CVIndependent

Tue11122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Until recently, brightener was flying under the radar in the Coachella Valley music scene.

Then brightener advanced to the finals of The Desert Sun’s Tachevah competition. And then the group was added to the first-weekend lineup of Coachella.

Add in the fact that a new album in the works, and brightener’s Will Sturgeon is definitely on the rise.

During a recent interview, Sturgeon discussed how he came up with the band’s name.

“I had been putting out a bunch of solo stuff for years on the Internet, and there was a period of time when I had an active YouTube following from all over the world,” he said. “At one point, I released a solo record under my name, and some Turkish fans commented on my page and said they called me brightener, because I brightened their day. I kind of liked that, and it meant something to me. So I just went with it.

“It’s kind of a solo project, but right now, I have a band that’s solid. The writing and recording is generally my thing, and I wanted to have a name that could kind of evolve and have a band. I didn’t want it to just be about me. It allows me a lot of creative freedom.”

While Sturgeon has that band of musicians backing him now, he recorded his previous record, Hummingbird, almost entirely on his own, playing every instrument.

“When I was a teenager, I had a Mac, and I had GarageBand; I started writing songs, and I would layer instruments on top,” he said. “I’ve been playing piano for years, and I picked up guitar and drums in middle school jazz band. So I know how to do it all, and I really like the process of arranging and recording. I’ve been doing that for almost 10 years.

Hummingbird was more normal. I went to a studio and worked with a mixing engineer, but it was very small process, because only two people were involved (along with) a couple of friends of mine. … It took me so long, because when you work by yourself, you work on your own schedule. When you work with one other person, it takes forever. That record, from the beginning to recording to the release, (took) almost two years, which drove me crazy, because the songs were four years old at that point, anyway.”

In May, Sturgeon will release a new record.

“I went back to my roots. They’re recordings that I feel are authentic and fresh to me, as opposed to the other album, which was a bit more stale because of the process,” he said. “… I really want to get to a point where conception of the song, recording of the song and release of the song is as fast as it possibly can be. That’s partially in response to the last record.”

One of brightener’s former members is Nick Hernandez, who at one time was the frontman of CIVX. Sturgeon said Hernandez has remained supportive and even helped Sturgeon put his current band together.

“Nick is currently starting a new music project, and he was really busy with work. He left the band after we played the 111 Music Festival. He was really great and hooked us up with our drummer, who lives in Pasadena and who comes out here whenever he can to rehearse,” Sturgeon said. “We got our bassist from our drummer, and it feels like a family now.

“It’s hard to keep a band together for brightener, because in Los Angeles, where I was living for a while, all the friends I had there were professional musicians. I’d have them play with me, but because they were professional musicians, they needed to get paid; they couldn’t do my thing exclusively. After coming out here … this is the city of events, where we get hired for events, and we get paid, which is incredible. That’s an income source I never had. I can pay these guys in the band, which is really nice, but they don’t do it for money, which is even better. But I want them to know they’re appreciated, and we split whatever we can.”

Sturgeon explained that his writing happens in spurts.

“I need the time to write, and I go through waves of being really busy or not too busy,” he said. “It’s hard because right now, I don’t have a full-time day job. That’s actually how I wrote this past record coming up, because I had a job that supported me, and I didn’t need to do all these crazy things for money. It just goes in phases, and right now, I’m super busy.”

As for advancing to the finals of Tachevah—on Wednesday, May 18, at The Date Shed—Sturgeon said it was surprising that the band advanced, although the process to get there was a little bit … well, annoying.

“I’ve been in the desert for the past Tachevahs and didn’t have an active band,” he said. “I didn’t really want to throw my name in the hat, because the first step is annoying all your friends online to vote for you, which I don’t like to do unless it’s something you really should do. This year felt like the right time, and I was very surprised that we made it into the Top 10. … Tachevah has been very good to us so far, and we advanced to the semifinals at Pappy and Harriet’s. I got to be onstage with people I loved, and that was super sweet and legitimizing, in a sense.”

Sturgeon has played a role in another up-and-coming local group: He is producing The Flusters’ upcoming EP. During a recent visit with Doug Van Sant, frontman of The Flusters, he played me a track from the EP and praised Sturgeon’s abilities to help the band members rewrite or add to their material. Sturgeon said it’s been great to work with The Flusters.

“Given I do all my own arrangements, I’m my own producer,” Sturgeon said. “Producing another band has always been a dream and a goal of mine. This is the first project for me to start with, because they’re really guitar-based surf rock, and I was in a surf-rock band in college. I understand what they really want, and I think we got some really good takes in the studio. … Doug was looking for another outside perspective, because they’ve been living for the songs for so long, and I know what that’s like. I care a lot about songwriting, and I spent about a month with them in their rehearsals, and if I had a suggestion, I’d throw it out there. A lot of the songs have become more concise, I’d say. That was the goal. It all sounds so colorful, and it’s been really awesome.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/brightenermusic.

The members of the Yip Yops spent much of last summer holed up in their Palm Desert practice space, writing new material and honing their skills.

Turns out all of that work paid off: This summer, the Yip Yops have spent much of their time recording with producer Ronnie King at his studio, Chateau Relaxo, in Thermal—thanks to a recently signed a record contract.

I arrived at Chateau Relaxo on a recent Saturday afternoon just as Mari Brossfield (right), the newest Yip Yop, was getting ready to record her vocals for a song called “Straw Dogs.” Through a handful of takes, her vocals kept sounding better and better. Alvin Taylor, producer and a local drummer who has performed with Elton John, Eric Burdon and Sly and the Family Stone, was also present, and tutored Brossfield on where her vocals fell flat a couple of times.

