iDKHOW Brings Their Musically Unique “Hipster Nonsense” To SoCal

iDKHOW play The Glass House Nov. 27; photo Lauren Perry

iDKHOW play The Glass House Nov. 27; photo Lauren Perry

I Don’t Know How But They Found Me, or iDKHOW for short, will soon be coming to entertain Southern California with its quirky, unique and, more importantly, fun music at The Glass House in Pomona Nov. 27.

Dallon Weekes, the vocalist and bass player of the band, guarantees every show is different, a self-contained treat.

“We aim to give people a different experience every time and try not to repeat ourselves,” Weekes promised. “Even if we do the same set, we try to leave a little room for improv and things to happen.”

Founded in 2016 in Salt Lake City, iDKHOW is comprised of a mere two people: Weekes, formerly of Panic! at the Disco, and Ryan Seaman, the former drummer and vocalist for Falling in Reverse.

Weekes says that the group started shortly before his departure from Panic! at the Disco in 2017.

“I saw my time there was coming to an end,” Weekes recalled. “So, I started collecting a lot of old ideas and started dusting them off and recording them with no real intent other than just to do it and as I did, I brought in my pal Ryan to play drums on some stuff and we got to hanging out.”

The two friends began iDKHOW in secret in 2016. Both Weekes and Seaman continually denied its existence until 2017.

iDKHOW; photo Melissa Quintas

iDKHOW; photo Melissa Quintas

“It would have been really easy to come out of the gate and just really exploit the bands that we were playing for at the time, you know, do a press release and say, ‘hey everyone, come check out this new thing’,” Weekes said. “But when you’re coming from a successful band and start something new then credibility can be kind of a challenge.”

Weekes and Seaman instead opted to go back to square one.

“We decided to start the way any new band would start by playing shows and leaving that stuff out of the equation,” Weekes explained. “We didn’t want to exploit fans or exploit the people we were working for at the time. So, we wanted to do it in secret, see if it would get people’s attention on its own.”

The music that iDKHOW typically produces is best described as a mixture of electronic, pop rock and new wave. However, it’s quite hard to truly define and were you to ask Weekes what he’d call such music, even he finds that a challenge.

“It’s always a little tough,” Weekes admits. “So, I’ve found that the most effective way to describe it is just ‘hipster nonsense’.”

This “hipster nonsense” is merely a reflection of his unique taste in music.

“It’s just the sum of the sort of stuff that I listen to,” Weekes states. “I don’t listen to a lot of modern pop and stuff. That’s all great but I tend to gravitate to more obscure and old stuff, not as a point of pride or anything. I wish that the stuff that I listened to was the most popular stuff in the world and everybody loved it like Sparks and T-Rex and Oingo Boingo and The Cure and things like that.”

One unique aspect of iDKHOW that differentiates them from other bands is their music composition. Weekes, who is in charge of making music for iDKHOW, doesn’t actually write out music whenever he thinks up an idea.

“I don’t read or write music in written form,” Weekes revealed. “That’s something I’ve still never learned to do but I do want to do someday.”

In the meantime, Weekes has adapted to taking full advantage of modern technology in making music.

“If an idea just strikes me I’ll record it into my phone and then when I have a free moment when the kids are at school or something I’ll go sit down at my laptop and get started making it into a song,” Weekes said.

It’s finally being able to play his finished work at live concerts along with Seaman that makes the effort totally worthwhile.

“That’s the pay-off I guess for all the hard work and difficulties that can come with trying to record an idea,” Weekes mentioned. “But the pay-off is always getting that finished product out and getting to play live in front of people. It’s the best.”

iDKHOW’s current schedule of appearances lasts until Dec. 7. But, not to worry, Weekes promises there will be more “hipster nonsense” to be enjoyed far beyond that.

“After this tour we’re doing with Waterparks we’ll be doing more shows in support of the EP that we just released,” Weekes said. “In the meantime, I’ll be working on writing more stuff for full-lengths that we can hopefully get out sometime in the new year.”

The Record Company Bring Blues And Love To SoCal

THE RECORD COMPANY play HOB/San Diego Nov. 9 and The Wiltern Nov.10; photo Jen Rosenstein

THE RECORD COMPANY play HOB/San Diego Nov. 9 and The Wiltern Nov.10; photo Jen Rosenstein

The Record Company, a power trio known for their blues-styled rock, are coming to California to finish their current 2018 tour. The three-man group play at the House of Blues in San Diego Nov. 9 and The Wiltern in Los Angeles Nov. 10.

Chris Vos, the band’s lead vocalist and who also provides guitar instrumentals for The Record Company’s songs, says he looks forward to these two shows. The region is the home of Vos who says there could be no better place to end his group’s current tour.

