Families a big influence on young Beacon band

The neighbors were undoubtedly mortified, but hundreds of musical groups destined for fame and fortune began as garage bands, from Nirvana, the Ramones and The Who to the Amboy Dukes, Weezer and Buddy Holly. 

Fortunately for three young Beacon-area musicians, they have found a place to play loudly without causing the neighbors a moment’s grief. 

Watson isn’t a garage band; it rehearses deep in the basement of the old Beacon High School. Jameson Stark, a junior at Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls, and Sam Callen and Skylar Clair, sophomores at Beacon High School, formed the band eight months ago. Jameson and Skylar first pondered the idea at an elementary school reunion; a text message to Sam sealed the deal. 

Jameson Stark, Sam Callen and Skylar Clair in their rehearsal space at the old Beacon High SchoolPhoto by M. Turton
Jameson Stark, Sam Callen and Skylar Clair in their rehearsal space at the old Beacon High School (Photo by M. Turton)

Naming the band proved a bigger challenge than forming it. Its members would not divulge all the names they considered, although Tumor Dog was a contender. 

“I was whining to my mom about how hard it is to choose a band name,” Jameson says, recalling his suggestion to use a TV show character. He likes the series Sherlock and suggested Watson rather than the more famous detective. “We’re named after a sidekick,” he said.

Skylar said while the band sometimes has disagreements, “it’s not like we spend days on end fighting.” Jameson agreed, noting that it was closer to “blatant honesty” than intense arguments.

“We’re not the Ramones,” he said. “We’re more functional!” 

Watson’s wheelhouse is punk rock, but its members also stress other influences, such as jazz drummer Art Blakey for Sam, who is Watson’s drummer. He also cites Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the late Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters as influences. 

Nirvana, Mudhoney, Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath are among Jameson’s musical heroes. 

Skylar named Pinegrove, Black Country and Jeff Buckley, as well as her father, Stephen Clair, a guitarist and songwriter who owns the Beacon Music Factory.

Jameson’s father, Josh Stark, is also a musician, singer and songwriter who plays with The Nighttimes. Sam’s mother loves to sing, and his siblings sing and play multiple instruments. 

“I had a bongo class in third grade,” Jameson recalls, “but I learned mostly from my dad teaching me and from playing.” 

Sam took lessons and was doing concert percussion by age 10. When he was about 12, his mom bought him a drum kit.

Skylar benefited from six years of piano lessons and played percussion in her elementary school band. “My knowledge of guitar is mostly from experience and my dad giving me tips and tricks,” she said. 

Watson has played about 10 local gigs over the past year at The Pines Festival, Dogwood, the Beacon Music Factory, Spirit of Beacon Day and the Bonfire Festival. It also has performed in backyard and basement shows and at Cabernet Frank’s, which Jameson describes as “a cool spot in the middle of nowhere” in Sullivan County.

Jameson’s personalized guitar (Photo by M. Turton)

Jameson and Skylar share vocals and alternate on bass and guitar. They also write Watson’s songs, although they have different approaches. 

“Sometimes I just have one line and a guitar part I came up with four months ago,” Skylar says. “I’ll put them together, then come up with some other chords.”

Jameson’s guitar tends to lead his writing. “I’ll be sitting in the basement and it’s like, ‘That sounds cool,’” he said. “Let me write some words, something random.”

He says “Wacky Packs,” the second song he wrote, may be his best so far. “It’s weird satire about uncomfortable stickers that my mom and dad used to like,” he says.

Skylar rates “Yellow Pizza” as one of her best. “It’s about a place where my grandma lives in the middle of Pennsylvania, how it’s such an uninspiring, depressing town.”

One of Skylar’s hopes is that more local bands emerge. “I don’t know any other teen rock bands in Beacon besides Entropy,” Skylar says.

In February Watson will head into the recording studio and plans to release an EP this spring. 

After that, who knows? “I’m going to college at the end of next year; that will potentially be what breaks up the band,” Jameson says. “But I’d still want to play over Christmas breaks. I don’t see any limits to what we could do.”

Watson will perform at Quinn’s, at 330 Main St. in Beacon, on Sunday (Jan. 14) at 8 p.m.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features

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