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Scituate band makes national contest finals

Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe

Closer Than We Appear: (from left) Gabe Goodman, Max DiRado, Jack Duff, and Ben Garman in the Scituate High school music room. The boys are thrilled to be going to the California competition.

Most of the members of Closer Than We Appear were in class when they found out early this month that they were chosen as one of eight finalists in a nationwide band competition.

The four Scituate High School students bested 117 opponents in the SchoolJam USA National Teen Battle of the Bands Competition. By advancing to the final round on Jan. 21, they won $1,000 for the SHS Music Department and the opportunity to perform at the National Association of Music Merchants Conference at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

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Their reactions? Pure joy.

“I didn’t expect to win,’’ said Gabe Goodman, a sophomore, vocalist, and lead guitarist for the band. “There were bands that had better production and thousands of more votes!’’

When junior Ben Garman, the drummer, found out, “I lit up,’’ he said, smiling at the memory.

As that day wore on, the news felt less like a dream. Phones kept buzzing with the good news, and the teens have been practicing to prepare for the performance.

To win, the band not only needed to draw in votes (4,217 to be exact), but they had to impress the anonymous judges. Together, the combined score ushered the local band into the national spotlight.

The four musicians - Goodman; Garman; Jack Duff, sophomore, bass and synthesizer player; and Max DiRado, freshman bassist - will pay their own airfare, but once they get to the California competition, all expenses will be paid.

Their hope, besides listening to some great music from the other seven finalists, is to get feedback from music executives.

“Hopefully, there will be a lot of music industry reps around,’’ Duff said. Even if it doesn’t materialize into a record deal, the input from professionals would be incredibly helpful, he said.

“It’s also a great opportunity for exposure,’’ Goodman said. “I’m excited about the opportunity.’’

If the band is selected at the finals round in California, the boys will be able to perform in Europe at the 2012 SchoolJam Germany finals in Frankfurt.

For now, the win is a giant leap from where the band was a year ago. With only three members at the time, Closer Than We Appear had won the Hingham-based South Shore Conservatory singer-songwriter competition.

Since then, they have added a drummer, are putting the final touches on their EP, and are looking at the prospect of performing in front of 90,000 people.

The songwriting process has also changed dramatically. The teens went from texting video clips of riffs and lyrics back and forth to committing to a practice schedule at least once every weekend.

Even then, being a modern-day high school student means things can get difficult.

“I’d like to spend more time with the band, but with other commitments, it’s hard. It can be hard to have the motivation to keep a regimented schedule,’’ Goodman said.

DiRado agreed. Among the four of them, there’s swimming, music lessons, football, track, jazz club, men’s choir, select choir, and driver’s ed.

Still, it doesn’t hurt being in a band when you’re in high school.

“It fits in well with high school,’’ Duff said. “People like that you have a band, have concerts . . . but it takes a lot of work.’’

The band has performed extensively in the area - from the Hard Rock Café in Boston and Foxwoods in Connecticut to the New North Music Hall in Hingham.

It’s an impressive track record for musicians as young as 15 and 16, and one the teens plan to keep pursuing.

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, the band will perform at the Tinker’s Son in Norwell, and might release a new album.

Yet despite their national ambitions, the young performers still see themselves at the beginning of things.

Even with their EP being created as they speak, Duff said they are still just getting the word out about their band.

“It’s not to make money, more to show people who we are and what we do,’’ he said.

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