“No dude. It was that first time we were smoking in Chris’ room together” Adam insists. “Wrong. I saw you play at open mic in the Student Center and we started jamming with that one kid”. Afraid of sounding arrogant, Alex hesitates. But after reading the similar, unsaid thought on Adam’s face, he says, laughing “That kid was terrible.”
Laughing, yet stubborn in their ways, the boys argue over how they first made music together like old men around a poker table. Both of them work hard at maintaining a polished, smooth, guy-next-door appearance. Alex incessantly fingers the brown picnic table, chipping away at its paint. Adam’s silent decision to keep his sunglasses on proves that these laid-back boys are more nervous than they’d like their listeners to believe.
When performing, the flannel wearing, guitar strumming, soul singing duo casually transform into America’s favorite heartthrobs – strumming, shouting, crooning about everything from the girls they love to the bobbleheads on their dashboard. They nonchalantly harmonize, creating soundtracks to our summer love affairs, anthems to underscore our whiskey drinking.
“Playing for the Taste last year, man, that was my favorite thing we’ve done. And it was funny ‘cuz these like teenage girls would come up to us and we’d play ‘The Girl I Love’ and they’d just eat that shit up” Adam proudly says. “Then these like 40-year-old dudes would walk by and we’d break out some Beatles covers. Uhh!” Adam orgasmically remembers.
The key to the Trio’s enveloping charm is their seemingly effortless ability to change genres on a dime. These 21-year-old boys from Texas and Kentucky are masters. Unlike other college-campus bands, Adam and Alex are self-aware. They own their aesthetic and play (no pun intended) to their strengths. The boys have their finger on the audience pulse; they know when (and how) to rock out, to softly sing their love songs like they’re whispering in your ear, and they stroke their guitars’ deeper tones, crying out for empathy right when they have us in the palm of their hands.
As is typical, the boys stand in front of a half-packed US Beer Company clad in unbuttoned button-downs, skinny blue jeans clinging to their thighs, mismatched argyle socks and boat shoes. Take one look at these boys – instinctually you’ll want to hug them, slap your knees with spoons and clap to whatever down-home rhyme they spout. Fan favorites like “Freewheeling Time” further force these boys into our all-American-all-star vault. But both boys take frequent cigarette breaks between songs.
They cling to the sparked tobacco between their fingers, only sometimes letting it dangle dangerously on their bottom lips, bobbing as they talk. While a cig might be a cliché prop to highlight, it’s an important one for the Trio. By smoking, and by making a pageant, a specific point to go out and smoke during their sets, the boys are choosing to negate any stereotypically positive-role-model-all-American image. They fight their own lyrics, their soft, cuddly metaphors about love, sunshine and hanging out with friends by trying on “tough-guy”. We buy it for a milli-second and laugh.
The Trio means to portray themselves as the leather jacket-wearing bad-asses your mom assumes you shouldn’t be going around with. But inevitably their hearts shine through. They jump off-stage after a few songs and talk to whoever’s around. Adam puts his arm around me and we quietly mumble about theatre. He encourages me to take the stage like the older brother I never had. Alex, more naturally introverted than boisterous Adam, still makes the rounds but favors sitting at the bar and watching the audience he’s gathered (he MC’s US Beer’s Open Mic nights).
These slightly-tipsy indie-folkers calm enough to sip their beer or jack and coke in between songs, scratching their heads and clearing their throats – they’ve got all the time in the world. We expect them to belt out something homey, a cover perhaps, an old single off our dad’s favorite record, but instead, with complete sincerity and commitment, the boys spit out a ’99 throwback – “I Try” by Macy Gray.
“In on the Joke. That’s good” Adam chuckles. Both Adam and Alex are nostalgically attached to their quirky band name The Adam and Alex Trio. The irony suits them. At least for now.
“I’d want to keep playing our stuff as The Trio, but like open for Danger Pony (a full band the boys have put together with other Theatre School students and alums). Then (the audience) would be really into the acoustic stuff and all of a sudden we’d bust out Danger Pony. Full band sound, with Jaeger on the drums. They’d be shocked” Alex plots.
The Adam and Alex Trio sustains steady popularity amongst their DePaul listeners, parents and general social network and showcase. The duo, almost entirely acoustic sound allows them to demonstrate tremendous stage-presence, musicianship, and charm. But how long can the Trio continue to generate new and original material (what they call “ol’ timey music”) based on inspiration from “fake fireplaces and painting on doors”?
Adam, still hiding behind his sunglasses often gestures when he speaks, sometimes pats me on the back, throwing his hand toward Alex, trying to keep our attention. Alex, the more physically rustic, stubble-bearded, smirk-prone Texan stares into space while he talks. There’s something drifting in the air besides budding allergies and cigarette smoke.
While both boys agree that they love their sound and will always continue to enjoy playing together no matter their personal/social relationship, they know it needs to grow. “If someone asked us to make a record right now, of course we’d say yes” Adam shrugs. But Danger Pony, a “more full sound”, would give them more runway, more of a potential career and perhaps a more original contribution to American music.
The beauty of the Trio is that they seem completely original while harping on traditions of summer cookout music we’ve all heard before. They wear argyle socks and leather jackets. They bring a southern sound to small bars in a huge city. They smoke cigarettes and cuss like sailors after singing songs about how a special someone holds their hand. There are only two members in their “Trio”.
Built out of contradiction and irony, The Adam and Alex Trio are something special but perhaps a dying brand for the undeniably stellar musicians and young men. There’s only up from here as these immensely gifted boys grow into their loafers, graduate, and face a very bright future. Luckily for me their Trio EP will still be one click away when I need theme music for long car rides, sticky summer walks, or Sunday mornings with my sweetie.