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Just don't call them kids

Vince Donohue, left, Sam Kuchera and Ben Heckmann are the three members of middle school rock band VeZuVeUz. The band has already written four of its own songs and will play its first public show in Farmington May 22.1 / 2
The band practices for two hours at least once a week and plans dress rehearsals in the days leading up to its May 22 performance.2 / 2

The members of Farmington's VeZuVeUz have their route to rock and roll stardom all mapped out. It started with a show at Criss Cross Pizza in North Oaks, continues with a May 22 show at Farmington's Ugly Mug and then moves on to bigger venues like First Avenue and Target Center in Minneapolis.

There are a few details to work out still -- the Ugly Mug show is the only one that's actually on the schedule right now -- but they've got time to figure out the finer points of becoming superstars. They're only in sixth grade, after all.

In the meantime, the three pre-teens who make up VeZuVeUz are hard at work. The band's three members -- guitarist Ben Heckmann, bassist Vince Donohue and drummer Sam Kuchera -- started playing together about a year and a half ago. They rehearse at least once a week in the basement Kuchera's home and they've already written four original songs.

One song, Velvet Black, is about "the worst day ever," Heckmann said. Another, "Don't Call Me a Kid," pretty well speaks for itself.

The band chose its name because "we like volcanoes," Kuchera said, and because "we wanted something explosive," Donohue added.

The band members are already mastering the stage moves that come with being a rock star. At one point in last week's rehearsal Donohue gives a big kick that would look right at home during an 80s rock show. At another, Heckmann drops to his knees to play. Then, the two guitar players turn back to back to belt out songs about bad days and bad relationships.

Their voices haven't changed yet, but they're already serious about being famous.

"Plan B is living with our parents," Kuchera said.

The band members seem to split their time between being rock stars and being sixth graders.

The band rehearses in front of a large black backdrop painted with graffiti-style letters and symbols. Elsewhere in the room there is a sign that reads "God keeps his promises" and a poster for the movie Shrek.

All three band members are honor roll students and Boy Scouts working toward their Eagle Scout award. They presented the U.S. flag at Monday night's District 192 School Board meeting and led the board in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The members of VeZuVeUz were friends before they were bandmates. Heckmann and Donohue met when they were in third grade, though then they talked more about Star Wars than about stardom.

"We were young," they say by way of explanation.

They started playing music together for fun about two and a half years ago and added Kuchera about a year after that.

In the beginning, all three band members played guitar. It was not an arrangement that lent itself to forming a band. They settled into their new roles thanks to music teacher Zach Hollander, who continues to work with the group, and the video game Rock Band. Donohue was great playing the bass parts in the game and Kuchera kept a steady beat. That pretty much settled things. Hollander helped Donohue and Kuchera learn their new instruments and the band was off and running.

Well, walking, at least. So far, in addition to the Criss Cross Pizza show, they've played a Halloween concert for which they got paid in candy and a friend's birthday party for which they got $40 each. They're happy with their progress so far. They point out that Green Day, their musical heroes, started out playing cover songs in a steak house.

The band's grand pronouncements occasionally draw laughs from their parents, a fact that doesn't always sit well with the musicians.

"We're not cute. We're epic," Donohue admonished.

Epic, and ready to be famous sooner rather than later. They want to be the rock version of current teen pop sensation Justin Bieber.

"But less Biebery," Donohue said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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