Although Star 69 are a relatively new band, the five men who comprise the group are all veterans of the regional music scene. In fact, the two founding members of Star 69 had worked together for years in the band 80D. While Joe Herendeen and Trent Bowers spent a few years trying to get that band off the ground, they found all of their efforts foiled for one reason or another. “80D kind of died at the end of 2015,” says Joe Herendeen. “It seemed like every time 80D was about to go somewhere and we were getting gigs, someone quit.”
The band had been playing a variety of covers, including current pop music like Bruno Mars, classic rock and 80s music. They were filling the niche for a basic party band and had the setlist to prove it. But Herendeen had another idea, and he talked to Bowers about pursuing it.
“I talked to Trent as things were happening with 80D and asked if he’d be interested in putting together a 90s project. I knew we knew the music because we’d been listening to it all our lives.”
The formation of that 90s project, Star 69 didn’t happen right away, and in the meantime Herendeen and Bowers pursued other outlets, with Herendeen auditioning for another 90s band, then called Afterschool Special. But their interest in original music and recording wasn’t what he wanted from a band. Instead, he preferred to have a cover band and have some fun. Bowers was ready to follow through on Herendeen’s plan, but they needed to get a few more people on board. Enter Greg Andrews.
“About a year of playing with other guys, I started thinking about the 90s band again,” says Herendeen. “We’d talk about doing it, then it would fall apart again. So 2016 was kind of a wasted year. But we knew we needed a singer, and Greg and Trent had played in numerous projects together, so Trent said ‘Let’s bring Greg into this thing.’ We all live within a quarter mile of each other in Huntington, so it seemed like a good fit.”
Bowers and Andrews had known each other for years and knew they shared a similar musical point of view, and Herendeen knew all three of them took the music of their youth seriously and would come to practices prepared. For a time the trio had a guitarist and a bassist, but both ended up leaving the band. It may have seemed that the bad luck of 80D had followed Herendeen and Bowers to their new project until they decided to bring in bassist, Brant Ricker.
“I’ve known Brant most of my life,” says Herendeen. “And then through him we met Bo.”
Enter the final piece of the puzzle, Bo Hinton, whose tenure with the band really began when the need for a band photo inspired the four group members to make Hinton’s membership official. Herendeen admits that he was beginning to think they’d forego adding another guitarist because they’d been so unlucky.
“We played a show in September with another guitarist,” says Herendeen. “I’d had it by that time and figured we’d just continue as a four-piece because I was just done. Then Brant suggested we bring Bo in.”
Hinton’s arrival finally locked the lineup in place. He was happy to sign on for the band’s focus on 90s rock.
“We’ve been playing this music our whole lives,” says Hinton.
Like the others, Hinton lives in Huntington which has made putting the band together much easier.
“It’s great that we all live in Huntington,” says Herendeen. “When we want to get together to play or for a gig, we don’t have someone coming in from Fort Wayne or Columbia City or Warsaw. It’s much easier to get everyone together, and once we start building a fan base it’ll be easier to get to the gigs together from here. We all have jobs and other priorities, so when the five of us get together to play, we just want to have fun.”
“When it stops being fun,” adds Hinton, “it becomes a job.”
Focusing on the music of Pearl Jam, Offspring, Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Green Day, Weezer and, of course, some Nirvana, Star 69 are finally able to hit the ground running after some false starts since 80D’s dissolution. Bowers even gets to enjoy a bit of local celebrity at his day gig as an elementary school teacher.
“I had one of my fifth graders say, ‘I know you play drums, Mr. Bowers, but what’s the name of your band?’ So they got on Facebook and were looking me up. So now they’ve seen me and think it’s cool.”
Those kids can also learn about the music that brought the last millennium to a close, the music of Star 69’s generation.
“Even the name of our band, you have to be our age to know what it is,” says Herendeen.
The band is enjoying the response from audiences at the first shows they’ve all played together. They often hear from people their age that they’re happy to hear a song they haven’t heard in years, and their diverse background in musical styles (Bowers played for years in a death metal band) serves the driving sound of 90s rock that Star 69 are anxious to put back in the spotlight. Coming back to the music that made them want to play in the first place has brought the band members full circle. They hope that venues in northeast Indiana will share their enthusiasm and bring them in to play, an invitation implied by their name.
“Just give us a call,” says Andrews. “We’ll call you right back.”