MORE ABOUT THE HELP
"Local band makes the grade"
by Christian Schiavone
Most middle school bands last for a few months, maybe a year. The bandmates get bored, drift apart or opt to join the football team instead.
But after eight years, Acton natives the Help are going stronger than ever, recently taking the stage at Earthfest in Boston, their largest crowd yet.
“It’s just been the thread for us, that’s the best way I can describe it,” said Will Cady, the band’s 22-year-old bassist.
Today, the four band members — Cady, Alex Gaynor, 21, who handles the lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Mark Brozek, 22, who covers lead guitar and backup vocals; and Dan Adams, 22, on drums — share a house in Allston, known affectionately as the Help House. After forming at the tender age of 13, they’ve remained close through junior high school, high school and college and have every intent of sticking together for the foreseeable future.
“Once it becomes something we no longer enjoy doing, that’s when we’ll stop doing it. Until that day comes, this is what we love and it’s what we’ll be doing,” said Brozek, during an interview with the four band members at their kitchen table a few days before their Earthfest performance on May 24.
The band first formed in 1999 after Gaynor, Brozek and Cady worked together on a group project for history class. The three became fast friends and decided to start playing music as a way to spend more time together.
Gaynor and Brozek had just started taking guitar lessons and Cady, who had first signed on as a keyboard player, had little experience on bass, but they didn’t let their lack of musical expertise hold them back. They recruited Adams, a mutual friend and veteran drummer, and formed the precursor to the Help, Zen.
“Basically, the band started as a vehicle for us to just hang out and be friends,” said Gaynor. “Then we really got into it and realized it was something we all loved and decided to shape our lives around it. And we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Combining melodic lead guitar and a hard driving rhythm section to create a sound reminiscent of their 1990s alternative rock influences, the Help began honing their skills in Adams’ basement. Scheduling practices depended on when everyone could get their parents to give them a ride. Withholding a ride became an effective deterrent to the bandmates getting into trouble.
The band went on to play local events, such as Danny’s Juice and Jamnesty.
While they acknowledge the influence of alternative rockers, especially the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Foo Fighters and Weezer — which can be heard in the Help’s songs — they have always been careful not to stick to any one genre.
“We try not to limit ourselves. We didn’t sit down and say ‘We’re going to sound like this,’” said Adams. “We do what sounds good and if it involves another genre, even better.”
The first year after high school was a rough one for the band. Adams headed to Pennsylvania for college, while Gaynor, Brozek and Cady moved to Boston where they morphed into an acoustic trio. They practiced in the basement of a freshman dormitory at Northeastern University where Gaynor and Brozek were students, but rarely played shows. Cady, a Berklee College of Music student, also spent some time managing another band.
But Adams moved back to town after a year away, and the band reformed under the name Geno, taken from a local shoe shiner. They jumped back into the local clubs, rising through the ranks from the cramped stages in dimly lit venues that dot Allston and Cambridge, to larger establishments like Harper’s Ferry and the Middle East under the name the Help.
The meaning of the band’s latest name is two-fold, according to Gaynor.
“On a literal level, we’ve all worked food service industry jobs, so we’ve been the help,” he said. “On a more fundamental level, a lot of what we’re about in music is to help, like trying to help bring real genuine music to an industry where a lot of stuff g