San Francisco’s Continued Music Tradition: Kicking Rocks

“I Dont Know Why” song graphic

“I Don’t Know Why” song graphic

Can you imagine your name being tossed around the school hallways, plastered across Instagram and Snapchat stories, and cycling through people’s “Spotify friend activity”? Yeah, neither could I. But seniors Liam Hansbury (guitar), Lucas Havlin (keyboard), and Tommy Zaterka (guitar and voice) can. They released their song “I Don’t Know Why” on Friday, November 12th, and are already planning to release an Extended Play (EP) in the spring.

This is pretty incredible for a band that’s never officially played together before. “It’s not much of a band. We haven’t played together, all of us. And we don’t have any gigs yet. Hardly a band. Right now it’s a fictional band,” says Tommy. 

The three minute indie-pop song, played in the key of C major, a mix between Dayglow and Wallows, reminiscent of Vampire Weekend and Brooklyn cult favorite, Hospitality, has almost 3,000 streams on Spotify within two weeks of its release date. Birthed in The Studio, or “Stu” as they call it, a little shed in Tommy’s backyard, the single is making its way across San Francisco high schoolers’ playlists and On Repeats (Youtube loop). “Well, we got together to make the song, in September, in Tommy’s little shed,” says Liam. “He had this riff that he recorded. It was very bareboned, just him playing guitar. And then we all got together one afternoon and we just started adding stuff to it and it worked out. That was the song.” 

During lunch on one sunny afternoon by the planter boxes, I asked what it was like to write and record a song. More importantly, what was the song about? Tommy, the lead singer and songwriter, spoke first:, “It’s purposefully about nothing… I just wanted to write a song that just made no sense and that’s why the lyrics don’t really mean anything. But then it could really mean whatever anybody wants it to mean.” How can you write a song about lovers’ embraces and fleeting feelings without any meaning behind it? I suppose that’s the beauty of songwriting. 

It’s really tedious…people don’t realize how much production [recording a song] really takes.

— Tommy Zaterka

We usually think of songs being recorded in professional studios, with fancy soundboards and carpeted floors with sound-dampening wood-paneled walls… and hours and hours of work. The recording of “I Don’t Know Why” was no different, in terms of the hours and hours of work, that is. “It’s really tedious…people don’t realize how much production [recording a song] really takes,” says Tommy. Liam added, “Mixing different variables and stuff like that… It’s gotta flow.” Lucas added that they had to do “a lot of tweaking. We just kept listening to it a lot and kept editing.” They listened to the song so much that the drumbeat had to be electronically added. They were hopeful their friend, Elliot, could record his drum track before they grew tired of the editing process, but he did not. Lucas helped program the drums instead. After months and months of recording, listening, rerecording, and relistening, the song was finally readyfinished. While an artist’s work is never truly finished, they were happy with how it had come together. 

There came a quiet lull in the “interview,” where I posed the question of where the band name, Kicking Rocks, came from. Lucas said he was walking down the street a few blocks away from his house when he passed a bar with the same name. And so the creators of “I Don’t Know Why” became Kicking Rocks. I learned Figs was another strong contender, along with many Civics-themed names—Scarymandering, Local Jurisdiction, and Civic Duty being just a few. They also considered some pun names—Kurt Lobain and Frank Siracha. 

The other day I was on their Spotify page, and at the very bottom is the “About” section- “music by tommy zaterka, lucas havlin, liam hansbury, and oats.” Who is oats? Tommy laughed when I asked about it, and Liam referred to him as “the man behind the scenes.” It turns out he’s the drummer who couldn’t get his part recorded on time, also Tommy’s friend from his “awesome” middle school band days. “Really talented drummer,” says Tommy, “He’s technically not on the song but he’s in there in spirit.”

The finishing piece was creating the album cover. Tommy, along with some friends, took pieces out of an old National Geographic magazine and mixed them together to create this “surrealist collage,” says Tommy. 

I asked if they had any last statements. “Yeah. We really need a bass player.”

Listen to “I Don’t Know Why” by Kicking Rocks on Spotify and Apple Music.