Two days a week, Lincoln Zinzola, Nate Dalbec, Dylan Huther and Matthew Hiltz walk home from Marlborough's Whitcomb middle school together. They congregate at Lincoln’s house and drape themselves over the living room furniture.
On this day, they're lobbing half-insults and sharing light gossip from the school day. Nate tells Matt he saw him during second period. They ask each other whether or not to join student council. One proclaims he’s joining the social justice club. “I’m doing nothing,” says Dylan, who seems to embrace the role of “out there” goofball. They’re all amazed to learn Nate has made the a cappella choir. Lincoln demos the tiny park he's building with a skateboard he maneuvers with his fingers.
Out of nowhere, they decide it's time to do what they came here to do. They grab guitars and picks and one headful of fluorescent-colored hair follows another down a narrow corridor of squeaky stairs to the basement.
They call themselves Color Killer. Now in fifth, sixth and eighth grade, three of these boys have been friends since they were toddlers and the four of them have been playing professionally in a punk band since 2017 — a lifetime in kid years.
It started when Lincoln was 6 years old, according to his dad. He asked for a guitar and that was it.
"A couple weeks after he started playing guitar he told my wife, ‘You can throw away all my toys. I don't need them anymore,’ " remembers Tony Zinzola.
By second grade, he was desperate to play in the middle school talent show so he recruited his older neighbors, Dylan and Nate, to play with him. After that, Lincoln would beg his dad to drive him into Boston so he could busk. Eventually, Lincoln started getting gigs on his own, with his dad acting as de facto manager. They got Dylan and Nate involved again, added Matt as a drummer, and it's been nonstop Color Killer ever since.
Last summer they released an album (titled "Generation Z") and were the youngest band ever to play the traveling punk rock festival Warped Tour. A documentary film crew started following them around with plans to release a feature-length film in early 2020. They play suburban porch fests and bars like Jamaica Plain's Midway Café. The band has its first gig at the Brighton Music Hall, as an opening act for Big D & The Kids Table, coming up in late October.
From time to time, the band will sing covers like The Apers’ “Whatever it Takes.” Or what they call “punked out” covers (“Nuttin for Christmas”), which they sang at Boston’s House of Blues for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones Hometown Throwdown:
Color Killer’s original songs put a punk spin on kid topics. “Football” satirizes the drive to be a football star. In “Michael Doesn’t Like Me” they sing about a real kid who lives up the street: "Michael doesn’t like me, he thinks that I’m a jerk. I gave him my last juice box, but nothing seems to work."
When Michael comes up during the band’s pre-rehearsal banter, they talk about how he used to bike down the street, riding with no hands and no helmet. But recently, they’ve seen him wearing a helmet. “It’s shocking,” says Lincoln, dead serious.
Being pro-helmet may not sound very punk, whatever that means. (“Of course we’re pro helmet, we skate,” Nate interjects.) Lincoln shrugs and says that being punk might mean having a “careless attitude.” But that’s not really him.
The way he tells it, punk is almost an inevitability for him. “I grew up listening to it,” says Lincoln, now 10 years old.
Meanwhile, Nate thinks punk captures the group on a deeper level. “It’s energetic. There’s some energetic punk songs. They’re all over the place, it pretty much fits us. It fits our personalities,” he reasons. “You just joined the band because I played an instrument,” shoots back Lincoln.
The jabs continue over a discussion of influences. The mid-'90s Worcester band Bane comes up. Green Day gets a lot of mentions, especially in side conversations with the band members’ parents. They also have differing opinions on whether or not to release singles or another album. None of that matters, according to Matt, if they don't have new merch.
But if getting bigger is on their minds very often, this four-boy band doesn’t let on. After one last squabble, the drums sound off and three guitars finally blast. At rehearsal they’re not thinking much beyond the next song. It might sound a bit chaotic. But for middle school punks, that’s the sound of keeping it together.
Color Killer plays Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, Oct. 26.
This segment aired on October 21, 2019.