“I love California,” Vos proclaims. “I love the people. I love the open-mindedness. I love how everybody just is such entertainment aficionados. They all know and they’ve all been around the block. It’s great. I just simply enjoy being in a place where I can go when I’m home and see any number of different type of inspiring entertainment or inspiring natural beauty.”

It’s also in SoCal, specifically in Los Angeles, that The Record Company first formed in 2011. The band’s roots go back to 2010 though as that’s when Vos first met Alex Stiff, the group’s bass player, who took a liking to the music Vos had produced.

“He heard what I had done previously,” Vos recalled. “He liked it and invited me to hang out. He was having a little get together with some friends. He has a huge pile of vinyl he’s amassed over the years. We just went over there and spun some records and struck up a friendship.”

It wasn’t until after a later meeting with Stiff and Marc Cazorla, who would become the group’s drummer, that the idea to form a band began.

“We were just listening to some records one evening,” Vos said. “We had the speaker in the window and sitting out on the back porch and we just decided ‘hey, let’s get together, hang some microphones in the living room and record it and see what it sounds like’, and we liked it.”

THE RECORD COMPANY; photo Jen Rosenstein

THE RECORD COMPANY; photo Jen Rosenstein

From there the group began playing locally and self-released their first music as a 7’’ single vinyl in March of 2012. However, the group’s tenacity and innovation has helped the group finally reach the musical mainstream earning critical praise, musical appearances in film and TV and even earned the group a Grammy nomination in 2017 for Best Contemporary Blues Album Give It Back To You.

These accomplishments are owed to the group’s unique take on rock and roll best described as blues rock: a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. While this mixture isn’t new and has been around for years, Vos says that he and his bandmates, in composing their songs, do their utmost to make the music they produce as fresh and new as possible.

“We try to root out cliché as much as possible,” Vos explains. “It’s like, if I’m playing this melody on a guitar, it sounds like something I’ve heard a million times. But if we make it a bass-centric melody and we kind of lean on that, it all of a sudden sounds different. It sounds like something a little more fresh. We’re just always trying to find a way to root out those things and just find some new inspiration anywhere we can.”

Vos says that the biggest reward he gets from completing these songs, specifically the ones Vos and his fellow band members made for the group’s recent album All of This Life, is being able to play them live.

“It’s a thrill, a great thrill,” Vos enthused. “That’s one of the great rewards of recording an album is being able to take that music out to people and putting it out in front of them.”

Though Vos says he’s enjoyed playing in venues like the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Madison Square Garden, he isn’t picky in where he likes to play live music.

“People always ask me what’s your favorite place to play and, I swear to god, this is not a cop-out, I say ‘wherever I am that day’,” Vos said. “Because that’s the only day you’re actually living.”

After the group’s upcoming Nov. 10 appearance in Los Angeles, Vos and the rest of The Record Company will not be touring again until March which will see them go to Europe.

“We have some pretty big shows that I unfortunately can’t say what they are,” Vos states. “But we’re going to be having a big announcement coming up very soon that’ll be at the beginning of the year for some more dates.”

Vos however says that The Record Company will keep playing music whenever opportunity allows in-between these tours and in the future.

“We’ll be doing summer festivals and just getting out there with some other bands and just keep on playing. We’ll play the whole country and play it again. We’ll go up to Canada, play there. Go overseas, play there. We’ll play anywhere they put us.”

Shonen Knife To Stab SoCal With Joyful Pop Punk

SHONEN KNIFE play The Bootleg Oct. 5; photo Tomoko Ota

SHONEN KNIFE play The Bootleg Oct. 5; photo Tomoko Ota

The influential Japanese band Shonen Knife shall soon be coming to entertain SoCal with their upbeat pop punk style. The bardic three-woman band is scheduled to play at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles Oct. 5 and The Casbah in San Diego Oct. 6 which will end their current ALIVE! In The USA 2018 tour which celebrates the release of the group’s latest live CD/DVD ALIVE! In Osaka.

Naoko Yamano, the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band, looks forward to these appearances.

“We have a plan to play some songs from our 1990’s and 1980’s which we have never played in the U.S.,” Naoko said. “Also, we are preparing various fun songs from recent albums. We have new costumes, too.”

Shonen Knife is also noteworthy for influencing bands such as Sonic Youth, Red Kross and Nirvana. The latter’s lead singer, Kurt Cobain, was well-noted for being an outspoken fan of theirs and credited for providing inspiration.

Shonen Knife’s place of origin can be traced back to 1981 in Osaka, Japan. The group’s formation was spearheaded by Yamano who has remained with the group and has helped produce 20 studio albums and help musically at numerous live performances.

However, Yamano remains the only consistent member of the band. Shonen has undergone quite a number of lineup changes over the years.

