By Tracey Dee Rauh
Managing Editor of Features
---- — Alt rock is the force behind the growing success of five young musicians who claimed the New England title in the Hard Rock Rising Global Band Competition as their own.
After several rounds of competition, University of New Hampshire-based Gretchen and the Pickpockets earned a spot as one of the top 100 bands in the world after having responded to Hard Rock International’s call out for aspiring musicians. The grand prize winner will undertake a world tour with stops in six major cities.
Gretchen and the Pickpockets, whose members hail from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, rose to the top of 12,000 other groups to make it to this phase in the challenge. They now compete against other winners from places like Japan, London, Buenos Aires, Guatemala, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Beirut and Australia in an online public vote through Hard Rock facebook pages.
“We’re really excited to have made it this far and received so much recognition in such a short amount of time,” said guitarist and trumpeter Ryan O’Connell of Danvers. “We didn’t expect to go this far going into it, we were sort of just having fun. And it turned out to be so much more than we thought. To have the chance to possibly go to London and compete in the final 10 and with some of the world’s best new bands is incredible.”
Gretchen and the Pickpockets won the first live round on a snowy night in March at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston. On April 4 at the Hard Rock again, they competed against other regional finalists to become the New England Champions.
The band, which formed in 2012, describes its sound as alternative rock with heavy soul, jazz and blues influences. Members are the sultry-voiced namesake, Gretchen Klempa; guitarist Richie Smith; guitarist and trumpeter Ryan O’Connell; bassist Mike Klempa; and drummer Barrett Goeman.
They met at UNH, Durham, when Klempa reached out for other talent to form a band. Since, they have been playing in nightclubs in Portsmouth, Durham, Plaistow and other New England venues. They released a debut EP, “Stop,” which is available on iTunes, Amazon and other outlets.
“Our songs are a collection of the music we listen to and we love,” O’Connell said. “When we write songs you can hear all sorts of influences in them because we come from diverse musical backgrounds. It creates a sound that isn’t like any other band. We’re happy that people like our songs as much as we do.”
HOW TO VOTE Fans can vote on the Hard Rock Facebook pages, which will narrow down the 100 winners to the top 25. Once determined, a panel of celebrity judges and music industry professionals will select 10 bands to go to a competition in London. From there, the Grand Prize winner will be chosen. Two runner-up bands each receive new music equipment and gear valued at $10,000. For full rules and a list of participating locations, visit www.facebook.com/hardrock.