Jaedyn McGregor and Ayla Baca of the band The Scribblers aren't that different from any other indie rock musicians in Missoula. Baca, the band's keyboardist, has her hair dyed pink and McGregor has sported both a shaved head and mohawk. Underground bands like the Moldy Peaches and Ghost Mice inspire their music. They've played with touring bands and edgy local bands like FagRag and Americana experimentalists Stellarondo. But, of course, a million things give away the fact that the musicians are just 10 years old. If it's not the Harry Potter references to invisibility cloaks and polyjuice potions in their songs, it's the fact that, when sitting on a couch, their feet don't touch the ground.
The Scribblers emerged two years ago when the musicians were 8 years old. As they tell it, McGregor called up Baca on the phone to see if she wanted to form a band, and if so, what they should call it. The first idea was "The Bloody T-Rexes." But, according to Baca, it wasn't really the tone they were going for, and "The Firecrackers" didn't quite seem right, either.
"But when we were on the phone, I went into my grandma's bedroom in the basement and I looked at the ceiling," says Baca. "If you look there's a bunch of gold scribbles—they're supposed to be there—and I was like, 'How about The Scribbles?' And Jaedyn was like, 'Oh yeah, The Scribblers!' Because that's what she thought I said."
The band's first original song was called "First Woman Beard." They also did a lot of covers at the time including Ghost Mice's "The Devil and My Family," The Moldy Peaches' "Little Bunny Foo Foo," the song "Parents Are People" from the musical Free to Be You and Me, and a cover of the traditional song, "Bah Bah Black Sheep."
"I did my sheep voice for it," says Baca. "I learned how to do this really weird sheep voice and I was really into sheep."
Local musician and music promoter Tyson Ballew has been The Scribblers' music coach since the band's inception, tuning the instruments and preparing the girls for gigs. He's McGregor's co-guardian, so he has an emotional investment in the project, but he's also known around town for DIY rock shows he promotes at the Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC)—and a band like The Scribblers fits into his world of quirky, lo-fi musicianship.
"Their first show was just a cappella and jokes," Ballew says. "It was last minute and they got added onto a show. The touring bands have been really enamored with them. That's in part because when you're on tour you play with a bunch of bands that are boring or generic and then you finally play this show and there's these two 10-year-old girls singing really different songs and being really silly. It breaks up the monotony of the tour in a special way."
There's more proof that being young has not been a hindrance for The Scribblers. On a recent trip to Vancouver, Wash., for instance, McGregor got the chance to meet and sing with Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches.
"My mom told her I was going to play one of her songs ["Tree Hugger"] at one of Tyson's shows," says McGregor. "She said, 'Well, for my set I'm playing "Tree Hugger" and I'm not that good at it so you can play it with me if you want.' So I played it with her and it was really fun."
There's also a small film crew of University of Montana students—comprised of Mather McKallor, Ryan Seitz and Kyle Freeman—that's been documenting The Scribblers' progress over the last year, and which has made a music video out of the band's song "Cause I Was Poor."
"It involves a giant chocolate bunny that they snack on," says McKallor.
The Scribblers already has a fanbase, a fact made apparent at a recent family-friendly night at the Top Hat where the band performed for a mix of parents and children between the reasonable hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. On that particular night The Scribblers—dressed in quirky pink outfits—did what so many bands before them have done in the green room at the Top Hat bar: sign their band name to the wall already overflowing with band graffiti. They write: "The Scribblers with...Ayla and Jaedyn. Just remember The Scribblers!"
Besides the Top Hat and the ZACC, The Scribblers played the Palace for a benefit as well as the recent party celebrating the Missoula Food Co-op. And, as members of the local kids music outfit the Coyote Choir, led by musician Amy Martin, they've also played The Wilma and the University Theatre.
Over the last few months, Ballew says the band has gotten several requests for shows.
"I think they've been taken a lot more seriously in town," says Ballew. "The way they've built their catalog of songs, it's still very cute, but it's a lot more musical than when they first started out."
The structure of the Coyote Choir, plus the adults in their lives, says Ballew, keeps them focused when it comes to the more freeform creativity of The Scribblers project.
"I think they can make decisions without worrying if it's cool or trendy," he says. "They do have some pretty obnoxious songs and so for me the thing I try to control is that by the end of the 20 minutes, the adults in the room aren't excited it's over. And, so far, people have been incredibly positive about it."
The Scribblers recently released an album called Eleven's Moustache, recorded in one hour at Club Shmed. It's comprised of six original songs including "Ayla at Hogwarts," and "Animals" which has the line, "Penguins are so beautiful, a lion's roar is like thunder! Pigs have families like you and I, and, unlike humans, chimps rarely blunder!"
In the song "Imagination" the girls imagine they're hanging out with chimps in a national park.
"We lived in Tanzania in Gombe Stream National Park," says McGregor. "It's where tourists go. It's where Jane Goodall did her work."
"We didn't actually go there," Baca clarifies. "It's in our imagination, as Sponge Bob says."
The Scribblers plays a CD release show at the Zootown Arts Community Center Friday, March 18, at 6 PM. $5/Free for kids under 12.