John Paul White Brings Countrypolitan To Orange County

JOHN PAUL WHITE (and his band) play The Coach House Jun. 11 and Troubadour Jun. 14; album cover

JOHN PAUL WHITE (and his band) play The Coach House Jun. 11 and Troubadour Jun. 14; album cover

John Paul White comes to Orange County as part of his current tour celebrating the release of his latest music album The Hurting Kind. SoCal Concertgoers can listen to the acclaimed Grammy Award winning musical talent of White at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Jun. 11 and the Troubadour in Los Angeles Jun. 14.

John Paul White says he looks forward to these appearances.

“The synergy is pretty spot-on right now and I’m really proud of that and anxious for people out that way to see it in person.”

White himself eagerly cannot wait to return to California in general, too.

“I love my home state of Alabama but there are so many things about California I dearly love. I love the weather, the people, the weather, the food, the progressive nature of the state.”

He quickly adds with a chuckle he especially looks forward to the food.

“I actually eat plant-based nowadays which is really hard down in Alabama. They’ve found a way to put ham in just about everything.”

But it’s being able to share his music with others that he honestly looks forwards to in California.

John Paul White; press photo

John Paul White; press photo

“The best part of all is the people because the shows that I play in California have a definite thankfulness for us having traveled so far. I get it from people after shows, ‘thank you for driving all this way to play a show for us.’ That warms your heart and makes you want to do it even more because that’s the only reason to get out of the house is that kind of connection.”

White admits though he didn’t get into music for the sake of music.

“The way I got into it was just trying to meet girls, to be honest. Once I started figuring out the reaction from the other sex when I would sing, I thought, ‘this is what I want to do for a living.’ Later on in life I started digging down below the surface as I started writing songs and figuring out what made me click.”

White would be able to achieve a contract writing music for a musical label in Nashville for approximately 10 straight years before being granted the opportunity to play music himself. White says he doesn’t at all view this long wait as being tedious but educational.

“I learned everything I know about the craft of writing songs. It was an invaluable education for me as an artist to learn all the ins and outs of the bones of a hit song. I still use those things to this day.”

Since becoming a music artist in 2008, White’s performances and dynamic countrypolitan music have earned him praise from critics and music lovers. His songs have even been featured in shows and movies such as The Hunger Games and The Firm.

His most famous period of musical work was between 2009 and 2014 when he teamed up with fellow musician Joy Williams to form the Civil Wars: a musical duo that won four Grammy awards. Since the duo disbanded in 2014, White’s worked solo. This has better allowed him to make music on his terms.

White says he strives to be empathetic to the tastes of his audiences though.

“I have learned the hard way not to create a dish I think other people will like because I cannot possibly guess what anybody else is going to like. So, my entire M.O. is to please myself and pray that there is a bunch of people out there that like the same things that I do. As long as that’s the case, I’ll still have a job.”

For White, playing his songs live is always a great reward.

“I’m intensely proud of these songs and so when I get in and I start singing, I’m consciously doing this, I try to remember that feeling I had when I wrote them. That feeling I had when I played it back for myself, for my wife or for a friend. I never want to just go through the motions and let muscle memory move onto the next song. When that’s the case I’ll go home. I’ll go play with my babies because I miss them all the time.”

White hopes it never comes to that as he plans to continue singing and making music beyond his current tour.

“I’ve got a ton of songs that I feel in the back of my brain trying to beat their way out and so I think it will be kind of rinse and repeat. I’ll tour this record for a while, but I’ve got songs wanting to be born and so I would expect I’ll make another record and keep doing that the rest of my life.”

Cowboy Junkies Wrangle California With Music

COWBOY JUNKIES play The Coach House May 17, Observatory/North Park May 18, Fonda Theatre May 19; photo Heather Pollock

COWBOY JUNKIES play The Coach House May 17, Observatory/North Park May 18, Fonda Theatre May 19; photo Heather Pollock

The Cowboy Junkies, a group famous for its innovative takes on folk and country music, shall be touring throughout California May 8 to May 19. The group’s Southern California appearances specifically begin May 16 at Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, followed by May 17 at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, May 18 at The Observatory North Park, ending up at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on May 19.

Michael Timmins, the lead songwriter and guitarist for the group, says concertgoers can expect a good, lengthy two-hour show at each of these venues.

“It’s basically a whole night of our music and we do two sets, Timmins explained. “The first set we do is pretty much all of our new album All That Reckoning, about 40 minutes of it, and then the second set we do is about an hour and a half long and we do all the old catalog stuff.”

