The Sweet To Sweeten SoCal

THE SWEET

THE SWEET play The Canyon Aug. 12 and The Coach House Aug. 18; press photo

The Sweet shall soon be coming to sweeten Orange County’s music scene. The iconic Glam rock group invites music lovers old and new to come and listen to them when they play live at The Canyon Aug. 12 and The Coach House Aug. 18.

While it might be viewed as a fun excursion for concert goers, Steve Priest, the founder for the group, not to mention its lead vocalist and bass player, also views the event as a standard business venture.

“We’ve played there before so we’re going to play there again,” Priest states in a serious tone.

Founded in 1968, The Sweet has established itself as one of the leading innovators of Glam rock. Musically, Priest says its best described as “hard rock with a pop feel.”

But what truly makes this style of music well-known is its trademark visual style of outrageous garbs, hairstyles and platform shoes its performers don. The Sweet became one of the first groups to utilize this flamboyant style when performing live and for music videos. Their unique fashion and musical style helped influence further artists and made glam rock a staple for much of 1970’s.

Today, the music style of The Sweet remains intact but the classic flamboyant look has been replaced with a more contemporary style: something Priest admits he’s glad of as he no longer has to tolerate wearing platform shoes.

“They were a pain in the butt and it was very easy to fall over on stage,” Priest recalls. “They were like wearing diver’s boots.”

Besides its look, The Sweet’s lineup has also changed. Priest’s group is the fourth and latest incarnation which was formed in 2008. Besides Priest himself, the group includes Richie Onori (keyboards), Joe Retta (drums), Stevie Stewart (keyboards) and Mitch Perry (guitars).

Priest is proud of his current lineup and happily proclaims that they live up to the legacy of the group’s initial and most famous lineup of himself, Andy Scott, Mike Tucker and Brian Connolly.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been with the first band,” Priest says. “But this band performs as well as I could possibly expect.”’

Priest adds that the most ideal place to hear their music is still at places that adhere to the old phrase of “the bigger, the better.”

“We enjoy playing places like the Canyon Club, but we also like doing festivals in the summer.”

Crowds still love hearing the Glam rock of Priest and his bandmates. This is not just due to nostalgia but also due to the genre finding newfound popularity within the 21st century. Classic music from the genre is being reintroduced in all sorts of different mediums which Priest hopes continues.

“Resurgence in popularity is always a big plus so, what can I say, I love the idea.”

The Sweet itself has been privy to this resurgence when their most famous song “Ballroom Blitz” was featured in the trailer of the 2016 film “Suicide Squad”. Another of their iconic songs, “Fox on the Run”, has also helped revitalize the group. This is due in large part to its attachment to the recent box-office smash hit “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”.

“The producer of Guardians of the Galaxy [Kevin Feige] is a big fan of ours and he liked the song,” Priest reveals. “He didn’t use it in the movie but he used it in the soundtrack.”

Though not featured in the actual movie, the song’s use in an official trailer for the film, not to mention its official soundtrack album, caused it to spike in popularity. “Fox on the Run” rocketed up to #1 on the iTunes Top 40 U.S. Rock Songs chart and became one of the most downloaded songs last December.

The group has another upcoming accomplishment with next year marking their 50th anniversary. Besides celebrating with live performances, Priest reveals that he intends to make such a memorable occasion more memorable by creating a new studio album: the first since the group’s previous 1982 studio album, Identity Crisis.

“We’re going to try and write a new album, CD, or whatever you want to call it and see how that goes,” Priest states firmly.

Hell Or Highwater Back On The Scene

HELL OR HIGHWATER

HELL OR HIGHWATER play The Constellation Room Apr. 14; promo photo

Orange County is well-known for being the birthplace for all manner of loud, high octane rock groups sporting attitude. One of these is Hell or High Water: a group that has recently come out of hiatus to once more create music both live and on record. The group’s next of many planned appearances occurs Apr. 14 at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana.

