Pouyan Afkary is oblivious to how successful he is. He's a 19-year-old kid who graduated from Highland High School in Gilbert two years ago and immediately left for a life on the road with five of his classmates -- the other members of emo-rock band Scary Kids Scaring Kids. After putting in years of work, they signed to a three-record deal with Immortal Records last September.
But so far, Afkary's just in it to rock out and make jokes.
"We made the sexiest booty shorts in the world and that's why everyone should love us," the keyboardist says over the phone from Eagle, Wisconsin, where his band is playing that night. He muses about the day when girls will come to Scary Kids shows wearing only the official Scary Kids Scaring Kids booty shorts.
Keep dreaming, Pouyan.
So topless women aren't throwing themselves at them -- yet -- but things are still pretty good in the Scary Kids camp.
The six Phoenix natives are playing in the Vans Warped Tour all summer; their Immortal debut, The City Sleeps in Flames, just came out on June 28; and, at least on the road, people are beginning to equate Scary Kids with other successful Arizona bands like Jimmy Eat World and The Bled. These 19- and 20-year-olds are making it in the music industry, and they want to bring their hometown along into the spotlight.
Scary Kids have always been thrown into the screamo category, but they're really tongue-in-cheek emo. Imagine the sound of Reggie and the Full Effect blended with a less serious Norma Jean. It's all about having fun and making fun.
Even before venturing out on the Warped Tour, Scary Kids Scaring Kids were noticing hints of success. "The shows have been getting progressively better -- more kids, better venues," Afkary says. "But then you still have those Wisconsin shows where the town has one church and one bank."
In their three-and-a-half years together, Scary Kids have toured all over the country. Afkary says the key to not getting homesick is finding good company to make him feel at home in each town. He and his bandmates make it a point to call friends they met the last time around, and invite them to come hang out. For them, the best part of the tour experience is getting to know the people at each show.
"I know I would love it if a band came to town and invited everyone to go party," Afkary says. "You'd actually get to know the band you're into. That's why we make sure to party as often as possible."
Afkary says he doesn't really add up all the successes of his band. He still jokes about his rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and doesn't picture himself as a rock star. He'd love to be one, though.
"We're still just doing the van and trailer gig, and playing small towns," he says. "I guess we should just start acting like rock stars and walk around like we own the place."
It might happen sooner than he thinks. The City Sleeps in Flames is a more cohesive, contemplative album than the After Dark EP -- an impressive show of growth and refinement. The band recorded with Brian McTernan (Thrice, Circa Survive), maintaining the vocal intensity and distorted, chugging guitars that liken them to Saosin and Armor for Sleep. Fans may be surprised, though, at the much mellower rock sound of Scary Kids' rhythm section.
"We don't use the double-kick anymore," Afkary says. "We just wanted to be solid rock. It's just bigger and more powerful."
That it is. By dropping back some of the heavier drumming, the band is able to showcase the skills of its guitarists -- all three of them. Guitarist Steve Kirby even got to show off his metal influence by playing a wicked guitar solo on "The Only Medicine." Still, the majority of The City Sleeps in Flames offers a gentler style with more depth than the last disc.
It's been nearly three years since Scary Kids Scaring Kids wrote the songs for After Dark, Afkary says. In those years, the band members have matured musically, graduated from high school, and most likely tasted a bit more of that love-related pain that fuels the best Scary Kids lyrics. Afkary says he can tell the band has come a long way.
"It's still us, but it's a different sound for us," he says. "We feel like we've progressed a lot."
Afkary himself is proof of how much the band has evolved. He says he needed help from his bandmates with the keyboard parts on After Dark, but this time out, he didn't need assistance from anyone.
"We've all really studied our instruments and practiced, and it shows in the final product," he says.
Afkary says he was worried that fans might not embrace the new, softer Scary Kids Scaring Kids. Based on live performances, "The reaction I've been getting is people really love the slower songs on the album," Afkary says. "Which is really cool because on After Dark we didn't have any slower songs. I'm sure there are people who'll be like, 'Nothing will top "Bulletproof,"' but so far, fans in general like the new CD better." The band is anxious to hear the public's feedback when the album hits stores.
Fans have always been a priority for Scary Kids, who recognize where they come from, and that the Phoenix audience helped them get to where they are. The band still plays at Neckbeard's Soda Bar and the Clubhouse when in town, and Scary Kids will gladly sing the praises of local producer Bob Hoag, who recorded the After Dark EP (which led to inking with Immortal). And they still shop at the Zia Record Exchange in Tempe because their friends work there.
So Warped Tour be damned, Scary Kids Scaring Kids are having a CD release show at home. They will be forgoing sleep to come back from California for one night to have a proper album release party. They are even going to hit Zia in Tempe to do a quick signing beforehand, at 5 p.m.
Afkary is proud to be an Arizona musician. That's a pretty rare attitude. Unfortunately, many Phoenix bands focus on getting to Los Angeles and ignore what their hometown has to offer. Scary Kids Scaring Kids don't see why others aren't more supportive of the Phoenix scene. "Arizona has a really good reputation right now with music in general, because of Jimmy Eat World and The Format," he says.
Afkary tries to keep up on the unsigned locals as well. "Stiletto Formal is awesome," he says. "They get really creative. Plus, those kids are fashionable to the extreme. The only way we get cool hair is if Toni & Guy needs models."
After a summer on Warped Tour and the release of a solid major label album, it can't be too long until Scary Kids Scaring Kids can afford stylish new haircuts, too.
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