Though currently residing in Canada, where the group first formed, Timmins says he and his bandmates always looks forward to leaving Canada for a while to play in California.

“It’s always fun going to California, especially Northern California and we’ve always had a great audience in Southern California as well from the very early days of the band. So, it’s always been a strong market for us. It’s always fun to get there, especially this time of year when the weather is kind of iffy here in Canada, when it’s trying to turn into spring.”

Timmins says he especially looks forward to the group’s appearance at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano given the group’s history.

“It was just a venue that we had a lot of success at very early in our careers,” Timmins recalls. “When we used to come down to California we’d always play it and we’d occasionally play it multiple nights. They were all very nice to us. Gary (Folgner) there was very kind to us and made us feel welcome.”

That’s just one of many venues Timmins and his group have played. The group has been actively playing together since 1985. Their music, though usually typically classified as alternative country and folk rock, is something Timmins says is hard to define due to its influences.

“There’s a lot of different influences in it,” Timmins says. “There’s a lot of blues, there’s a lot of folk, a lot of psychedelic rock in there.”

Difficulty in defining their music also extends to their group name of Cowboy Junkies. This, Timmins says, is not unintentional.

“We had a show coming up when we were starting out and the club owner needed a name for the newspaper. We sort of sat around, threw names back and forth and those two words sort of stuck together and we kind of liked it and thought it was odd. It didn’t define anything; it was just kind of an odd sounding name and kind of puzzling and that’s what we thought we needed. We needed a name that stood out so that’s why we went with it.”

That unique name and equally unique musical style has proven to be invaluable to the group’s identity and success both on the stage and in the studio for over 30 years. During that time, Cowboy Junkies have played many concerts and music festivals and also recorded 17 studio albums.

Timmins says he remains grateful for the group’s success and ability to be on very friendly terms, not to mention that the four-person lineup has not changed since forming in 1985 enabling him to make the music he loves.

“It’s a great feeling,” Timmins admits. “It’s really liberating, especially doing it all these years. It’s quite an amazing feeling to be able to express oneself through one’s instrument and with a band and playing your own songs and having people react to them. It’s pretty special. At the end of your work day, people stand up and applaud for you, it’s great. It’s pretty special.”

After the current tour ends in Los Angeles, Timmins says the group will not waste time in getting back on the road.

“In July we go off to Europe. That’s the next stage. We have three weeks in Europe, so we’ll go do those shows and then we’ll come home and hopefully get some time off in August. In November we have some more touring in Ontario and then the eastern states.”

For the Timmins and the other Cowboy Junkies, traveling and singing their music wherever they can is a full-time job that shows no signs of stopping.

“We’re working musicians so that’s what we do. We tour.”

Michael Schenker Fest Returns To Rock In SoCal

MICHAEL SCHENKER plays Whisky A Go Go Apr. 15-17; photo James Christopher

MICHAEL SCHENKER plays Whisky A Go Go Apr. 15-17; photo James Christopher

Legendary rock guitarist Michael Schenker returns to Southern California as part of the second leg of his successful North America Resurrection tour. Concertgoers can enjoy classic and new songs the musician has played through his lengthy, still ongoing musical career at the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles from Apr. 15 to Apr. 17 and the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on Apr. 19.

Schenker promises that all of these appearances will be lengthy, enjoyable and feature a massive variety of music that ranges from his early work with the Scorpions and U.F.O. to newer ventures.

Michael Schenker Fest; press photo

Michael Schenker Fest; press photo

“It’s a long show but it feels like no time at all,” Schenker said. “By the time I play with the first singer and I’m getting into it, I’m introducing the second one. It can go for two hours and forty-five minutes, but it goes by so fast because of the variety of vocalists on stage.”

Schenker says all the vocalists featured in the show are all former musicians he has worked with throughout the years.

Michael Schenker Fest; photo James Christopher

Michael Schenker Fest; photo James Christopher

“It’s three Michael Schenker Group singers: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, and Robin McAuley. Then there’s Doogie White, who used to be with Rainbow, who did a couple of albums with me and who is the current singer of Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock.”

In addition to being grateful to play alongside such talent, Schenker is also grateful for how well-received the first part of his Resurrection tour has gone as it has allowed him to play at locales and venues, he was unable to do so initially. Schenker says he is specifically looking forward to playing in Southern California.

