Band members rock at Lake County Fair -- at age 11
The Rayys guitar player 11-year-old Van Laughlin comes out from under the covered stage as he performs at the Lake County Fair Ground. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:09AM
LIBERTYVILLE -- The music of AC/DC and other rock tunes could be heard coming from the Blue Ribbon Stage at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.
But the band that was playing the music on July 26 was not your typical rock group. The band was the Rayys, a group of three 11-year-olds from Libertyville who performed for the first time at the fair.
The Rayys are made up of Van Laughlin, singer and lead guitarist, Evan Hill on drums, and Jack Muraoka, who sings and plays bass guitar. The three recently completed elementary school at Copeland Manor School in Libertyville and will be entering the sixth grade at Highland Middle School in the fall.
The band was started by Laughlin and Hill, who shared a mutual interest in rock music.
“Originally, it was me and Evan in the first grade,” said Laughlin. “We were interested in music and formed a band. We went over to Evan’s house and started jamming and that’s how it all came together.”
“My parents have always had a thing for rock n’ roll,” said Hill. “They introduced it to me and I really liked it and I wanted to start playing it.”
Their first public performance was during a student talent show at Copeland Manor School in December 2008 when Laughlin and Hill were in the second grade and performed the Clash’s classic hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”
Muraoka, a fellow classmate at Copeland Manor School, joined the band in the fourth grade.
‘He said yes’
“We needed a singer and we also needed a bass player,” said Laughlin. “He was a friend and we knew he was a musician so we asked him if he wanted to be in a band and he said yes.”
“My parents would always listen to alternative music and then my cousin started playing guitar and I thought that was really cool so I started playing guitar as well,” said Muraoka.
The band practices every Sunday in the laundry room of Hill’s house. They have performed at the Libertyville Days Festival the last three years, at talent shows at Copeland Manor School and at other venues including a Battle of the Bands competition in Mount Prospect and at New York Slices pizza in Highland Park.
Their performance at the fair was their first time performing on a large stage. While the crowd in the early afternoon was sparse, the kids had a good time. Laughlin remembers running around the stage while performing and he twice accidentally pulled the cord for his electric guitar out of the amplifier.
“It made me feel like I was king of the world for some reason,” said Laughlin, with a laugh, about performing on an elevated stage.
“I liked everything about it,” added Muraoka. “It was shaded. It was elevated. It was a pretty nice area to play.”
The Rayys prefer classic rock and alternative rock over much of the popular modern pop music. During their performance at the fair, they performed tunes from AC/DC, the Foo Fighters, the Clash, White Stripes and the Black Keys, among others. Laughlin is a big fan of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin is one of Hill’s favorite bands.
“It makes them a little different from a lot of the kids their age,” said Van’s father Charles Laughlin. “A lot of kids are more into pop music.”
Charles Laughlin said he’s not aware of any other youth rock bands in the area that are as young as the Rayys.
“It’s pretty unique,” he said. “At least in the Libertyville area, we haven’t see any other bands their age, not anyone that young.”
The band has already come up with its first original song called “Look Ahead,” which they performed at the fair and at Libertyville Days earlier this summer. “Once they get a few songs, we would like to record them,” said Charles Laughlin. “One way or another, they want to start recording.”
Charles Laughlin said he thinks the kids enjoy being in a youth band and playing together at public events such as the fair.
“Obviously they’re into their music,” he said. “This is fun for them.”