Initially known as the Black Cloud Collective, Hell or High Water is the loud-volume brainchild of Brandon Kyle Saller: a long-time lead drummer and vocalist for the Metalcore band Atreyu. Saller says the group’s formation began through his desire to engage in a solo career.

“I was about to go on hiatus with my other band Atreyu and I was wanting to do projects,” Saller recalled. “So I started up what was just going to be a solo thing and it kind of gradually turned into Hell or High Water over the years. It had some member changes, released a couple of albums, an EP, a couple of tours and that says where we’re at today.”

The group began its active participation in music in 2011, during this early period, the group focused a great deal on developing themselves. Saller owes his collobations with other notable music groups as invaluable in helping Hell or High Water grow during its infancy.

“The band was fully independent, self-funded and we did everything ourselves,” Saller explained. “We were able to get out and do a really great number of tours with a lot of cool bands like Avenged Sevenfold, The Darkness, Stone Sour, The Used among others.”

Saller also owes a great deal of Hell or Highwater’s success to Orange County. The area, besides being the group’s birthplace, has been a vital part of his and his other band members success due to how its vibrant musical scene that’s rubbed off on them.

“I’ve grown up here,” Saller said. “Every band that I’ve ever been in has come out of Orange County. The majority of us are actually from a little bit south of the district in San Diego. So we kind of have the best of both worlds where we get a little bit of that scene and a little bit of the Orange County scene.”

Saller even says that Orange County is the birthplace of their latest album Vista. The album is set for a release May 19 thanks to a collaboration between two musical labels: Spinefarm Records and Search & Destroy Records.

The album has been delayed from being released sooner, primarily because Saller is still an active performer with Atreyu. However he’s thankful for this as it enabled a much longer, focused session of music creation for the group.

“Due to Atreyu’s plans it got kind of pushed back a bit, “Saller reveals. ”But we felt that gave us some much needed insight and some much needed vision of where we wanted the band to go. I think most of the best songs on the album didn’t get written ‘til the last portion of the writing process.”

The album’s recent completion coincides with the ending a nearly two year hiatus that hasn’t seen the group play live. That made their return earlier this month at the Musink Music and Tattoo Festival in Costa Mesa the ideal comeback the group sought.

“It was amazing being able to kind of come back into the scene with music,” relates Saller. “It’s such a big show. We played first and I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many more people than I expected watching us. The room was full and it was awesome. To have that opportunity to have such a big opening was really awesome.”

The group aims to make their next appearance at The Constellation Room to be just as excellent. Saller says the performance shall include a mix of songs both old and new with the latter being an early showcasing of songs from Vista.

“I think a lot of our fans have been patiently waiting and they’re going to want to hear a lot of the new stuff,” Saller mused. “We’re definitely going to be pulling out some songs from the older record as well. You know, just really mixing it up and just trying to make something fun and interesting.”

Hell or High Water’s brand of energized music is produced through a traditional band setup: two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. But the most unique aspect of the band Saller says is that all band members pitch in to lend their voices to their music.

“Everyone in the band actually has some form of singing position,”Saller said. “So it’s kind of nice everyone in the band does harmonies and group vocals. Joey [Bradford] actually, our lead guitar player, has a pretty big part in singing as well.”
Each member can look forward to lending more than just energy to their voices for the foreseeable future. Saller reveals that Hell or Highwater shall be making up for lost time keeping the group very busy this year and next. But he is confident they’re up to the task.

“It’s time for Hell or High Water to have our turn and get out and do a bunch of touring and releasing albums. It’s been a long time coming so it’s definitely time.”

Belew Plays Crimson And More

Adrian Belew

ADRIAN BELEW plays The Coach House Mar. 23, Canyon Club Mar. 24, The Rose Mar. 25; press photo

Since 1977, professional musician Adrian Belew continues to redefine music. The groundbreaking artist shall soon be coming to delight both his fans and music lovers in general who live in SoCal. Belew plays The Coach House Mar. 23, The Canyon Club Mar. 24 and The Rose Mar. 25.