Michael Schenker Fest; press photo

Michael Schenker Fest; press photo

“Cities like Los Angeles we thought of doing something special like at the Whisky A Go-Go because that’s where I started when I was 17 to 18 years old. The same goes for San Francisco which is one of my favorite places in America.”

Schenker cites San Francisco specifically as he recalls one concert he played at when he was 18 or so. Though he admits he is unable to recall everything about it, one thing he will never forget is the memorable response he and his bandmates got from concertgoers in response to their music.

“We had like 60,000 people,” Schenker recalls. “Almost each person had a light on. It was scary. I’d never experienced anything like that.”

Michael Schenker Fest; photo James Christopher

Michael Schenker Fest; photo James Christopher

Although he is now 64, Schenker still remains musically sharp and keen. The German-born musician, has remained constantly active in music having played at hundreds of concerts, produced over 40 albums since going solo and influenced a myriad of musicians.

Schenker owes these successes to his own self-interest in remaining consistent with his desire to produce genuine music on his terms since he was at a very young age.

“I stayed true to myself and I didn’t sell out,” Schenker proclaims. “I’ve carried on for half a century basically. I’ve never copied anybody since I was 17 and my first album was done when I was fifteen.”

Michael Schenker Fest; press photo

Michael Schenker Fest; press photo

With his already impressive list of accomplishments throughout his career you would assume Schenker feels regretful about any missed opportunities. On the contrary: he says his musical contributions throughout the years have left him immensely satisfied with zero regrets and no further blockades to accomplish his goals.

“I built my house on the rock,” Schenker states. “I’ve got everything out of my system, I can do anything I want now. There’s nothing that would make me go, ‘oh shit. I wish I had this. I wish I had done that.’ It’s all done.”

What’s more, reaching his middle years not only makes him more passionate about music but his past experiences in both his personal and musical lives until now have given him a much better appreciation of who he is and the music he’s created over the years to better share it with others in the present.

Michael Schenker Fest; photo James Christopher

Michael Schenker Fest; photo James Christopher

“I’m very grateful for the middle years and now I have a better idea of what happened in the past and I’m very happy about that knowledge,” Schenker admitted. “So now I can simply enjoy being so fortunate in having most of my original co-singers onstage singing the original compositions. It’s incredible!”

Schenker says that he will be focusing on live music until the end of the current Resurrection tour. He hopes that the group’s upcoming appearances in SoCal and beyond shall bring different generations of music lovers who enjoy his music together.

“It’s entertaining and it just stays fresh,” Schenker explained. “How can it not be? That variety of singers plus it brings people back to their places when they used to see us in the old days and for newcomers it’ll be like a time machine and see what it may have been like it those days. It’s a lot of fun.”

Dead Girls Academy To Enroll SoCal Music Lovers

DEAD GIRLS ACADEMY; photo Rebecca Kylie

DEAD GIRLS ACADEMY play the Whisky Apr. 6, The Parish Apr. 7 and Brick By Brick Apr. 14; photo Rebecca Kylie

Dead Girls Academy are coming to Southern California as part of their first major musical tour to celebrate the release of their first major record Alchemy. The five-man powerhouse is set to play at the Whisky A Go-Go Apr. 6, The Parish Apr. 7, and finally Brick By Brick Apr. 14, on tour with guitar veterans John 5 and Jared Nichols James.

Michael Orlando, the lead singer for the group, says he looks forward to these appearances in Southern California as the region is where he now lives.

DEAD GIRLS ACADEMY; press photo

DEAD GIRLS ACADEMY; press photo

“It’s always nice to play a home show and have your friends and family there to see what you’re doing. I mean, I do enjoy it and it definitely is better than playing thousands of miles away. Sometimes it’s just good to be home and rock out.”

Orlando adds that being a big fan of John 5, the upcoming appearances in SoCal are a great bonus.

“John 5 is the guitar player for Rob Zombie. He’s one of the best guitar players out there. So, it’s been pretty much an honor to tour with him and to be selected to head out with him. It’s been great.”

First formed in 2016, Dead Girls Academy is the brainchild of Orlando who sought to create a new group after the folding of his previous band.

“After my other band Vampires Everywhere decided to call it quits, I decided to try something new, something a little more melodic and Dead Girls Academy was formed around that idea,” Orlando recalls.

“I was starting something that would represent me now. I wanted to have a new persona and new feeling and direction for the music. I didn’t want to start beating a dead horse.”

Listening to the hard rock music the group performs definitely showcases this new direction. Personally describing what they play as a mixture of Motley Crüe and Nine Inch Nails.

