The trio had formed a band, Third Attempt, and was beginning to play at local teen venues like the Redmond Firehouse.
They were writing and recording their own music and trying to develop a following for their special brand of pop punk.
The boys had stars in their eyes, dreaming of going on tour one day and maybe, just maybe, making it big.
Flash forward two years. The teens, now seniors, have become consummate performers, who released their first album and completed a West Coast tour this past summer.
“We had been thinking about doing this ever since we started playing music together back in eighth grade,” says McNamara, “and it all came about because we just decided that we could do it. We were ready and there wasn’t any reason why we couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. We planned it all on our own and used our own money to cover the costs.”
To line up the venues, the guys made phone calls and sent out numerous emails, not only to all-ages concert venues, but to cafes and restaurants with acoustic open mike opportunities.
They ended up playing in a variety of places, including the world famous Whiskey a Go-Go in L.A., a definite highlight of the tour.
In a 2006 Chevy Express van, equipped with built-in bunk beds and a cot, the teens made their way down the coast, hitting clubs in Vancouver, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego.
Though no one paid them to play, they made some money through donations and the sales of their merchandise, which went to cover some of their costs.
The rest came from after- school jobs and their own personal bank accounts.
“The point of the tour was obviously not to make money,” says Hook. “It was really all about getting our name out there and picking up some fans along the way.” He adds, “I think we accomplished that based on the feedback we got. People came up to us after our shows and told us they liked our music, and then they posted their comments on Facebook later. We had four offers to come back and play again.”
To keep costs down, the band, in addition to sleeping in their van, parked in Walmart lots overnight and ate on the cheap.
“The van was actually comfortable,” comments Hook, “but it sometimes got too hot and stuffy at night.”
As for the Walmart parking lots, Penn adds, “Anyone can park their vehicles out back for free and no one bothers you. We didn’t have any problems, and of course, it was convenient to go in and get what we needed from the store.”
The experience was not only valuable to the boys in regards to promoting Third Attempt, but it also proved to be enlightening to them on a few levels.
“Just the fact that our parents let us do this was cool,” comments McNamara. “I know now that they trust me and it shows me that we can do something pretty big like this even though we’re only17.”
Hook adds, “I think we learned a lot about ourselves, being away from our parents and having to rely on ourselves for everything. It gave us more confidence.”
Penn notes that being on tour with your best friends is really special and it’s an opportunity to learn about each other in a different context.
“I thought I knew everything about these guys, but I was wrong,” he says. “We got along well, but we didn’t always see eye-to-eye with each other. We had some healthy debates at times!”
All three young men express a passion for making music and would love to keep at it, with the hopes that it could become a fulltime career for them.
For McNamara, who plans to pursue music education in college, music is an outlet and form of self-expression. As a guitarist and vocalist, as well as songwriter, he feels he has talent and it is important to him to be able to share his gifts with others.
Penn enjoys being on stage and he feeds off of the audience’s energy.
“I’m happiest when I’m playing the drums,” he comments. “I get such an adrenaline rush from performing live and doing it with my two friends. We have a great connection.”
Writing music is Hook’s forte, though he also plays bass. He gets into the words, which he uses to tell a story. And it constantly amazes him that people want to listen to what he writes.
“It’s just so cool,” he adds. Hook explains that in the early days of the band, the lyrics were all about the boys’ personal experiences. Now, they’re more experimental.
“I’m writing about things I’ve never experienced before like surviving a disaster, for example,” he comments. “The songs have ‘show,’ not ‘tell’ lyrics.”
McNamara concurs and notes that the writing is getting better and continuing to improve with time.
All three young men agree that they had the time of their lives on tour and that it was hard to come back to Woodinville. They got a taste of being on the road and it hooked them.
“We met a lot of cool people, who found our music relevant,” says Hook, “and that really boosted our confidence and gave us the push to continue to move forward.” He adds, “We never expected it to get to this point, but now that it has, we want to see how far it will go.”
With graduation on the horizon, the members of Third Attempt don’t know what the future will bring.
“We’re all applying to colleges,” adds McNamara, “and we have other plans, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the meantime.”
Penn says, “It’s undecided right now, but that’s okay. What’s great is that we can choose our own adventures.”