I met the four members of Above the Skyline for the first time at a Chipotle and couldn't help but think what an interesting burrito this merry band of misfits would make: a tall Filipino, a very outspoken lesbian, a long-haired dude who looks like he’s really into heavy metal, and a black independent woman who doesn't need a man. Yeah, I'd take a bite into that.
But, sadly, they're not edible. Instead, together they make Above the Skyline, a band of 18- to 21-year-olds straight outta Homestead, consisting of frontman and keyboardist Zach Wood, drummer Chloe Santiago, bassist Elisha Ewing, and guitarist Eric Green.
It is their diversity both as individuals and as musicians that inspired the title of their debut EP, A Different Breed, a release that earned them “Best EP” from the Akademia Music Awards — an L.A.-based competition aimed at exposing new talent — back in April.
“We came up with the name A Different Breed because all five songs in the EP are different and varying in styles. Also, because we wanted to really showcase who we are, how diverse we are as people and how diverse our music can be,” explains Wood.
Green and Santiago originally played together as kids, having been put together while taking classes at Miami's Music Depot in the rock ensemble program. They eventually formed their own cover band made up of 11- and 12-year-olds. First they called themselves
Despite their age and outside-looking-in perspective to Miami, the band members don't feel they struggle with the usual obstacles bands from Homestead typically face. They credit their success in Miami to
Still, their biggest challenge as a Homestead band is that most of their fan base remains back home.
“Being from Homestead, most of our friends and fans are in Homestead. There are no shows in Homestead. The closest show to us is Kendall and then downtown Miami and Coral Gables. It could be a challenge for us to get our fans to those shows. We do our best to branch out as much as we can,” says Wood.
“Eventually, we’re hoping to branch further up the state, where there’s actually some semblance of a music scene. For now, we have Miami, so we’re going to try to take over what we can,” adds Green.
While the rockers do hope to help make the best out of live, local music in their community, they still feel all the usual struggles of being a band in Miami. They notice that most crowds down here aren't as excited to see a local act as they are to see a national act. They also think the approach of most local bands isn’t one that encourages a sense of community.
“I think everyone can get a little selfish sometimes. In this industry, you kind of step on people to get rid of them. But to build an actual community, I think that we should all step together on a foundation,” says Ewing.
“We’re not the only band who is trying to evolve the scene here.
Above the Skyline recently joined several other local acts as part of the eighth-annual Everglades Awareness Benefit Concert at Gramps. “We like to do a lot of those things," Green says. "We’re not a band that usually looks for paying gigs. We give back to our community a lot."
In the end, Above the Skyline just wants to be a band everyone can relate to.
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“We pride ourselves in being different as people and as far as our music goes. Sometimes we don’t want to be the band that sticks to one genre — that sticks to pop-punk or whatever. We just want to be known as a band that hopefully everyone can relate to,” says Wood.
“We’re like America," Santiago says, "a melting pot of differentness."
The ninth-annual ’80s Flashback Music Festival at Churchill's Pub. 8 p.m. Friday, September 25, at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807. Admission is $10. 18 and up.
Miami Urban Music and Film Festival. Saturday, September 26, at Miami Dade College, 11380 NW 27th Ave., Miami. General admission is $20, $10 for students.