This marks the eighth time that Belew has played The Coach House, which along with the other locations on his tour, were personally hand selected by Belew and his musical.

Concert goers who attend shall be treated to the many songs Belew has played throughout his long career. He will be aided by Tobias Ralph and Julie Stick known collectively as “The Adrian Belew Power Trio.” Additionally concertgoers can experience a live rendition of Belew’s latest musical venture: The Flux Project.

The project which Belew says will make it so ‘you never have to listen to the same song twice” ranges from mobile-phone applications to traditional CD releases. Belew’s latest album Flux by Belew, Volume One, is the most recent iteration of this project with the next volume in development.

This experiment and innovative approach to music has helped him become one of the most well known musicians today. He is especially held in high regard for his unique, versatile electric guitar that has won him awards and praise. The latter is best exemplified by Frank Zappa, one of Belew’s most notable collaborators, who once famously declared that “Adrian reinvented the electric guitar!”

Though he has been focused on playing solo since 1989, Belew isn’t wont to be hoarding as he has lent his musical prowess to other high-profile artists and groups. In addition to Frank Zappa, these have included King Crimson, Nine Inch Nails, Laurie Anderson and the Talking Heads to name just a few.

But the most memorable collaborator was David Bowie. Belew famously toured with Bowie twice during his tours of 1978 and 1990. Belew has called the recent death of Bowie so terrific that “no one will ever replace him.” As part of his tribute to him, Belew shall be devoting a significant portion of the music he played during his partnership with Bowie.

In addition to the guitar, Belew is also known for being a skilled multi-instrumentalist. Belew played nearly all the instruments, with the exception of a double bass, for his 1989 album Mr. Music Head. However Belew reserves this talent solely for studio recordings preferring to play his signature Parker electric guitar and equally signature vocals during live performances.

For Belew, every performance to him is a memorable one as he enjoys performing live. He encourages people to attend, especially those who have never heard his music before. Belew hopes that those who come shall have an equally memorable experience as he does whenever he plays.

Captured! By Robots to Hijack SoCal

CAPTURED! BY ROBOTS

CAPTURED! BY ROBOTS play The Complex Feb. 22 and Soda Bar Feb. 23; press photo

If ever there was a musical group that has a monopoly on being technically innovative, very loud and inarguably unique, that honor definitely goes to Captured! By Robots. The robotic-based group will bring their “20 Years of Suffering Tour” to The Complex Feb. 22 and Soda Bar Feb. 23.

The tour is both a celebration of lead vocalist Jay Vance, the creator of his innovative robotic band mates 20 year career and the end of a long hiatus following an “awful break up.” In reality, Vance powered down his robots and took time off to rethink.

“I wasn’t satisfied with what the band had kind of become, you know,” says Vance. “It started from kind of a campy place and it went along this very specific path I was on for years. Once it got to about 15 years out, it started to get very boring to me and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.”

Vance recently surprised the music scene by returning with his robot cohorts this year to release his latest album, Endless Circle of Bullshit, online. This release was accompanied by both a music video and an announcement for his tour that officially begins Feb. 22.

“I’m extremely fulfilled since we did this,” Vance exclaims. “It’s been great. I can get out all my aggression with it and it feels really good. The robots have gotten so good that they can play pretty much what I want them to these days.”

The inception of Vance’s undeniably unique group stems from frustration in working with other human music groups, most notably Skankin’ Pickle and The Blue Meanies. Internal problems led to Vance becoming despondent with his musical future.

“It was just making me nuts dealing with the egos, the overuse of drugs and just people not being prompt,” Vance relates.

Deciding to start his own band, Vance was presented a unique means of accomplishing that.