Shonen Knife; press photo

Shonen Knife; press photo

“I asked our original bassist Michie to be a member,” Yamano remembers. “She was my college friend. And I asked my sister Atsuko to be our drummer. When Michie left the band, Atsuko switched to bass from the drums. Then we had three drummers including a support member. Risa is our present drummer. She joined the band from 2015.”

If you’re curious as to what exactly a Shonen Knife is and why it’s the band’s name, Yamano credits that to a moment of inspiration during a school class she once attended.

“At an English examination, a girl in front of me had an old pencil knife in her pencil case,” Yamano recalled. “The brand name on it was Shonen Knife in Japanese. Shonen means boy in Japanese so it means Boy Knife. The image of it was cute and dangerous. I thought that described our music, so I used that name.”

That name has stuck and so has their music which is best described as a mixture of both traditional pop and punk rock music featuring upbeat tempos and lyrics. Such songs have been an invaluable part of Shonen Knife’s appeal and why they continue to maintain a loyal following.

Yamano, who is largely in charge of composing, says the songs are largely based on simple observations and happenings in her life.

“I write down topics which I find during my daily life,” Yamano explained. “Then expand them to be lyrics and put melody lines on them. Writing lyrics is very difficult for me.”

Their music has not only been played in Japan but also here in the States and around the world. This has given Yamano and her bandmates exposure for concertgoers around the globe.

“I don’t see many differences between the U.S. and Japan when we play,” Yamano states. “But our U.S. fans are always very cheerful and friendly, and they are music lovers. I like that.”

For Yamano, playing live remains just as terrific as when the group started playing 37 years ago.

“Playing live is exciting. When the audience loves our music, I am very happy.”

Following the end of the tour Oct 6 in San Diego, Yamano says she and her fellow musical compatriots have much more to do.

“After the U.S. tour, we will have some shows in Japan,” Yamano said. “Then I will start to make new songs and record a new album. Then we’ll tour all over the world.”

This Patch Of Sky Brings Post-Rock To SoCal

THIS PATCH OF SKY play Hi Hat Sep. 20; photo Shane Cotee

THIS PATCH OF SKY play Hi Hat Sep. 20; photo Shane Cotee

Those who are looking for the chance to enjoy music that is instrumental but cinematic in quality are in luck as This Patch Of Sky shall soon be coming to Neck Of The Woods in San Francisco Sep. 19 and The Hi Hat in Los Angeles Sep. 20.

“We’re really looking forward to Neck Of The Woods – we’ve never played there before,” Kit Day, the group’s lead guitarist, mentioned. “And then, down in L.A., The Hi Hat looks like an incredible venue so we’re excited for that one as well.”

Of the two appearances, Day proclaims he is especially looking forward to playing at Neck Of The Woods.

“I’m really looking forward to playing with the bands Wander and Our Fathers. Wander is also a post-rock band and Our Fathers has vocals with a bit of post-rock tendencies.”

This Patch Of Sky, like Wander, is a post-rock band. First formed in Eugene, Oregon in 2010. Day says the group initially started off as just a means for him and friends to meet and indulge in their love of playing their own music.

“I started the band after a band that I was in kind of faded away and it was really just to have some fun, jam with some friends,” Day recalled.

“Growing up, I’ve been in a ton of bands. It always seemed to be the vocalists that kind of made or broke the band. And this time around we just decided, ‘hey, let’s just start playing with no vocalist’.
That way we’re not stuck with verse, chorus, verse, chorus and can do what we want to do, let the song, the music take you where you want it to go without having vocals in it.”

Day describes the music as “the soundtrack to the end of world.” Instead of words, their songs depend entirely on atmosphere, mood and sound.

“The music that we create, we try to invoke emotions through it,” Day explained. “We don’t have a vocalist and so instead we let the instruments basically do the talking for you. Anyone that listens to our music, they’re really just interpreting it how they want to interpret it which is what we love. It’s really a universal language. A lot of what we do is more soundtrack type stuff for movies so when you just think of the end of the world, you have a roller coaster of emotions that are going up and down and that’s what we try to create.”

Their unique music has helped them acquire a following in the music community along with critical praise. Such support has, as of this writing, been of immense aid in the creation of three albums with the latest, These Small Spaces, being released last September. It’s even helped Day and his bandmates produce the soundtrack for the Russell Brand documentary Brand: A Second Coming.

But despite all that, Day says the group still enjoys the thrill of playing live.

“Oh man, it’s so much fun,” Day said. “Playing live is definitely my favorite thing to do. A lot of people don’t really know what to expect when they go and see an instrumental band because they’re usually focused on the singer. Being able to present what we have to an audience and being able to create those emotions live, that’s definitely one of our favorite parts.”

