Random Ideas, a rock band formed by teenage triplets, wins over skeptics one power chord at a time.
By Arielle Greenberg Bywater
[I] wrote a paper for English class about being quiet and nervous,” Erskine Academy senior Lexi Johnson says. “My teacher commented on it: ‘That’s not very punk rock.’” An English teacher should know better than to buy into stereotypes and clichés: Lexi and her sisters Kinsey and Meagan are decidely punk rock — and they can play.
The 17-year-old triplets grew up in South China, in a home where music — everything from R&B to Led Zeppelin to Billy Joel — was considered “a healthy part of being alive,” says their mother, Lisa. Their father, John, recalls that when the girls were toddlers, they stomped around the living-room coffee table to Sammy Hagar. When they were 9, their parents gave them the Rock Band video game for Christmas. Within no time, Kinsey had nailed down the fingering to the notoriously challenging riffs from Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and Meagan was searching the Internet for isolated drum tracks to favorite songs. At 13, the girls got their first instruments, mail-ordered and low cost. Kinsey jumped on the guitar and Meagan grabbed the drumsticks, leaving Lexi to become, by default, lead vocalist and bassist of their newly formed band. Not that she minds: with a broad smile and pink hair, Lexi is Random Ideas’ dynamic front woman.
All three sisters share a passion for alternative rock — grunge, punk, power pop. “We were never interested in the commercial music,” says Kinsey. Instead, the girls gravitate toward punk because it has, says Lexi, “politics, substance.” The girls do too: they formed a Gay-Straight-Trans Alliance at their high school, and gender equality is on their minds as they navigate a male-dominated music scene. Their dream is to play the Vans Warped Tour, the country’s largest traveling music festival. “The Warped Tour has been around since 1995, but if we joined it, we’d be the first all-girl band they’ve ever had,” Lexi points out. “The absence is noticeable.”
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The girls are close — “sometimes maybe too close, since, you know, lyrics are personal,” says Meagan — and share a basement bedroom/practice space, with walls covered in rock posters and a drum kit in the middle of the floor. Their repertoire includes hits by Green Day, Paramore, and Nirvana, plus originals they compose collaboratively through a kind of triplet telepathy.
John and Lisa serve as roadies and managers. “Not a lot happens here in central Maine,” Lisa says, “so it’s a testament to the girls’ talent that we get phone calls.” The calls keep coming: Random Ideas has been booking gigs all over the state. Every time they go on stage, impressed adults offer advice and opportunities. At one show, a man scoffed at the girls while they set up, then dropped his jaw when they began to rock out. After their set, he walked up and handed each of them a $20 bill, instructing them not to quit.
They don’t intend to. Recently, they experienced real punk community at the all-ages garage-cum-venue Squashed Warehouse in Windsor, and they’re hungry for more. On their demo CD of original songs, We Met in the Womb, there’s a song called “California,” named after the home state of their beloved Green Day. In it, Lexi channels Billie Joe Armstrong’s bold, thrumming vocals as she sings, “We’ll get there sometime.” The girls have never been to the West Coast, but high school graduation is looming, and the whole family is eager to see where the music might take them.
Random Ideas plays the Erskine Academy talent show in South China on March 12. Their CD, We Met in the Womb, is available at their shows. randomideas.biz