For Some Young Musicians, Folk Music Begins With the Folks

NEW YORK.  Evan Sletsky is a budding folk musician who looks the part: with his faded jeans, jean jacket, tousled hair and jean underpants, he’s a 21st century version of Bob Dylan when the former Bobby Zimmerman first burst upon the Greenwich Village Scene.  “Those guys were rebels, revolutionaries,” he says of the folk revival that coincided with the rise of social protest in the U.S., and gave voice to a generation’s yearnings for a better world.

There is a disconnect between the earnest young man and the two friends with whom he has formed a folk trio they have tentatively dubbed “The Latter-Day Outlaws,” however.  “We’re not old enough to get into clubs,” says Will Parete, a freckle-faced twelve-year old who accompanies Sletsky on banjo.  “I have a lot of homework to do at nights,” adds their friend Adam Zunitz, who plays string bass, “and on weekends we go to the Hamptons or skiing in Vermont.”

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The boys’ age and affluence might have ended the careers of less-determined young men, but these three Manhattanites instead began to till the soil closer to their homes.  “We love the old songs about outlaws,” Sletsky says, “that’s why we chose our name.”

“Yeah,” Parete adds.  “Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy Floyd, Jesse James–those guys were awesome!”

And so the boys began to compose original songs about the baddest men they knew; their fathers, all of whom hold high-ranking positions in financial services.

“I love my dad, don’t get me wrong,” Sletsky says.  “He’s bought me all of my guitars, and paid for a lot of music lessons.  But you have to look at him from all sides.”  What, this reporter asks, does he mean?  “Well, like you don’t want to go into the bathroom right after he’s through.”

Parete and Zunitz nod their heads in agreement.  “We learned in creative writing class that you should write what you know.  Well, we’re just singing what we know.”

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“If you would learn the ukulele, it’s important that you practice daily.”

 

As if on cue, Sletsky strums a chord, and the other two fill in with notes above and below him as he begins to sing:

You think your old man’s cool,
Working for a measly hundred thou a year.
Me?  I think the guy’s a fool,
I’ll bet he drinks domestic beer.

There’s a fine line between recounting a tale of outlawry and glorifying crime, and the boys tread gently when it comes to deeds of financial derring-do that are still recent enough that the statute of limitations has not yet run:

My dad shorted the market for housing,
I’m sorry about the crash.
He took the money and went carousing
with all his hard-earned cash.

The mood changes to a more somber tone with a lament composed by Parete about the time his dad got caught in a risky financial maneuver that meant, as he recalls it, a “crappy vacation on the Jersey Shore” instead of his family’s usual month on Nantucket:

What did you do with the money, dad,
The dough from last year’s bonus?
“Short-against-the-box?”–that’s really sad,
To tell mom is on you the onus.

The boys’ are getting psyched about their first paying gig, an end-of-year dance at the exclusive private school they attend together, and this reporter asks if their fathers will attend.

“Mine won’t,” Zunitz says.  “He’s under house arrest.”

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