The parents of Bastian Evans and Kai and Manoa Neukermans couldn’t have possibly given their kids a better road map to potential hard rock stardom. But it’s a massive leap from appreciating and digging deeply into your parents’ record collection to turning it into a sound all of your own – and the trio that forms The Alive are well on their way to doing just that.
The trio is set to open on the main stage at the 2023 Mill Valley Music Fest on Sunday, May 14 in front of 6,000 people.
Despite their youth – Manoa is 14, Bastian is 17 and Kai is 18 – the group has already had ample major performances in front of huge crowds, including sets at Ohana Fest, Lollapalooza Chile, Kelly Slater’s Wave Ranch, Boardmasters UK, Asturias, Spain, ISA World Surfing Games, Pipeline Hawaii, Wonderbus, BottleRock, and Shaky Knees. The band opened at Lollapalooza Chile’s main stage for Idles and Foo Fighters.
And in May 2022, nearly a year to the day of their upcoming performance at MVMF, Kai Neukermans achieved local legend status when he hopped behind the drum kit at Oakland Arena step in for an ill Matt Cameron and absolutely crushed it:
We sat down with the trio in advance of their performance in front of thousands of their close family and friends, neighbors and newcomers to a band that is likely in the nascent stage of what surely looks to be a long career in front of them.
Jim Welte: Hey guys. Thanks for making the time. We’re thrilled to have The Alive play on our main stage on May 14. I wanted to start right at the beginning. Each of you answer this individually: Obviously I know the kind of music you play and I can gather some of the inspirations behind it. But I’d rather hear it from you. When you were younger, what was the music that you were drawn to?
Manoa: I was very into Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana especially in those early years. More recently, I’ve been drawing inspiration from bands like Cmm and the Deftones.
Kai: Our parents showed us the classic bands like Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, that’s what we grew up on. I’m getting into Filter and we grew up with Queens of the Stone Age – all of the 90s hard rock grunge bands.
JW: Is that what your parents were into?
Kai: Yea, for sure.
JW: That’s great. It’s good when your parents chart the path a bit and give you a runway to discovery.
Bastian: My parents showed me, often when we were going surfing, Queens of the Stone Age and the Chili Pepper and Nirvana. I was kind of into the White Stripes back in the day when I was really just starting to look into music and stuff. Today’s it’s pretty similar, though as much White Stripes. Definitely Tool and Queens of the Stone Age.
JW: What about those bands were you drawn to specifically?
Kai: I was drawn to the energy and the instrumentation. All those guys are really talented musicians and I found it really inspiring .
Manoa: With Nirvana, I was very drawn to Curt’s screaming and the simplicity of the riffs. But they were also very good technically.
Bastian: When I listen to a song, I feel something usually and with rock there’s just more feeling than any other genre, for me.
JW: Each of you plays a different instrument, obviously. Were there specific artists that you have been drawn to that blew you away?
Bastian: Tool and Nirvana.
Kai: Definitely Tool and Smashing Pumpkins. Jimmy Chamberlain’s drumming is pretty insane and I try to replicate what he does.
Manoa: Smashing Pumpkins and Carlos D from Interpol have some of the best bass lines that I’ve heard and I’m definitely very inspired by that.
JW: What is the process like for each of you to take those inspirations and put your own stamp on them and turn it into something else, when you first get that bug in your ear about a riff and want to make it your own. How is that happening for each of you?
Kai: I would say that we try to replicate the same energy not steal the exact riffs but whatever feels natural when we are jamming and stuff.
Bastian: it’s often a case-by-case scenario. Our surroundings also play a role in how creative we are feeling in the moment. It’s just that feeling for me and to try to capture that as best as possible.
Manoa: It just sort of naturally comes to you, ‘like oh this might fit a Fugazi bassline here or a Nirvana riff.’ It just naturally comes to you on what best fits the song.
JW: You have been performing out in the world at a variety of venues since 2018, correct?
Kai: Yes, all three of us have been playing out together since 2018.
JW: What was that first time that you performed in front of much more than friends and family?
Bastian: It was at YMCA skate camp. It used to be called Element. It’s in the Sequoias. At a campfire. Our first real show with a singer was at the Rock Shop Academy in Santa Barbara. That was our first crowd and cool vibe going on – and we never looked back.
JW: I’m guessing the answer is no but correct me if I’m wrong. Was there ever any trepidation or nerves at the beginning or was it just full-on onslaught, ‘this is who we are and this is what we want to do.’ Any jitters in the beginning?
Kai: No. I would say that we all want to do this and want to make it a career and see how far it goes.
Bastian: For sure. That would be a dream come true.
JW: I would imagine that the first few times you performed in front of more than friends and family, or even a larger event, that you’ve come off the stage and are filled with the idea that this is everything you had hoped it would be.
Bastian: Yea the feeling never gets old, that’s for sure. It’s the best feeling in the world. To perform in front of people. I can’t get enough of it and want to keep doing it for as long as I can.
Kai: It’s kind of like a really nice payoff after you’ve been practicing for the gig and then after you get off stage really nice. Sometimes going on stage can be pretty nerve-wracking.
Bastian: It’s a great reminder of what you’re working for.
JW: I have a logistical question for you. Maybe it’s obvious to you but how do you navigate the fact that one of you lives in Southern California and the other two are in Mill Valley? Can you uniquely and easily work together via the digital tools that are available to you and stay connected that way?
Bastian: We usually make most of the riffs by ourselves. I make them at home, and when we do collaborate and we come together in a room, either in a rehearsal space before and rehearsing, that’s where our songs come from and we keep working on them for a couple of months and then slowly but surely it starts morphing into a song
Kai: We all have our individual ideas and then we try to get together every couple of weeks, we either fly down (to where Bastien lives in Southern California) or up here.
JW: Is there much that you do in trading riffs and lines that you do virtually? Or is it mostly in person?
Kai: Not much virtually. We sometimes send ideas to each other, but it’s kind of hard to build on it. It’s way easier to get into a room.
JW: It would be even harder if one of you was on the East Coast or something like that.
Bastian: Yeah. We exchange ideas but since we live relatively close we try to see each other multiple times a month as much as possible.
JW: Like I said, we’re thrilled to give you this platform and to continue showcasing incredible local talent in our little town. Thanks for speaking with me and I look forward to seeing you on the big day on May 14.
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