The Yip Yops have certainly come a long way. The band earned a slot at the Coachella-affiliated Tachevah Block Party in 2014, before spending much of last summer in their practice space. After the Yip Yops re-emerged, the group won the Battle of the Bands at the Date Festival back in February.

Then came the biggest accomplishment of all: In May, the Yip Yops signed with Hood and Associates, a talent-management group and record label headed up by Randy Hood and hip-hop artist Ditch.

Soon after, the band made up of four local teens was recording with Ronnie King, a man who has worked with Mariah Carey, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Rancid, Pennywise and many others.

At this rate, who knows where the Yip Yops will be next summer?

Ison Van Winkle, the band’s guitarist and front man, said recording sessions have been going well.

“There haven’t really been any challenges so far,” Van Winkle said. “I think it’s gone pretty smooth, because for the most part, we’re playing the music we’ve been playing for a while now. We have kind of a clear vision as to how the songs should sound before we come in.”

However, Van Winkle said the experience of recording in a studio has led to some tough lessons.

“You can practice it one way in the studio, and it sounds phenomenal, and then recording in the studio, everything is magnified times 10. You have to change and maneuver around it,” he said.

Drummer Ross Murakami agreed.

“We’ve learned from some mistakes early on,” he said. “But I wouldn’t really say they’re mistakes, just ways to do things better. When we come back to the studio, there will be a different approach, especially for my drumming. I’ll do some programming and have a personalized click going that will make my recording a lot smoother.”

Ronnie King has been a good fit for the band. His studio in Thermal is also a perfect location for the band members, because it means they don’t need to make the trek to Los Angeles to record.

“He was the first person that the label brought to us, and we heard a lot of great things about him,” Van Winkle said. “We met up with him, and things just sort of clicked. We didn’t really see the need to find anybody else. It’s nice to have someone this good, this close.”

King’s studio in Thermal is on a date farm. There’s a swimming pool, a tennis court and a basketball court.

“If you get really stressed out, and you’re over-thinking things, you can just step outside,” said Jacob Gutierrez, the band’s bassist. “The name that Ronnie has given it fits perfectly: Chateau Relaxo.”

Murakami agreed. “You’ve got a tennis court; you have a pool—and there’s a cute little wiener dog to play with.”

King said it’s been rewarding to work with the Yip Yops.

“This project is interesting for me, because I grew up here in Indio; I was born and raised in Indio,” King said. “I left the desert 20 years ago. Ever since I came back, I’ve been really into the local music scene. It’s something that’s starting to gravitate, and it’s even starting to gravitate toward the studio here.

“It’s kind of a weird thing, because I heard about the Yip Yops … through Alvin Taylor. I’ve known this guy for years who works at their label, and he called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign this band, the Yip Yops, to a deal, and they live in the Coachella Valley, and I know you have a studio out there.’ After I went and saw them, I said, ‘This is going to work!’ It’s not a crapshoot, and it’s not just a band off the street looking for a miracle. We have big executives and big financing behind this thing, and there’s nothing left to the imagination—it’s a business deal. … Their dream gets to come true, so it’s been a fantastic time working with them.”


This wildly successful year for the Yip Yops has also included a big change: The three-piece group became a four-piece, thanks to the addition guitarist/keyboardist Mari Brossfield.

“Last summer, I wasn’t even a full-fledged member of the band,” Brossfield said. “I didn’t even know I’d be recording with them. I met Addison (Ison) through our guitar teacher, and I was singing, and Addison was also playing, and he heard my voice and asked me to try singing this song called ‘Sugar.’ It just kind of took off from there—and here we are.”

The other members refer to her as the missing piece of the puzzle.

“Before, it was just kind of a guitar, bass and drums kind of thing,” Van Winkle said. “But then when we brought in Mari, we were able to add a whole new element of keyboards, which is a huge part of the band. Then a female vocal on top of that—it takes it up another notch. She really helps shape the band.”

There’s a fascinating story as to how the Yip Yops encountered Hood and Associates—involving a chance encounter with CEO Randy Hood.

“Jacob and I were leaving Coachella in 2014. We were in the car getting out of the parking lot, and this guy knocks on my car window,” Murakami said. “He’s like, ‘Want to make $100 and give me a ride to my hotel? We drive him to the Hyatt. In the car, we’re showing him our ‘Oduya’ music video, not thinking anything about him or who he is. We were just trying to spread the name, and we’re showing him the music video on a phone, and he immediately came up with some ideas with what he’d want to do with this. He called us three or four months later, and he wanted to schedule a meeting.”

Gutierrez said he still has problems believing this chance encounter happened. “The funny thing is we met this guy driving out of Coachella. We completely forgot about this guy, and all of a sudden, we get this call about meeting up with his manager, because they want to put us on their record label. It’s mind-boggling how that happened.”

But … did Murakami get the $100?

“I did!” he said with a laugh.


After Randy Hood spoke to Ison Van Winkle’s ever-supportive father, Tony Van Winkle, Tony was eventually put in touch with hip-hop artist Ditch, who also works for the label.

“He had some things he was doing, and he was trying to find a way to fit the band into it,” Tony Van Winkle said. “It was a couple of TV pilots and things like that, and trying to see how to incorporate the band, and then after several conversations, it sort of went cold.

“Then back in October, I got a text from him saying, ‘A manager friend of mine is going to be reaching out to you.’ I got a phone call from Ditch, and he said, ‘Hey, we put something together to meet the band.’ He said, ‘If you can bring your equipment, we’d like to rent a studio and hear you play live.’ (The band) did a 45-minute set with Ditch, and the comment I think I remember from Ditch is, ‘I hear 20 bands when I hear you guys perform, and you don’t sound like any of them.’

“Eventually, that led to a proposal, which led to a contract.”

Ditch explained what Hood and Associates does, and what attracted him to the Yip Yops.

