By Nicholas Mancusi ’10

He’s taught history. He’s performed in parking lots.

[Rock] When Tim Kepner ’00 answers his phone for this interview, he’s finishing a long day: his reggae-, rap- and metal-tinged rock band, Full Service, is touring, and after playing two energetic shows in Denver for loyal fans (“They knew all the words. There was a dance-off.”), the band had stuck around to play high-altitude Ultimate Frisbee with anyone who could muster the energy.

Tim Kepner ’00 with his band Full Service

Kepner (right, who goes by “Bonesaw” to just about everyone) traces the first iteration of the band to a freshman-year jam session in Stearns. Full Service went through several lineups during his college years, but its core remained Kepner on lead guitar and his brother Dave (“Hoag”) on drums.

Kepner played baseball at Amherst and majored in history. After graduation, even though he’d never been there, he knew his fate awaited him in Austin, Texas, whose alternative music scene was on the cusp of national attention. But he had to wait for Hoag to graduate from Yale. So he got a job teaching history and coaching football and baseball at a boys’ school in Connecticut, where he made an impression.

“He played a concert in our auditorium wearing a cutoff T-shirt and leather pants and got so into it, headbanging his shoulder-length hair,” says Ben Levison ’11, Kepner’s student at the time. “It was hilarious and awesome but also showed how driven he was, how relentless.”

That year Kepner made “ great memories,” he says, “but I was so far out of my comfort zone, and I was also very lonely.” Lessons from Amherst Professor Barry O’Connell sustained him. “Taking his class was a turning point. The stuff we studied—Thoreau, Emerson, things like that—these things were hitting me at the exact right time. Barry was at the center of it all, convincing me to push my limits. That’s what inspired me to go to Texas.”

Full Service is now rounded out by Sean “Sunny” Eckel on bass and Elliott “Smell” Lardon on percussion (they’re big on nicknames), and it’s known for its indefatigable grassroots work ethic in creating and engaging with “fansaws” (the band’s followers).

In 2008, the band embarked on a “Takeover Tour,” in which it followed the national tour of reggae-rock band 311, setting up guerilla-style unlicensed concerts in parking lots outside each show. This summer Full Service again joined a 311 tour—but this time it was official. Full Service was part of 311’s “Unity Tour” for all three Texas dates.

The band’s latest album, Carousel, showcases the brothers’ sunny harmonies and hook-heavy songwriting skills. Now they’re on a “20 tour”: they play small shows in fans’ living rooms and yards, each for about 20 people, for $20 a head. The original plan was to book 20 of these shows, but they’ve since played more than 150.

I first met Kepner when I interviewed him for The Amherst Student in 2008. My last question then was where he saw himself in five years. His answer: “I’m not falling for that trap!” Today his answer is the same. Bonesaw doesn’t want to know what’s coming around the next corner.

Nicholas Mancusi ’10 has written for the New York Times Book Review and many other publications. Photo by Jenn Murtha