BERKELEY -- Thirstbusters, the pop rock quartet of Berkeley High grads with jazz roots, is ready to rock the Oakland Arena.
Well, maybe not quite yet. But the band is gearing up for something really big.
Ever since their first video, "So There," was picked up by the Disney cable channel in 2010, the guys who make up the band -- Zach Sorgen on vocals and keyboard, Chase Jackson on bass, Ryan Thomas on guitar and Forrest Mitchell on drums -- have taken their silly high school pastime a little more seriously.
Sorgen, Mitchell and Jackson have been friends since elementary school and played in a little jazz band together back then. In high school they got back together and added Thomas to play with them in a high school battle of the bands showcase just for fun. While rehearsing together Sorgen, a songwriter at heart, penned "So There," a catchy if not sickly sweet tune about a high school dude looking for attention from a girl in math class. He fails.
They recorded a low-budget album, "Time You Awake," financed by their parents, in 2009, and Sorgen enlisted his sister to make and produce a music video shot for "So There" at Berkeley High in 2010. The extras in the video were friends they just happened to round up. A teacher let them shoot the classroom scenes in his room on the weekend.
"('So There') was kind of defining to us at the time," said Sorgen, a 2008 Berkeley High graduate and now Vassar College alum who teaches private piano lessons in Los Angeles. "It was high school. We were never the coolest guys. We were shy."
The song, which has a clean sound that mom and her junior high school girls can groove to, enjoyed a bit of virility. A family member passed the video along to a friend who worked for Disney, and the company picked it up and played "So There" in between shows and commercial breaks on an affiliate channel, Disney XD, for months.
"That's what attracted our managers," Sorgen, 22, said.
Before going into what happens next, first a lesson on the name. The moniker Thirstbusters comes from the high school slang "thirsty," often used to describe a guy who is pining a little too heavily on the class cheerleader or some other babe.
"It's slang for everything that's bad," Sorgen said. "If a guy is trying to look cool you're all 'You're hella thirsty!' So it's a joke."
Since the success of "So There" the bandmates have recorded four more videos and another album, "Caught Between." Their latest video, a decidedly less tame and harder on the rock side song called "Bad Bad Girls" was released Monday, the same day Thirstbusters debuted on the CW television network's "90210" show. This week the guys are playing on several morning shows in Chicago and New York.
They describe their current sound as more adult than their "So There" days because they have grown up and had more life experiences in college and such. The attention it has received has gotten the quartet thinking of the big time -- living together and jamming all the time in Los Angeles, record deals, contracts, avoiding being wooled over by record company executives and making it through to create some of the best music you've ever heard.
"The sky is the limit type of thing and we want to see how far we can go with it," said Mitchell, a 22-year-old jazz studies and music industry student at UCLA.
In "Bad Bad Girl," searchable on YouTube, the guys look, frankly, older and a little less gangly than they did three years ago. The video features fast cars, guns, a bounty and, of course, a hot young gal.
Although they owe a debt to preteen-centered Disney and "90210" exposure, they want to be considered musicians that can attract fans of all ages because of their smart song lyrics -- some of which are politically motivated and socially conscious -- and their musical expertise. These guys are getting degrees in music, not just practicing in their moms' basements.
"We're all trained jazz musicians," Mitchell says. "That translates into the chords."
For now, the band is creating long-distance, as Jackson is studying jazz vibraphone at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.
Sorgen, who graduated from Berkeley High a year sooner than his bandmates, is waiting for his friends to graduate this year so they can concentrate full-time on Thirstbusters. The younger members are just hoping their teachers forgive a few absences as they tour the country promoting their music. Whether they make it to packing the Oakland Arena or not, each member of the band is following his dream to produce music that resonates in the hearts of their fans.
"Music is such a powerful, personal release," Sorgen said. "Hopefully people can experience that with us and it can be an outlet for them just listening."