“I saw this band… they were using a tape deck during heavy parts of their songs. So I wanted to make something similar but not be copying them and since I was having a hard time trying to find a guitar player it just came to me ‘I’ll build a robot guitar player’.”

Applying all of his technical knowledge, specifically repairs he did while touring with other bands, Vance’s goal to create a robot guitar was a success. It was soon followed by six other robots each of whom is designed to speak and play specific instruments. How they work and how they were made are subjects Vance says he’d rather not disclose.

“I don’t like to kind of spread that around that much but it’s very simple technology. I mean, a lot of my stuff that I’m using is 20 years old. It’s ridiculous.”

CAPTURED! BY ROBOTS

CAPTURED! BY ROBOTS

In addition to its robotic nature, Captured! By Robots is also known for its story-based approach. According to Vance, he has been enslaved by his own creations after having spilled coffee onto their CPU boards. This story is played out between songs, entertaining audience members with generous doses of black comedy.

“The robots are super mean. They talk a bunch of crap between the songs. They’re pretty funny. They’re dickish so we generally fight on stage quite a bit and they heckle the crowds. From what I’ve been told, people’s faces hurt from smiling so hard. That’s what they tell me.”

But when it comes time to play, it becomes much more serious. Backed up by the pre-programmed strums and beats of his robots, Vance delivers all manner of high pitched vocal ballads that mainly focus on the poor state of the world.

Songs like “Debt To Be Paid” for example uniquely focuses on the subject of death. Vance uses elderly rabbits he’s adopted as a means to sing about how short life in a style Vance’s describes as “grindcore, metal, punk rock, hardcore kind of shit.”

“The music is extremely aggressive,” Vance states. “It makes you spun up. It makes you feel like you just can take on the world.”

Vance hopes to do that now more than ever on both his current tour and in his future endeavors. In addition to starting up another robotic-based band he calls Teddy Bear Orchestra between later this year and 2018, it’s back to business as usual for Captured! By Robots.

“We’re just going to record another album come next fall and just keep putting out new albums and new videos,” Vance says. “And there’s going to be plenty of really good fodder with all the stuff we have going on in the world right now.”

August Burns Red Celebrates Messengers in SoCal

AUGUST BURNS RED

AUGUST BURNS RED plays Belasco Theater Jan. 24, Observatory Jan. 25, Soma Jan. 27; press photo

Can heavy metal be an uplifting experience? Metalcore band August Burns Red constantly seeks to answer “yes” to that through their music and live performances. The group makes multiple stops in SoCal as part of their ongoing tour celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their second album Messengers – The Belasco Theater Jan. 24, the Observatory/Santa Ana Jan. 25 and Soma Jan. 27.

August Burns Red formed in 2003 in Lancaster, PA. The group became popular in the Lancaster music scene before acquiring their first label, CI Records, who released their first EP, Looks Fragile After All, in 2004. Their first album, Thrill Seeker, was released a year later followed by Messengers in 2007.

The success of these albums and the band’s power-packed performances helped cement the presence of the group in the music scene. The group has toured worldwide, earned critical acclaim and has played alongside other high-profile metal groups such as Avenged Sevenfold and Lamb of God.

The music of August Burns is, as you might expect, very loud while being played passionately and with tremendous gusto. Likewise, Jake Luhrs, the lead vocalist, provides the trademark guttural vocal style that has defined metalcore groups like August Runs Red. This is where the clichés end and where August Burns Red begins to defy convention.

The songs of August Burns Red tackle difficult subjects, namely broken societies and death, but deals with them optimistically. Songs like their recent Grammy nominated song “Identity,” urges others to stand up for themselves and not surrender themselves to people who would undermine their potential.

Songs like these are played in a uniquely upbeat and dynamic manner to match their underlying optimism. From the passionate guitar playing of guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler to the fast, coordinated poundings of drummer Matt Greiner, August Burns Red consistently strives to deliver high volume musical experiences imparting a sense of hope to people trapped in a broken world.

