Listen Up: Memphis Rascals

Memphis Rascals: Grant Vogelfanger (left) and Witt McKay.

Photo by Michael Donahue // Buy this photo

Memphis Rascals: Grant Vogelfanger (left) and Witt McKay.

The Memphis Rascals have a new sound.

"For a long time we were having people tell us, 'This is what you need to do. This is how you need to sound,'" said guitarist/vocalist Grant Vogelfanger, 16. "People would be, 'Wow, that's great.' But we'd be like, 'We're not really happy with this.'"

Memphis Rascals: Grant Vogelfanger (left) and Witt McKay.

Photo by Michael Donahue

Memphis Rascals: Grant Vogelfanger (left) and Witt McKay.

They were singing everything from "Backstreet Boys, R&B to pop," added guitarist/vocalist/keyboard player Witt McKay, 15.

Their new sound is edgier.

"Of course, there's gonna be some pop influence in there, but we like to keep our pop interesting -- not Britney Spears pop," Vogelfanger said.

"We're teenagers. We know what songs teenagers listen to. And everybody's not jamming in their cars to Jonas Brothers, really. The younger crowd is, but there's song out there everybody loves and I'd like to make those kinds of songs: Guns N' Roses' 'Sweet Child of Mine.' Everybody loves that song."

As a trio, the group made their national television debut in 2007 on "Showtime at the Apollo" and "America's Got Talent" where they made it to the top 35 acts. They've worked with industry greats such as Trey Bruce, Richard Marx, Rick Finch of KC and the Sunshine Band, the Rocturnals and Cassie Bonner of the Bonner Brothers.

They decided they'd do better as a duo last summer. "Every duo I've ever seen are brothers or sisters. We're just guys from Memphis playing what music we like," Vogelfanger said.

They play their instruments instead of using computerized music. "There's something that you take away when you can't really play an instrument. If you just have a song and you can't express yourself through a solo, there's something that isn't quite as entertaining."

Since becoming a duo, Vogelfanger said he and McKay have gotten good feedback from writers and producers in Los Angeles: "It just meshes better. With three people we always had to do three-part harmony, which didn't always work. It might have changed some songs in directions we didn't want to go."

Now they're concentrating on pursuing a record deal and "trying to get a big buzz in Memphis."

They'd also like to get rid of the name "The Memphis Rascals." "When we hear it, it reminds us of the days when we used to have to do competitions as 'The Little Rascals' or 'The Rascals' in rhinestone jackets," McKay said. "We just have to get away from that name."

"I would play a whole show just for someone to come up with a name," Vogelfanger said. "Even if you don't want us to play a show for you, we'll do whatever you want us to do. We'll pick up your garbage. I don't really care. Just come up with a name."

Listen Up spotlights area performers. Michael Donahue can be reached at 529-2797.

Memphis Rascals

Performance at 7 p.m. Friday at Minglewood Hall at 1555 Madison. Cover: $12.

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