Pepper Bring Spicy Hawaiian Reggae-Rock To SoCal

PEPPER play FivePoints Amphitheatre Aug 2; photo Keith Zacharski

PEPPER play Five Points Amphitheatre Aug 2; photo Keith Zacharski

Pepper, a music group known for their uniquely Hawaiian style of rock-reggae, soon returns to Southern California. The three-man band is scheduled to play live at the Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine on Aug. 2 as part of their current tour celebrating the release of their latest album Local Motion.

Yesod Williams, the drummer for the group, says returning to Southern California to play is always terrific for him and his bandmates.

“We moved to San Diego in 1999 from Kona where we were all born and raised and started the band,” he explains. “So, it’s like a second home. It’s a big melting pot of fans and friends and family ‘cause we have so many friends and family that live around Southern California as well.”

Formed in 1996 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Williams joined the band after Bret Bollinger, vocalist and bassist, and Kaleo Wassman, the other vocalist and lead guitarist, approached him at a party after learning of his skilled drum playing. The group has remained together since and has consistently maintained their current line-up.

For the group’s appearance at the Five Point Amphitheatre, Williams says that, as with most of their shows, he expects nothing but people enjoying themselves and their music. As such Williams says he doesn’t expect any problems at the venue.

“It’s just going to be a super rad family vibe. That’s the rad part knowing our fans are ohana.”

To those unfamiliar with the term, “ohana” is a Hawaiian word typically used to describe blood relatives or a strong connectedness between people.

“As far as the people go there’s no real difference in the vibe of the shows whether it be in Hawaii or the mainland. It’s only the surroundings that are different because the ohana is so strong.”

The music Pepper plays is a big part that plays into this aloha spirit. The group’s music Williams says is a combination of two musical stylings: reggae and rock.

“In a nutshell it’s reggae-rock with a Hawaiian flavor. We self-proclaim it Kona dub rock,” Williams says, “We’re just playing good old high energy rock music with a reggae flair to it.”

It’s a flair-filled combo that has helped the group thrive in the music industry since officially becoming musically active in 1997. The group has in addition to playing multiple live events produced eight full-length studio albums filled with upbeat and stylish melodies.

Songs the group produces start off as very simple concepts before becoming songs according to Williams.

“Usually it’ll start with Bret or Kaleo having an idea, whether it be a guitar melody or vocal melody, but usually starting with a guitar. Then we’ll take it into our studio, and we’ll play it together and that’s in a nutshell how it’ll become a Pepper song.”

Their latest album, Local Motion, will have its songs played live at places during the Five Point Amphitheater during their tour. However, Williams says, that Local Motion he feels is one of the most unique and special ones they’ve produced to date in which they thought up the idea for a song but gave it over to their musically talented friends.

“For this album we did it a little differently. We did the initial part where we came up with the idea on an acoustic guitar and a little vocal idea and then we gave it to our friends. They gave us Local Motion.”

Concertgoers who go to the group’s appearance at the Five Point Amphitheater and beyond are not just listening to various music pieces written by Pepper’s three bandmates but that of their friends as well which results in a different and more unique Pepper concert.

For Williams, no matter the music being played, whether by his bandmates or by other friends, being able to share is a guaranteed thrill.

“That’s the best in my opinion. That’s when the songs come to their full life. Because you never know what’s going to happen until you actually play it in front of people because then it’s just like different things happen in the heat of the moment and the energy and the adrenaline that’s going when you play in front of a crowd that’s reacting to it.”

Beyond their appearance at Irvine, the group’s current tour will last until Aug. 25 ending at the Santa Barbara Bowl. What can music lovers expect from the musical representative of the aloha spirit after that?

“More music definitely,” states Williams. “We’re going to be doing some different versions of the songs that we have on Local Motion already so keep looking out for that and then we’re going to be planning another tour coming up here to support the record.

Thunderpussy Brings Rock To SoCal

THUNDERPUSSY play El Rey Theater Jul 17 and Belly Up Jul 19; photo Meredith Truax

THUNDERPUSSY play El Rey Theater Jul 17 and Belly Up Jul 19; photo Meredith Truax

Thunderpussy, the all-female rock group known for their unique vibe comes to Southern California this month as part of their summer tour. The foursome shall play Jul. 17 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and Jul. 19 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach.

Bassist Leah Julius says she looks forward to playing with her bandmates at the El Rey Theatre.

“It will be our first time playing L.A with our new drummer. It’s also one of the bigger rooms we’ve played in L.A so we’re really looking forward to that. The last couple of times we’ve been through we’ve played at the Viper Room. So, it’ll be nice to play a new stage.”

Julius has played on many stages beyond California with the group. Seattle, where the group began in 2013, still holds a special place in her heart.

“We all met through the Seattle music scene,” Julius began. “It’s a pretty small, tight-knight community up here and we were all playing in different bands and different instruments as well. And then Molly (Sides) and Whitney (Petty), the guitar player and singer of Thunderpussy, started the project and sought me out and then sought out a drummer. Kind of the rest is history.”

The name Thunderpussy started there, too.

“It embodies exactly who we are: strong, powerful, feminine. You hear the name and immediately it gets people curious, gets people talking and that’s always something you want in a name. People will remember it easily. So, when the name came about and what we were doing matched it pretty perfectly we just ran with it.”

The music Thunderpussy plays, Julius admits, is itself a kind of love letter the group has to the music they grew up with.

“We get a lot of our influences from like 70’s rock and roll. We love Zeppelin and, you know, all the classics. But we like a lot of modern music. We like a lot of pop music. So, it’s kind of a mix between Zeppelin and Beyoncé and all of the stuff we like.”

The group is none the less unique in itself playing songs ranging from rock out fare though sometimes even more mellow fare. These songs are the brainchildren of Sides, the group’s vocalist, and guitarist Petty.

“Generally, Molly or Whitney will bring in an idea to the table or sometimes even a finished song or parts of a song,” says Julius. We work together as a group to create the beast that then becomes the song.”

The group’s debut studio album that’s aptly named Thunderpussy came out just last year along with their first EP album Greatest Tits. Both proved easier said than done to make according to Julius not to mention their music in general.

“It’s a continuous struggle and aside from the stuff we have to jump through, just to get our music made and heard. Once it’s out there we deal with so much vile backlash on social media through hateful, sexist, misogynistic comments that you really have to have a thick skin to want to keep on going.”
Worse still, it’s an industry still largely dominated by males: something Julius credits for their ongoing hardships in producing music.

“It’s a boy’s club through and through especially when once you get really higher up into the major label realm where we’re at. You know, there’s a way that things have traditionally been done and there’s a way that rock bands who are all males have traditionally been marketed and sold.”

The group still perseveres and for Julius it’s worth it just to be able to share their rock and roll ballads with others, especially on a live stage.

“When you finally get up there and the lights are on and you have your instrument and playing with your fans it’s kind of like the best release at the end of the day and that’s why we do it cause that moment when you get on stage and you get to play with each other. There’s nothing better.”

It’s an effort too that still comes with surprising rewards.

“We recently got to join forces with Mike McCready from Pearl Jam and Chad & Josh from Red Hot Chili Peppers and performed some rock & roll covers and performed some Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen live with those guys for a charity show in Seattle and that was a really incredible experience to be standing on stage playing with some of my heroes.

Julius highly encourages concertgoers to come to the group’s shows as she promises they are in for a good time.

“Check out thunderpussyusa.com to see where we’re coming this summer and we’re hopefully buckling in and making another record and getting it out to everybody as soon as we can. We want nothing more than to release some new songs live for everybody.”

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.