“It’s basically everything under one roof,” Ditch said about Hood and Associates. “It’s a modern-day label: distribution, production, artist development, PR and marketing. We spent a lot of time looking for talent and auditions. We’ve gone through every online band you can think of, and we even tried some of them out live. We didn’t find anything. There was nothing innovative and nothing really current; it’s a copy of a copy. We didn’t find anything interesting enough to invest a large amount of money into.

That is, until that chance encounter happened between Randy Hood and his young Coachella drivers.

“(Hood) showed me this music video of these kids he met at Coachella, and they’re in a garage, and there are garbage bags all over the wall. He’s like, ‘Go check them out live,’” Ditch said. “I came out and checked them out at their rehearsal house a few times, and I said, ‘You know what? These guys really have some potential here.’ They were different; their energy was different; their attitude was different; and they all worked well together. It took from January until May to us for them to actually sign them.”

Hood and Associates is deeply invested in the Yip Yops and has goals in mind for the group.

“Randy’s goal and my goal is to get a hit song,” Ditch said, “whatever we have to fuse together to make a hit record—because in this day and age, it’s extremely hard to do that. We’d also like to get the band to work with Skrillex, and we’re heavily in talks with him and his team, and (we want to work) with him or Diplo to get a song to bring us into that festival market. There are some other collaborations we’d like to do, and we’re in the position of where we hope we can do that for them.”

Alvin Taylor said the band’s potential is off the charts.

“I see a real hunger, thirst and desire for them to be the best that they can be,” Taylor said. “I like the quality they have as young people who are very innovative, creative and open-minded. They’re one of the best bands in America I’ve ever seen or heard. Believe me, I’ve heard and listened to a lot of bands. I’m not bragging, but I have 57 gold records and 28 platinum records to my credit, and to be able to take the experience I’ve had working with those groups and bring it to working with these guys—it’s amazing to see how they’re like sponges, and they soak up everything.

“The lyrics are great; the music is great; and the musicianship is at a high, mastering skill. I’m excited to be working with them.”

Stay tuned.

Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald

To some, the success that Little Red Spiders enjoyed in April—the band won a slot at the Tachevah block party, and played on the Coachella stage during Weekend 1—seemed like it came out of the blue.

However, the band has actually been around for a while, and two members are in the well-known Desert Hot Springs band Slipping Into Darkness.

During a recent phone interview, bassist Nigel Dettelbach talked about Little Red Spiders’ origins.

“There was a band a few years back called The Dead Suites. Our former lead singer, Anthony Taboada, passed away last year, and Jesse (Williams), who is now the singer of this band—they would sing together. We had a different drummer at the time, and now we have Nigel Carnahan. So it’s basically the same band with a different lineup. We play one or two of the songs from back then in dedication to our former lead singer. … It feels like a new band, but it’s not, given we’ve been playing together for a long time.”

During Tachevah, the group’s psychedelic rock sound stood out and got people moshing. It reminded me a bit of the music of Ty Segall.

“We all like the ’60s and ’70s psychedelic rock ’n’ roll, blues, and all that stuff. So it just comes out naturally; it’s not contrived at all,” Dettelbach said. “It’s not like we’re trying to fit within a certain genre. If we make a song, we just put our color on it, and it turns out that way. We don’t go out to shoot a certain sound. It’s just all part of our natural writing process.”

Dettelbach said the band went into the Tachevah contest thinking the slot was already theirs.

“You kind of have to go in there thinking you’re going to do it; otherwise, it’s not even worth it,” he said. “I can speak for myself and the rest of the band when I say we’re not into the whole ‘pay to play’ and ‘battle of the bands’ thing, but for something like this? We weren’t going there to lose. We figured that the judges would be hip to what’s going on, and that our sound is a likable sound—catchy, good and relevant.”

Dettelbach said he and his bandmates were never nervous about playing in front of the judges. “For us, it just felt like another show. We didn’t go into it with any butterflies. It didn’t feel much different at all.”

Dettelbach and Carnahan had played Coachella before—in 2013, with Slipping Into Darkness—and they enjoyed their return to the Coachella stage with Little Red Spiders during Weekend 1. The band played with Terry Reid, a vocalist and guitarist who was almost made a member of Led Zeppelin, and who was a judge in the Tachevah contest.

“Nigel (Carnahan) and I were talking about that, and we were really happy and appreciated it,” Dettelbach said of their Coachella return. “It’s great to know even though we’re in different projects that we could do something like that.”

The Slipping Into Darkness crowd has welcomed Little Red Spiders with open arms; in fact, the two bands’ fan bases overlap quite a bit.

“Technically, it’s half the band and the rhythm section of Slipping Into Darkness,” Dettelbach said of Little Red Spiders. “Everybody that’s into the Spiders is also into Slipping, and it’s one big community.”

Dettelbach said a debut Little Red Spiders album is in the works.

“We’ve already started working on the tracking; we’re working on more songs,” he said. “We have a recording facility that we’re able to work in, and we don’t have to worry about paying people to record us, and we can spend as much time as we want on it. It’s a great thing to have. We’ll have something out fairly soon—within the next few months, to be honest.”

Dettelbach thinks both projects can achieve national success through hard work and independent promotion.

“Technically speaking, we are a local band, but we don’t think of ourselves as just a local band,” he said. “…  We plan on leaving the country and being gone for a while. We want to be a national act.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/LittleRedSpiders.

Film

Screening of ‘Tim’s Vermeer’

Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all of art: How did 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically, 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers. This is a Penn and Teller Film, produced by Penn Jillette. Q&A to follow with Lisa Soccio, assistant professor/gallery director at College of the Desert. 6 p.m., Thursday, April 16. Free. University of California at Riverside—Palm Desert, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert. 760-202-4007; palmdesert.ucr.edu/programs/ArtDoc13.html.