Though This Patch Of Sky has performed at a sizeable number of live concerts, the most memorable to date was some time ago in Phoenix, Arizona.
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“We played at The Rebel Lounge with a band called Holy Fawn,” recounts Day. “We didn’t really know what to expect when playing with them and the first time seeing them live they just absolutely blew us away. This was a year ago. Since then we’ve become really good friends and we ended up doing a small tour together this year. It was incredible just to see that band night after night perform. They’re probably one of our favorite bands to play with.”

Beyond their upcoming appearances in SoCal and other places around the United States, Day says that the group plans to take their music in a new direction: around the world.

“Europe is a big one we’re looking forward to next year,” Day mused. “We haven’t quite announced it yet, but we are looking to get overseas. We’re also playing in Mexico City this February that we’re excited to announce here shortly as well. So really, it’s just taking a national act and becoming international. That’s really what we’re focused on right now.”

Katastro Brings Ecletic Strings To SoCal

KATASTRO play The Constellation Room Aug. 22 and The Music Box Aug. 23; press photo

KATASTRO play The Constellation Room Aug. 22 and The Music Box Aug. 23; press photo

The eclectic jams of Katastro shall again be heard in SoCal, with stops at The Constellation Room Aug. 22 and The Music Box Aug. 23 in celebration of their latest album Washed.

Ryan Weddle, the band’s bass player, says he looks forward to the appearance and ensures concertgoers are in for something unique.
“I feel like people can definitely look forward to a set that incorporates a lot of different styles,” Weddle said. “We try to add, you know, a lot of jams and we bring in our influences from rock and hip hop.”

Formed in 2007, Katastro has become notable for its unique music style that blends rock with other genres of music though the group’s origin began as a music band in high school.

“Our singer Andy [Chaves]met our drummer Andrew Travers and guitarist [Tanner Riccio] there and they formed the band and started out as like a live hip hop group,” Weddle explained. “Then the sound kind of changed with everybody’s different musical background and it became more like this rock with influence from blues, a little bit of reggae and a little bit of a lot of stuff.”

Weddle joined up later in 2008 thanks to his mutual friendship with Chaves. The four-man lineup has not changed in its 10-year lifespan and continues to play what Weddle describes as a “bridge between hip hop and alternative rock music.”

He also says that this bridge is both maintained and often improved upon with all manner of new musical incorporations.

“We’re incorporating a lot of, you know, sample bass production and some more beats and subby bass lines, stuff like that, while still maintaining a guitar and a sort of alternative feel with it,” Weddle recalled. “It’s just kind of a melting pot of rock and blues and hip hop.”

For their newest album Washed, Weddle and his bandmates have been more daring in implementing new approaches in both fine tuning their music and even how they create it.

“We did it a little differently and we all just went up to a cabin and we wrote the full album in, I think it was eight days,” Weddle recalled. “And we just slept out there and wrote everything from scratch all together. It was kind of cool kind of switching up the way that we usually do it. We got a different outcome that we were all super happy about.”

That outcome in particular is that Washed is one of the group’s first albums to reach one million plays on Spotify. Weddle, who likes to set personal accomplishments for himself and his group, is indisputably pleased with the accomplishment.

Beyond recording, Weddle and his bandmates put a special emphasis on their live shows and do their utmost to tailor each show to get the most positive reactions they can from each concertgoer who attends.

However, one concertgoer that remains unpredictable is nature, specifically the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.

“The first time that we played there it was stormy and crazy and our set got cut by 15 minutes because of that, Weddle recalled. “So, we pretty much ran out there in the pouring rain and performed a 15-minute set. None of us remember any of it because we were just so excited to be there, and it was just like this crazy, crazy day. We were lucky enough to go back a couple years later with the Dirty Heads to experience that again. We got really lucky and missed the storm this time.”

Such live experiences are why Weddle is just happy to be able to play music he loves with his fellow bandmates and is even more happy to have been invited to share it with all manner of music lovers live.

“There’s so many venues and different types of venues across the country that we’ve been lucky to play and it’s just cool. I’m excited to get out and experience more.”

Katastro’s current tour will last until Aug. 25 wrapping up at the Launchpad in Albuquerque. However, Weddle says that he and his fellow Katastro bandmates will still be busy.

“We’ll be doing that for a month and then we are taking, I think we have, three weeks at home and then we’re going back out with Iration and Common Kings on the east coast in the fall, Weddle said. “So, we’re kind of booked up for most of the year. Right now, we’re trying to play as many shows as we can and just promote this new album.”

Tribute To Tributes: Queen Nation

QUEEN NATION

QUEEN NATION (Queen Tribute); press photo

Although it’s no longer possible to go see the classic line-up of the British rock band Queen due to the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, tribute bands across the globe have stepped up to help others experience the influential musical group in its prime. One of these bands is Queen Nation.

