CVIndependent

Sat05302020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Matt King

Attendees of The Hood Bar and Pizza’s Open Mic have watched some intriguing new faces over the last few months: The members of Emergency Alert System have been setting the stage on fire with their combination of metal and punk, which they call “munk.” While the majority of the members are still in high school, their originality and stage presence shine bright. Catch EAS at the Idyllwild HELP Center on Saturday, Oct. 26, and Synergy Fest in Coachella on Saturday, Nov. 9. For more information, track down EAS on Facebook. Guitarist Fernando Gabriel was recently kind enough to answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Silvio Rodriguez at El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. I was 6 at the time, and I loved it!

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I ever owned was Killing Is My Business … and Business Is Good! by Megadeth. My mom gifted it to me for my birthday, and I was blown away! That man Dave is a BEAST!

What bands are you listening to right now?

Megadeth, Black Flag, Mötley Crüe, Jimi Hendrix, At the Gates, Agent Orange, Dead Kennedys, Cream, Korn, Municipal Waste, Mayhem, Enforcer, Black Label Society, Kyuss … the list goes on and on, but I don’t want to bore anyone.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Here in the east valley, most people love corridos. To be honest, I find them really annoying, especially the lyrics; they are just so silly and dumb.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I’d love to see Megadeth live back when they did the Rust in Peace tour in ’91. Marty Friedman, Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson and Nick Menza were the best lineup Megadeth ever had. Fight me.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Katy Perry. Please don’t bully me.

What’s your favorite music venue?

It’s a tie between El Auditorio Nacional and El Palacio de Bellas Artes, both in Mexico City. My passion and love for music was born in those two places.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

The chorus for “A Love Unreal” by Black Label Society. That song means a lot to me, and it always reminds me of someone special.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Django Reinhardt and Tony Iommi. They taught me that, no matter what happens, never give up on your dreams.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

To Josh Homme: “Are you the one-inch man?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“A Song for the Dead” by Queens of the Stone Age.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Rust in Peace by Megadeth. Thrash at its finest!

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Undying Evil” by Enforcer. It’s really bad-ass. (Scroll down to hear it!)

While the Coachella Valley has birthed some of rock’s greatest musicians and has been overflowing with intense musicality for decades, record stores here are few and far between.

In fact, there’s really only one provider of CDs, vinyl and all other things that music fans need—and that store has been doing so since 1978.

“Record Alley is the hub of music,” said Scott McLaughlin, a Record Alley employee and local musician. “Back in the day, everybody used to come in here—celebrities and even local stars like Joshua Homme or Jesse Hughes. It was a cool hangout spot, even back when it was just CDs.”

Turns out Record Alley is still a cool hangout spot: The store has started hosting performances by two music acts each Sunday afternoon. These shows are planned by McLaughlin; I sat down with him recently to discuss his musical journey and the future of Record Alley.

“My great-great-uncle actually wrote ‘La Cucaracha,’” said McLaughlin. “Music has been in my life since I was born. My uncles played Mexican music, and Led Zeppelin was big in my family.

“I moved here when I was in the fifth-grade, and in seventh-grade, I took percussion class and learned how to play drums. I went through marching band and jazz band, then got to my punk phase. Nothing to Lose was my first punk band, and then I switched to pop-punk with my band Losing Team, who you can still find on Spotify. I made a solo album by myself in college, and when I moved back from San Diego, my brother (Brett McLaughlin of Caxton) asked me to start Reborn by the Sunshine with him.”

Reborn by the Sunshine has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, and McLaughlin has been able to meet many artists he admires at various shows. These connections helped lead to the decision to have regular performances at Record Alley.

“I’ve always wanted to book bands that I like and give them a platform,” said McLaughlin. “It makes the store and the mall fun on busy Sundays. I’m sick of going to Big Rock or The Hood and seeing the same bands all the time. I want to pull deep from Joshua Tree and the (Coachella) Valley to find artists who don’t have a shot at playing some of the venues around here. It’s a more quiet, intimate crowd here, and it’s been working.”

