The Robotix Rock the Nation
Dec 06, 2013 12:04PM
● By Anonymous
The Robotix is young, talented and winning over America.
Pyrotechnic displays splash brilliant colors throughout Radio City Music Hall. Every cushy red velvet seat is filled, many with fervently enthusiastic teenage girls. The atmosphere is electric. The lights go down. It’s show time. Cheers erupt across the spacious auditorium, and the bandmembers appear on stage, microphones, guitars, bass and drum sticks in hand. No, it’s not the Beatles — it’s The Robotix, the future of rock ’n’ roll.
It’s early August 2013, and members of The Robotix — the oldest of whom is 16 — are ready to rock a 90-second performance of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” in front of not only a live audience but also more than 10 million people at home watching one of the final rounds of the eighth season of America’s Got Talent on TV. Months of exhaustive and determined preparation have led to this very moment, from an audition in San Antonio and avoiding elimination in Las Vegas to extensive practice in Los Angeles and finally, one of the world’s most famed entertainment venues in New York City. For The Robotix, this is nothing short of a dream come true. So, how did they get here?
Making the band
Ten-year-old Logan Gladden couldn’t quite pronounce his first name when he was little — it came out sounding more like “Robot” than “Logan.” The nickname stuck. The Fort Worth native received a set of toy drums at age 1 and his first real set at age 3, after his parents discovered their son clearly had a passion for a good rhythmic beat.
“I’ve been raised in music,” Robot says. “My dad is a big collector and introduced me to KISS, Led Zeppelin, Journey and The Who. When I first got my drums, I knew that I would really love to do music all my life.”
His parents later enrolled Robot, who has met Paul McCartney multiple times and counts KISS’ drummer Eric Singer as his biggest inspiration, at For Those About to Rock. The Southlake-based school has its own approach to teaching: allowing students to choose which songs they’d like to play before letting them learn different instruments and form bands. It was at the school that Robot met future bandmates, Jon Casel, Jared Devino and Brendan James. Grapevine resident Brendan, now 13, also grew up surrounded by strong musical influences.
“I was always around my dad, who played acoustic and electric guitar,” he says. “I took piano lessons from when I was 6 until I was 9, and then I wanted to branch out, so I tried the guitar. I figured I knew enough about music that it should be easy to transpose over to that instrument.”
The school placed Robot and Brendan together in a Junior All-Star Band, but the drummer and guitarist still needed a bass player. Enter 16-year-old Jon, who has called Southlake home since 2009 and is currently in his junior year at Carroll Senior High. At the time, he was already in one of the school’s All-Star Bands but was asked to help the younger musicians by playing bass with them, kicking off what would become a long-lasting friendship and partnership. Jon, who later went on to solely focus on guitar, returned to his previous band once Jared joined the school. The now 15-year-old freshman at Colleyville Heritage spent several years living in Italy where his mom first got him started on the guitar at age 6. One day, during a music lesson, he observed a bass player and immediately decided he had to learn the instrument. Jared jokes that he, Brendan and Robot were grouped together at For Those About to Rock because they were all “so young and really good.”
After a few years playing together at the school of rock, Robot, Brendan and Jared decided to leave and attempt to make it on their own, performing more than 200 shows at various festivals and venues like the House of Blues and Deep Ellum’s Trees. Two years ago at Liberty Fest in Farmers Branch, the boys opened for the Spin Doctors and Rick Springfield.
“In the middle of his set, he was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you guys come up here?’” Robot says. “So Brendan got Rick’s guitar, and I got the drum set. We also met Mark White, the bass player for the Spin Doctors who’s left-handed just like Jared. When Jared walked on stage, he didn’t have a bass because Rick Springfield’s bassist was right-handed, so Mark ran up and gave him his bright pink one.”
The North Texas threesome soon officially formed The Robotix, but not before recruiting Jon as their musical director. “He’d played with them so many times, and they had all gotten so close that we said there’s no way we’re doing this without Jon,” says Kevin Gladden, Robot’s dad and the group’s manager. They also added two additional talents, L.A.-based singer Angelina Baez and Tokyo-based guitarist Yuto Miyazawa, now both 13. The Robotix were blown away by Angelina’s YouTube videos featuring her beautiful vocals, and Yuto was already a star in his own right. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the self-taught guitar phenom as the world’s youngest professional guitar player at age 8, and in 2011, he toured with Ozzy Osbourne during Ozzfest, playing lead guitar on the hit song, “Crazy Train.”
