Expect The Unexpected When Cold Showers Comes To Town

COLD SHOWERS

COLD SHOWERS play SPACE Jan. 18 and The Echo Jan. 19; photo Robbie Simon

Hailing from Highland Park in Los Angeles, Cold Showers has been bringing their singular vision to the world for the last seven years. And remain steadfastly dedicated to that, in both their live shows as well as studio productions.

One of the driving forces behind this is their dedication to perfection. In the words of guitarist Chris King, “I want people to know that when they come to see us, they’re going to see a band that’s…. prepared, for lack of a better word. We put a lot of thought into our live set; we have now like a mix of live instrumentation, and sequenced electronics, and layers of samples.

“I guess the one thing I want people to come away with when they come to a show, is they can hear that thought and detail was put into everything. We aren’t a band that likes to roll out of bed and see how it goes. My personal philosophy is if we don’t think we are about to have the best show we’ve ever had, then we should just stay home.”

It’s also impossible to know what you’re going to hear from them next.

“We are a little more raw live than on the record,” King points out. “We add tons of parts to the songs live that aren’t on the record. ‘Only Human’ has been one of our favorites to play; that’s one where we added stuff, there’s a lot more like noisier guitars and stuff that we do live that isn’t on the record.”

That unpredictability is due to how Cold Showers approaches studio as well as live settings. According to King, “When we write all of our records, ever since the beginning, it’s never been…we never think about how are we going to pull this off live. It’s always writing a record is one process, and let’s make this record as good as possible, no compromises for every single part. When we finish the record, it’s a whole new thing to start figuring out how we are going to do it live…’cause different things work better in the live setting.”

Even those backstage never know what might happen when the band is around. King details one particular reason for that, “I don’t know about the other guys, but I really like to get adrenaline and blood flowing; so I will try to find a spot backstage to shadowbox. It’s a full body exercise and it loosens me up. It looks crazy, I mean I’ve been walked in on. I feel like backstage it’s random people, and it’s definitely embarrassing when it happens, but then I don’t care.”

Yet, even though there is a heavy dose of experimentalism running through their sound, King adamantly cites pop music as being a huge influence on the group.

“Pop music, actually, is what I would say is the most overarching widespread influence over all of us. We’ve always been trying to push I guess how far we could take songs and be experimental; but underneath it all, have pop songs. All of us grew up liking pop music, I grew up loving all the old Phil Spector girl group stuff. And a lot of our favorite bands that are in genres some people would say are closer to us, like postpunk or whatever categories; the best ones, the ones that I listen to that hold up, they wrote pop songs.

“As we have been working these last couple of years on the record, a lot of the things we have been listening to collectively are The Knife which has been a big influence. PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, those really pop up out of my head.”

Cold Showers gaze is firmly fixed on the future, gearing up to hit the road with some surprises in store.

“That’s really the reason for this tour,” King explained. “We wanna try out new songs; we have at least three, hopefully even more that we will have ready to play on the road and test them out. And then bear down in February and March and record a new record.”

See them for yourself, when they play SPACE in San Diego Jan. 18 or The Echo in Los Angeles on Jan. 19.

Cash’d Out: Live! Authentic! And in SoCal!

CASH'D OUT

CASH’D OUT (Johnny Cash Tribute); press photo

Sadly, not too long ago we lost the great Johnny Cash. Fortunately, however, we have San Diego based Cash’d Out – a band who continues to bring us the sounds and styles of the legendary artist. Existing for eleven years now, they have traversed the country countless time and earned the praises of fans and critics alike for being “the next best thing to Johnny Cash.”

Currently, Cash’d Out is Douglas Benson on vocals, George Bernardo on drums, and Stephen Rey on bass. But what got this band started in the direction they have taken? “I just like the way he sounds, number one. I like the stories that he tells. I like the man that I’ve learned about and what kind of a man he was. Plus, I can kind of sound like him a little bit”, Benson explains with some humor. ” I put an ad in the San Diego reader, and a few people answered it. One guy I ended up hooking up was Kevin Manuel who became our guitar player. And we formed the band from there. Actually, now I’m the only original member who’s left. But my business partner/drummer/backing vocalist George Bernardo, him and I run it now. And he’s been with me for about ten years now, I guess.”

