Have you ever felt surprised that people actually like you? For those suffering from “imposter syndrome”— an uncanny feeling that one day, everyone else is going to realize you’re just a pathetic freak— take comfort in knowing that Kid Brother, a Northern Virginia-based poppy rock n’ roll five-piece, can relate.
Despite almost three years of nonstop shows on mid-Atlantic stages, the award of “Best Rock Track” in an international music competition for their single “Good News,” and a successful debut album, Baltimore Street Rat, the band’s Toledo-native drummer Sam Athanas (son of prolific Toledo musical frontman Steven J. Athanas) seems unaffected by the accomplishments. Sam is focused on the future, an upcoming May 11th show at the Ottawa Tavern, and getting the band back in the studio to record.
Back in the summer of 2016, Sam met Christian Neonakis (Kid Brother lead singer/guitarist) while working at a bar. After discussing their shared love of music (Modest Mouse, Portugal the Man, Tame Impala), the two started playing music together after the bar closed. While they had been in bands before, neither expected to play in front of audiences any time soon.
“We both had not great experiences in the last bands we played with and mine kind of left a bad taste in my mouth,” recalls Sam. “Plus, we were both new to northern Virginia and didn’t know a lot of people who played music, so playing in a band didn’t seem like an opportunity that would present itself. But we were wrong.”
What started as casual after-hours jam sessions at the bar quickly became small shows for the staff who stuck around to listen. Then, friends started to show up. Then friends of friends would start coming. “It became a thing that people really seemed to like,” says Sam. “And, we figured, ‘Alright, let’s actually go for it.’”
After fleshing out the duo to a five-piece, Sam and Christian found themselves where they didn’t expect— back in a band— but this time it was perfect: “The five of us are inseparable. Three of us live together and the other two are over all the time, so we hit the jackpot on this family dynamic.”
Coming into their own
Sam’s love and respect for the band members is unmistakable. While he’s hesitant to say much about himself— despite keeping the pastiche of Kid Brother’s soaring vocal harmonies, poignant lyrics, twisting guitar progressions and playful sonic textures in rhythm with his hypnotic work as a drummer— he will excitedly gush about the rest of the band.
“Richard, our bass player, is a madman and his energy is contagious, both for us onstage and for the crowd….” “Our new keyboard player, whose actual name is Piano, is amazing and has a crazy good voice…” “Dylan, our guitarist, is incredible and also designs all of the album artwork and merch…”
“And Christian, our lead singer/usually lead guitar, writes pretty much everything… but he’s just selfless. It’s shocking,” says Sam. “Looking at other bands, people have egos, especially when with a frontman who writes all the music, but Christian is just a big teddy bear sweetheart.”
It’s a family dynamic that creates Kid Brother’s infectious, collaborative sound, creating what Sam calls a ‘democratic atmosphere.’ “We make decisions together and we work through disagreements very well,” Sam explains. “It’s a team effort and we all do it together because we all have our specialties in different areas. It’s important to hear everyone out and take good ideas from lots of different people.”
And the teamwork has paid off as Kid Brother is currently talking to a variety of professionals to assist with their next record. Sam explains, “It has been about a year of this process. We’re really anxious to get music out there.”
On Saturday, May 11, when Kid Brother plays in Toledo, it will be the first time Sam Athanas plays with his own band in his hometown.
As the son of Steven J. Athanas (the Coosters, Chinese Purple, The Homewreckers, Loved by Millions, YOBANANABOY) and the nephew of Dave Athanas (“my Uncle Dave is one of the gnarliest guitarists I know”), Sam is no stranger to the Toledo music scene. And for Sam, the ‘kid brother’ of his family, the performance could be a daunting experience, “Having old friends and family see you for the first time, you don’t want to suck… my family all around is very musical and talented, so it’s a little bit higher pressure than usual. They’ll notice everything. We can’t f*#k up.”
We feel for Sam, but can’t help savor the irony of the ‘good news’— his excited-nervous energy feels ripped right out of a Kid Brother lyric: “Oh my god, don’t you dare applaud…”
To listen to Kid Brother’s first album,
‘Baltimore Street Rat’, visit