. There are a couple of songs where we just start the song and the guitars dominate.”
It’s not the big time, but you can get there from here and the next wave of the Ellensburg High School is working on the dream.