Beyond giving local artists another place to play, McLaughlin and Record Alley are working on providing even more for local musicians.

“I’m trying to get the word out more. I’ve been working on a YouTube channel that features the performances here,” McLaughlin said. “We interview the bands and show one of the songs they play and upload it for them to use as promotional material.

“If anyone wants to perform here, then send me a message on Instagram!”

Shows take place at 2 p.m. every Sunday at Record Alley, inside the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.instagram.com/recordalley.

Few local bands have a résumé as extensive as that of YIP YOPS.

After Tachevah appearances, multiple Jam in the Van sessions, a slot at Coachella and even an Independent cover story, YIP YOPS just released a new single, “Sinner,” and announced the Death of a Sinner Tour, which will take YIP YOPS all over the United States in October in support of bands Kongos and Fitness.

If you’ve somehow never seen a performance by YIP YOPS—now a duo featuring the vocals of Ison Van Winkle and the drums of Ross Murakami—you should expect eccentric, vibrant clothing that catches your eye and draws you in to witness the vivacious stage presence and staggering vocals of Van Winkle, backed by nostalgic ’80s synths … like if the B-52’s met Depeche Mode. My favorite tracks include “Head Home” and “Heavy Soul.”

During a recent interview, Van Winkle and Murakami said they were excited about the upcoming tour.

“We’ve never been to most of the places that we’re playing, so it’s going to be fun,” Murakami said. “We’ll be able to showcase our new music to brand-new fans and just see what happens!”

The release of “Sinner” was accompanied by a music video filled with visual effects galore.

“Both the song and the visuals play around with the idea of the internal struggle people have over whether or not they’re a good person,” Van Winkle said. “The chaotic and stark colors really help paint a story, and a lot of the footage was filmed in and around this shack where we create and record the music, so it’s very important to us.”

It’s the lifelong dream of many local musicians to reach levels of success that propel them from our hometown. I was curious to know how the Coachella Valley—with its wide array of international events—affected the YIP YOPS story.

“We haven’t played a whole lot here in the past couple of years, but in the early years of the band, there were quite a few opportunities for us, such as Tachevah, Coachella and some sold-out shows at the Hood,” Murakami said. “Those were kickstarters for us, and after Coachella, we had an easy place to start moving into different markets. L.A. has really been the main focus since then. We’re still living in the valley, though.”

Added Van Winkle: “Coachella and those other shows were where we really got a sense for our passion for music and for what we’re doing today.”

While the big bucket-list shows have been great for YIP YOPS, Murakami and Van Winkle said smaller shows have made a bigger impact on them.

“One of the shows that meant a lot to me was our last residency show at the Echoplex in L.A.” said Murakami. “We were there every Monday in July last year, and those were just eye openers to see what our crowd was like in L.A. By the end of the residency, we were packing out the 800 (capacity).

Added Van Winkle: “One of the most memorable shows was one we did in Garden Grove at the Locker Room. Most of our shows are 21-plus, so it’s tough to bring our own age group in. At this show, though, it felt like everyone in the room was exactly who the songs were meant for, and everyone was going just as crazy as us. Even though it was only 30 to 40 people, it felt really good and really organic.”

On the topic of those 21-and-over shows, Murakami commented: “We’re still having to deal with that. I’m 23, and Ison’s 20, so it’s still a problem. A number of the L.A. venues have strict rules, and it’s such a bummer. We have a lot of friends that want to come see us, but we can barely get Ison in.”

The band doesn’t only receive attention for its sound; the name often gets the duo notice as well. (We won’t talk about the brief period during which the band was called IIIZ.)

“We went through hundreds of names to try to find the one that sticks out. It was just a phrase that was thrown around,” Van Winkle said. “We didn’t really know what it meant. It’s not even actual words, but it stuck. When we were 14, it had this playful energy to it, and we still can relate to it.”

