This is the latest in a Gazette series profiling Pikes Peak region bands.
After witnessing their easy camaraderie and the good-natured ribbings, you’d never guess the four members of the Stray Suns aren’t lifelong friends.
But it was an ad on Craiglist that brought these twentysomethings together.
Jefferson “Jake” Oakey, who grew up in Monument and played football for Lewis-Palmer High School, started playing guitar as a young boy and began writing music in his teens. Two years ago, he put out a free classified ad that he was looking to form a rock band. Joe Della Penna, a Chicago native who plays drums and percussion, responded.
Della Penna moved to Colorado to study music education at the University of Colorado at Boulder and now teaches at Mesa Ridge High School. He knew a guitar player, Addison Sloan, through a roommate.
“When you’re a musician, everybody knows a band ...,” said Sloan, 26, who studied jazz performance at Morehead State University in Kentucky. He was working at a car dealership in the Springs when Della Penna asked if he’d be interested in playing in a rock band.
“Joe said, ‘Dude, you should check out my band. We should jam together!’” Sloan said. “I was surprised to find a band of a professional caliber. Not just some guys playing Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ and Nirvana.”
Sloan happened to work with a guy who played bass. Tim Miller came to see the band play a New Year’s Eve gig in 2016, and the four gelled.
“I had to learn 30 songs in five days, and I don’t read music,” said Miller, a Chicago native who’s been playing bass since age 10. “I learned everything by ear. It all worked out in the end.”
The four have a great chemistry. They meet weekly to rehearse — or just play “Mario Kart.”
That shared love of video games spurred the gamer theme of the band’s debut album, “Until Further Notice,” which they released in January. Oakey wrote most of the songs, with Sloan and Della Penna each contributing a tune.
“We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if our album was just us playing Mario Kart?’ It’s kind of an expression of what we’re really like,” Sloan said. “We want people to see who we really are. We’re just normal dudes.”
The band opened for Robert Randolph & the Family Band at the Black Sheep on Dec. 30. Its Jan. 23 album release show at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Colorado Springs “packed the house.”
“People in the music scene here have been really receptive,” said Oakley, 28.
Stray Suns is a band name that stuck when a previous bass player bought a banner with the name on it. Because of that investment, they kept the name.
“There’s one thing in this band that we take seriously, and that’s the music,” Oakey said.
Sloan added, “We’re not a professional serious rock band.”
Stray Suns works with local concert promoter Jon Eddy and has performed at local festivals Spring Spree and 719 Brewfest. Earlier this month, the band played the Texas Indie Music Festival in Austin.
In the Springs, they regularly perform at Axe and the Oak Whiskey House in the Ivywild School.
“It’s gotten us a lot of recognition,” Oakey said. “It’s hard to find venues that are willing to pay in Denver. I never liked the idea of ‘pay to play.’ The music industry is very gimmicky. It’s not about writing good music anymore. It’s about: What can I do to sell 30 tickets? I don’t want to have to sell my band to you in any other way than: Here’s my music. If you like it, great.”
“We all mess with each other. If you can have fun and laugh at each other, you can get through any turmoil,” Sloan said.
Contact the writer, 476-1602