Founded in 2004 in California by Dave Hewitt, the vice president of entertainment at The Canyon in Agoura Hills, Queen Nation has striven for 13 years done their utmost to capture the look, sound and style of Queen.

However, given the emphasis placed on giving great performances, Queen Nation’s tireless efforts to perfectly capture Queen’s unique music are not easy. Mike McManus, who plays the role of Queen’s legendary guitar player Brian May, admits that is quite task.

“I think because with the instrumentation, obviously Freddie Mercury’s vocal range, the harmonies and the song writing, it’s really difficult to pull off. I think, as a musician, it’s probably some of the most challenging music to perform.”
It’s even more herculean as McManus and his group do their utmost to emulate everything about Queen specifically during their iconic run during the 80’s.

“We wanted to make people who had seen Queen back in 1980 to kind of give them the feeling they were seeing that all over again. We try to do the same outfits they wore around the same time and the same mannerisms. We want people to kind of revisit the classic Queen concerts.”

QUEEN NATION

QUEEN NATION (Queen Tribute); Big Time Photo

The group is so devoted to replicating Queen’s trademarks it even goes so far as to actively promote audience participation.

“We try to get them involved as much as possible. We encourage singing along. We tell them right at the beginning of the show that ‘we’re not going to do all the work. We want to hear you guys singing loud and clear,’ and it usually works.”
McManus says the effort is worth it. To him it is an honor to commemorate a group whose music and efforts were invaluable in helping him and his bandmates becoming musically active.

“I always said that if I was ever going to be in a tribute band that the only one that I would ever would be to Queen because they’re my favorite band. They’re the reason that I started playing guitar and making music in the first place.”

The group’s efforts for 13 years have not only become “second nature” but made the group of the most prolific Queen tribute bands in the United States. The group has this year enjoyed a very busy schedule for instance.”

“Our first year together we did five shows and now this year we’re ending the year off with I think like 97 or 98 shows,” reports McManus.

That is in fact the norm for the group. McManus says that he expects the group to attain more just as much, if not more, appearances next year.

“We’ve already got 45 shows lined up for 2018. It’ll probably be closer to a hundred shows again next year.”

It’s also helped the group play to great fanfare at local music venues and county fairs but high profile venues too such as Angels Stadium and Las Vegas Hilton. Yet no matter the locale, one thing McManus and his group love more than sharing their love of Queen at such venues is being able to meet fellow Queen fans.

”I could sit here all day and go over how lucky we’ve been as a touring band to meet some of the greatest people you’d ever want to meet.”

For example: McManus specifically recalls playing at the 5th Annual Rock Against MS Benefit Concert & Award Show in Los Angeles last year. Not only did the group headline along with legendary groups such as Foreigner and Whitesnake but equally iconic musicians who grew up with Queen.

“Nancy Wilson from Heart was there, Scotty Hill from Skid Row, Steven Adler from Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains. It was a big star-studded charity benefit and they all loved Queen, just like we did.”

It’s that kind of love for the music of Queen that looks to keep the members of Queen Nation busy for some time McManus says.

“The beauty of this music is that it goes from generation to generation. We have families come to see us every year and we watch their kids grow. We’ve made some really good relationships over the years with our fans and we hope to continue that.”

Just as Queen Nation shows no sign of stopping in helping preserve the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen, neither will their music which McManus states firmly will keep going on indefinitely.

“They’ll be playing Queen when you and I are both long gone,” McManus said.

Magic Giant Stomps Back Into SoCal

MAGIC GIANT play Fonda Theater Jun. 29, Belly Up Jun.30; photo Wilder Bunke

MAGIC GIANT play Fonda Theater Jun. 29, Belly Up Jun.30; photo Wilder Bunke

Magic Giant shall soon be coming to SoCal to woo audiences with their remarkable brand of indie folk-rock music. The trio is scheduled to play at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood Jun. 29 and the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach Jun. 30.

Zambricki Li, one of the three main band members of the group, is especially looking forward to these two upcoming dates.

“We’ve been on tour really since December,” Li said. “It’s a celebration of us coming back to southern California after I don’t even know how many shows. So at both of those shows we have a lot of people I think are coming to both nights so it’s going to be a really fun party.”

Southern California, Li says, is not only immeasurably instrumental to shaping Magic Giant’s music along with their success in the music industry but is the best possible place there is for people who come to see them play live to truly enjoy themselves.

“Nothing beats coming to Southern California for a couple of days and going to shows and going to the beach and going through Hollywood and having like a crazy night.”

