CVIndependent

Fri09182020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

We’re under an emergency shelter-at-home order in California, with a lot of businesses closed down—meaning many people are now without a steady income, including the Coachella Valley’s hard-working, talented musicians.

Many of us also now have a lot of time on our hands … so why not use that time to get to know the local music scene better—while supporting these musicians in the process?

Also, remember that music can be a healer of wounds! For me, music can turn a terrible day into a great day—so I hope that this list can bring you joy in this uncertain time.

Because of all this, I’ve compiled a “Coachella Valley Quarantine” playlist of some of my favorite songs by valley bands. By streaming their songs on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or any other service, you will also assist them financially … not much, but every little bit helps!

Click here for the Spotify version of the playlist.

Click here for the YouTube version.

“Last Day,” Captain Ghost

I started the playlist off with this one, because the only way to transition into the apocalypse is with roars and sick guitar riffs. This song is as heavy as it is funky—dare I say, with perhaps a hint of ska? The screamed-out chorus lines of “set forth your hands / like it’s the last day on Earth” make this song a perfect soundtrack for the end times. You can read more about Captain Ghost in the interview I did with them last year at CVIndependent.com; facebook.com/CaptainGhostBand.

“Coachella Gold,” Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

After being announced as part of the 2020 Coachella lineup, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls’ profile in the music scene became bigger than ever. Alas, the postponement of the festival means the world will have to wait to experience in person the greatness we’ve seen evolving over the past few years. “Coachella Gold” makes you proud to live here—and a sense of community is definitely something we all need during this time. Learn more about Giselle here; facebook.com/GiselleWooandTheNightOwls.

“Beat Up Your Mom (Sides One and Two),” Sleazy Cortez

In these times of mass hysteria and paranoia, you really could use a good laugh. Sleazy Cortez’s comedy stoner-punk jams are a perfect 20-second hand wash to take your worries away. You don’t even have to worry about too many lyrics, because the only words to this song are: “Beat up your mom.” Side One’s fast punk transitions beautifully into Side Two’s slow-burning blues groove for an epic 3 1/2-minute track. Learn more about Sleazy Cortez here; sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

“Alone,” Black Water Gospel

“This is how it feels to be alone,” sings Lance Riebsomer in the chorus of this song. The desperation in his voice echoes many people’s uncertainties in this time of isolation—yet this song has one of those guitar solos will help you feel amazing. It’s hard to describe, so just listen. I challenge you to not bob your head at least once throughout the entire track; it may be impossible. Read more about Black Water Gospel here; facebook.com/BlackWaterGospel.

“Back on Track,” Brightener

Whenever I listen to Brightener, I can’t help but smile. Will Sturgeon has a voice that just makes you happy, and any track from his band will lift your spirit. It’s no wonder the band has played many top-notch gigs in Los Angeles, not to mention Coachella in 2016. “Back on Track” is one of Sturgeon’s funkier songs, and will make your stay-cation a lot dancier. Learn more about Brightener here; brightener.bandcamp.com.

“Gallium,” Calico Wonderstone

Calico Wonderstone dominated the backyard music scene, but has only played a few shows at local venues, so the band’s name is unknown to many. The band dropped a five-song EP, but has not played a show since releasing it, meaning it has been severely underappreciated. “Gallium” is an indie-rock jam, and lead singer Ramses Lopez’s unique vocal style adds an edgier tone to the groove; soundcloud.com/calicowndrstne.

“Mainframe,” Fever Dog

Fever Dog has brought full effort into each of the genres the band has pursued. The group’s first two albums were heavy stoner rock, and then in 2017, Fever Dog released the Mainframe EP—three tracks of psychedelic jams. The title track sounds like something straight out of Pink Floyd, and is the perfect track to let your mind wander away from the negativity. Learn more about Fever Dog here; feverdog.bandcamp.com.

“Elevator Dance,” The Flusters

The Flusters offer a perfect mix of dreamy grooves and rockin’ choruses. Take “Elevator Dance,” for example; the verses are very Doors-esque, with lead singer Doug VanSant’s reverbed voice haunting the listener’s ear. But then, the guitar turns up for the choruses—and turns the slow groove to a full-on jump-around-and-dance vibe. Check out more about The Flusters here; theflusters.com.

“Wao Wao,” Ocho Ojos

Ocho Ojos’ catalogue features the best of the best when it comes to psychedelic cumbia. The band has played Coachella twice, and has performed at pretty much every venue in the valley—a handful of times—while sprinkling some out-of-town shows in between. The Latin rhythms shine bright on “Wao Wao,” and the 4 1/2-minute banger features synth player Danny Torres and guitarist Cesar Flores trading off solos in epic fashion; facebook.com/ochoojoscv.

“Funk Jam,” Desert Rhythm Project

This is a pretty self-explanatory track from Joshua Tree favorites Desert Rhythm Project. Funk is a healer of many things; in fact, I’ve been told there’s nothing a little groove can’t fix. Lead singer Mikey Reyes' soothing voice guides listeners through this song; it’s almost as if he’s checking in with us after every extended groove to make sure we’re OK. And this track is packed tight with groove, as it’s a six-minute song that features every essential funk instrument—horns, bass and, of course, a talk-box solo; desertrhythmproject.com.

