Roots of Rebellion to Maybe Bomb: The Music of John Penola


Photo by John Penola

Maybe Bomb performing in Hoboken.

John Penola, the winner of the 2017 Teacher of the Year award, is a lot more than just a KHS English teacher.

Penola has been performing and publishing his own original music starting as early as his junior year here at KHS.

He joined his first band, a hard rock band called Roots of Rebellion, in his junior year of high school (2002-03). Roots of Rebellion also featured Kinnelon native Kurt Wubbenhorst, a founder of Architekt Music in Butler, on drums.

Originally just serving as the keyboardist, Penola found himself in charge of writing lyrics, and he eventually became the lead vocalist. Roots of Rebellion released two albums before breaking up around 2007: The Looking Glass in 2004 and Surfacing in 2006.

After Roots of Rebellion broke up, Penola returned to the music he had written by himself over the years and combined them into Maybe Bomb, whose first album, Dotted Lines and Whispers, was released in 2012.

Made using mostly a MIDI keyboard, a drum machine, and Garageband, Maybe Bomb has a drastically different sound from his previous band. Instead, it employed more pop music themes while keeping a rock sound in the drumming. Penola has said that he has two additional EP releases set for 2019. He is also working on co-writing an original musical. Penola’s musical influences come from KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid), Churches, and St. Lucia.

Some advice Penola has for aspiring musicians is to take advantage of how easy it is to record and publish music in today’s age and to simply have fun with it. Music works best if everyone, including the performer, enjoys it.

Both Roots of Rebellion and Maybe Bomb can be found on Spotify and iTunes. We’re looking forward to more music from Penola in 2019.