But whether they’re playing in California or someplace else, Li and his bandmates have made their unique, acoustically driven music equally fun for themselves and concertgoers of all sorts since forming Magic Giant in Los Angeles during 2014.

And it’s fun that Li and his bandmates aim to produce for audiences at each show.

MAGIC GIANT; photo Brantley Gutierrez

MAGIC GIANT; photo Brantley Gutierrez

“If you’ve never heard it before, it’s kind of the energy and instrumentation of Arcade Fire and almost some of the storytelling of Tom Petty,” Li proclaims. “If you read through the lyrics and kind of sync into the meaning of the songs, there’s a story there. But the shows are like huge dance party events.”

Magic Giant already enjoys a devoted fanbase due to this unique approach to their music which has helped make their first full-length album In the Wind a success with fans and critics alike. The song “Set on Fire” still remains among the 40 songs currently listed on the Billboard Alternative musical chart a year after the album’s release.

Li credits the success of the group’s very first album due to the group taking an unorthodox approach to its composition and creation which he credits with helping in its success.

“We bought a little shuttlebus and we put solar panels on it and basically took all of our recording equipment and retrofitted it into this bus,” Li recalled. “As we played festivals and we played shows we were also recording our album and we were also writing along the way.”

In the Wind is also unique due to being recorded in locales such as a redwood tree on the coast of California not to mention a daisy field and airstrip in Colorado. Being able to create such music at such places is not only a stimulating and fun process but results in what they consider to be the ultimate sharing experience that occurs when they finally have the opportunity to play it live.

“Playing it live is like getting to make a painting and then literally carry the painting along around the country, around the world, showing people our art,” Li mused.

Magic Giant isn’t at all afraid to show off art in progress. If you’re lucky and attend a concert then you may even be privy to hear songs that the group is in the progress of creating.

“We try not to be pretentious about stuff and our art and not take ourselves too seriously,” Li admitted. “So, we’ll write on the road and then we’ll kind of debut songs on the road before it’s even demoed or recorded, and we’ll see how people react to it and their response and we might even rewrite the song after playing it out.”

Live performances have always been important to the band. By trusting the feedback of concertgoers, Li says Magic Giant is able to better guarantee that they make songs that people wish to hear both live and in recorded form.

“It’s a little risky but it allows us to make this the show experience and the things we learn on the road get baked together into the songs.”

Even though their current summer tour ends at the end of this month with two additional appearances next month in July, Li says that he and his bandmates are already planning.

“We’re getting back in the studio once we get off the road this summer and do some new material,” Li said. “We’re so happy we get to tour and we’re already working on a fall tour. It’s already kind of in the works so we’re doing that, new music and all that good stuff.”

The Posies Celebrate 30 Year Anniversary

THE POSIES

THE POSIES play The Coach House May 24, Bootleg Theater May 25 and Soda Bar May 26; photo Alan Lawrence

The Posies, famous innovators of pop music, shall soon be stopping in SoCal. The power pop quartet will perform at The Coach House May 24, Bootleg Theater May 25 and Soda Bar May 26.

Ken Stringfellow, one half of the group’s founders, with the other being Jon Auer, says the appearances are part of the group’s upcoming anniversary tour.

“Our band started playing in 1988 and here we are still playing 30 years later.”

Those 30 years have seen the group tour around the world, play all kinds of venues and produce eight studio albums. Three of the latter that saw release in the 90’s will be remastered and rereleased in celebration of the group’s anniversary: Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace.

But what makes The Posies stand out is their music. The group is well known for both playing and innovating what is best described as power pop: a rock subgenre taking cues from the British and American rock of the 1960s emphasizing strong melodies, clear vocals and musical arrangements that help emphasize guitar playing.

Stringfellow though says this is an apt description but adds that there is a very great importance placed on the vocals: something he feels not many bands like them do too much of anymore.

“It’s indie rock that avoids clichés with great vocal harmony,” Stringfellow said. “That’s how I would sum it up.”

The group is also known for having various line-up changes throughout the years. For their tour and upcoming SoCal appearances, both Stringfellow and Auer will be accompanied by two other musicians who played with them for much of the 90’s: Dave Fox (bass) and Mike Musburger (drums).

Stringfellow proclaims that being able to play music again with Fox and Musburger feels like both a second chance as well as a great opportunity to help showcase their musical skills to concertgoers.

“They’re great musicians,” Stringfellow explained. “Things were a little turbulent back in the day. We get along fine now and everything’s cool and it’s great to take these guys out on the road.”

But while other members of the group may find it easy to take time off from the road, Stringfellow remains actively busy. When not performing, you can find him helping other bands to perform as he is also a record producer for Damien Jurado, The Long Winters, and Carice van Houten to name but a few of the many artists he’s produced.

