Great music can blossom in unexpected places.
Take my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA for instance. It’s known for being a mid-western town, landlocked by Amish country and conservative farm families, with a history strongly rooted in the steel industry (hence the Steelers). If anything, you’d expect country music and gospel music to thrive there, which I’m sure it does all over the state.
However, the city itself is actually a pioneering city for the growth of punk rock.
That’s right gals and pals, this city that the famous actress Sienna Miller called “Shitsburgh” is actually oozing with musical talent in rock’n’roll and punk rock. Some pioneer bands were Carsickness, The Cynics, and The Bats, and some contemporary bands carrying the torch are Anti-Flag, Code Orange, and Nox Boys.
Queue badass rock’n’roll playing in the background with lightening bolts flashing and thunder cracking.
Why hello Nox Boys! Started by Zack Keim when he was only 16-years-old, this band has been playing some of the best rock’n’roll/blues/punk rock around.
Nox Boys is comprised of Zack Keim (guitar/vocals), Bob Powers (guitar), Sam Berman (drums), and Chris Trepagnier (bass). It first began with just Keim and Powers meeting at an open mic night that Powers helped run, which led to them messing around on stage for a while. Eventually it blossomed into a bigger thing, and Nox Boys was born—going through a few different line-ups, but eventually ending up where it is now.
Powers is a pioneer Pittsburgh punk rocker who has been around the city’s scene for many years. He mentored Keim and introduced him to the amazing talent that created the city’s scene and the music that has blossomed from it.
Powers introduced Keim to The Cynics, and one night they caught one of their shows. There Keim met Gregg Kostelich, the guitarist of The Cynics and CEO of Get Hip! Recordings, and passed along a recording of him and Powers. Eventually, Kostelich called Keim up and has since helped build the band up.
Still just a teenager, Keim was on a record label—which he’s now also a sales representative for.
“It’s a learning experience—awesome to be here and learn from Gregg and Barbara [VP at Get Hip!] about everything they know about the music industry,” Keim tells BTRtoday. “It’s also an honor for me to be able to do two directions here—the garage direction and also the folk direction, which is going to be happening soon.”
The Nox Boys released their debut, self-titled full-length in 2014 and are currently working on new material and touring. However, Keim also finds time to work on a solo folk rock project.
Growing up, he was raised on blues and folk music. He tells BTRtoday that one of the first concerts he went to, as a kid, was an Allman Brother show with his dad.
“My folk stuff is a different avenue to branch off,” he explains. “The Nox Boys is more rock’n’roll—it’s straight forward and I like that writing style, writing about rock n roll, drinking, having fun, meeting girls. The folk stuff is a little bit deeper—there are songs about girls, but there are also songs about life and living and different experiences I’ve lived throughout my life and I’m still experiencing.”
The solo album is intended to come out this summer and is entitled “First Step.”
The Nox Boys’ self-titled album, and even the album they’re currently working on, is very different than Keim’s folk music material.
The band worked with Kostelich and Jim Diamond (The Cynics, The Sonics, The White Stripes) in the studio to perfect their sound—recording over a weekend and then spending several weeks on mixing and mastering.
The album is the epitome of blues and garage rock. It’s like you can hear it playing as the soundtrack to a film from the ‘50s about a badass gang on the streets. In fact, Keim tells us that the band’s name, Nox Boys, came from a story Powers told them of a gang way back in the day from Blawnox, PA (their hometown), that was comprised of greasers and punks and they called themselves The Nox Boys—so the name is quite fitting.
Their self-titled album is filled with fast beats and catchy melodies—so charged and rampant, that you can’t help but swoon. Tracks like “I Just Don’t Care Anymore” and “Military School” are fueled by teen angst and the blasé attitude every true rock and roller has. Then tracks like “Take My Heart And Break It” and “Susie Lee” are love songs that are utterly relatable and will quickly become classic love songs you’ll forever add to your “time to get over the ex” playlist.
Currently, Nox Boys is working on new material. Keim conveys that they’re sticking to their true-blue garage rock sound, but are experimenting with different nuances and tones. “We’re messing around with different effects and stuff,” he adds. “Especially, Bob, he has an organ pedal that he’s been using, with his lap steel [guitar]—those matched together come out with a really cool sound.”
Keim just turned 20-years-old and intends to always work in music, and dreams of bringing Nox Boys to a global level. “I just want to write good songs, make people happy, and try and make a living doing that,” he admits. “There’s nothing else I really want to do, that’s basically it.”
Make sure to keep an eye on these guys and, of course, check out their record (you can hear the entire self-titled album on this week’s Music Meetup). I assure you they’ll become your new favorite band—it’s the kind of music you can just keep flipping the record to over and over again for months.