Added Murakami: “I personally wasn’t a big fan of the name, but the band makes the name. You could have the craziest, dumbest name, and if the band is energetic and crazy, it makes the name more energetic and crazy. I think it’s been working for us, and we’re pretty happy with what it’s turned into as the band has evolved.”

“Sinner” is the first release from the YIP YOPS since 2018’s “She.”

“You’ll have to stay tuned for an album, but we are releasing another single in early October, and we’re going to do another run to Seattle in November,” said Murakami.

Van Winkle said the duo is holding back a lot of music.

“We’ve yet to release a whole lot of music, since we’re doing it all ourselves, so we want to make sure we’re as ready for the record as possible,” he said. “With the singles, we’re trying to experiment a bit. The four-piece going down to a two-piece really expands the horizons on what we allow ourselves to do, and we’re seeing what works. A lot of our stuff is run on tracks. We don’t want to hold ourselves back on what the music can sound like just because of how many people are in the band. A lot of people are open to track-heavy bands, like The Garden.”

Added Murakami: “Even hip hop! It started with the DJs, and it evolved into another way to round out the sound live. It works for us, and it fits us.”

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

When was the last time you listened to a song by Booker T. and the M.G.’s? Thanks to infectious piano grooves, flowing bass lines and plucky guitar riffs that just make you want to boogie, Booker T. dominated the ’60s with his group’s instrumental soul jazz.

Now 50 years later, it’s worth getting to know the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, a group that’s developing its own modern brand of soul jazz—and making it funky. The group will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace this Thursday, Sept. 19.

The trio’s first album, Close but No Cigar, was released in 2016 and reissued in 2018. Live at KEXP! was also released in 2018. While the DLO3’s drummer slot has been in a state of flux, every song released by the DLO3 features Delvon Lamarr’s lightning fingers on the organ and fast feet on the bass-organ pedal, and Jimmy James shredding the guitar like it is going out of style.

“The trio came to be thanks to my wife and manager Amy Novo; she actually started the band. I never wanted to run a band, but she said if I got the cats together and wrote some music, she’d handle all the rest,” Lamarr said during a recent phone interview. “I met Jimmy James when he wasn’t even old enough to get in the bars. I was playing with a group called A.D.D Trio, and we had a weekly residence at the Central in Seattle. One day, this kid came in with a guitar on his back, so we invited him up to play a tune. He busted out that guitar and wowed that whole room. I was looking at my bandmates like, ‘Who the hell is this dude?’ But we only played twice throughout a 10-year period, only at random one-off gigs. We didn’t play extensively with each other until DLO3 formed.”

I asked Lamarr how the trio manages to sound so tight.

“It was pretty much right out of the gate,” said Lamarr. “Jimmy James always says ‘music is a language,’ and we just happened to speak the same language. Our musical influences and the stuff we grew up listening to was dang near all the same.”

The trio’s live shows are always filled with glorified jam sessions.

“We hardly ever rehearse. We write most of our music onstage, or me and Jimmy will sing stuff into our phones,” Lamarr said. “Most of the time, we’ll make a tune during soundcheck before a gig. We actually started off that way. We didn’t really have any music, so we just made stuff up as we went along. All of the original tracks on the Close but No Cigar album were written onstage just from jams. The only fine tuning we’d do was when we’d record.

“We actually weren’t looking to record; we just got a random phone call from Jason Gray, who has a studio and is the bass player of the Polyrhythmics. He wanted to record us, but we didn’t have that many songs that were record-worthy. We went anyway, and that turned into the Close but No Cigar album. We actually finished some of our songs in the studio when we recorded.”

That album made from jams wound up at No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts.

“That was a trip. I thought it was fake! Me and Amy were out that day, and when we got home, I went to the bathroom, and she came busting down the door. She screamed, ‘Guess what?!’ and I said ‘I’m busy,’” Lamarr said with a chuckle. “She said we made it to the Billboard charts, but I didn’t believe it. I had to Google it!”

