The cruel summer sun beats down on a few hundred gatherers as a trio of young teens takes the stage. 14-year-old Liv Haynes takes her place behind the mic, her 13-year-old sister Gigi hefts a bass over her shoulder, and 14-year-old drummer Maren Alford sits down behind her kit. It’s a sweltering May day at Adriatica Village in McKinney, a ritzy development where Tuscan-style buildings are topped with Spanish tile roofs. The band is unbothered by the heat, exuding joy as they open a benefit concert on a stage that faces a swath of green grass populated by wandering kids and parents.
“We’re Not Ur Girlfrenz,” Liv Haynes, the lead singer says. “That’s our band name, and it’s true.”
This is met with chuckles of approval from the audience, but the levity is short-lived. Alford clicks her drumsticks together, shouts “Two, three, four!” and Not Ur Girlfrenz starts in on one of their original songs.
The band, whose members completed four tours before completing high school, recently released their debut EP, New Kids in America. The record is a collection of tunes that highlight the artists’ fun-loving pop rock sound, but their manager, producer, and mentor, Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup fame, cautions anyone who disregards Not Ur Girlfrenz as another kid band.
“I used to write songs for The Jonas Brothers before they were The Jonas Brothers, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Reddick says. “They’re writing their own songs.”
Not Ur Girlfrenz was formed in late 2016, when singer Liv Haynes, then attending a film school for young actors in Lewisville, was making a short movie. She needed a fake band, and knew Alford played the drums. All they needed was a fake bassist. Haynes turned to her sister.
“I remember her asking me if I wanted to be in a band, and I was just like, ‘Um, sure?’” Gigi recalls. “I don’t think I took it that seriously at first, but then I realized I really liked the bass.”
And the girls realized they liked playing together. After wrapping up their short tenure as a fake band, the trio started a real one. A family friend asked them to play a 30-minute set, so they learned a couple songs.
“The first song we ever learned was ‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin,” says Liv. “That’s our style; we like classic rock, Led Zeppelin, Joan Jett, The Cure.”
Reddick, who met the girls at a battle of the bands event at Lava Cantina, was taken aback by their interests.
“The first question I asked them was what bands they like,” he says. “they said Led Zeppelin, and U2. And, well, I only like one of those bands, but I instantly saw that they weren’t your typical teenagers.”
The Bowling for Soup frontman initially thought he would help the band as a favor for a friend, but he soon realized they had ample talent and a distinct style.
“They’re entertainers, first and foremost. But you need the drive; you need to put in the work. They did.”
Not Ur Girlfrenz got to work creating original material, shooting music videos, and honing their renditions of classic rock songs. They also joined Bowling for Soup on tours in Texas and the United Kingdom, as well as becoming the youngest band to ever play Vans Warped Tour. Looking back on the last two years, the trio is most impressed by the strides they have made.
“I can play the bass now!” Gigi exclaims. “I think that’s the best part, that we’ve all grown so much into our roles in the band, and how much our band telepathy has grown. That and the castles we got to see.”
The road has not always been smooth. Alford recalls many times when people, even those managing the events they played, dismissed the band. In one instance, Not Ur Girlfrenz was preparing for a show in Deep Ellum when they saw a wall upon which past performers had etched their names. As the girls began to make their mark, a staffer at the venue told them to stop–writing your name on the wall was a right reserved for musicians.
“After the show, he comes up to us and says, ‘Oh, I had no idea you guys were playing Warped Tour, please write on the wall!’” Alford says. The moment inspired their song “No One Asked You Anyway” and its corresponding video, in which the band plasters white walls with graffiti, an act of defiance against an unseen challenger.
“Sometime people say it to our faces, sometimes we just get the vibe,” Gigi says of the judgment the band gets about their age. “They think we’re lip syncing, or that we don’t know how to set up our equipment. We call that a ‘No One Asked You Anyway’ moment.”
Reddick is confident this disregard will melt away as more people see the band.
“I know tons and tons of kids that have gone through School of Rock and done amazing things, but they’re not that,” he says. “They have their own sound, and I can’t help but think they’re born with that.”
That sound was on display that sunny day at Adriatica Village, where the band played a set list of originals and covers. Their moms manned the merch table and looked on as the girls wafted between slow ballads and rock classics.
“We love watching the audience and reading their lips when they see the band,” Alford’s mom Laura says. “The light switch comes on, and they can see the girls know what they’re doing.”
As Alford watches, her daughter channels her favorite drummer Tommy Lee, flailing her head back and forth in a frenetic display of musical fervor. As a song ends, a young fan approaches the stage, holding a handmade sign. Alford and the Haynes sisters strain to see the sign, then smile.
“It says ‘Not Ur Girlfrenz rocks!’” Liv announces to the crowd. “We think you rock, too!”
Then Alford counts them off, and the band dives into another song.
Not Ur Girlfrenz will open for The Polyphonic Spree on Friday, June 7 at Levitt Pavilion. The show is free. Their debut EP, New Kids in America, is out now.