If you’re looking for a generous dosage of inspiration to complement a good head banging session too, be sure to go and see August Burns Red at one of their SoCal shows.

Streets of Laredo Return To SoCal On Tour With CRX

STREETS OF LAREDO

STREETS OF LAREDO play Constellation Room Dec. 5, Teragram Ballroom Dec. 6, The Casbah Dec. 7; photo Jessie Sara English

Streets of Laredo is soon coming to the streets of Southern California. The up and coming folk band is scheduled to play The Constellation Room Dec. 5, Teragram Ballroom Dec. 6 and The Casbah Dec. 7.

The band is currently on tour to promote their latest album Wild. They also have been tasked with being one of two openings bands for the Los Angeles rock group CRX, guitarist Nick Valensi’s (The Strokes) new band.

Sarahjane Gibson, the lead singer and percussionist for Streets of Laredo, spoke positively about the tour so far as she and her fellow band members head to California.

“We’ve been out for about two weeks and we’re going to take a little break before we come over to the west coast and it’s been awesome.”

It is worth noting that the group’s upcoming performance in California ends a two-year absence from the region. Despite this lengthy absence, Gibson is eager to play here once again.

“I think the West Coast does have a slightly more fun, upbeat kind of vibe,” Gibson said. “I like playing on the West Coast because the vibe is good there.”

Streets of Laredo hails from the east coast, specifically Brooklyn, where the group was first formed by brothers Dean and Dave Gibson in 2012 shortly after moving from New Zealand.

Gibson says that the presence of both Dean and Dave, who is also her husband, are an essential element to the band’s success both in terms of their music but as a positive mood.

“I sort of feel like it makes us all feel quite comfortable,” Gibson said. “I feel like there’s a kind of family band vibe and they think very much alike.”

STREETS OF LAREDO

STREETS OF LAREDO

Streets of Laredo is best characterized by its focus on acoustics and trying to achieve the best possible acoustics for their primarily upbeat folk melodies.

“We really care about trying to make the groove of our songs the natural kind of choir for the songs we do through percussions and drumming,” said Gibson. “I feel like it’s really diverse.”

To achieve that acoustic groove, Streets of Laredo adopt a fearless approach in trying all sorts of instruments. Their experiments typically tend to succeed as can be evidenced by the immense critical praise from critics and fans.

Their latest experiment has been introduced on Wild with acoustics produced through a mixture of traditional instruments and synthesizers. It’s a combination that’s again netting the band high praise.

But this approach isn’t just limited to the studio but is a general, all-encompassing approach for Streets of Laredo that extends to concerts too.

“We really do have that attitude of if you’re gonna do something you have go all in,” said Gibson. ”And then when we do tour or are making albums we do really kind of commit to it and try and find meaning in it.”

For Gibson, trying to please fans through their recordings is just as important as pleasing them on-stage. The band tries to make every performance memorable and fun for concertgoers. She is usually able to tell when the band has accomplished that.

“We had a wonderful show in Portland on our last tour of the west coast. That ended up with all of the band out on the stage with all of the audience and it was quite a beautiful, moving thing. It felt really special.”

Buzz Band: SoCal Musician Lauren Lusardi Aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi is a native Californian techno musician. Playing under the name Plasmic, Lusardi is unique not just for her quirky music and style but a textbook example of how hard work does pay off.

For her, that payoff is a record label from the independent run Devour Records.

“I met Devour Records by playing shows at [Timewarp Music] in Venice,” Lusardi relates. “They [the label owners] both worked there and told me they were starting a label and asked me to be part of it. They’re now my best friends and I’ve become not only an artist but a partner to the label.”

Lusardi has accomplished much with their help with her most recent success having filmed her first professionally made music video directed by local photographer Jenna Mason-Brase.

