The newest rock band signed to Chicago’s Split Red Records is facing a serious problem, and it’s not one of the expected impediments on the road to rock. The problem for Troubled Identity is that they’re looking at a six-year waiting period before their lead singer is old enough to play in a bar.
Photograph by Jon Cancelino
When the lights went down in the Park West venue in Lincoln Park on November 27, fans of the headlining Freddy Jones Band may have known they were going to see a new group from the band’s Chicago label opening for them. What they couldn’t have expected was to find four high school students taking the stage. They entered to a smattering of applause and after a few nervy moments fell into their unique brand of classic rock-infused, guitar-driven revelry. As soon as 15-year-old frontman, Max Subar, a sophomore at Highland Park High School, began to sing in a voice beyond his years, an attentive hush fell over the crowd. They opened with one of their originals, “No Worries,” the standout song from their newly recorded, five-song EP, and proof that their talent exceeds any preconceived expectations. The verses and the hook of the song deliver a sense of quiet introspection, speaking to those rarified moments of calm in the middle of a hectic life so perfectly that it’s impossible to believe it was written by a group of kids who haven’t yet seen a couple of decades pass. After “No Worries,” they fell naturally into the rest of their catalogue made up of harder-hitting fare laden with the skillful soloing of lead guitarist Shane Stewart, a junior at Lake Forest High School. They left the stage that night to thunderous applause. They were rock stars.
“It was so awesome,” says Alex Pomerantz, the band’s bassist and a senior at Highland Park High School. “We met the Freddy Jones Band through our label, next thing you know we’re opening up for them.” Not bad for a band that was recently playing Highland Park venues like the high school Battle of the Bands and Michael’s Restaurant.
The band formed after Shane, Max, and Troubled Identity’s drummer, Jake Nankin, a junior at Highland Park High School, attended the School of Rock in Highwood. The school’s objective is to foster students’ appreciation of music while infusing them with rock technique and stage presence. It was this institution that inspired the 2003 movie School of Rock. It further inspired Shane, Max, and Jake that this was the life for them. “It’s a lot of fun,” says Shane. “That’s when I realized I didn’t want to end up behind a desk.”
When the band went into the studio to record a three-song demo, their fresh take on the classic rock sound caught the attention of the label. “To have guys their age like the music that we grew up with is really cool,” says Chris Stewart from Split Red Records. “I think their music is seeded in that sound, but they have their own way of presenting it. They’re talented and they don’t act like they deserve it. They’re willing to put the work in.”
Troubled Identity is currently hard at work writing new songs and preparing for more shows. On January 30 they returned to the Highland Park Battle of the Bands, which they won last year. Their next show will be opening for rock icon Patti Smith at the 18th Annual Hopefest, a philanthropic festival benefiting the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The concert is scheduled for Saturday, February 20 at the Park West. In addition to their performance, the band is also raising money by selling hats, shirts, and other merchandise, and donating all the proceeds to the organization. “It’s great to see kids lending their musical talents and helping those in need,” said Michael Nameche, Director of Development for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “It’s a testimony to the commitment and generosity the band members have to their community.”
“I think we’d just like to have the experience of being a successful rock band,” says Max. “You know, going on tour…”
“Well, I think we’d also like to be the biggest band ever,” adds Jake. “That’s probably the whole dream.”
Newly signed and already opening for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, everything seems to be aligning to see these boys on the road to rock stardom. Now all they need to worry about are the SATs.