In the spring of 2012, The Robotix recorded their debut EP, Rock ’n Roll, which was released on iTunes the following December — the day before Robot’s 9th birthday. It features original material, plus covers of classics like Bryan Adams’ “Kids Wanna Rock” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” Produced by Aaron Sterling, who’s worked with John Mayer and Sheryl Crow, and mastered by Gavin Lurssen, a four-time Grammy winner who’s worked with Paul McCartney and Guns ‘N Roses, the album solidified The Robotix’s status as an up-and-coming rock band with superstar potential.
Talent on tour
Earlier this year, auditions were held in San Antonio for America’s Got Talent, one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities with $1 million in prizes and a headlining Las Vegas show attached. Fresh off the release of their EP, The Robotix — with Jon taking Yuto’s place due to scheduling conflicts — made the four-and-a-half hour trip down to the Alamo City and scored time in front of host Nick Cannon and judges, Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B.
“We first auditioned there, then we got a call back from the judges,” Jon says. “Then we went to Vegas, then to L.A. — if you’re a music group, you go there to work with the music department out there. If you make it past Vegas, you make it to New York.”
And make it, they did. The kid rock band proved to be a hit, and The Robotix were soon thrust into the spotlight and into a world with a go-go-go mentality.
“They definitely expect you to be professionals,” Kevin says. “One of the downsides to being so good at a young age is when the kids get in front of producers or show executives, they immediately say, ‘This is great. These kids can perform so well.’ But they sometimes forget that they’re still kids. They cut them no slack, but the kids were unbelievable.”
From 14-hour rehearsals in L.A. to the month spent in Dallas before New York practicing “Paranoid” hundreds of times, The Robotix were relentless.
“It was such a unique experience that I don’t think any of us have gone through before,” Jon says. “It’s part music, part performance, part filming. You constantly have to be on the ball. The week in New York was a grueling one, for sure.”
Even when a show exec asked the band the night before the live show at Radio City to remove a stop — a break in sound — that they had rehearsed repeatedly (and also informed them that they’d need to adapt to new choreography because they were now going to perform without wireless mics), the kids remained pros and rose to the occasion.
“That’s one of the reasons we made it as far as we did, because they were able to play that game,” Kevin says. “There’s so much that goes into it. On TV, there’s 90 seconds. Well, for those 90 seconds, there’s like three or four months of going through songs, trying them 10 different ways and narrowing it down. They did an amazing job, and on the actual live show, not one of them made a mistake. It was perfection.”
Although The Robotix were eliminated from the competition after their live performance, they say they wouldn’t change their experience for anything.
“I got to use the bass that Mark White gave me,” Jared says. “It’s signed on the back, ‘To Jared: I hope this takes you all over world.’ The word ‘the’ is missing, but then there’s a smiley face.”
Robot, who’s always dreamed of performing at Radio City, got to fulfill his dream a lot sooner than he imagined. “I visited Radio City Music Hall two years before. I remember that I hoped I could play there when I got older. Then two years later, AGT called us back, and we were there.”
The grueling experience made them better musicians as well, Jon says. “We also made a lot of good friends, like the runner-up comedian, Taylor Williamson, and formed relationships with a lot of people. Looking back, we wouldn’t have done it any other way. We weren’t disappointed at all.”
As The Robotix wrap up what has undoubtedly been a whirlwind year, they admit they are looking forward to returning to school, spending time with their friends, playing locally, continuing to practice (on average 20 hours a week) and getting back into the studio to write and complete another record. Jon, Brendan, Jared and Robot made their first post-AGT appearance in October, playing an acoustic set during the Down Syndrome Partnership of North Texas’ annual Buddy Walk followed by a show at the Dallas Children’s Hospital early last month. The exposure they gained from being on national television has only helped garner more positive attention (“We’ve gotten a lot of interesting emails from teenage girls all over the world,” Kevin says) and spread the word about their mission, that kids can deliver a dynamic rock show, too, and that the rock ’n’ roll genre is alive and well.