Music and More

Aiden James

Don’t miss Aiden James performing his latest single, “Last Reminder,” from his album Trouble With This, which launched at No. 28 on the iTunes Top 100. Dinner at 5:30 p.m., with show at 7 p.m., Friday, April 10. $20 show only. Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 800-838-3006; purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Best of Sam Harris

Sam Harris’ career has run the gamut from singer and songwriter to actor on Broadway, film and television, to writer, director, producer and now, author. After winning Star Search in its premiere season, Sam and his powerhouse pop, gospel and theater influenced vocals have never looked back. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 11. $60 to $75. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Cabaret 88: Donna Theadore

An American actress and singer who first came to attention as a headliner at many famous nightclubs during the 1960s, Theodore won a Theater World Award and Drama Desk Award, and received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 1975 musical Shenandoah. She is best remembered for her appearances with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, making more than 50 guest appearances. 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 8. $88. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Comedy at the Symphony

Piano humorist Wayland Pickard leads an evening of music and comedy in the PBS tradition of Victor Borge, Roger Williams, Peter Nero and Liberace—all rolled into one. His impressions include selections from famous “piano men” such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Scott Joplin, Jerry Lee Lewis and even Schroeder from “Peanuts.” 7 p.m., Saturday, April 11. $25 to $45, with discounts. Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-360-2222; www.cvsymphony.com.

Opera in the Park

This free annual concert is a celebration of opera music. Bring a picnic lunch and join thousands of Coachella Valley residents and visitors to enjoy an afternoon of incredible music in an informal, tranquil outdoor setting with a professional orchestra and eight young up-and-coming opera singers. Noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 12. Free. Sunrise Park, 401 S. Pavilion Way, Palm Springs. 760-325-6107; palmspringsoperaguild.org.

Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus Presents: Extrabbaganza

The Swedish pop group ABBA topped the music charts from 1975-1982. Their music found new life in movie musicals. The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will perform a long list of ABBA’s hits. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 25; and 3 p.m., Sunday, April 26. $25 to $50. Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, Palm Springs. 760-219-2077; www.psgmc.com.

Tachevah, A Palm Springs Block Party

A concert for music fans midway between the two 2015 Coachella weekends. The celebration of music and our city takes place outside the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs, and a DJ will keep the party rolling in between band sets. 5 to 10 p.m., Wednesday, April 15. Free. Spa Resort Casino, at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Calle Encilia, Palm Springs. Facebook.com/Tachevah.

The USO Variety Show

The USO has been entertaining troops worldwide in times of peace and war for more 70 years. Now, the Bob Hope USO needs you to laugh, enjoy and have some fun remembering the good ol’ times. Join us for a live nostalgic tribute to Bob Hope and his band of Hollywood celebs; enjoy free tours of the museum pre- or post-show time. 2 p.m., Thursday, April 9. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; palmspringsvacationtravel.com.

Zero Gravity: Music Festival After Hours Party

Zero Gravity will feature a mixture of top talent, emerging artists and special guest appearances. This year, the fairgrounds will be transformed into a mega-club party with amazing sound, lighting, lasers, larger-than-life artwork, exceptional VIP services and more. 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 10-18. Must request an invitation at the website; lineup and ticket prices TBA. Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, Indio. Rocketboyevents.com.

Special Events

Cathedral City LGBT Days

Not your typical Pride event, this weekend promises to be interactive, festive and OUTrageous! Enjoy area restaurants, music, hot air balloon rides, the costume “charity bed race” LGBT films and more. Various times, prices and locations in Cathedral City. Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 5. 760-770-0340; www.discovercathedralcity.com/index.php/event/cathedral-city-lgbt-days.

The Dinah Shore Weekend

Club Skirts presents The Dinah, the largest girl party music festival in the world, rocking Palm Springs since 1991. Various times and locations, Wednesday, April 1, through Sunday, April 5. Prices vary; weekend passes $269. Thedinah.com.

White Party Palm Springs

The largest gay dance party in the world. DJs, live performances, pool parties and more. Various times, prices and locations, Friday, April 24, through Monday, April 27. Jeffreysanker.com.

Visual Arts

99 Bucks Sale

The Palm Springs Artists Council presents this annual major fundraiser for the Education Department. Celebrities as well as Artists Council members and other artists create artwork on 5-by-7 canvases for this popular and intriguing one night event. The purchaser selects works to buy, and only after purchase do they learn the name of the artist. 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, April 11. Free. Riviera Resort and Spa Grand Ballroom, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-4850; www.psmuseum.org/artists-council.

Indian Wells Arts Festival

More than 200 award-winning artists featuring hundreds of pieces of one-of-a-kind artwork available for purchase. The Second Annual Objet Trouvé Found Art Festival joins once again, featuring award-winning found artists creating a “festival of festivals.” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 5. $13; children 12 and under free. Indian Wells Tennis Garden, 78200 Miles Ave., Indian Wells. 760-346-0042; www.indianwellsartsfestival.com.

Submit your free arts listings at calendar.artsoasis.org. The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun

La Quinta’s Alchemy has been around for several years, and has featured several different sounds. However, the band is finally coming into its own—as proven by the fact that the psychedelic-meets-indie-rock band will be on the roster for the Tachevah block party, after winning the first Tachevah showcase on Jan. 28 at The Date Shed.

During a recent interview in La Quinta, guitarist Danny Gonzalez, keyboardist Roger Chavez and vocalist Andrew Gonzalez talked about the history of the band.

“This is kind of a project we’ve had going on for about two or three years—maybe even four,” said Danny Gonzalez. “It was me and Eric (Lopez), the bass player, and Luis (Monroy), the drummer. We just started jamming and playing cover songs. We decided to play some shows and get this thing going. We went through a lot of singers. We found some who were actually willing to do it, but there wasn’t enough motivation. Finally, in the spring of 2014, we met up with Andrew. It was about a month after last year’s showcase for Tachevah.”

