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When Alex Kweskin stared into his fourth-grade fight club opponent's eyes, he had no clue he was facing the person who would become his staunchest ally. Fists flew. Kyle Krone knocked out Kweskin—literally. They've been best friends ever since.
Enter Chris Wulff, a 13-year-old badass who had an older brother in a band. Wulff started teaching Krone to play guitar, and Kweskin, who was taking piano lessons anyway, took over percussion, eventually moving to keys.
It's been about 13 years since the front man and keyboardist for the Shys met at Concordia Elementary in San Clemente. And 10 years have passed since they started playing music together, first in their high school band Hush Hush, now with their all-grown-up-and-even-on-a-major-label group.
Looking at the straggly bunch, one would never peg them for the types usually found in San Clemente, the sleepy South County beach town famous for its surf breaks and marine hangouts. With ragged rocker hair and swarthy rock & roll raiment, these guys don't look ready to shred surf. Confirmed: Krone usually wakes around noon. He's living the dream, one that includes dank bars and dirty drinks over dawn patrol. But he does enjoy catching the occasional epic wave, as do his band mates.
The Shys developed on a musical diet that consisted of much more than the standard San Clemente soundtrack of Bob Marley and Bad Brains. The guys were reared on the blues, courtesy of Kweskin's father, '60s rock (thanks, Mr. Krone) and some '70s Stooges by Krone's sister's former boyfriend. Jimi Hendrix played a big part, too, along with Cream, the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who and the Stones.
The band's new release has drawn obligatory comparisons to other "the" bands, including the Hives, the White Stripes and, most irritatingly for Krone, the Strokes. But considering that all "the" bands mostly come from the same origins—'60s rock & roll "the" bands with roots in the blues, it's all relative, even if some critics call it derivative. Whatever it is, the Shys fuckin' rock, and their stage show doesn't disappoint.
On a recent weeknight at the Sunset Boulevard industry haunt the Key Club, the band stormed the stage, belting out their anthemic party song "Call in the Calvary," along with several other good-time tunes.
As for being on a big label, Krone just shrugs at the big time. "We just do what we want still," Krone says without a hint of frustration, an anomaly among signed bands. After putting out their first release, a self-titled collection from when they were called the Gun Shys, the band signed to Sire Records. One year ago, the result of the partnership surfaced, the band's newest release, Astoria.
So is this easy street? After three years of landing showcases at South By Southwest, Austin's yearly bands-on-the-brink-of-being-huge festival geared toward industry peeps, well, er, no. "One hundred twenty percent, we still have to work for ourselves," Krone says.
Krone's contentment is helped by his lack of big Benjamin dreams. He's happy with life just as it is, playing some shows, hanging with friends, getting paid without having a day job. "I built that life for myself," he says with a smug smile. "I have no backup plan." Now there's the San Clemente we know and love: absolute carefree hedonism, fostered by its license-plate frame proclamation's "best climate in the world."
From the stage, Krone struts as he sings his own manifesto during "Never Gonna Die." He doesn't give a damn if the future looks bright.
"It's like being a plumber," Krone says later. "It's a trade. Good music will prevail. It will get attention." There's a sunny disposition lurking behind the dark demeanor.
So, do Krone and Kweskin still put up their dukes? Any Oasis-worthy throwdowns? "Oddly enough, we're pretty polite to each other," Kroner says. These days, the Shys are channeling their aggressions into more positive pursuits—which is great for career advancement, if not as grist for sensational journalism.
THE SHYS PERFORM WITH LEMON SUN AND VOXHAUL BROADCAST AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600. THURS., MAY 24, 9 P.M. $6. 21+.