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08 Oct 2013

Nuanced Rock: The Members of Sunday Funeral Use Personal Tragedies, Humor as Inspiration

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It wasn’t long ago that two members of Sunday Funeral faced separate, life-changing horrors.

The lead singer suffered a near-fatal car accident on a long desert highway. The rhythm guitarist was robbed at gunpoint after buying groceries for his ailing father.

Brian Frang and Justin Ledesma now use these experiences to inspire their music.

Sunday Funeral’s influences range from swamp rock to grunge, with a bit of classic punk and almighty ’70s metal thrown in. Now add fire-hoop dancers, perhaps, to their well-thought-out rock songs, and it becomes clear why Sunday Funeral is gaining fans across the valley.

Brian Frang (singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist), Justin Ledesma (singer, songwriter and lead guitarist), Jeff Mazer (singer, bassist and keyboardist), Jason Obando (keyboards) and Johnny Elsewhere (drums) love to bring a diverse set of sounds to their rock ’n’ roll.

“We want our audience to enjoy themselves,” Ledesma said. “We play just because we love to play music. Fame and glory would be great, but we do it because we simply love to play. From classic blues to Southern rock to heavy metal, we try to incorporate every nuance we can and find that thread of sound that the listeners can just enjoy.”

The band formed in 2007 after Ledezma moved to the valley.

“Brian and I met at the Village Pub in Palm Springs during a ‘Lead Singer of the Band’ night,” Ledesma said. “A three-piece band played music, and the customers were welcomed to sing lead. That’s where it all began.”

In a sense, the roots of Sunday Funeral go beyond that night at the Village Pub.

“I come from a background where many influences in music inspired me, from classic rock to heavy metal. Our influences between me and Brian seem to merge … through life experiences. We tend to work well (as songwriters),” Ledesma said.

Take, for instance, the track “What Is Real,” on the band’s 2012 album Reckless Life Syndrome. The two singers take turns telling their individual stories. Within the track, a subtle softening surprises the listener before the song quickly reverts back to a hard-rock sound.

The band has delved into cinema, too. They filmed a mockumentary, This Is Sunday Funeral (which can be watched in pieces at www.youtube.com/user/Justin5279) for an estimated $3,000. The goal was to offer a humorous look into the band’s journey.

“Although it’s not a polished film, by any means, we just wanted to have fun with it and have something to show people that we love playing music,” Ledesma said, smiling.

After that near fatal-car accident, Ledesma found himself on a creative journey that goes beyond the obvious. He branched out to form The Caesareans, which has its roots as a Dresden Dolls cover band, as a side project. The Caesareans are lead by the enigmatic Kanima Beck, who is also one of the fire-hoop dancers that sometimes performs with Sunday Funeral. Ledesma plays the drums, garnished in full Dresden Dolls regalia.

“We found we really enjoy doing more than one project. Sunday Funeral tends to merge creatively with our other side projects,” Ledesma said.

Though the band has gone through major changes over the years—Ledesma estimates the band has had around 10 members in its six years of existence—Sunday Funeral continues to deliver performances that set them apart.

“We try to give the audience something different every single time we play,” Frang said.

Sunday Funeral’s next performance will take place at Schmidy’s Tavern on Friday, Oct. 11. The Ceasareans will follow with a performance of their own.

“We invite people to come experience our sound and just have a good time. That’s what we are all about,” Frang said.

Sunday Funeral and The Caesareans will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, Suite J3, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on the show, call 760-837-3800, or visit www.schmidystavern.com. For more on Sunday Funeral, visit www.facebook.com/sundayfuneralband. Philip Wayne is a freelance writer who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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