Part of that filming took Lusardi away from her Mission Viejo home to Corona Del Mar just outside of the B Candy Store. Its huge, outdoor décor featuring sculptures of various sweets and candies caught the eye of Lusardi immediately.

“I saw the candy store and I thought it was really cool for my song that was coming out,” Lusardi said. “The song is called ‘Revenge’ but in the lyrics we say ‘revenge is so sweet’. So [the] candy store kind of worked out perfectly.”

The song itself is in large part based on Lusardi’s upbringing: something that wasn’t so sweet. Born in Beverly Hills, she isn’t ashamed to admit that her childhood was a struggle.

“Growing up I struggled a lot with anxiety [and] ADHD,” Lusardi admitted. “I kind of struggled with that and went through a lot of therapy and a lot of my songs are about that. They stem a lot from what I’ve been through and those situations have kind of like shaped the person I am.”

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lauren Lusardi aka Plasmic

Lusardi found solace in music: something she discovered she had an immense talent for creating.

“I always played piano as a kid,” Lusardi recalled. “Then I started making music digitally and then I got into electronic music and then it stemmed from there.“

Lusardi began investing in music at the age of 16. Until being signed by Devour Records, she shared her music both online and playing at local venues while also attending an audio engineering course at Saddleback College.

“My dad’s really been my biggest inspiration in music. [He] kind of taught me how to play everything and then it just stemmed from that.”

She notes how various rock and new wave bands of the 80s influenced her. One group she cites specifically is Devo along with its founder, Mark Mothersbaugh.

“I watch interviews and just really connect with him and how he creates his music and how innovative he is and how he goes against like everything that is punk rock and I feel like I do that a lot with my music. He’s really inspirational to any musician [and] any genre.”

Like Devo, Lusardi isn’t afraid to experiment and try new things. This has resulted in her music being something of a shapeshifting amalgamation.

“It’s like a mixture of like synth pop but also experimental. That’s pretty much the best way to describe it. It’s always changing and it’s always changing for the better I think.”

This helps lend to both the nostalgic and progressive tones in songs like “Revenge” and “Tears Are Routine.” Mixed with lyrics usually inspired by her life experiences, the effect they produce puts them in what Lusardi considers to be a unique genre.

“I did a show one time in Whittier and someone came up to me and told me that my genre should be ‘music to burn Barbies to.’ So I’ve kind of adopted that.”

Her performances however, have been sporadic and usually confined to small venues, recently playing her music at the All-Star Lanes Bowling Center in Los Angeles. Still, despite their rarity, she is amazed to see the effect her music has on others.

“I see people that they go from like standing next to the wall to, like, dancing, like, crazy. Even if they don’t know how to dance they dance and it’s really cool.”

These performances often see Lusardi wearing vivid pink outfits that compliment her playful stage behavior such as tossing balloons out into the audience.

“The reason I wear pink all the time is because I’m taking back femininity and making it powerful and I feel like wearing a tutu is powerful and I learned the hard way feminine power is real.”

Rachael Yamagata Bends The Energy Live

RACHAEL YAMAGATA

RACHAEL YAMAGATA plays The Constellation Room Oct. 22 and Teragram Ballroom Oct. 26; photo Laura Crosta

Rachael Yamagata brings her emotionally charged music to SoCal this month, appearing at The Constellation Room Oct. 22 and Teragram Ballroom Oct. 26.

Yamagata, when asked how the tour was going so far as she prepares for California, responded very positively.

“The tour has been excellent,” Yamagata reported. “I’ve got a brand new line-up of musicians mostly based in California.”

This music line-up features Michael Chaves on the Electric guitar, Adam Kovic playing the drums, Brandon Walters providing the bass and Anne Simpson on the keyboard. The latter two are both in the band “My Name is You” with Walters also playing for the band “Lord Huron”.

Despite this, Yamagata said she was happy to be able to convince them both to set aside time to join her tour.

