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Weston Musicians Seek 'Best Teen Band' Crown

WESTON, Conn. – Members of the Weston-based band the Interstellar Elevators got an early Christmas present: They are among eight finalists in the nationwide SchoolJam USA music competition.

The teens will head to Anaheim, Calif., for the finals. They could win a trip to perform at a music festival in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as $1,000 in new gear and $5,000 to help fund the music program at their high school.

The Interstellar Elevators could be living every teenager’s dream — not only are they heading to California and possibly Europe to play live in front of several music insiders, but they also did so after forming only a little more than two years ago.

“We started in 2009, though we've gone through many lineup changes over the years. We used to joke that, at any given time, we had more past band members than shows,” said member Billy Richling. But the lineup changes have paid off. Besides winning a spot in the competition, the Interstellar Elevators released its first EP, “Paper on Plastic,” this past fall and it is now available on iTunes.

Richling, who also goes by the stage name Billy Rodriguez-Lopez, said on the group’s Facebook page that the songs on the EP are about “the hardships of a developing sexuality, and its obstruction of the difficult world of being an upper-class white male in America.”

The National Association of Music Merchants puts on the competition every year in an effort to promote music in schools and calls on young amateur bands with members between the ages of 13 and 19. The band submits a bio and its music online, members of the public vote for the best. Industry insiders also vote.

Richling said the band is looking to open up its fan base on the West Coast. “In an area with such a limited live music scene, it's often very hard to cultivate a strong fan base and expand to new audiences. So it's really a huge honor to be recognized in this way after working so hard to reach this point.”

The Interstellar Elevators will square off at the SchoolJam USA finals Jan. 21 in front of a panel of professional judges and hundreds of fans for the chance to take the title of “Best Teen Band in the USA.”

“We were very surprised to find out that we were finalists, because we only had about half the votes that many other bands had. But I guess the judging portion must have helped us, because we're going to Anaheim on January 18, and we're incredibly excited,” Richling said.

You can listen to some of The Interstellar Elevator’s songs here .

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