The first step was like nearly every band, i.e. how long should we play, what songs should we learn, etc. “The first song I learned was “Cry, Cry, Cry” or something like that, it was real simple. We had probably had about fifteen songs to play, maybe, the first time we played. I think it was about a half hour of music,” Benson recalled to the best of his ability. “I remember it was my cousins wedding reception. He got married the same day; we went to dinner, and after dinner he brought the wedding reception party over to the little venue we had booked already. Cuz I didn’t know, that was a last minute thing he did…So it worked out pretty good, we had a pretty good sold-out show.”

As they began to play show after show, Cash’d Out began homing in on exactly what it was they wanted to do. Johnny Cash has an extensive career thus it is not easy for a band to reference all his material in a single show. Thus, the band chose to primarily focus on and combine two areas of the Man in Black’s career: The Sun Records/early Columbia sound and the energetic performances showcased on the prison recordings done at Folsom as well as San Quentin. While these are the most popular eras of Johnny Cash’s music, this was not the reason Benson chose them, “Those are my favorite years. The Sun and Columbia years were my favorite years of Johnny Cash music. So, obviously, that’s where I wanted to start. Why not start from the beginning, as much as possible?”

To date, the oft-quoted number of songs in the bands repertoire is 150, but factors along the way point to a different number according to Benson, “Yea, I probably have learned closer to 300 songs out of the 3600 he wrote and stole. Probably due to, like, personnel changes, and the bass player and guitar player here and there. And the time allotment. Most clubs don’t want you to do a three-hour show anymore. When we first started out, that was what we were doing every time…We try to keep it to 90 minutes and if they want to hear an encore, we have plenty of songs we can do in the encore.”

It is this dedication and authenticity which has garnered them so much praise over the years. Cindy Cash saw Cash’d out and was so moved she gave her father’s locket to Benson; Lou Robin, a longtime Cash manager, stated that closing his eyes at their shows was like “going back in time.” It doesn’t even stop there, since Benson even received the honor of playing one of Cash’s guitars and the official Johnny Cash website endorses them.

One of the most fascinating examples of this was when longtime Cash drummer W.S. Holland sat in with the band for a session. “He was at a show, we did a thing for Bill Miller, owner of JohnnyCash.com…Before he moved to Nashville, he used to live up here in Corona. There was a Fender guitars education center and he used to live kinda close by. And they had room and asked him to do a kind of make-shift Johnny Cash musuem. He set that up in there for awhile, and having us come up and sing at shows, and events, and stuff. And one time, W.S. Holland just happened to be up there working, you know, doing drum classes for kids and stuff like that. And we asked him if he would mind sitting in on a couple songs. After drumming all day, I figured he was gonna be tired. But he sat in and did three hours straight with us after he had been working with the kids all day. He’s got alot of fire still left in his blood, and it was alot of fun. Real pleasure working with him.”

Cash’d Out is still going strong, with ambitious plans for the future. There are tentative plans on going in the studio with musician Jackson Taylor and doing some Smiths’ song, in the spirit of where Cash left off with songs such as his cover of “Hurt.” In addition, they have just recently released a live album of their own as well.

The Raw Power of Dhani Harrison

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

Dhani Harrison brought a heady mix of noise, psychedelic meanderings, and heavy rock-n-roll to the Constellation Room on Nov. 28. Anyone who came expecting a folk-rock set, a pop concert, or any other pre-conceived notion was in for a surprise.

The band itself was comprised of two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. Throughout the set, Harrison also invited a number of different guests on stage with him. There was plenty of hard rock vamping, guitar solos, and what we all love about rock bands; however, many numbers saw Harrison employing a keyboard and/or effects unit to create hypnotic drones. In addition, several instances of experimental feedback looping (the kind seen in modern noise centric bands) was used as well.

