The 1966 LP is regarded as a pop-rock masterpiece, and a landmark release for its innovation and influence on other artists. Recreating the album would be a daunting task for any musician, let alone a collection of teenaged aspiring artists.
“Pet Sounds is not your typical Los Rios Rock School album,” noted the school’s Director of Curriculum, Clinton Haycraft. “It doesn’t give the kids a whole lot of opportunity to show off as individuals. There are no shredding guitar solos, no belted high notes or raspy screams, no heavy drum fills. It demands another brand of musicianship – one that emphasizes dynamics, nuance, blending, and tone.”
While the Beach Boys’ original took over a year to make – with frontman Brian Wilson famously obsessing over every intricate detail – the students of Los Rios Rock School had significantly less time with their version of Pet Sounds.
The group held weekly rehearsals for three months, with vocalists and instrumentalists initially working on their parts separately. “Eventually we brought the singers to the stage and everyone rehearsed together,” Haycraft said. “Having six instrumental players and 13 vocalists all amplified on stage together and trying to make sure they all heard themselves and each other was the most difficult logistical aspect of rehearsals.”
Their efforts culminated with a single day in the recording studio to lay down all the tracks.
Calling the project “very exciting” but “sometimes difficult,” student Anna Moellenhoff found that the Beach Boys’ music challenged her as a vocalist. “During those times when it was difficult, I was learning how to control my voice and not overpower the rest of the track,” the 18-year-old explained. “It took time but I loved every step of the way because it made me into a better singer.”
Fellow aspiring musician Lily Kelso echoed those thoughts, adding that chemistry among the students aided the quality of the songs. “The coolest part about getting closer with everyone was to see it reflected in the music,” she revealed. “Bit by bit songs started coming together as we learned more unified vowels, got used to the Beach Boys sound, and found our rhythm with the band. The process was slow but extremely rewarding.”
Watch Los Rios Rock School’s renditions of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” below.