Chavez said the addition of Gonzalez, shortly after the band came up short in last year’s Tachevah competition, changed the group’s sound yet again. Gonzalez explained how he found his way to Alchemy.

“We were at a party, and we were talking about our bands, and I was talking to them about how things were really rough in my band, and we lost two of our guitarists,” he said. “They were talking to me about how they didn’t have a lead singer, and they couldn’t get started, and I … said I’d be down and would really like to try it out. The very next day, I went over. They said they liked my sound. Danny sent me about three songs that night, and he told me to write lyrics to them and get used to it.”

Chavez said the group once sounded like The Strokes; Danny Gonzalez said he felt the group’s sound was “more punkish and rough,” like a garage band. Today, Alchemy’s sound is a lot mellower. Danny Gonzalez said he doesn’t like to use a lot of guitar distortion, and Chavez said he uses a lot of synths and electronic drum pads.

“When we make music, we sit down and just jam out. We experiment with stuff,” Danny Gonzalez said.

The band members said they didn’t hesitate to compete again for Tachevah after missing out last year.

“With the singing and the reaction of the crowds, we knew we were going to get a better response than we did last year,” Chavez said. “We weren’t a known band last year. After last year, we played more shows in the valley; we got more familiar with people; and we made a lot of fans.”

All of this work paid off at the Tachevah pre-show competition at The Date Shed, when the band went up against Elektric Lucie, Ideation, Thr3 Strykes and The Death Merchants.

“The feeling of playing a song and looking into the crowd and seeing a handful of people singing along to the lyrics, singing along to the choruses, is amazing,” Chavez said. “We got people chanting our name and wanting an encore. I’m amazed the judges let us do one.”

Andrew Gonzalez agreed. “I said, ‘No, they’re professional about their stuff … and they’re not going to let us play an encore.’ I just remember everyone chanting for an encore, and one of the people told us to go ahead and do it.”

Danny Gonzalez said the band is using the time between now and the Tachevah concert in April wisely. They’re working on recording their first full-length album and are trying to improve their existing songs.

“Even if we don’t finish it, we’re not going to rush things,” Danny Gonzalez said about the album. “We want to see what we can do as a band, and maybe we can come up with better jams for the songs.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/AlchemyCV.

The Yip Yops won a coveted slot at the Coachella-related Tachevah block party back in April.

And then, the three teens seemingly disappeared, save a few shows here and there. Turns out they’ve had quite a summer vacation.

The band recently invited me to frontman Addison Van Winkle’s home in Palm Desert. The band practices in the pool house behind the Van Winkle family home—and these are the nicest digs I’ve seen any local band have for a practice space.

There’s air conditioning. There’s nice carpet, couches and top-of-the-line equipment, featuring brand names like Fender and Gibson.

The band played two new songs for me; Van Winkle’s father, Tony, played the keyboards on one of them. Van Winkle’s vocals are somewhat similar to those of late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, and the band’s sound hints at ’80s alternative—but with an experimental touch that is not typically heard in music today. Van Winkle, 15, looks as if he’s in another world as he sways along, playing his guitar and singing. Ross Murakami, 18, the group’s drummer, is a hard-hitter with impressive skills, and bassist Jacob Gutierrez, 15, gives offbeat songs even more of a personality.

Van Winkle said Murakami offered him the primary motivation for starting the band.

“On a random day, we got asked by a family friend to come over, because their band was playing,” Van Winkle said. “It just happened to be Ross’ old band. I went over there, and I was the shy guy, kind of like a turtle, sitting there and not saying anything. When we were sitting there, my dad looked over at me and said, ‘It’s incredible how hard that drummer hits!’ You couldn’t take your eyes off of it.”

Van Winkle, a La Quinta High School student (along with Gutierrez), started the Yip Yops about year later.

“It was a week after I broke up with my old band,” Murakami said. “It was weird timing.” He soon became a Yip Yop.

The band won a slot on the Tachevah stage—and the experience inspired them, they said. Gutierrez said he and Murakami zoned out and found a place where they played better.

“When you see everybody responding to what you’re doing, it makes you so much more inspired to play,” Gutierrez said. “… It was so crazy how fast the set went by.”

After Tachevah, the band members at first wanted to play more shows right away, but they instead decided to spend their summer vacation largely under the radar. They’ve practiced for at least several hours almost every day, and Van Winkle has written about 10 new songs, they said.

Where does the dedication come from? Murakami and Gutierrez both pointed to Van Winkle.

“A lot of the latest songs, I’ve been programming on my computer,” Van Winkle said. “I’m in here constantly, until 3 in the morning sometimes.”

Murakami attested to that fact. “I bet most of the time, when Jacob and I aren’t here, Addison is here working on a new song.” 

Do they ever wish they could be doing something else—like taking time off and enjoying their summer vacation?

“Sometimes, it gets a little boring,” Gutierrez said. “… It’s funny that my mom told me the other day, ‘This summer has been really entertaining.’ I’ve been at this house a lot. Throughout the week, when she’s at work, I’m at band practice. When she’s off work, she picks me up. When she goes to work, I go to work.”

Murakami, who has already graduated from high school, also works a part-time job at Hot Dog on a Stick in the Westfield Palm Desert.

“I just got promoted to ‘assistant hot-dogger,’” Murakami said with a laugh. “I’m getting a lot more hours, and even with those long hours, I’m still here more than I am at work. I don’t have school in the picture, so the time I don’t spend here is pretty much at work. This is my home away from home, I guess.”

