The family that rocks out together stays together

Terry Longhway fronts his family band, the Hyenas. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

When you spot a boy band as Tiger Beat cover-worthy cute as the Hyenas, you might anticipate Disney-esque synchronized dance moves and pop-y harmonizing. But when these brothers take the stage — plopping confidently behind a drum set, tuning a bass guitar, sound-checking the mics — you suspect, correctly, that this is not that kind of band.

Led by Lake Highlands dad Terry Longhway, the Hyenas, comprising Zack, 12, Alex and Aiden, 10 and Gunner, 7, have played shows on Deep Ellum stages, The Fort Worth Music Festival and a Frisco concert in which they opened for American Idol finalist Tim Halperin, to name a few. When you consider papa Longhway’s curriculum vitae, it all makes sense. His father was a Hendrix fan. Mom: a guitar teacher. He embraced rock and punk, learned multiple instruments, sang, played in bands, wrote songs, studied engineering and opened up seven School of Rock franchises where he teaches kids to play musical instruments and perform, with great panache, in front of an audience.

Sign up for our newsletter!

* indicates required

So, when fate delivered him one adorable and talented son after another, what else could he have done but start a band?

Alex came up with the name.

“Hyenas are one of my favorite animals. They stick together in packs,” he says. “They are fierce and laugh a lot,” one of his brothers chimes in.

Dad, who performs with the boys either on guitar or vocals, explains that the whole Hyenas act is themed, that the songs, which they write themselves, are all about fighting, defending and backing one another.

It really just started out as a way to have fun and be together as a family, Longhway says. His wife Mysti, is, of course, band mom, plus she is their stylist, Facebook promoter and, she says, “their number-one fan.”

It has evolved into a bonding and learning experience, Longhway says.

“I really love the fact that all of us are a part of writing the songs. As a dad, I love the entire process with the boys, from coming up with concepts for song, to starting to create the music, to rehearsing them, recording [and] playing live. Even selling merchandise. At our shows, we have a booth, and the boys sell our T-shirts and CDs. It’s all part of them learning the entire scope of being in a band.”

Onstage the boys and dad are dressed in varying shades of charcoal and grey; all have shaggy (yet shiny) locks. The eldest, Zack, looks studious in dark-rimmed glasses. Mom works the sound — more vocals for soft-spoken Gunner. Alex, still chewing on a mouthful of his pre-practice snack, is adroit beyond his years on drums. Zack and Aiden on bass and guitar, respectively, already possess that effortless intensity exhibited in the old rock and roll bands on which they are being raised.

“White Stripes, Metallica, Beatles, Ozzy, Zepplin, Zeppelin, Zepplin …” the boys rattle off when asked about their musical influences.

“We had a kid that didn’t like Led Zepplin, but we had to kick him out of the family,” Longhway jokes.

But seriously, he adds, “when it comes to role model bands for the boys, from my perspective, it’s bands like Van Halen, AC/DC, The Black Crowes and Kings of Leon that I love because all of them involve brothers in a band.”

The Hyenas practice regularly, but not too rigorously. They have recorded one album and plan to make a summer project out of another. The recording can get a little monotonous, the boys concur.

As their dad tells them, they are special because they play instruments and write their own songs, but they don’t look down on the guys who don’t. The pop groups who sing and dance are “OK and pretty good at what they do,” young Gunner offers graciously. “They aren’t the worst things out there,” Zack adds.

Longhway leads the family in laughter when he floats the idea of the Hyenas learning choreographed dance routines.

It is all a great hobby, a valuable experience, they agree, but do the kids plan to stick with it? To make a career of music, as their father has?

“Well, even if I become a lawyer, I’ll still play in a band,” Aiden, a Lake Highlands Elementary School student, says. “I might be an archeologist first and then in a band,” another brother adds.

Aside from having access to an experienced instructor, instruments, and quality recording and practice venues, to name a few, the Hyenas benefit from being a tight-knit pack.

“I always tell these guys that one of the hardest things about being in a band is sticking together as a band for a long period of time, and just by nature of being brothers, they have a huge advantage in this category,” Longhway says.

“Plus, it makes it really easy to coordinate rehearsals.”