Crunchy Frog
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Crunchy Frog

Corte Madera, California, United States

Corte Madera, California, United States
Band Pop Rock

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The kids are all right: Crunchy Frog is getting gigs, but members still have to do their homework
Bettina Adragna
Article Launched: 08/31/2006 06:40:00 PM PDT

Most bands don't have members who hit each other with pillows. Crunchy Frog does. That's because Crunchy Frog is made up of kids aged 8 to 11.

But don't let that fool you. The Marin quartet - which always appears with a "special guest" fifth member for one song - has received standing ovations and requests for encores during recent appearances at the Corte Madera Town Park, the Marin County Fair, the Corte Madera Fourth of July Parade, the Richmond Business Expo and a Sausalito "sister city" function.

With a repertoire of covers of rock classics such as Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," "In My Life" by the Beatles and the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout," the band is making a name for itself. (To hear Crunchy Frog perform Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," log onto marinij.com) Booked gigs include the ninth annual Labor Day Marin City Blues & Soul Party on Monday (they perform at 3:15 p.m.), the Hospice of Marin's 30th anniversary celebration in San Rafael on Sept. 17 and the Sunny Hills Services Grape Festival at Larkspur Landing on Oct. 7.

"The kids are completely honored they'll be on the same stage with the real professionals (Monday)," says band dad Greg Barber. "They're practicing hard. School starts this week so they practiced a lot over the weekend."

Susan Morris, special event producer for the City of Sausalito, lined up the group to appear at her town's event to honor a Japanese contingent last month. "I couldn't believe how young they were for such an energetic sound that they produced," Morris says.

Crunchy Frog rehearses in a carpeted room upstairs in the Corte Madera home of band manager/dad Rob Pearce and his wife, Kelly Leon-Pearce. That's where many of the pillow fights and other typical kid antics, rockers or not, take place.

"I'm getting quite dizzy," says R.J. Pearce, 10, as he spins around in a chair during a July rehearsal at which he played a gigue from Bach's "French Suite No. 6."

Ten-year-old Alex Ehrenberg plays the keyboard bass and is the designated spokesperson for the group. The drummer, 11-year-old Brendan Barber of Larkspur, is more reserved. Bandmate Lianne Pearce is the one they call a "troublemaker." She is a 9-year-old electric violin player.

"Can I be the second-best troublemaker?" asks Andy Ehrenberg, who is 8. He takes piano lessons, and though he's not a pianist for the group, he's the special guest who sings for one of the group's numbers, Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."

The band got its name from the classic Monty Python skit set in a strange confectionery. They keep a metal sculpture of a frog that they say looks "crunchy" as the group's mascot.

Musically, it all started in March when R.J., Alex and Lianne decided to play at a talent show at their school, Neil Cummins Elementary in Corte Madera. They needed a drummer, and Brendan, a friend of Alex's, was their top choice. After two long weeks of mustering up courage, they finally asked him to join the group. Initially, he said no.

"I didn't really want to lug my drums around because they're pretty heavy," Brendan recalls. He also says that "R.J. and Alex were the perfect people for that band; I wasn't perfect at the time." But once he got more training - and realized he didn't have to carry his drums - he accepted.

Practices are twice a week for two hours each. Lianne says the sessions are "sometimes a little boring, and sometimes fun." She likes playing the final versions of the songs rather than learning them.

The group has significant performance experience for kids their age - the Labor Day gig will be their 10th in public - but the members still worry about making mistakes in front of crowds.

"I'm just really scared that I'm going to screw up, which is why I don't do it a lot," R.J. says. His sister adds that performing is sometimes "kind of weird."

Greg Barber, Brendan's father, says the youngsters are surprisingly good at conquering stage fright. "The kids really respond to bigger crowds," he says. "They are kids who rise to the occasion ... it's pretty amazing to see."

The kids started the band, but their parents maintain it. Rob Pearce oversees rehearsals and contacts booking agents. Kelly Leon-Pearce, coaches Lianne with her violin, and the Ehrenbergs (Doug and Tory) and Barbers (Greg and Audrey) set up performances, build stages and handle other tasks.

The talent seems to be hereditary. Leon-Pearce earned a master's degree from the Juilliard School and plays violin for the San Francisco Symphony; Rob Pearce, a former drummer in rock bands, went to the Berklee College of Music as an undergraduate; Brendan's uncle is a drummer and sparked his nephew's interest in drumming when Brendan wrote about him for a school project; and the Ehrenbergs' great-grandmother was a piano teacher.

The learning never stops. R.J. takes classical piano lessons from San Rafael instructor Kuei-Ling Pomerleau and learns popular music from Susie Davis, who teaches piano to the Ehrenberg brothers in Point Richmond. Dan Kristianson of San Anselmo is Lianne's instructor and Mill Valley drummer Niels Myrner teaches Brendan.

Classical music got them started, but the kids' influences include bands such as Boston, Steely Dan, Fallout Boy and Those Darn Accordions. The transition of Bach to rock might be surprising, but Rob Pearce says it's natural and instructive.

"There are certain pieces of music that are so good that they survive the test of time," he says. The classics, both the Beatles and baroque, are good to teach to children "because it turns out that they're really fun to play," he adds. "It's silly not to introduce your children to these."

Despite the rigors of school and the stresses of impending puberty, the band members are dedicated to Crunchy Frog. "Basically we want to stay together as long as we can," Alex says.

Meantime, they are working on a new cover of "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits and original music for a CD, although their priority is to learn more material for their live performances.

Being a full-time band would be too time-consuming, and Alex says he has other interests as well as school to worry about.

R.J. agrees. "We don't want to get too big because it might interfere with schoolwork," he says.

IF YOU Go

What: Ninth annual Labor Day Marin City Blues & Soul Party featuring Crunchy Frog and Joe Louis Walker

When: The festival runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday.

Where: The 100 block of Drake Avenue in Marin City

Cost: Free

Information: http://performingstars.org or www.crunchyfrog-band.com


- Marin Independent Journal


Discography

Demo audio CD and/or DVD containing videos of live performances available upon request.

Photos

Bio

Hot off their Marin County Fair concert appearance and ABC TV NEWS FEATURE, Crunchy Frog performed Labor day on the main stage of the famous Sausalito Art Festival. In 2006, four grade schoolers with advanced musical abilities joined up to perform one song, "Sunshine of Your Love" for an elementary school talent show. The video of that live performance got around and before they knew it, the band had offers to play all over northern California. They grew from four to six, learned twelve songs and started playing summer music festivals. Looking small yet sounding BIG and professional, their fresh arrangements of classic rock and jazz have been a big hit with teens and family audiences everywhere they've played. Some of the larger venues include Labor Day at Bay Meadows race track, the Marin County Fair (twice), The Mill Valley Film Festival, Novato's Rock & Blues by the Lake and Art, Wine & Music Festival, the Point Richmond Summer Music Festival, the Marin City Blues and Soul Festival, the Sunny Hills Services Grape Festival and the Richmond Business Expo. In addition, they have several city sponsored concerts under their belt as well as some substantial private party engagements. Their popularity stems from their ability to bring back the classic rock experience in a powerful, yet very FUN way. The band's live version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" has over 11,000 hits on youtube. Check it out and read what people say about Crunchy Frog.