“They opened for me on a fall tour a year ago and they’re just incredible musicians so I took them as my lineup and I’ve got them involved.”

One member of this line-up which Yamagata places great emphasis on is John Alagia. She mentioned that, despite “popping on and off the tour” due to how busy he is, he will accompany the band into California.

“He’s actually my longtime producer who worked on my very first record Happenstance. He did my very first independent release Chesapeake, Heavyweight EP, and he and I co-produced Tight Rope Walker, the new record together as well and he also did some sections on Elephants…Teeth Sinking into Heart.”

The songs on these albums have proven invaluable in helping Yamagata become a household name in the music scene. Besides becoming recognized for appearances in films and many television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” the songs are also known for their somber, emotional explorations of human intimacy.

Songs such as “Over” and “Nobody” on her latest album, Tightrope Walker, still touch upon this favored subject. But Yamagata notes that musically they are quite different compared to her previous songs. This difference is something the singer eagerly looks forward to bringing to the stage.

“It’s always very interesting to me to figure out how to perform the songs that have very different production flavors for me, particularly on this record. We’re playing with certain things like electronic samples and sound. We’re weaving in some Philippe Petit quotes referencing, of course, the real famous tightrope walker.”

Yamagata derives not just enjoyment from singing her music but even more when sharing it onstage with others. She always does her utmost to guarantee that each of her concerts is a unique and fun experience for those who attend.

“My main goal at a live show is to make them spontaneous and to never offer the same thing twice. There’s a few shows where I’ve just jumped offstage and had some crowd interaction. They really love the sections from the heartbreak ballads and the Arcade Fire-esque delivery of massive background vocals and high energy things.”

The enjoyment of the crowd is instrumental in helping Yamagata find what can best be described as a sort of musical serenity. Being able to achieve it through her music is empowering and is what helps provide an invaluable means of personal motivation.

“There is a moment where I find that on-stage you can almost bend the energy… you can feel a moment when it’s all in sync with the audience, the band, the song, the vibe of the room and that’s what keeps me on the road and looking for it because it’s very, very much based on the energy.”

OTEP Brings Their Unorthodox Style To The Observatory

OTEP

OTEP play the Observatory Aug. 29; photo Paul Brown

OTEP’s upcoming show at the Observatory in Santa Ana Aug. 29 is to be a sweet homecoming for the band, as it was first formed in Los Angeles by lead singer Otep Shamaya. It will also mark the final night of the current tour.

“Coming back to California to play, it’s almost indescribable,” Shamaya said. “We play in so many places that we love but California’s my home. So to be able to come back and play in front of the place I started, it’s really a very proud moment no matter how many times we go there. It feels like an accomplishment; a dream come true to return home triumphantly.”

OTEP’s latest album Generation Doom is the band’s latest success and the main driving force behind the current tour. The album reached #7 on Billboard Rock Chart and #109 on the Top 200 Albums.

Forming in 2000, OTEP has firmly established itself in the music scene for its charged, unique and energetic style. This isn’t just limited to their music but is also true of their fans.

“We played a club once with a canoe on the wall,” Shamaya recalled. “They pulled the canoe off and then they crowd surfed inside the canoe in front of us. That was pretty wild.”

Granted, such incidents aren’t a common occurrence. But typically, OTEP concerts tend to be very lively in regards to both.

“I guess it’s similar to a religious experience but it’s also like a political rally, “Shamaya said. “It’s also like a meeting of the senses.”

Were you to listen to their music, either in concert or recorded form, it’s easy to classify it as heavy metal. Although Shamaya admits that metal is a major influence for the band, she finds this association to the genre unflattering.

“I think that’s unfortunate, not only for my band, but also the genre,” Shamaya said. “We don’t represent metal traditionalists because we’re not a metal band. We’re more of a fusion band or a hybrid band. We bring in lots of different styles and influences and things that inspire us.”