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

Dhani Harrison; photo Andy Ortega

All of the hard rocking and experimental layers blended beautifully with the melodies and song structures created by Harrison. There were sprinklings of his dad’s influence throughout the set of course (most evident in the vocal inflections of his voice and the use of multi-voiced harmonies.) Yet it was all too evident he has painstakingly crafted a style/sound all his own. The songs had the power pop feel about them, but also a subdued atmosphere of darkness and mystery.

Although he reveled in introducing some songs as “loud,” the set was still an intimate one. That is not to say it was not loud, because it most certainly was. But instead of the volume causing tinnitus, it was that perfect level of loud that helped to convey the intensity of the songs. His other favorite moment seemed to be every time he brought up a special guest, something which happened almost every other song. He addressed the crowd a few times, mostly notably letting everyone know they should continue to “be lovely and be excellent.”

Overall, Harrison did a spectacular job of pulling aspect from every decade of rock since the sixties. There were sixties vocal harmonies, seventies style jamming, post-punk experimentalism, nineties rock riffs, indie rock sounds, electronic drones, and more. All of this was on vivid display during the last song of the encore, as all the guest members piled on stage for a raucous cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges. It took me by complete surprise, and will go down as one of the best show I’ve ever seen.

The Madcap Energy Of The Butcher Babies Arrives In SoCal

BUTCHER BABIES

BUTCHER BABIES play the Observatory Dec. 11; press photo

Now on tour behind their latest release LILITH, L.A. based Butcher Babies are dead set on bringing their unique blend of fierce energy and raw emotion to the world.

Butcher Babies gestated from the friendship between frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, who were in a punk-metal cover band together. In Shepherd’s own words, “Carla and I were in a band together about a decade ago – it was a punk/metal cover band – and we decided that we wanted to start something original and fresh, on our own.

“So, we quit that band and created Butcher Babies as an ode to Wendy O. Williams. She has always been a huge inspiration for us, and we used to cover the song “Butcher Baby,” so we decided to kind of neo-model the band after Wendy O and the Plasmatics. And here we are eight years later.”

Just like their inspiration, Butcher Babies bring a wild show that is strangely addictive.

“It’s just craziness, I guess you could say,” Shepherd explained. “You know, there’s a lot of raw energy that comes from the entire band. It’s not just the two girls up there. We have been a band for eight years and our energy is incredible onstage. The energy is insane.” And there is plenty of what makes a metal show great, i.e. “a lot of crowd surfing, a lot of moshing, a lot of circle pitting.”

Emotional intensity is prominent at shows, especially during the more melodic numbers. Shepherd recalls performing “Thrown Away” (one of her favorites), “It’s all melodic. It’s slow. It’s a beautiful song, but there’s so much emotion that goes through it. It’s really cool seeing the same people who were just throwing down in the pit – they’re in the front row, singing the lyrics. There’s been times where men are crying, singing that song with us. So, it’s a really unique experience to play that song.”

Creating moments of connection with audiences like this is one of their favorite aspects of playing live shows. “The crowds, though, really make it,” Shepherd explains. So is taking the audience for a turbulent ride.

“One of my favorites is “Gravemaker.” I absolutely love that song, and it’s so fun to play. It’s an emotional rollercoaster the whole time.”

This madness begins during the pre-show rituals. “We sacrifice many children,” declares Shepherd. “I’m just kidding. Carla and I like to get ready together, so we will sit in the back of the bus and blast old school hip-hop. And do our make-up together and get dressed. But before we go onstage we have a chant that we do, and we have done it at every single show that we have played.”

That camaraderie is at the core of Butcher Babies. “We all hang out and we are all good friends,” Shepherd revealed.

“We have known each other almost a decade; we go to movies together, we go to bars together…But we all enjoy each other’s company and its actually pleasurable to hang out together.

“I think that’s one thing a lot of bands should do more, if they don’t. Because I think that creates a team mentality, and first and foremost, we’re best friends. And then we’re bandmates. And that is how it has been from the beginning….and so I think that’s been part of our key to success is the fact that we do respect each other.”