The Yip Yops have been working on new material, but they aren’t interested in recording an album to sell independently. Instead, the band members said—without going into specifics—that they’ve been sharing material with record companies, some of whom have expressed interest.

When it comes to the dream of being career musicians, the Yip Yops have ample support from Addison’s father, Tony Van Winkle.

“When it started out, I looked at it as Addison’s hobby,” Tony Van Winkle said. “As this trio came together, and seeing the talent they have, seeing the way they work together, and the commitment that they have, it didn’t take long to realize that it was more than that. They had a very strategic conversation about where they were going and (their goal of) getting on to the final bill for Tachevah. They set a goal for themselves—and they went out there and did it.

“I’m a bit surprised that they are as committed as they are, but I realize with Addison that he has to do this. It’s something that’s in him. He wants to get it out, and he wants to do this for a living.

For more information on the Yip Yops, visit www.facebook.com/TheYipYops.

The band CIVX has come a long way since three of the members broke from PSSSTOLS to form their own group late last year.

Nick Hernandez (bass), Joel Guerrero (drums), Dillon Dominguez (guitar) and Sal Gutierrez (guitar) were chosen to play at Tachevah, a Palm Springs Block Party, this past Wednesday, April 16—and shocked those in attendance when they announced they would be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 20.

One thing is for sure: They looked like they belonged on the Coachella stage.

At 11:25 a.m., CIVX took the Mojave tent stage. The hard-core fans of the Cathedral City band were on hand to witness it, including Guerrero’s girlfriend, Aurora Jimenez. Ross Murakami, of The Yip Yops, who played with CIVX at Tachevah, was also on hand. The band had a decent-sized crowd, considering the doors had just opened, and fans were trickling in the festival grounds.

At Coachella, Hernandez said he and his bandmates were shocked when they learned shortly before their Tachevah performance that they would be playing at Coachella.

“We’re a new band,” Hernandez said. “We’ve only been together for about four months. It’s just really a shock. It’s definitely a learning experience, and it gets us motivated. We just want to work harder now to achieve our goals.”

Gutierrez agreed. “We’re ready to work hard,” he said.

Dominguez reflected on what it meant to be added to the Coachella lineup.

“When I’ve seen the other talent out here, it’s inspiring,” Dominguez said. “It makes you want to fill up your sound and make it more crisp. It’s exciting that somebody saw enough in us to want us to play here already, and they can see that potential in us. We want to expand on that for sure.”

When it came to the subject of PSSSTOLS, Guerrero explained what led to him leaving the group, along with Hernandez and Gutierrez.

“It was all about differences,” Guerrero said. “The chemistry wasn’t really there in the end. We wanted to do different things. We just kind of knew it wasn’t going to last very long. It just died out in the band, and we decided to call it quits back in September. We kept it on the down low and didn’t want to really say anything.”

During the performance in the Mojave tent, attendees could literally feel Hernandez’s bass: The ground near the stage was vibrating. His vocals were excellent, even though he said he had not been feeling well throughout the week and had some concerns about performing.

The band can now say it’s had an experience that most bands can only dream of.

“It was surreal, and it was one of the beautiful things I’ve ever experienced,” Dominguez said.

Hernandez said it was awesome simply to be on a Coachella stage. “Once you’re on there, you just want more of it. It’s fun; you have a good time doing it; and it feels good. That’s why we’re musicians.”

Guerrero said the band members are in awe at the month they’ve had.

“We started playing in local venues here, and then all of a sudden, we’re at Tachevah,” Guerrero said. “We didn’t even think we’d get in the Top 10, and then Tachevah was our first big stage where we performed. From there to Coachella? It’s such a big jump from local venues to such a big venue.”

I had to ask Gutierrez a follow-up question based on an interview I did with PSSSTOLS last year: Does he still have a love for “space wine”—the bag from boxed wine, sans the box?

“No, I’m slowing down on the space wine,” Gutierrez said with a laugh. “I haven’t had any in a while.” 

Tachevah, a Palm Springs Block Party, offers a great concept: It allows up-and-coming local acts to take the stage with nationally recognized bands—in the midst of all the Coachella-related music insanity.

In the second year of Tachevah, Fitz and the Tantrums and Classixx will be joined by three local acts who won their slots via a public poll, followed by showcases at the Hard Rock Palm Springs: CIVX, from Cathedral City; One11, from Coachella; and the Yip Yops, from Palm Desert.

Only 10 bands were selected to play at the Hard Rock showcases, where they performed for the likes of country singer Shelby Lynne, The Desert Sun music editor Bruce Fessier, and representatives of Goldenvoice (which puts on the party with The Desert Sun, P.S. Resorts, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and the city of Palm Springs).

During the first showcase, CIVX beat out local scene veterans Blasting Echo, along with In Viridian, Elektric Lucie and the mysterious local band Alchemy. At the second, One11 and The Yip Yops won slots, beating out one of last year’s winners, Tribesmen, along with The Mellowdie and The Morning After.

We decided to get to know these three local bands a bit.

CIVX

Cathedral City’s CIVX was born after the dissolution of local band PSSSTOLS. Former PSSSTOLS members Nick Hernandez, Salvador Guti and Joel Guerrero formed the band after recruiting guitarist Dillon Dominguez.

“When Sal and I were in PSSSTOLS, we were writing music on the side,” Hernandez said. “I would do my solo thing and record the songs by myself with drums, bass and guitar, and this was while PSSSTOLS was fading out a bit. I told Sal I wanted to do something with one of the tracks that I did, and Sal played on that track. From there, PSSSTOLS just kind of broke up, and we planned to do something else. So Dillon, the other guitar-player we have, he was in another band that I played in, and he decided to come with us, too. After that, we got Joel to come along, too.”

In January, CIVX played its first show under the name of Past Decades, along with Parosella and Tribesmen.

