Not a kid band. Sean winces when people say "Awwww, how cute!" Not a let's-pretend band. They've been playing together and rehearsing faithfully for two years now; Zero Hour is a real band. And it rocks.
Its sound is upbeat and hard-edged, utterly unlike the sugary pop produced by more famous young musicians. Zero Hour plays songs from classic rock and pop-punk bands it admires Aerosmith, Blink-182 and Green Day but Sean's original compositions outnumber the covers. He usually sings "about something that happened in my life, or somebody I know, about me."
The petite and loquacious Sarah sings and plays keyboard, harmonica and a blue bass guitar that's almost as tall as she is. Her high-pitched voice harmonizes with Sean's, who plays guitar. (The two sang in a karaoke contest at last year's Aerosmith concert, says dad and manager John McCalla. "Everybody else was out there halfway lit, trying to sing," he recalls, laughing. The kids harmonized flawlessly and won.) Austin, the quiet one, pounds the drums.
The group was born in spring 2000, when Austin got a drum set, Sean brought over his guitar and they started a jam session. The next week, Sean says, Sarah joined. "It was more like the next day," she interjects. Now the band even has a Web site, www.zerohour00.com.
There are arguments over artistic direction, but what else would you expect from a brother-and-sister team? (The first track on their first album is titled "Shut Up.")
The biggest challenge they face is simply time. All three play sports, adding after-school practices to music lessons and rehearsals. Yet "they seem to be juggling," McCalla observes.
The trio drew applause and shouts from road-weary runners at their most recent gig, playing in the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K on April 13. Next is a concert at Liberty Middle School, then the Almost Famous Band Night on June 21 at the Innsbrook Pavilion.
"We don't want to be known as a kid band," Sarah says. "We just want to get respect for our music." But, she adds, if that's what it takes to get a record deal, so be it. M.S.S.