At an age when most of her peers were struggling with self-discovery, Leyco was taking steps towards realizing her dream. By the time she was 14 she had been playing guitar for two years, was composing songs and had formed her first band, the Pint Sized Giants. "For a bunch of fourteen year olds, the music was decent," she says. "But it was hard for my band mates to focus. They thought being in a band was a cool thing to do, and so did I, but I also wanted to pursue the music and take it farther. I wanted to practice more and play shows. It was a very frustrating time for me because I had a totally different mentality, [more] admiration and determination than other musicians my age."
Leyco, now a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, quickly grew tired of the garage band scene. It soon became clear that Leyco was heading towards a career in music, and that she needed to find more seasoned musicians to play with and learn from. In 2000 she found what she was looking for and formed the Rachel Leyco Band, with Dale Curran, 38, on bass, and John O'Donnell, 25, on drums.
"The three of us are so different, it is weird how it works," says Leyco. "We all listen to different music and that brings a lot to the band influence-wise." Those influences vary from the old school sounds of Aerosmith and The Who to the pop harmonies of the Dave Matthews Band and the Cranberries.
The Rachel Leyco Band itself has an alternative pop sound heavy with ska and funk undertones. Leyco's full-bodied, folk-inspired voice is equally suited to sultry ballads as it is to pop-driven rock. In many performances, Leyco, whose voice bears a striking resemblance to Natalie Merchant's, will roll these two styles into one song, taking the listener from 0 to 60 in a matter of minutes.
In the past two years, the band has played more than eighty shows and released a full- length CD, "The Path." The short term finds the band concentrating on touring and playing more dates outside the Richmond area. In the long term however, all three members of the Rachel Leyco Band see themselves in that place that Rachel has been striving to reach: "We would all love to make it," says Leyco. "I think we are all three on the same wavelength. We work really well on stage together and we communicate when we are performing. We all want to push the band and to make it."
Leyco credits her dedicated followers with giving her the determination to carry on toward her goal. "My parents have always been very supportive of me," says Leyco. "My parents and my sisters go to shows together. I always have a crowd that loves me and it is a good feeling." S
The Rachel Leyco Band will be playing Poe's Pub, 2706 E. Main St., Wednesday, June 12 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 648-2120 for details. On June 26th, the band will perform at Wednesdays on the Waterfront.
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