“We didn’t let anyone know that we had formed another band,” Hernandez said. “We had just gotten Joel in the band, and we only had about four original songs, and one of them, I didn’t even write the vocals for yet, so I just hummed out the melody for that whole song. People didn’t understand it; they thought I was singing vocals, but I was just sort of humming and making up stuff as I went along.”

When the band entered their video for the Tachevah poll, the members had low expectations.

“We just wanted to enter the competition,” Hernandez said. “We were like, ‘We’ve only been a band for such a short time, and we have nothing but having just played a show.’ We had one of our fans record us about a week before the deadline. Two days before Tachevah, we went out to the desert for recording the video with our cell phones. That whole night before, we just worked on the video. We didn’t know what to expect, because we just did it for fun.”

The members were stunned when they learned they had nabbed a spot in Tachevah.

“It was one of the best things I have ever felt,” Hernandez said. “I’ve never been in a competition like that. A lot of the local bands we like have played something for Goldenvoice, and it felt so good to play at that level.”

The members of CIVX have been working on new material, and Hernandez said the band will play a new song during their performance. “We have this one new song that we’re working really hard on, and it’s already done. We’re just adding new stuff here and there, and this song is pretty much Tachevah-made. When we write music, we want people to be into the music as much as we are, and just going into it with that.”

The Yip Yops

Like CIVX, The Yip Yops are also new—in fact, they are only about six months old. During a recent interview, guitarist and lead vocalist Addison “Ison” Van Winkle talked about how Jacob Gutierrez (bass) and Ross Murakami (drums) joined him to create the band.

“I met Jacob in seventh-grade at a talent show; we actually competed against each other,” Van Winkle said. “After we performed, he came up to me and asked me if I was doing anything or if I was in a band. I didn’t really have answer, and being the douche that I am, I was blowing him off for a little bit. I met Ross about a year or so before I started the band. … It was one of the reasons why I started the band, because I saw him and his former band playing at a family friend’s house, and it was a life-changing experience seeing how cool it was interacting with other guys playing music and sharing music.”

While the members of The Yip Yops certainly didn’t expect to earn a Tachevah slot this year, it was a goal they had in mind. 

“When we first got together, our main goal was to play Tachevah,” Van Winkle said. “That’s kind of what we were getting ready for a little bit. We knew it was going to be a real big struggle, because we weren’t around as much; we didn’t have as many fans like Parosella or One11 does. Somehow, we just spread the word, and we got in. We’re kind of blessed to be in this position and have all the fans and support we have behind us.”

Playing the showcase at the Hard Rock alone was a dream come true for the band.

“Speaking for the whole band, I think that was one of the best experiences that we’ve had as a band and probably in our entire lives,” Van Winkle said. “Just the energy of the crowd, the energy of getting up on stage in front of Goldenvoice and Shelby Lynne—I think we just liked the pressure of doing that kind of thing.”

Van Winkle said his band hopes to turn in a solid performance at Tachevah.

“It’s not like any other gig because of the exposure, and a lot of people are going to be there,” Van Winkle said. “It’s going to be bigger than anything than any of us have ever thought about. I just think we’re going to do the same thing as we did for the voting: We’re just going to tell as many people, and hope for the best. We’ll see what happens.

“We don’t really have any fears. … It’s all part of the experience for us. It’s cool enough for us just to be on the lineup and playing there.”

One11

One11 may be more experienced than CIVX and The Yip Yops, but they aren’t exactly the Rolling Stones: The group has been together for just two years.

However, the band has made the most of that time, playing more than 200 shows both locally and in well-known venues around Los Angeles, such as the House of Blues, The Roxy, and The Key Club.

One11 has become a local favorite thanks in part to their combination of pop-punk and an alternative sound.

“We all have a lot of different inspirations,” said drummer Ryan Cenicola, whose bandmates are Evan Boydstun (lead guitar), Michael Ramirez (lead vocals, guitar) and Matt Sutton (bass). “Our guitarist is really into classics like Led Zeppelin; I’m into Green Day; our other guitar-player is into Arctic Monkeys, and it all just comes together into this unique sound. We all bring our own unique twist into it.”

When it came to entering Tachevah, they focused on putting together the best video entry that they could. When they found themselves in the showcase, they knew they had some intense competition.

“The competition was really, really fierce,” said Cenicola. “I saw CIVX when they played, and they were awesome; The Yip Yops are really cool, and every band that played was awesome. After we played, we felt good about ourselves, but with the competition being so fierce, we knew it could have gone either way.”

While One11 has played many shows, Cenicola said he was still blown away the amount of support they received during the showcase.

“I can’t believe how many people came out to see us,” Cenicola said. “It was awesome how many people came out to support us. All of us were overwhelmed with the love we were given. It was a really unique show, because it was intimate, and I just wanted to play my heart out so I could earn this spot at Tachevah.”

Cenicola said that Tachevah represents the big time to the band.

“This show is obviously going to be of a higher caliber, because a lot of people are going to be there, and it’s on such a huge stage,” Cenicola said. “Because it’s on a huge stage, we need to make it a huge show. We’re going to tweak our show and make it as big as possible, as great as possible, and bring as much energy as we can.”

The Tachevah Block Party takes place on Wednesday, April 16, at the Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs. Doors open at 5 p.m., and admission is free. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Tachevah. Below: One11.

Published in Previews

One year after winning the chance to play at the Tachevah block party in Palm Springs, Tribesmen continue to gain notoriety throughout the Coachella Valley.

The group came together through jam sessions scheduled with the intention of forming an actual band. Alec Corral (guitar), Leslie Romero (bass) and Freddy Jimenez (drums) played a distorted style of rock ’n’ roll that Corral compared to that of the White Stripes.

Wilber Pacheco (guitar) was in another band at the time that Tribesmen formed, but soon became interested in what the three members were doing.