Yet Stringfellow never ceases to produce music he himself and The Posies can use. For him, composing songs is about melody. That melody is both the key and foundation for the music he makes and what The Posies play.

“The interesting thing is with all the technological changes and all the music skills I’ve acquired in the last 30 years, I still look for a very strong melody,” Stringfellow admitted. “I don’t do spacey music usually, I start around a melody and make that the key to a song.”

When the melody is caught, and the songs written, Stringfellow always finds it a joy to share his musical creations on both record and in live concerts. Ask him where he’s enjoyed playing music at the most along with other Posie members, or “the four musketeers” as he refers to the group, Stringfellow will merely shrug and admit he tries not to pick favorites.

“Having played in a thousand, bajillion places and having so many good shows, really it would be foolish for me to narrow it down,” Stringfellow said. “I’m ready for a new adventure every time.”

That is why Stringfellow is especially looking to the group’s upcoming 30th anniversary tour that begins May 18 in Victoria Canada.

“We’re playing some places on this tour that I’ve never played, including the place we’re playing in L.A., the Bootleg Theater,” Stringfellow mentioned. “I don’t really know much about it. That’s just a new thing.”

The current tour for The Posies is slated to continue until it ends at the Inkonst in Malmö, Sweden on Nov. 8. Even though The Posies have a long tour to look forward to, Stringfellow says plans are already underway for a brand-new album.

“Even with all that in front of us, I think we are still thinking of the next record,” Stringfellow mused. “Obviously that’s going to happen no sooner than next year because this year is fully taken up by the anniversary tour.”

That tour takes priority for now but Stringfellow remains firmly optimistic about the future beyond it.

“There’s a future that we are still looking towards and we are still excited about it and we’ll see how it goes,” Stringfellow said. “We’re just about to launch this tour so we’ll see if we all survive, touch wood and go from there.”

Black Star Riders Rock The Grove With Saxon

BLACK STAR RIDERS

BLACK STAR RIDERS play Grove of Anaheim Apr. 20 and Microsoft Theater Apr. 22; photo Richard Stow

Black Star Riders are charging in to SoCal with heapings of hard rock, taking a night off from the Judas Priest Firepower tour to perform Apr. 20 at the Grove of Anaheim, with Saxon. Both bands rejoin the tour at Microsoft Theater Apr. 22.

Robbie Crane (bass), proclaims that he and his co-musicians are very excited to play at the venue, claiming that it shall be very special for any hard rock loving concertgoers who attend.

“We’re excited to play that gig,” Crane said. “That’s a show that we’re doing with Saxon, which is very cool, and we will be playing a longer set list as opposed to the 40 min set list that we play with Judas Priest.”

Crane says he is excited for the event as it marks something of a jovial homecoming to the Orange County area.

“That’s my hometown. I was born in Orange County so I have a ton of family there. It’ll be very cool.”

Formed in 2012, Black Star Riders are a spin-off of the iconic hard rock group Thin Lizzy, initially founded by guitarist, Scott Gorman and drummer, Brian Downey. The five-man group has managed to achieve its own unique style and sound to differentiate it from the original band it evolved from.

Crane officially joined the lineup in 2014 replacing the group’s very first bass player Marco Mendoza. Though he has played with six other bands, namely the Vince Neil Band and Ratt, playing with Black Star Riders has been very rewarding for the music veteran.
“I think everything has just been a great experience for me,” Crane said. “Culturally and musically it’s different from anything I’ve ever done before.”

Crane admits that one of the things that isn’t different for him is playing the Thin Lizzy songs, something he grew up doing while a young, aspiring musician.

“I played so many Lizzy songs in a cover band as a kid,” Crane revealed. “Scott would laugh at me ‘cause I knew all these Lizzy songs when I came in to play for them. He actually said to me ‘wow, you really make these songs swing.’ I tried to explain to him that I played these songs a hundred times before, just never with the real guys.”

Crane has quickly found himself in good company, both with the band and with music lovers. Already in his fourth year with the group, Crane’s graced many live concerts hosting the loud, boisterous jams of Black Star Riders to concert attendees. He has even aided in the creation of their second and third records – The Killer Instinct and Heavy Fire.

Though comfortable recording music in a studio, Crane admits that playing live is to him the group’s true reward for each new album they successfully produce.

“We’re musicians at the end of the day and that’s what we like to do,” Crane explained. “That’s what we loved to do as kids, that’s what we aspired to do and we’re doing it on a professional level. Not a lot of people can say that they’ve done as we all have, individually and collectively, under the Black Star Riders brand.”

No matter where the group plays, whether the United States or Europe, Crane says it is always a great experience to play live and introduce people to their solid, high-volume brand of hard rock that has made the group its niche in the music industry.

