At just 12 years old, Joseph Keith was playing guitar in a garage band, dreaming about following in the musical footsteps of his rock heroes, Blink-182 and Green Day.
Now at 18 and a senior at Oakton High School, his newest band, Nine Days Gone, already seems on its way to greatness.
“My dad gave me the Blink-182 album when I was 8, and that’s what I listened to my whole childhood,” Keith said. “I started taking guitar lessons and taught myself the songs and really wanted to get out and play.”
With gigs at Jammin’ Java, The Empire and Fat Tuesday’s, and high profile shows upcoming as the opening act for ’90s alternative giant Eve 6 in West Virginia and playing at Celebrate Fairfax in June, Nine Days Gone has made a name for itself in the music community.
Keith started the band along with fellow Cougar, bass guitarist Eric Daniel, in 2009 and added Herndon drummer Luke Patelunas later that year.
“We started jamming together as freshmen and once we added Luke, we got a really good feel for the band,” Keith said. “We play all originals and just [self-released] our second album, ‘As It’s Always Been,’ this week.”
Nine Days Gone had its record release party at Jammin’ Java in Vienna and a packed house came to hear the band play.
“Playing live is my favorite part and this is one of the best venues around locally,” Daniel said. “With all the work we put in with writing and touring and putting the CDs out, performing in front of people is what it’s all about.”
Coming up with songs has never been a problem for Keith, who reveals that he has enough material for several new albums.
“Writing is my thing to do. I love to just sit down and write,” he said. “I could hear a song from Nirvana or someone and I start fiddling with the guitar and start. Lyrically, a lot of them are about girls or events that happen to me. Some have no meaning at all.”
Although he has an alt-punk mentality with his Nine Days Gone music, Keith also has a softer side and can be found performing acoustic shows at small cafes and open mics throughout the area.
“Sometimes when the band can’t play, I’ll go out and play my songs — more in the tradition of John Mayer or Jason Mraz,” he said. “I just took up vocals last year and started taking lessons, and I have written about two albums worth of songs for this as well.”
Although Keith once took an AP Music Theory class at Oakton High, he hasn’t really been involved with the school’s music program in any other way. Still, judging by the number of hits the band’s Facebook page gets from Oakton students, it is much beloved by the Cougar faithful.
“A friend of mine took me to see them last year and I was surprised at how good they were,” said Joanna Ro, a junior at Oakton High School. “The drummer was phenomenal, Eric was going crazy on stage and Joe was a really good singer.”
Keith’s dad, Jeff Cochran, said he thinks music has been a great thing for his son, both on and off the stage.
“He lives for music. It seems like almost every day he is doing something music-related. He is constantly trying to improve on his song writing by working on new varieties of guitar riffs, vocal melodies, etc.,” Cochran said. “People who know him off-stage know music is part of his persona, whether it’s working on a new song, practicing for a gig, or just listening to one of his favorite bands.”
Both Keith and Daniel are graduating next month and after a summer of playing, the two will head off to their respective colleges — Keith to James Madison University and Daniel to the University of Charleston.
“We’re still keeping the band together,” Keith said. “Our schools are about two hours apart and we’ll be home once in a while to play with Luke (who has another year left at Herndon), and we don’t plan on ending this anytime soon.”
With their music featured on the radio, two full albums on iTunes, and a supportive fan base, the members of Nine Days Gone hope to continue on the path to success
“I definitely want to pursue this,” Keith said. “This is what I was meant to do.”