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24 Jun 2016

An Eclectic Mix Indeed: Justin Ledesma's Latest Iteration of Sunday Funeral—It's a Three-Piece Rock Band

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Sunday Funeral. Sunday Funeral.

The band Sunday Funeral has seen numerous members come and go since 2007—and frontman Justin Ledesma is the only member who has been a part of it all along.

Earlier this year, Sunday Funeral parted ways with guitarist and vocalist Brian Frang, and is now performing as a trio, with new bassist Andrea Taboada, and drummer Grant Gruenberg.

The list of Sunday Funeral’s former members is impressive, including Dali’s Llama drummer Craig Brown, Flusters drummer Daniel Perry, singer/songwriter John Robbins, and many others. So what is it that makes Ledesma keep forging ahead with Sunday Funeral?

“Not wanting to see it fall apart, I suppose,” Ledesma said during a recent interview at the band’s practice space. “I started it and have tried to keep everybody. But people shift in and out, and people change.”

It was hard for Ledesma to remember how many members have come through Sunday Funeral through its various iterations.

“Originally, we started as a trio,” he said. “We’ve been a three-piece, a four-piece, a five-piece, and a six-piece.”

According to Ledesma, Sunday Funeral currently has 3 1/2 members … sort of, if one includes keyboardist Jason Obando.

“I still consider Jason semi-in,” Ledesma said. “The next time we need a keyboard part, I’ll probably hit him up.”

Not surprisingly, each of Sunday Funeral’s albums has a different sound.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty eclectic mix,” he said.

Gruenberg said the band is running a lot more smoothly than it had before.

“The communication is a lot easier now,” Gruenberg said. “We don’t have to go behind each other’s backs to talk about one person because one person is upset.”

Ledesma explained why the band decided to part ways with Brian Frang.

“With Brian, it was differences in opinion when it came to style,” Ledesma said. “He’s doing his own thing now and writing his own songs, and I think he’s getting a group together. He lives with me, and we’re roommates, and we’re still like brothers. It was a little weird when it happened, though, but it is what it is.”

Sunday Funeral has been through various ups and downs; for starters, Ledesma was in a near-fatal car accident and endured a bitter divorce. On the up side, Ledesma looks back with great joy on one event: a live show with the Valley Strings Community Orchestra, in 2014.

“That was so much fun,” Ledesma said. “I don’t know how many people it was, but 40 or 50 people were playing something that I wrote. It was like, ‘Wow! I don’t know if I deserve it, but they’re doing it!’”

Taboada and Gruenberg both say they’re enjoying the band as it stands now.

“(This) month, I will have been in the band for a year now,” Taboada said. “I was the last one to join the band after Grant joined. I had never heard the music until I started playing with them, but I clicked with Justin’s guitar-playing. There have been times I don’t click with guitarists I’ve played with, or I don’t like my bass lines. I like Justin’s style.”

Gruenberg came to Sunday Funeral after stints in several other bands.

“I was talking to John Robbins, and he and I were trying to do something at the time that fell through,” Gruenberg said. “I went over to his apartment, and Brian was his roommate at the time, and Brian introduced me to some of the music, and I was like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ That fell through for two or three months, and then they hit me up, asking me to come over. I came over; I jammed a bit; and I was a little rusty, given it had been four or five years since I last played. But I liked the music, and I was happy.”

The members of Sunday Funeral are hoping to record a demo showing off a new, tighter sound.

“It would just be four songs for the time being,” Taboada said. “The only recordings Grant and I are on are the live videos on Facebook and YouTube. It’d be nice to have something that the three of us recorded.”

The band members played for me a cover of a Great Depression-era song they’ve been working into their routine. Ledesma said he’d like to include it on the demo, too.

“I was thinking about a cover of ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’ because that’s the direction I’m trying to take things in, and go down that path a little bit,” Ledesma said. “I like to think our direction now is more built-upon. I like parts of ’30s and ’40s culture, and it’s something I have passion for. I figured I’d try to work it in.”

Sunday Funeral will perform with the Sweat Act and The Hellions at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 25, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Sunday Funeral, visit www.sundayfuneral.com.

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