“We start up with an idea whether it starts with a vocal melody or it starts off with a guitar melody, usually we just kind of work off that and create as we go.”

Orlando credits the creation of the group’s songs, especially those on Alchemy, for the strong cooperation that each member employs in their creation.

“We got a lot of people in the band that are very talented, especially writing for the new record, it’s very easy to write,” Orlando says.

DEAD GIRLS ACADEMY album cover

DEAD GIRLS ACADEMY album cover

Although Orlando says not everything is quite as smooth or as easy. For example, as part of their promotion for Alchemy, the group have been hard at work at creating a set of music videos.

Orlando isn’t ashamed to admit he does not enjoy this aspect of music.

“I’m not a fan of making music videos. You’ve got to stay perfect the entire time. It’s hard, man. It’s one of those things that’s very repetitive. You don’t really get the opportunity to exorcise your demons like you would playing live. “

Actually, being able to play music at live shows is a release for Orlando that recording music doesn’t quite offer. Orlando says that being able to play live with his bandmates is what he always looks forward to.

“I love playing live. I love connecting with people. I mean that’s what it’s all about. Everything else is just the creative part where you have to do a lot of hard thinking. I think the live show is where you can let loose and be yourself.”

Should you ask him what his favorite moment playing live is, he cites one specific appearance Dead Girls Academy made back in 2017. To him it not only represented playing at a terrific venue but a sentimental location.

“It was in New York City at Hammerstein Ballroom,” Orlando recalls. “It was sold out at 35,000 people. It was pretty memorable. I was born in New York City, so it was kind of cool having that experience.”

Orlando hopes to add even more experiences as Dead Girls Academy looks out towards the road as that is where fans can expect to see them for some time.

“At this point, we’re just going to keep grinding and touring and trying to get out to as many fans as humanly possible,” says Orlando. “We have about 38 more dates on this tour and then we are rounding out to go play festivals like at Epicenter and Welcome to Rockville, so we’ll be pretty busy on the road until probably summertime.”

LIILY Brings Hyper High Energy Music To SoCal

LIILY play The Roxy Theatre Mar. 9; press photo

LIILY play The Roxy Theatre Mar. 9; press photo

LIILY, an alternative indie rock group hailing from Orange County, shall be making a stop in Southern California as part of their first major musical tour. The four-man group can be seen live at The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood on Mar. 9.

Maxx Morando, the group’s drummer, notes that this appearance will come one day after the release of the group’s first EP album I Can Fool Anybody in This Town. Concertgoers he says will get, in addition to a great show, the opportunity to listen to some of its songs live.”

“They should look forward to hearing some new songs and they should look forward to watching us go crazy,” Morando promised. “We’ll be playing the day after the EP comes out so they can hear those songs played live.”

Morando says he and his bandmates always look forward to playing in Southern California, especially in the Los Angeles area.

“It’s fun playing there because people that come to our shows kind of go crazy in the crowd and we feed off that energy and it makes us have a good time,” Morando said. “I think in Southern California in general that’s the vibe: it’s a good time and its very fun.”

Southern California is also the official birthplace of the group and where Morando first met Sam De La Torre, the group’s guitar player.

“When Sam and I were younger, we were at a music school and we became friends and we wanted to start a band, so we started a band.”

It was during this time that the two also cemented their group’s name.

“We needed a name and one of our good friends, Lily Rosenthal, just said, ‘hey, why don’t you name it Lily?’ and we were like ‘okay,’ and then we put two I’s in it,” recalls Morando. “There was just two people in the band at the time, but we just kept the name.”

Not long afterwards, the group saw the inclusion of Charlie Anastasis, the bass player, as well as Dylan Nash, the vocalist.

“I was in music theory with Charlie and we went to an all-boys catholic school,” Morando says. “We needed a bass player, so we asked Charlie to join the band. Then Dylan also went to the music school that Sam and I went to when we were younger, so we hit him up and that’s how the band formed.”

I Can Fool Anybody In This Town EP cover

I Can Fool Anybody In This Town EP cover

LIILY has been officially playing since around 2015. The songs they play are described by Morando as being “hyper high energy” with songs he describes as being about “everything and nothing” which he uses to describe some of the weird things that happen in our lives and how we overcome them.
Ideas for these songs start off very simple according to Morando.

“Usually it starts with someone in the band having an idea,” Morando noted. “We have a backlog of a bunch of ideas and then we expand on an idea. We like to see it to its natural conclusion. That’s pretty much what we do song writing-wise. Everybody has their input on what the song should turn out to be, but it usually starts with one person having an idea and the rest of us then go, ‘let’s see where this one goes?’”