The trio’s song titles are one of the more interesting aspects of the group. Examples include “Al Greenery” and “Between the Mayor and the Mustard.”

“All of the song titles for our original music mean something to us. It’s either something that’s happened, or something that’s said, or it’s about somebody,” said Lamarr. “I like it that way, because it tells a story without our music needing to have lyrics. For example: ‘Raymond Brings the Greens.’ When we started out, we had a residency every week at a place called Royal Room in Seattle. The bartender’s name was Raymond, and every week, I’d ask for some greens. It eventually got to a point where as soon as I’d show up for the gig, there’d be a plate of greens onstage for me. ’Little Booker T’ is our dog’s name, and he’s actually the dog on the album cover.”

“Raymond Brings the Greens” features a tribute to David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.” Its placement in the song shows off the trio’s love of all things music.

“Jimmy James is an international man of quotes. He will quote anything in any song,” said Lamarr. “We were recording it, and he just threw it out there, very random. I honestly don’t really remember him playing that bit before we tracked it. It wasn’t even until we listened back to the tracks that I noticed it. It’s dope.”

The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Readers of the Coachella Valley Independent know the work of Brian Blueskye well; he shared his unique view on the arts in the valley and gave local music a voice in these pages for six years. Blueskye’s coverage of smaller bands brought them more notoriety, and his entertaining conversations with bigger acts made the Coachella Valley’s music scene pop. After writing up many Lucky 13 interviews over the years, it’s now his turn to answer the questions—and here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Aerosmith in 1994, at what is now called the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. A band called Jackyl opened up, and their lead singer has this gimmick where he uses a chainsaw as an instrument. At that time, Aerosmith was still putting on fantastic shows, and I loved every minute of it.

What was the first album you owned?

Huey Lewis and The News’ Sports, but I put an asterisk by that, because I asked for a Metallica album for Christmas when I was 11 years old, and my mom bought me that album instead, saying, “You like Huey Lewis and the News!” as if it was a joke. I sent that CD flying into a wall and enjoyed watching it shatter into millions of pieces. I actually bought my first three albums with my own money: Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, Aerosmith’s Pump and Metallica’s self-titled Black Album, which I wanted for Christmas a few years earlier.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve been getting more and more into Latin music lately and artists who were/are on the Fania record label like Willie Colon, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades. I also got into the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, and the Brazilian guitar player and composer Arthur Verocai. I’ve also been listening to David Axelrod, Miles Davis, Herlin Riley, Emma Ruth Rundle, A Tribe Called Quest, Jawbreaker, Nick Waterhouse, Max Richter, and Durand Jones and the Indications. I really like the Captain Ghost album.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I can’t stand Sublime. There’s a podcast called Your Favorite Band Sucks, and they did an entire episode on Sublime, and it was spot on as far as their music and their antics as a band.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Buddy Holly.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Beyonce’s Lemonade album.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Pappy and Harriet’s is one of my favorite places on Earth; I love going up there. But one of the only times I get homesick for Cleveland is when I think of the Agora Theatre and Ballroom. I saw a lot of good shows there.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Turn off the news and build a garden, just my neighborhood and me. We might feel a bit less hardened; we might feel a bit more free,” Lukas Nelson, “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden).”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I was a closeted gay teenager growing up in Mentor, Ohio. I didn’t want to listen to upbeat pop anthems sung by divas. I was alienated and pissed off. Bands like Metallica, Motörhead, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and the Buzzcocks got me through my late teens and were my saving grace. My musical tastes evolved, and my perspective has changed as I’ve gotten older, but I still appreciate that stuff.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Paul Tollett, the CEO of Goldenvoice, why he didn’t give up and persevered to do more Coachella festivals after the first one was such a disaster.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

U2, The Joshua Tree. People can rag on U2 all they want, but that album is a masterpiece and should be higher up on those lists of best albums.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Durand Jones and the Indications, “Is It Any Wonder?” (Scroll down to hear it!)