Shamaya actively encourages other musicians to contribute their influences to the band’s already unorthodox and amalgamated style. As to the influences she contributes, Shamaya gave out an impressive list.

“I do scream, I do a lot of the emo stuff, but I learned that from the Deftones. Chino Moreno was sort of my guru in that one. Song structure… I learned from bands like Nirvana, The Doors and Radiohead. Stylistically as a vocalist, most of my heroes were east coast underground hip hop M.C.s.”

Shamaya’s rebellious style and personality is another integral ingredient that’s help contribute to the success of OTEP’s music.

“Growing up with a name like Otep and being an Irish girl in four neighborhoods wasn’t always fun. I got made fun of a lot,” Shamaya recalled.

“In those days you either had to run or fight. I could run, I’m a pretty good runner, but I didn’t run good enough. I liked to fight, so I ended up fighting a lot.”

Even today, Shamaya’s always up for a good fight. However, rather than throwing fists, she fights through the music of her band.

Many of OTEP’s songs like “Smash the Control Machine” and “Rise, Rebel, Resist” are the band’s most popular songs with powerful lyrics urging people to fight against elitism’s many forms, namely bigotry and war. They remain steadfast favorites among her fans and at live performances.

Besides also campaigning for veganism and animal rights, Shamaya, herself a lesbian, is well-known for being a stalwart advocate for the LGBT community both musically and off-stage. Helping people come to terms with their sexuality has been very rewarding.

“I’ve had people thank me for giving them the courage to come out to their families, to their friends,” Shamaya said.

“Because it’s still a very scary world to come out, even in our current environment, especially since [Donald] Trump has happened.”

OTEP will release two new videos while resting up before heading to Europe.

“One [is] for a song called ‘Zero’ and another for a song called ‘Equal Rights, Equal Lefts,’ which is very important to me personally because it deals with the LGBT community.”

Panic! At The Disco Hits SoCal Outdoor Circuit

PANIC! AT THE DISCO

PANIC! AT THE DISCO plays Sleep Train Amphitheatre Aug 3, Santa Barbara Bowl Aug 5, Irvine Meadows Aug. 6; photo Shervin Lainez

Don’t panic but the innovative Panic! At The Disco is bringing their unique experimental style to SoCal in August as part of their co-headline tour with indie rock band, Weezer. The band will be playing at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista Aug. 3, Santa Barbara Bowl Aug. 5 and Irvine Meadows Aug. 6.

Founded in 2004 in Las Vegas, NV, Panic! At The Disco began as a high school rock band founded by four childhood friends: Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, Brent Wilson and Brendon Urie. Their rise to the mainstream is due to the band’s unique, genre defying approach to song making: combining music styles into all manner of unorthodox amalgamations, often critiquing society.

“This is Gospel” for example combines pop with emo rock resulting in a downbeat and sobering song about the alienating nature of conformity. Compare this to the 2015 song “Hallelujah!” which mixes 60’s style pop with traditional rock-n-roll. The more mellow and uplifting tone aids in providing a more inspirational message encouraging people to take responsibility for their behavior.

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, the band’s debut album, despite being a double platinum album, is still considered “the most polarizing albums of our time” according to Billboard. This is owed to the wildly mixed reception the album received for attempting to blend pop music with stylings of vaudevillian melodies whilst exploring taboo topics.

PANIC! AT THE DISCO

PANIC! AT THE DISCO

The album’s lead song “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” one of the band’s most endearing songs, best exemplifies this polarization. The song is a blend of baroque pop and emo rock providing a strangely high-spirited tempo while simultaneously exploring the touchy subjects of adultery, the sanctity of marriage and human fallibility.

However, experimental songs like these have helped Panic! At The Disco earn awards, accolades and a dedicated fan base. They have continued to do so with their latest album, Death of a Bachelor. The album’s single “Victorious,” has recently appeared at the top of iTunes Top Songs chart as well as Billboard + Twitter’s Trending 140 chart.