“It’s just great to share that gift of music,” Crane says. “You touch people and they get excited about it and we’re excited. We’re up there, happy as heck, just to be playing. What better life do we have?”

Black Star Riders are slated to continue playing alongside Saxon and Judas Priest until next month. Once that collaboration is over, Crane says he and his bandmates plan to take it easy and focus on playing at local music festivals.

However, Crane says this is a soft prologue to two much more daunting musical treks that they have planned for the near future.

“Our hope is in the fall that we do another smaller tour of the U.K. and then we’re going to start on our fourth record in January or February.”

Initial writing for the album has already started, Crane reveals. That process shall continue indefinitely even though the group continues playing live with no foreseeable end in sight.

“The whole time we’ll be writing, as we always are,” Crane remarks.” Every day it’s like, ‘I’ve got this idea!’ It’s a good thing. We’re always perpetuating and moving forward, which is great.”

Rock-Infused Bluegrass Yonder Style

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND play Saint Rocke Mar. 28, The Coach HOuse Mar. 29 and Belly Up Mar. 30; press photo

The well-tuned strings of the Yonder Mountain String Band are coming back to SoCal as part of their current tour across America. Yonder shall be playing Saint Rocke Mar. 28 and The Coach House Mar. 29.

The group’s return to SoCal marks the first time the group has performed at both San Juan Capistrano and Hermosa Beach and at their respective venues. Adam Aijala, the group’s lead guitarist, promises concertgoers each of those shows won’t be the same.

“We don’t play the same set ever,” Aijala proclaimed. “We make a different setlist every night, so you get three separate shows if you were to come to all three of them.”

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND; press photo

But though their setlists for each venue may differ, Aijala says that each one is guaranteed to be lengthy musical sessions concertgoers of all types can enjoy.

“You can expect roughly two plus hours of music with high energy and stretched out jam sections and some bluegrass and pretty original music,” Aijala promised.

Yonder has played consistently for almost 20 years since being founded in December 1998. The group traces its beginnings to the small town of Nederland in Colorado, where the four-member group quickly earned fans that were in awe of the group’s unique style of bluegrass.

“We found a nice little niche there for about a year as one of the only bands out there plugging in and playing bluegrass without a drummer which is how we carved a little spot in the music world,” says Aijala.

Their quick and early success even spurred the group into opening up their own independent music label just one year later in 1999 that helped provide the means to release their first album Elevation and has since produced most of their other albums.

Aijala says this move was largely due to both a sense of rugged musical individualism and a means to produce and hold onto their hard work.

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND; press photo

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND; press photo

“We just figured we’d do everything in-house because we realized that we weren’t a pop band, our music wasn’t mainstream, and we weren’t really interested giving the rights to our recordings to somebody else. So we said ‘let’s do it ourselves!’”

Aijala admits it was “a smart move” for the group. The music industry at that point had begun to see the rise of digital online streaming services that blossomed fully at the start of the 21st century. These further aided the group become more ingrained into the music industry.

Yonder’s music is what has helped the group ascend to prominence in the music world. The bluegrass music they produce isn’t at all run of the mill but something that’s the very definition of unique.

“There’s a lot of different ways to explain it,” Aijala proclaims. “But the way that I’ve been saying it lately is we have bluegrass instruments but the music we make is more rock-influenced. You could say it’s like progressive bluegrass or rock-infused bluegrass.”

It’s a combination that when accompanied with the joyful folksy vocals provided by all its band members, is still just as fresh as when the group started playing it back in 1998. The fact people enjoy it live and via recordings is the group’s overall goal.

“You want people to have a good time: that’s the ultimate goal for me,” Aijala states proudly.

And you needn’t worry about any underlying agendas or messages. Yonder aims to simply be nothing more than an enjoyable experience any music lover can appreciate.

“We’re not a preachy band,” Aijala states, “We’re more like ‘hey, you came to see us. You can put everything aside for a couple of hours and just enjoy the night and not think about anything else and hopefully we’ll put a smile on your face’.”

Beyond their current tour, Aijala reveals that, given the forthcoming child of their fiddle player Allie Kral, Yonder will help accommodate her by potentially making fewer appearances. But there is a silver lining to look forward to: a brand new album that’ll be coming out in the near future.

Though in the planning stages, Aijala says it is definitely taking shape and in the pipeline.

“We’re going to start working on a new record, but we might put that on hold,” Aijala mused. “We have some recording ideas though, we’re just writing songs.”

But whatever the future holds, Aijala intends to live for the present in continue their current tour and playing music with his bandmates.

“I just feel really fortunate that all these years later we’re still making music and still having fun doing it,” Aijala said. “Especially in a musical climate where there’s so many touring bands that we actually still have a niche to be able to do what we do and still make a living.”