“I went to one of their band practices, and they were just going to play rock stuff,” Pacheco said. “I was like, ‘I’ll just hang out,’ and then (Corral) starts playing in this awesome tone. I was like, ‘Holy shit, dude! Does the offer still stand to be in this band?’”

Tribesmen doesn’t have a vocalist, and the band doesn’t plan on adding one any time soon; they originally intended to have a vocalist, but were unable to find one and decided to instead make instrumental music—something that few bands have managed to make work, outside of Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Red Sparowes and a few other groups. However, none of those groups were among their influences.

“We make the songs more along the lines of cinematic scores,” Corral said.

Pacheco explained further why the band doesn’t have a singer.

“We’re very specific,” Pacheco said. “… To be honest, I think (a singer) makes or breaks a band. I’ve heard some really sick (in a good way) intros before, and I think, ‘Oh, this band is going to be sick, I can tell!’ Then the lead singer starts singing, and I’m like, ‘Oh, never mind.’

“I’d rather be criticized at first because people aren’t used to it. We got a lot of criticism after our first shows, and people asked us, ‘Why don’t you have a singer?’ Now, people get it, or they’re starting to get it.”

Corral said the members of Tribesmen don’t necessarily think of themselves as musicians.

“We don’t know all these notes, time, key and all that stuff,” Corral said. “We just play whatever sounds good to us. If it sounds good, we’ll keep playing it and keeping it going.”

Their songwriting process tends to be rather complex.

“When we’re creating songs, we jam for two hours just on random stuff,” Pacheco said. “Either a small clip or just 10 seconds can make us stop and go, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! What was that you just played?’ We’ll just play that, and then we’ll work off of that for the next week or so, trying to make that into a song.”

All of this takes place in a Coachella practice space that has no air conditioning or heat.

“We’re working on it, though,” Corral said. “We’re working on adding more guitar pedals, and an A/C unit to help us out.”

Of course, the heat didn’t stop the band from holding an after-party at their practice space after playing The Hue Music and Arts Festival in Coachella last year.

“It was really hot,” Pacheco said. “I don’t know why, but we felt really compelled to have an after-party in our band room. More people than we expected came through. We had probably like 50 or 60 people; 30 of us were in the band room, and the rest were outside.”

When the band won the chance to play at the first Tachevah block party last year, the members were elated and nervous at the same time. They enjoy having a few alcoholic beverages before they perform, but one of the members of the band Passion Pit had just been through rehab—and the backstage area was an alcohol-free zone.

“They specifically said no beer in the green room or anywhere,” Corral said. “We were just in the green room chilling, just dry as fuck.”

The nervousness led to a bit of paranoia about their equipment.

“Nothing was going to mess up,” Pacheco said. “I opened up my amp and made sure there were no loose screws. I made sure everything was working, and I bought a bunch of new cables.”

Corral said his uncle helped ease their fears.

“As soon as he heard (about the show), he asked me if I needed anything. I didn’t ask him for anything, but when it came down to the wire, I asked him for some new cables. I bought a new amp at time—a tube amp instead of a solid state. We didn’t want to fail to impress.”

However, once they took the stage, the band members felt like they belonged, Corral said.

“It was an amazing experience,” Corral said. “As soon as we got onstage to set up our equipment and heard our sound, we went back in the green room, and we’re like, ‘You know what? We’re not going to play to a bunch of people, because we’re opening.’ As soon as we came back on, there were loads of people everywhere.”

Tribesmen went on to play several local shows in the past year, as well as gigs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. A local show with the Sweedish band Truckfighters last fall wound up being particularly helpful.

“They gave us some good advice, along with touring advice,” Pacheco said. “The drummer, Poncho, bought one of our band shirts, and he was wearing it while he was playing the show! I was like, ‘The drummer from Truckfighters is wearing our shirt!’”

The band is hoping to play at the Tachevah block party again this year, and are one of the 10 finalists. (Cathedral City’s CIVX was selected to perform by judges after the March 12 battle-of-the-bands showcase; Tribesmen will play at the second showcase, on March 26.) They submitted a music video that they recorded recently for their song “Alpine.”

“Last year, Bolin Jue from the Town Troubles filmed our video, and we thank him so much,” Pacheco said. “This year, we couldn’t ask Bolin again, because he did it for us last year, and his band didn’t win, so I felt bad. Freddy and I know this guy named Manuel, and we decided to hit him up to make us a music video. Our good friend, Ken Foto, let us use his studio at the Coachella Valley Art Center.”

Corral said they were happy with the end result

“After we saw Manuel’s work, we were sold,” Corral said. “He did a good job with us. He had a good camera, good editing, and all of that. It was entirely last minute, and we told him, ‘We leave it in your hands; whatever you want to do, and we’ll do it.’ He said all he needed was a projector and a warehouse, and we couldn’t find a warehouse, but props to Ken Foto for letting us use his studio.”

As for the future, the Pacheco and Corral said they have a surprise for their fans that they will reveal within the next year, but they wouldn’t elaborate. They did say they’ve begun work on recording a full length album.

“We’ve been having some issues with recording,” Pacheco said. “We’re trying to do it ourselves and then send it out to get mastered. We’re having trouble getting the timing on the metronome. ‘Alpine’ was the first song that we were recording, so, fortunately, it was ready by the deadline to enter Tachevah.”

Corral said the band is continuing to work on new material.

“Definitely more songs,” Corral said. “Vocals, maybe: We’ve been talking about little oohs and aahs and some spoken-word stuff, but only on some songs, and we’re going to drown them in reverb to hide our ugly voices. We don’t want to sound too poppy.”

Tribesmen will join other Tachevah finalists at a show at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 26, at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. The show is free.

Published in Previews