This process was used in the making of I Can Fool Anybody in This Town. The album and its six songs represent what Morando says is effectively LIILY’s way of fully committing themselves to a full-time musical career.

“We’ve been doing a lot of things outside of this band and it’s taken us a while to make this band all our focus and now that it is this album is pretty much us wanting us to get out there and do something and say something and make real art. This is kind of like dipping our toes in the water I think.”

The group though, definitely has experience playing live. Morando cites The Echo as being one of LILLY’s most favored venues to play. But no matter where LILLY goes Morando states, he and his bandmates always look forward to the experience of playing live.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Morando said. “It’s a nice energy release, you know, different from recording and writing. It’s a very nice release of whatever you’re feeling and it’s just a lot of fun. I think we all really enjoy playing live.”
Morando says that this experience shall become more of a norm as the group starts embarking on its first ambitious musical tour and first major record release.

“We’re going to release this EP soon and we’re going to start touring soon as much as possible and then work on the next project. That’s pretty much it: just keep writing songs and see what happens.”

California Hearse To Drop Off Pop Punk In SoCal

California Hearse logo

California Hearse logo

California Hearse, an offshoot of the now shuttered punk rock group Gentlemen Prefer Blood, shall be making their first live appearance in SoCal at the La Escalera Fest 7 in San Diego Apr. 12.

Though they are a new band, California Hearse has already put together quite an impressive 6-song EP of the same name which saw its release last month. Jason Gentile, the bassist, vocalist and song writer of the band, hopes that the sound he and his fellow co-founder Mike Morales created sounds just as good live.

“Hopefully we’ll sound good because we have a very good quality recording,” Gentile said. “We’re trying to sound as close to that as possible. Mike’s really nailing the harmony and getting the parts down. So hopefully it’ll be a very clean sounding punk rock experience.”

Speaking of experience, that’s not a strange bedfellow to Gentile.

“I have been playing punk music my whole life,” Gentile says. “I grew up playing it in the 90’s and 2000’s in different incarnations of bands and it’s always been something of an outlet for me: writing songs and playing with bands.”

For Gentile especially, California Hearse is a project that is a reflection of his musical career up until this point.

“It’s kind of a culmination of all my experiences playing in Chicago, playing in Southern California, San Diego, Los Angeles, you know?”

It’s also a means by which he and Morales can continue to collaborate with each other. Their newest venture is owed in large part to a few unproduced songs they never had a chance to perform during their time in their last musical partnership that resulted in the creation of their EP California Hearse.

“Three of the songs were leftover songs from the band Gentlemen Prefer Blood,” Gentile recalls. “We wanted to keep playing together so we worked on those songs together.”

Gentile notes that Morales, though a drummer for Gentlemen Prefer Blood, put tremendous commitment into providing the EP’s guitar work during the initial rehearsal and recording process for the EP that helped cement the formation of California Hearse.

“My drummer Mike sat down with me and practiced all the songs on guitar acoustically,” Gentile explained. “He really learned the songs inside and out. I had a few other songs and so he learned those with me and then we went to the studio of Paul Minor in Orange County and Mike and I recorded it.”

Gentile gives much of the credit to how well the final musical result of their efforts turned out due to the guitar playing of Morales.

“Mike really stepped up to the plate and played 80 to 90 percent of the guitars on the album actually. It was really awesome.”
Besides Morales, SoCal plays a large part for California Hearse and their music which can best be described as pop punk: a mixture of upbeat positive sounding rock that with lyrics that Gentile admits “are a little darker.” Gentile says this almost paradoxical combination is not unintentional.

“Southern California can be wonderful but also very frustrating in terms of traffic and people’s personalities and such can be frustrating,” Gentile admits. “But you have access to the beaches and beautiful weather. There’s a nice aspect to it also. So, there’s a bittersweet component to most of the songs we’re writing. It’s kind of happy music but with kind of bummer lyrics. I guess it’s kind of a reflection of our environment that way.”

The lyrics are also rooted in Gentile’s personal relationships. He admits that much of the music he composes is inspired by their lives and their perspectives.

“I tend to write songs for the people I love or the people in my life who are suffering or going through things,” Gentile said. “So, I try to write their angles and different views. So, it’s kind of like a process for myself and for them de facto I guess.”