“Sand Dune,” FrankEatsTheFloor

Shameless self-promotion: This is my band, and a song I wrote—of which I’m particularly proud. I used our desert landscape to represent how lonely you can feel in a situation of unreciprocated love. I wrote it when I felt lonely; I was sitting inside all day staring at the sand dunes, but now that I have to stay inside, I truly understand how lonely it can be living in a sandy jungle. The bassline is prominent, primarily because I wrote the song around the riff—but also because it sounds cool. Learn more about us here; facebook.com/FrankEatsTheFloor.

“Tied Up,” Instigator

We’re all tied up at home, so why not throw on this aptly named metal tune from local rockers Instigator? The intro riff has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it; about 40 seconds into the song, the headbanging begins in full effect. Leader Mark Wadlund just posted on Facebook: “‘Coronavirus’ is a great name for a song on a heavy-metal concept album about disease,” so maybe something good will come out of this situation. Read more about Instigator here; facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

“Isolated,” Israel’s Arcade

Speaking of aptly named songs, this indie-rock track from Israel’s Arcade is the perfect song for your isolation blues. “Don’t come find me … let me rot,” sings Israel Pinedo over a melancholy instrumental—featuring some sweet saxophone backup. The standout part of this track is the lead guitar, as its back-and-forth rhythm, while extremely catchy, elicits a true sense of loneliness. Learn more about them here; instagram.com/israelsarcade.

“Strange,” Ormus

Ormus’ first album was a collection of hard-hitting metal-punk tracks, complete with frontman Martin Posada’s death growls. But “Strange” sounds like something straight from the ’70s, with Posada and bass-player Serene Noell sharing vocal duties on a rock track that’s very Black Sabbath-esque. However, Ormus’ signature sound comes back in the middle of a song, for a minute-long metal-punk death-growl interlude; facebook.com/ormusband.

“Bad Conscience Blues,” Plastic Ruby

Plastic Ruby’s unique “Desert Jangle” sound slows down a bit on “Bad Conscience Blues.” Lead singer John Marek’s reverb-caked voice sings over a slow-burning psychedelic-blues track that is as groovy as it is bluesy. The three-minute-long jam would not be complete without the organ solo, however—as everybody knows that you can't have psychedelic jams without an organ. Learn more about the band here; plasticruby.com.

“King Street,” Pescaterritory

“King Street” is one of those songs that makes you feel cool. The pounding rock beat of the song may just lead you to strut around your isolation chamber. Halfway through the song, guitarist Jason Zembo steals the show with what may be one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. The best way to beat the virus is with rock ’n’ roll! Read more about the band here; facebook.com/pescaterritory.

“Ppl Like U,” Throw the Goat

The first release from Throw the Goat after a recent lineup change proves that the same ol’ Goat is still there. It’s a punk outcry against hypocrites and the current state of the world—a perfect song for letting out your rage. The band is setting up for a full album about the political nonsense, appropriately titled Vote Goat 2020. Read more about the group here; facebook.com/throwthegoat. (Photo below by Keleigh Black)

“The Death of a Gentleman,” YIP YOPS

The Yip Yops’ recent lineup departures left the group as a two-piece—but the boys are determined to not change the sound that much. “The Death of a Gentleman” is an ’80s-style synth-rock gem that sounds so much like Depeche Mode. It’s groovy; it’s danceable; it even has somber moments. A lot of ground is covered in three minutes, and will cover many of the moods you are feeling during this time. Read more about them here; yipyops.com.

“Baby’s Breath,” Koka

Another notable band in the backyard-show scene in the valley is Koka, an indie-rock group with soothing melodies that offer a bedroom-pop vibe. Their sounds have brought them Internet attention, with “Baby’s Breath” nabbing more than 37,000 listens on Soundcloud alone. Lead singer Edith Aldaz’s vocal lines are catchy; singing the oohs of this song’s chorus will definitely help alleviate some stress; instagram.com/koka.wav.

“I Wanna Be Over You,” The Hive Minds

The last song on this playlist ends things on a high note. A happy instrumental is met by lead singer Derek Jordan Gregg reminiscing about the good times: “Remember the way that I fell when I held you, December.” Gregg wants to go back to “feeling himself”—don’t we all? This song is cheery and proves that music can be a source of joy, even in times like these; www.facebook.com/thehiveminds.

The Coachella Valley is full of musicians pushing their limits and creating heavy rock soundtracks that would make even Kyuss proud—but it’s always a treat to come across a band creating a completely different desert-influenced sound.

This brings us to the self-described “desert jangle” of Plastic Ruby.

“It’s really the only thing I can use to describe our sound,” said John Marek, the vocalist, guitarist and leader of Plastic Ruby. “If you’ve ever heard of jangle pop, it’s like that, and we also have some desert influences in our music. We associate our psychedelic sound with the desert. Most of our sound is poppy-’60s influenced.”

