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Starting small, aiming high: Lister, Steinbach chase fame with 21 Taras

The greater Denver area is full of musicians and bands, each one with a different perspective on music and of unique origin. One such band, 21 Taras, lives right in the heart of LHS. Two seniors, drummer Alec Lister and guitarist James Steinbach, started the band when they were in middle school, and it is on a path to success of which they only could have dreamed. In fact, they released their first album Seize the Ocean this September.

21 Taras’ roots go back to when their passions for music reached a zenith. Lister’s inspiration stems from being immersed in all kinds of music from a young age and from his father, who has been a rhythm guitarist for a number of bands since the 70’s. Steinbach also got involved with music early in life listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Stevie Ray Vaughan before picking up the guitar himself. Since the beginning, the band has added vocalist Julian Fulco Perron, whose interest in Buddhism gave rise to the name 21 Taras, as well as rhythm guitarist Austin Salazar and bass player Jimmy St. James.

The band is capable of producing well-structured and flowing rhythms; in this sense they can be described as an orchestra of rock instruments. One reason for this is the way they use a certain kind of musical science when writing songs. For example, Lister will occasionally incorporate reggae beats into their music. Just because it is rock music doesn’t mean that they can only use rock beats, rhythms and tones.

“I don’t think there are good genres and bad genres… only good songs and bad songs. I do stuff that normally wouldn’t fit in quite as well as someone would think… I try to pick up little things [like the reggae flares] from every genre I can and start mixing it, trying to come up with new licks and trying to be a better musician overall,” said Lister.

This sort of musical understanding is what separates 21 Taras from other bands; it shows a kind of talent found in the famous rock bands they look up to.

Musical groups are sprouting up all across the country, each one trying to make themselves stand out from the rest. For two members of 21 Taras to be in high school and to already have an album selling in the US, France, Germany, Italy and on iTunes while performing around the city, demonstrates a remarkable level of success.

It does not end there, though. If the band can show their ability to get ticket sales at various venues this year, they will be able to start covering for national performances at some of Denver’s best local stages, such as the Fillmore, Gothic, Bluebird and Ogden.

“I personally don’t think that in the next five years we’ll still be in Denver,” said Steinbach, as he, Lister and the rest of the band hope to move on to a place with a larger music scene like Nashville. There, they can get more attention, doing more and more performances and, ultimately, a world tour. “That’s my dream,” said Steinbach.

“Metallica, they played on all seven continents. It would be pretty cool to be the second band to do that,” said Lister.

In the national band scene today, there are not a lot of classic rock-based bands like 21 Taras. But they seize every opportunity to perform, either as the main band or as a cover to a larger band. As a result, 21 Taras sometimes performs for crowds who don’t typically listen to their type of music, but that doesn’t take the fun out of it.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or a hundred people,” said Steinbach.

Both Lister and Steinbach plan on dedicating themselves to music after high school, even though they know it’s not the way to get rich quick. Lister aims to support himself entirely off of a career in music, either with the band or as an independent, jack-of-all-trades musician, doing back-up work for larger bands.

“This is not the right business for us to be making money in,” said Steinbach, who understands it’s a long and arduous journey to go from local band to topping national charts. But in the end, the money doesn’t matter because their passion to write and perform music is what carries them forward.

21 Taras is a real band to pay close attention to as they expand past Denver’s already burgeoning music scene onto the national stage.