An atmosphere like that plays a vital role, both on and off the stage. “It’s hugely important, you know, for the chemistry you have on stage, the chemistry you have in writing music together,” Shepherd said.

“All five of us have a hand in our writing and you want to have that mutual respect for each other when writing because then people aren’t going to feel like….like if you go into a writing session, and someone feels like they can’t speak up because they are embarrassed about sharing their ideas, that is hugely detrimental to the band.”

All of this combines into a heady mix that is Butcher Babies. Having been around for nearly a decade, playing all over the globe, and with three studio albums now under their belt, they are gearing up for even more world domination.

“It’s been a crazy wild eight years,” Shepherd mused.

“We are pumped about the movement of the band and can’t wait to see what the next eight years hold. So, thanks for taking this rollercoaster with us!”

Catch the Butcher Babies playing their last show of the tour, at the Observatory / Santa Ana Dec. 11.

Tom Keifer And His Livewire Rock-N-Roll Come To SoCal

TOM KEIFER

TOM KEIFER plays The Coach House Nov. 12; photo Tammy Vega

High-energy. Dynamic. Fire and brimstone. Visceral. These words help define rock-n-roll, both on and off the stage. Tom Keifer and his band are on course to deliver all of that Nov. 12 at The Coach House.

Keifer sang in the Philly rock group Cinderella, and went on to release a solo album back in 2013 The Way Life Goes. It was a labor of love that took nine years to perfect, and was released to critical acclaim. Unfortunately, some legal trouble caused it to get pulled from the shelf. Simultaneously, Keifer had to have voice surgery which caused delays in touring/recording schedules.

All of that is overwhelming, but a recurring theme in rock-n-roll is perseverance through struggle. And without a doubt, he is a shining example. Keifer fought for and obtained the masters to The Way Life Goes – the deluxe version of the album (with the bonus of a few new tracks) was just released and he is currently on tour in support of it.

Heading to one of his shows, Keifer says to expect “a high-energy, loud screaming rock show; it’s a rock-n-roll show” complete with Cinderella classics as well as the tracks from his solo outing.

“I’ve always really liked playing “Nobody’s Fool” live, that one always feels good to me and I like singing,” Keifer said. “Out of the new stuff, lately we’ve been doing the title track, that one has been fun. There’s a couple there I’ve been having fun with, singing and playing.”

TOM KEIFER

TOM KEIFER and band; photo Tammy Vega

While the album was made over several years, the touring band has remained constant.

“When I started touring the record, it’s pretty much been with the first people that walked in the room the first night,” Keifer explained. “With the exception of this year, we have a new drummer and a new keyboard player, which was our first member change. Much like the first auditions, the two new guys were the first ones who walked in the room. It’s all been pretty effortless, and the chemistry has been great from the get-go.”

This chemistry even continues off-stage.

“On tours I have done before this band, everyone kind of stays to themselves, and watches movies, and there’s lots of distractions of different kinds of entertainment going on,” Keifer divulged. “But honestly with this band, every night we just get together and hang out and talk.”

Being a mainstay of the rock world for over two decades, Keifer has a unique perspective on the ongoing debate over rock being at death’s door.

“That question always comes up, if it’s not in vogue, say in certain media outlets or radio formats, then oh, its dying,” Keifer explained. “But as long as it’s being created, and it’s being enjoyed by the fans and the people out there, then it’s alive.”

Thus, Keifer remains determined as ever to continue bringing rock music to his fans.

“Playing live is my favorite part of what we do, it’s great to get out there and play live and share that moment in the music with the fans,” he remarked.

“I get nervous every night, brother, as long as I’ve been doing this. I love what I do, and I want to be, you know, give it my all every night. My main instrument, being my voice, it’s flesh and blood.”

All in all, Tom Keifer is amped for his dates on the west coast, commenting, “We are out rocking and love seeing everybody at the shows.”