The music created by Marek and co. is extremely pleasing, with each song from the band’s self-titled EP—as well as the two recent singles, “Beach Day” and “Just the Type”—featuring dance-y and groovy guitar lines backed by dreamy basslines and synth ambiance; Marek’s extremely distinguishable vocal melodies are just the cherry on top. “Bad Conscience Blues” and “Soda” are some of my favorites. Those two new singles are signs of a forthcoming album, which Marek confirms is “already in the works.”

Marek’s talent also stretches beyond music, as he has been producing and editing intricate music videos for some Plastic Ruby songs. The release of “Just the Type” was accompanied by a video transporting the viewer through dreamscapes, fences—and even a Plastic Ruby practice session.

“With that video, I was really inspired by the old White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ video,” said Marek. “That was my influence for it, but I wanted it to be sloppier, more like you’re going into a different room versus however they did it. That video took me two or three days, and I always wait until the last minute. We actually filmed the last scene the day before its release. I’ve been making skate montages since middle school, and making videos was honestly my first love before music.”

A trip over to Plastic Ruby’s Facebook page (facebook.com/plasticruby) reveals that Marek also creates hilarious promotional videos for some shows.

“My friends and I are all fans of alternative comedy. We’re big on the Tim and Eric Show,” he said. “It’s what we grew up watching, and it’s definitely found a way into our videos.”

Marek has been creating music for a long time, well before Plastic Ruby’s genesis in 2017; he’s been uploading songs to his YouTube channel since 2012. An upload from six years ago called “John Marek—Back of My Head (Guitar + Drums @ the Same Time)” has more than 1 million views, with numerous awestruck comments on how Marek manages to play the guitar and drums simultaneously.

“To be honest, that video really helped me a lot,” Marek said. “It actually got placed in a commercial for a fiber-optics company in Canada, and one of my other songs, the first I ever made, was featured in an Audi commercial. It really got my foot in the door in terms of getting my music published. People keep telling me to make another one, but I don’t really want to be known for that. I don’t want to box myself into a corner. I’d rather people just appreciate what I do based on the merit of what I do.

“I put a lot of effort and time into how I create songs, rather than being the biggest shredder in the world. I can appreciate technical musicianship stuff, but what I want is the catchiest, coolest-sounding song possible. I just want to make a living off music. I don’t want to be famous or whatever. I just want to make a living off of what I love doing.”

Plastic Ruby will perform at Beats and Brews, starting at 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Saguaro Palm Springs, 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For tickets or more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/383126549267702. Plastic Ruby is also scheduled to perform at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Concert for Autism Pre-Show Party at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert; admission is a suggested $5 donation. For more information, visit plasticruby.com.

Published in Previews

John Marek is a jewel in the local music scene. Not only is he a great guitarist and songwriter; he’s also one a hell of a showman.

In recent years, Marek played in War Drum, and he had a band called Ideation. Now he’s with his new band, Plastic Ruby, which includes Isidro Corrales (guitar/keyboards), Julio Corrales (bass) and Eddie Airada (drums).

Plastic Ruby released its first, self-titled EP earlier this month and has been playing shows locally since mid-2018. The band has a classic rock ’n’ roll sound—with some psychedelic groove to it. Whether you like to dance or simply enjoy musical fusion, Plastic Ruby is a band you’ll appreciate.

During a recent phone interview with Marek, he discussed his reasons for ending Ideation.

“I just wanted to start all over,” Marek said. “I developed a new sound over time.”

Considering Ideation had some fantastic songs that showcased Marek’s songwriting talents, I asked him if any of that material might resurface with Plastic Ruby.

“Possibly, but probably only when I run out of ideas or something,” Marek said with a laugh.

Since Plastic Ruby started playing live shows, the band has gotten tighter and tighter. When Marek is performing, you can feel the passion in his voice.

He explained how each of the other members of the band made their way into Plastic Ruby.

“Julio was in Ideation with me, and I’ve known that dude for over a decade now,” Marek said. “I knew Eddie when he was in Deadend Paradox, and I’d play shows with them. We hadn’t actually spoken to each other in years, and we sort of rekindled our friendship, and he joined the band and adapted super-quickly. Isidro is actually Julio’s cousin, and I brought him in because we were looking for an extra person to do keyboards and guitars, and he fit in just fine.”

Marek said he’s satisfied with the new EP—even if it didn’t come out exactly the way he wanted it.

“I’ve recorded most of my own stuff, even for the publishing deal that I had. This one was mixed by professionals,” Marek said. “I’m not into spending a whole bunch of money. I’m definitely trying to keep it as cheap as possible, but I don’t think it cheapens the music. … I have one good microphone that I use to record everything, and it definitely gets me by.”

More material is on the way soon, Marek said.

“We’re probably going to release a single in a few months, and I have close to half of a full-length album ready to record,” he said. “There’s tons of material for this band that needs to get out.”

The Coachella Valley music scene is something that confuses Marek, he said.

“I honestly feel like this place doesn’t even have a music scene. I feel like there are just a whole bunch of different-sounding bands,” he said. “Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss and all that stuff was a scene. There were quite a few bands that had a particular sound. Nowadays, you have a punk band here, a ska band there, a rock ’n’ roll band here, and there is no scene. There’s still a well of talent, but it’s a whole bunch of different sounds.”

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