Whether in California Hearse or any other group for that matter, whenever the songs he writes are finished, Gentile says he uses a simple and cooperation-based process no matter the group he plays with.

“Recording-wise, I just demo everything into Garage Band and then I give the demos to the band and then they add their tweaks and twists and changes and then we have the song.”

Between now and April though, California Hearse has much to do. As of this writing, Gentile and Morales are focused on seeking out more musicians to create a more studier line-up as well as better solidifying the group’s guitar section in addition to promoting their EP.

“Playing live, I get a little bit nervous, but I enjoy that. It’s exceptional.”

Mxmtoon Uploads Live Somber Music To SoCal

mxmtoon plays Moroccan Lounge Jan. 25; press photo

mxmtoon plays Moroccon Lounge Jan. 25; press photo

Young internet music sensation mxmtoon is to play her music live at the Moroccon Lounge in Los Angeles Jan. 25. The show marks the first time that the inspiring up and coming artist will play a headlining concert which sold out nine weeks in advance.

This isn’t the first time that mxmtoon, the musical handle of the 18-year-old Maia, has played at the venue. She played there last August in a smaller capacity, describing it as “a surreal experience” but one which she is looking forward to doing again on a much bigger scale.

“I’m just super excited to go back to that same venue and to see some returning faces and to meet some new people and just connect with them on a more familiar level I think other than just being on the internet all the time,” Maia said.

Hailing from Oakland, Maia’s one of many musicians who have taken advantage of the internet. Her somber, ukulele-backed sonnets, a sweet voice along with her creative uniqueness have helped earned her over 400K cumulative streams on services like Spotify.

mxmtoon; press photo

mxmtoon; press photo

One might wonder what kind of genre her music belongs to, but even Maia doesn’t honestly know.
“I feel like genre is something that I still struggle with a little bit,” Maia admitted. “I would say, without trying to put it into a genre, I feel like my music is pretty much like diary entries in a song writing format.”

In fact, Maia’s song writing process is coincidentally dependent on her using a diary as a foundation for her song creation.

“The song writing process I feel is pretty simple,” Maia mused. “I keep a journal of different things that go on in my head and then, you know, I’ll figure out a melody which sometimes pops into my head as well, open up RhymeZone and then put together some lyrics and see what works.”

Maia’s most recent EP, plum blossom, is a terrific example of both her creativity and amazing capacity to tell stories.

“plum blossom is just kind of a culmination of my experiences in the last year and the transition period of kind of graduating from high school and then trying to figure out, you know, what does life look like beyond that educational experience,” Maia said.

“The songs are just kind of derived from different people and things that I’ve experienced so far, and I’d like to think that the project is kind of emblematic of my growth and resilience in what’s happened to me over the past time period.”

Maia owes the creation of the songs from plum blossom and her love of music in general to her mother.

mxmtoon; photo Kenneth Munoz

mxmtoon; photo Kenneth Munoz

“I started playing violin when I was six,” Maia recalls. “My mom made me sign up for lessons and then I eventually phased out of that and cycled through a lot of other instruments. I did a lot of orchestral stuff with trumpet and cello and eventually had to pick up the guitar and ukulele in my music class in middle school.”

She thanks these classes for helping her choose the ukulele as her musical instrument of choice.

“I liked it so much that my parents got me one for Christmas and I started playing it on my own time and learning through YouTube tutorials and just self-taught myself basically.”

From the age of 13 onwards, Maia’s ukulele and creativity have aided her in the writing and composition of her own music. She finally started publishing her music online last year using the handle of mxmtoon, a name she owes largely to her father.

“mxmtoon was what I used on Instagram when I was posting my drawings because MXM are my initials and my dad thought it would be a creative idea to add toon to the end as it stood for cartoon,” Maia revealed. “It was a unique name that nobody had taken on any other site so I ended up using it for everything like Soundcloud. It’s stuck with me until now.”

Though Maia’s already acquired quite the following and acclaim at a young age, the opportunity to branch out into the live music scene, she admits is humbling and inspires her toward seeking self-improvement.

“I’m still learning how to sing” Maia admits with a laugh. “I just started doing vocal lessons.”

The upcoming headlining appearance at the Moroccon Lounge isn’t a one shot. Maia says she plans to go beyond making music exclusively in her bedroom as she did during the early part of her career and wants to share it live.

“We have a tour coming up in March and so we’re going to play at some new cities and some returning cities, which is super exciting, and hopefully we can roll out some new music and I can meet some more people face-to-face.”

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.

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.”