With the unfortunate news last week of Tyson Stevens’ passing, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s If You Don’t Know, Now You Know to his former band, Scary Kids Scaring Kids. Writing this week’s piece is Noise blog contributor Jimmy Smith who grew up in the same hometown as Tyson and his bandmates. We felt this was the best way to pay tribute to Stevens and his family.
Scary Kids Scaring Kids:
Being from Arizona, Gilbert specifically, there really wasn’t much to hang your hat on growing up. Our sports teams were a joke, and musically, before Jimmy Eat World became a household name in 2007, the biggest “rock” acts to come out of AZ were The Gin Blossoms and Alice Cooper. Now no disrespect, but “Hey Jealousy" and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” really aren’t my kind of jams.
Moving on, I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was at Zia Records after a trip to the mall with my 6th grade buddy Brian via his mother’s Astro Van (she drove us, of course). Although I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I left Zia picking up a local artist compilation. Stoked to see bands I recognized like Authority Zero and Greeley Estates, I was also intrigued as I noticed one band name that was so bizarre, I knew I had to check them out. Featured on the compilation with their keyboard-heavy and dynamic post-hardcore track, “What’s Up Now" (which may have been my first introduction to head-jarring breakdowns), I instantly fell for a band by the name of Scary Kids Scaring Kids.
Over the next couple of years, as I wandered aimlessly through my Junior High days, my relationship with SKSK grew. Being introduced to tracks off their debut album, The City Sleeps in Flames, like the catchy and up-tempo, “My Darkest Hour,” and the guitar-driven, “The Only Medicine,” this local-grown synth-laden screamo act had quickly risen in the ranks of my favorite bands. As time progressed and their self-titled release came out in 2007, SKSK started to make quite the name for themselves.
Appearing on the Van’s Warped Tour as something other than just a local stage participant, showcasing newer and more mature — yet still badass — tracks like “Faces” and “Snake Devil”, and even making it on to Fuse’s own Steven’s Untitled Rock Show, DJ, Steve, Chad, Pouyan and Tyson were finally creating something us AZ kids could get behind.
Flash forward to 2009, after a bevy of successful tours and even a major label signing to RCA Records, the band’s fame started to dwindle and unfortunately the local heroes had called it a day. Started by juniors in high school, this matured act had finally reached its breaking point.
So, for the last night of their farewell tour in Tempe, AZ’s own Clubhouse venue, I, now driving, headed out to see Dance Gavin Dance, the unknown artist at the time: Mod Sun (who was actually drumming for SKSK), and of course the men of the night: Scary Kids Scaring Kids. After watching them perform their post-hardcore/screamo hits one last time, I was filled with all different types of emotions: anger, bitterness, confusion, enjoyment…you name it, it was there.
As the years progressed after the break up and the buzz and anticipation of a possible reunion died down, things with SKSK went pretty stale. Members moved on to new jobs as Tyson attempted to revive his music career with a new band called Coma Prevail. However, nothing truly blossomed to the extent of SKSK’s glory days.
Then, as you all know by now, the news hit Alternative Press that at the age of 29, frontman Tyson Stevens had passed away due to an alleged drug overdose. With that news, like most of you probably reading this, I was left with an array of emotions much stronger than those felt the night SKSK played their last song as a band.
Besides being an outstanding vocalist and skilled songwriter – which was put on display throughout SKSK’s entire discography — there is much more to Tyson’s story than just his music. What he and his bandmates embodied for us small town kids back in Gilbert was almost indescribable. Like mentioned previously, Tyson and I both grew up in the small Arizona suburb of Gilbert and, based on the twenty-two years of living there, I can tell you there aren’t very many kids who make their way successfully out of Gilbert. The typical rule around town is that most people born in Gilbert, usually stay in Gilbert. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the truth. Nonetheless, Tyson was able to make it out. He and his bandmates gave us Gilbert kids hope that, yeah, anything really is possible. They gave us hope that maybe we too could start a kickass rock band and travel the world just like they did.
But unfortunately, with his ill-fated and all-too-soon death, a piece of that hope he worked so hard to encourage quickly passed away alongside him. Call it selfish, call it self-centered, call it whatever you want, but Tyson gave us locals hope that, one day, we too could make it in the music industry. Maybe we’re at fault for putting so much faith into local “celebrities,” but dammit, when there’s no one else to fill that void, why not look up to those people?
So, with my City Sleeps in Flames cd playing on a constant loop in the background, I’m left finishing this piece with a blurred sense of hope that I cannot seem to shake. So, where do I, hell, where do we go from here? Should we just abandon our dreams because our idol passed on way too soon?
No. No, because my friends, it seems that is has come full circle. That same song that had turned me onto the band in the first place will be the same song that keeps me going. “I’m not giving up just yet, I won’t give up ‘till I lose. Your ideas aren’t fair by any means, but I’ll still try to follow through.” Those are the words of our fallen hero, to which I reply: “Swallow your pride and choke back your tears,” because this is what’s up now.