The gray wall in the basement of Grandma’s house is painted, but only halfway. It’s a storage space, with Christmas decorations packed in plastic boxes and red leather bar stools scattered in random areas. Drum heads line the walls, one with “my very first” written on it in black Sharpie. Another says “prove them wrong,” and the last one says “commit.” As the boys start to arrive at their band practice, a clamor fills the basement—the setting up of instruments, extended guitar riffs, and warm-up beats on the drums. This cluttered basement is where the magic happens.
After some practicing, the three boys move out to the porch for a break. They sit in maroon, flower-patterened chairs under a sign on the wall reading “Grandkids welcome; leave parents at home.” Cigarette butts are arranged in a pile next to a broom. One boy wipes his hair off of his forehead, sweaty from marching band prac- tice. Another, with hair below his shoulders and three-quarter-inch gauges, casually lights a cigarette and leans back. The third sits up straight in a tie-dyed shirt ripped at the sleeves, black Vans and an assortment of bracelets decorating his wrists.
“… so I took my hat, and I threw it on the ground, and I said ‘I quit!’ and walked out!” the barefooted marching band boy tells the others in a broken Southern accent. “So now, I am an unem- ployed indie musician fighting for food on the streets.”
“Anybody else want a glass of milk?” interrupts Grandma, poking her head out the porch door after handing a glass to her grand- son, Senior Randy Clark.
“No thanks,” Junior Kyler Davis answers, as he pockets his makeshift guitar pick made from the corner of a Max and Erma’s gift card.
“Alright guys, let’s be serious,” Senior Dominic Franco announces.
This proves a hard task for the boys, who are nothing short of goofballs. They break out into random accents, sarcastically use language they wouldn’t want their parents to hear, and burst into songs with ridiculous lyrics. But they all share one thing that they are serious about—an undying passion for playing music.
“Our goal as a band is to help people understand that music is just an audible emotion,” Franco says. “I think that’s what people are going to get out of our music when they hear it.”
Misnomer, the trio’s name for their band, is composed of Clark on the drumset, Davis on guitar and lead vocals, and their newest edition to the band, Franco, on bass.
Misnomer came out of Davis and Clark’s last band, Idio, which was composed of the two with the addition of Andrew Dickieson, a mutual homeschooled friend. After Dickieson moved to Canada in March, Davis and Clark didn’t let the band die, deciding to change its name to Misnomer. The band was only two-man until August, when they agreed that a bass guitar was necessary to give the band a “denser sound.”
“Now that I think about it, it’s like magic that we’re all together now,” Davis says. “I remember seeing him play in [in his previous band] Abandon Ship and being like, ‘damn, look at him!’
They’ve made an adequate amount of money from these shows. The Underground pays $2 for every person the band brings in and once 50 people is passed, they pay $3 per person. The Warehouse and The Edge put the money in a pot and divide it among all the bands that played.
But they haven’t spent a dime of it on themselves. The money Misnomer makes is put solely into the band. Before they spend it on amps, snare drums, and repairs, they give a fourth to their booking manager, 19-year-old MaKenzie Southward.
“They told me, ‘we want everything to be completely even because you are part of the band, you’re just offstage’,” says Southward, who plays drums in her own band. “The way we describe it is that Misnomer is four people. Three players, and me. I [book their shows] and take them water while they’re playing.”
But Misnomer woudn’t have that same success in shows without their weekly practices in Grandma’s basement, which she gladly welcomes them to use.
“They can come here and go down to the basement and feel comfortable and they’re not bothering anybody,” says Debbie Webb, Clark’s grandma. “They call it the Ghetto Basement. They recorded something and they said, ‘Grandma, we made it in the totally ghetto basement of yours!’”
What sets Misnomer apart from from typical high school garage bands is that every one of their songs is written from scratch by Davis, Clark and Franco. It’s something that the band members put a lot of pride in doing.
“When bands do a lot of cov- ers, what’s the point?” Franco says. “It’s not your emotions, it’s not your music, and it’s not your sound. You’re just copying—it’s plagiarism is what it is.
Davis says that he and Randy have always had chemistry when writing music with one another, feeding off of the other so well that after their first practice, they had one of their most popular songs, “Settle on the Stars,” written in ten minutes. Writing lyrics is something that comes naturally to Davis—they’ll hit him at random times of the day, in class, or before bed at night. Taking advantage of his active mind, Davis has what he likes to call his song book, a little notepad he keeps with him at all times to fill with lyrics.
Describing him and his fellow band mates as “hopeless romantics,” Davis has incorporated dark romance concepts into his songs he writes, including “Advice,” which includes one of his favorite original lines, “make it quick and make it sick.”
“[The line] is about a girl that I entered a sort of relationship with knowing I’d get hurt. I knew all along that something wasn’t go- ing to work out,“ Davis says. “It means I can’t wait until you destroy me, but when you do, just make it quick, and make it sick so I cry.”
Clark remembers a night when he and his friends were at a bon- fire and Davis played a song on his acoustic guitar that he had recently written about situations that he and Clark had gone through. The song had a huge impact on Clark.
“I was crying and shaking because I just loved it,” Clark says. “The one line that got me was, ‘You’re so set on leaving that you’ve already gone and I caught you red handed, putting gloves on.’”
That’s the effect Davis wants to have not only on his friends and family, but also on anyone who lis- tens to his music, so they can form their own open interpretations.
“I feel like a lot of the stuff I write is relatable and I want that effect on a lot of people,” Davis says. “When you’re able to transfer that emotion and passion to someone, it’s a really beautiful thing.”
So they play like who they are. Each one of them has his own story beyond Misnomer—Randy spends his free time playing in the drum line in East Marching Band and fishing. Dominic takes post- secondary classes through Miami Hamilton and works 45 hours a week between The Bounce House Guys and Starbucks. Davis used to be a “gangster” and football player who would deck out in flat bills and Jordans, but now he’s a talented skateboarder who lost 60 pounds.
But all of them take music to a whole other level. The writing on that last drum head in that half- painted, packed to the brim Ghetto Basement describes Misnomer’s attitude towards its passion in one word.