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Originally published September 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 19, 2007 at 7:04 PM

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With latest CD, Schoolyard Heroes are on the road to a wider class of admirers

Ryann Donnelly, attempting to carry Schoolyard Heroes to national prominence on her bony shoulders, is a seasoned, battle-tested performance...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Ryann Donnelly, attempting to carry Schoolyard Heroes to national prominence on her bony shoulders, is a seasoned, battle-tested performance veteran. She's been the singer of this horror-pop band for eight years and has played in front of huge crowds at Bumbershoot, Endfest and South by Southwest.

But one thing freaks out this dramatic, flamboyant performer, who Tuesday night was fidgeting before a performance at El Corazon.

"I get separation anxiety if a day goes by and I don't see them," she said of her bandmates, Jonah Bergman, Steve Bonnell and Brian Turner. "Even when we're not touring, we practice every day. And then we go get dinner after practice, or see a movie ... "

Schoolyard Heroes really did start on the schoolyard, as Donnelly and her crew launched the band at Tacoma's pre-K-to-high-school Charles Wright Academy. She was big on theater in those days, but ditched out of "The Tempest" to play Schoolyard Heroes' first show, a battle-of-the-bands thing at Graceland (which became El Corazon). Within a few years, they were finalists at EMP's "Sound Off!" young-bands competition, regulars at Seattle clubs and touring around the country.

This year, Schoolyard Heroes signed to Stolen Transmission, a startup label founded by former Spin critic and New York DJ Sarah Lewitinn. On Tuesday, Stolen Transmission released the band's third CD, "Abominations."

"Everything's just sort of been magnified a little bit," raven-haired Donnelly, 22, said as she tinkered with her costume (puffy white skirt, leotard, fishnet stockings, high-top sneakers, lots of glitter).

She said she's a part-time nanny and works on her art-history degree at the UW when not on tour with her boys. "We are absolutely a family — I literally grew up with them."

Schoolyard Heroes is known for its B-movie horror images, which continue on "Abominations" with songs like "Dude, Where's My Skin?" and "All the Pretty Corpses."

Donnelly credits Berman for "You're so pretty and you're so dead" and other lines. "Jonah's dad used to take him to horror movie double-features when he was a kid. I just like Vincent Price a lot."

About a half-hour later, a hearty El Corazon crowd danced wildly and sang along to new and old Schoolyard Heroes songs — though few could match the rock-opera notes Donnelly hits. It's a crazy combination — Donnelly's soaring voice and theatric stage presence, the horror imagery, the bushy-haired Bonnell's complex guitar work, the pose-striking of imposing bass player Bergman (looking like Napoleon Dynamite's smarter brother) and Turner's thundering drums.

Seattle fans have been eating it up; now we'll see if America is ready for Donnelly and company.

Schoolyard Heroes are on the road for the next few weeks, opening for Canadian pop-punk band Sum 41 on an East Coast tour.

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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