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The Suburbanite
  • The Big Sweet: 'Catchy is our goal'

  • Preparing to record its second album of original pop-flavored garage rock, the Big Sweet already has played two gigs at famed Cleveland concert club the Beachland Ballroom and registered more than 10,000 hits on its MySpace page. Not a bad start for four guys so young their voices are still changing.

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  • Preparing to record its second album of original pop-flavored garage rock, the Big Sweet already has played two gigs at famed Cleveland concert club the Beachland Ballroom and registered more than 10,000 hits on its MySpace page.
    Not a bad start for four guys so young their voices are still changing.
    Friday night at 10, they’ll play an outdoor show on Court Avenue NW outside the Imperial Room. During July’s First Friday celebration, the band had the rapt attention of a large crowd of onlookers for more than an hour.
    Again and again that warm night, people would see the throng, hear the solid rock ’n’ roll, wander over and be startled by the youth of the musicians. One man actually remarked, “Oh my God, they still have braces on.”
    The house was rocking Sunday afternoon at the Regas residence in Jackson Township, where the Big Sweet was bashing it out in the living room. Considering that the band has been together only since November, the quality of its original indie-rock songs, among them “So Fine” and “Rapid Moving Eyes,” is impressive. The Big Sweet’s musical influences — Wilco, Pavement, the Hold Steady, the Strokes — are all in there somewhere.
    “Our songs are getting more refined, I’d say,” guitarist Brad Berbari, 15, says.
    “They fit together more as we get to know each other better,” says bassist Matt McDonald, 15.
    “They’re still rooted in melody. Catchy is our goal,” says Sam Regas, 15, the Big Sweet’s chief songwriter. He wrote five and a half songs last month, he notes.
    Rounding out the band is Drew Watson, 14, a New England transplantee who, like Sam and Brad, is a Jackson High School sophomore. (Matt, who is Sam’s cousin, attends the Lyceum school in Cleveland’s Little Italy.) Playing snare in the Jackson marching band drum line “has gotten me a lot better at keeping time,”  Drew admits.
    “We needed a drummer and Drew fell right into our laps. It was like ‘the new kid from Maine plays drums? Cool!’ ” Brad says. “We’d experimented with different drummers and every one had a metal taste.”
    The Big Sweet made its official debut onstage at the Palace Theatre in March, at The Repository’s Battle of the Bands. “I was white in the face, I was so nervous,” Brad recalls. “About 30 seconds into the first song I thought, ‘This is easy.’”
    The band’s first Beachland Ballroom show happened after Sam sent an e-mail to Beachland talent booker Ken Janssen. “Me and Matt had seen a lot of shows there,” Sam says. “They get a lot of our favorite bands.”
    “I get dozens of e-mails a day from local bands wanting bookings, lots of them are high-school bands,” Janssen says. “The Big Sweet sends me an e-mail that says ‘We’re from Canton,’ which is strike one because it’s an hour away and I need bands that can bring people in. Then they say ‘We’re 14,’ which is strike two, because we need a drinking audience.’ I’m about to hit delete when I see their influences are Wilco, Pavement and Big Star. So I listened to their music and it sounds basically like our jukebox here at the tavern. We dug them.”
    Page 2 of 2 - At the Beachland in June, the Big Sweet opened for the Mystery Trip, a group of Nashville-based musicians (including Frampton and Clapton sidemen) performing a Beatles tribute. During the headliners’ set, the bass player praised the Big Sweet and said, “When I was their age I was playing with GI Joes.”
    “They won the room over right away. It was fun to see,” says Janssen, who booked them for a second show soon thereafter. Newfound fans bought 28 copies of the Big Sweet CD that night.