In July 2018, the Cranston Fire devastated the town of Idyllwild, burning more than 13,000 acres—and those fires were followed by downpours and that destroyed roads and created sinkholes.

Despite the chaos, Idyllwild is still standing.

“They went through a really rough time—the fires, the floods—and they’re barely recovering,” said Chris Leyva, organizer of the Idyllfest Music, Art and Craft Beer Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13.

The goal of the festival is to “bring back commerce, music and inspiration from the surrounding music community, with Idyllwild bridging the gap (between) Los Angeles, Palm Springs and San Diego.” Leyva, a musician himself, talked to me as he was finishing a tour with his band, Falling Doves.

“I offered to help out by planning a festival and inviting some of the bands I’ve booked and toured with,” Leyva said. “They’re all in different markets, from here all the way to Las Vegas. We’re bringing everybody down for a two-day festival, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Leyva said he wants to make Idyllfest a great experience for both the audience and the performers.

“If you ever play festivals, you always feel like you have to get your gear out and go, so we’re eliminating that by having a backline for everyone, as well as providing room and board,” he said. “The event is colliding with the Art Walk and Wine Tasting event,” taking place on Saturday, Oct. 12, “so we’re going to be able to join forces with them, and allow our attendees to attend their event, and vice versa. It’s all about community, about togetherness and getting the word out there.”

The lineup features Leyva’s band, as well as Los Angeles’ Beck Black, San Diego punk legends Authentic Sellouts, and many others.

“It’s a collective event,” Leyva said. “Being able to tour the planet, I meet a lot of amazingly talented bands that unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to play really cool festivals, so I wanted to throw a festival for them. I didn’t want to do it in Hollywood. I’ve done a few beer festivals there, and bands always just play and leave. I want to be able to have whoever is playing up there stuck up there, so they stay to support and discover new acts.

“A lot of the bands playing are the top in each market, from San Diego to L.A., and a few coming in from Vegas. I, as an entertainer, don’t believe in playing for exposure. We all have gas; we all have to eat. It’s not cheap. We came up with a stipend, so everyone’s getting paid the same. The point of the event is to just make sure everyone has a good time. Ticket sales are going to pay for production, permits and port-o-potties.”

Idyllfest organizers are also selling T-shirts, which will benefit a local charity.

Leyva talked about the hopes that this first Idyllfest will not be the last.

“Usually you need to wait three to four years before something really kicks off, but I have a feeling that by keeping a low profile, we’ll be able to reach the proper demographic,” said Leyva. “That will open up the doors for us to bring in international bands—Japan, Australia, Liverpool, etc. It’s our first year, though, and the only thing we expect is being able to bring a completely different platter of music and commerce up there.”

The Idyllfest Music, Art and Craft Beer Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13, at 25585 Alderwood St., in Idyllwild. One-day passes are $15; two-day passes are $25. For tickets or more information, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/idyllfest-music-art-craftbeerfestival-tickets-63618366246.

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.

Courtney Chambers is no average singer/songwriter. She is one of the desert’s most veteran musicians; her first release came in 2001. She was recently featured on a KCOD documentary series showcasing the great women musicians of the valley, and her music has been used in many different television shows and movies. Her next show will be on Friday, Sept. 6, at Desert Fox Bar in Palm Desert. For a complete itinerary, visit courtneychambers.net. Chambers recently answered the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Beach Boys, when I was 8 years old at a fair in Texas.

What was the first album you owned?

Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports (1983), a gift from my dad for Christmas

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve been pretty inspired by current pop these days: Sidetripp, Mandy Brooke, Taylor Swift, Kasey Musgraves, Ariana Grande, Mr. Carmack, Eevaan Tre, Demi Lovato, Tove Lo, and always … Led Zeppelin.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Ha ha, I’m probably going to get hung for this, but I don’t get the obsession over Ed Sheeran. I think he is insanely talented, but his music, for the most part, just doesn’t move me.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Led Zeppelin.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

For sure, I have to say right now, Taylor Swift … but it’s a revolving door for me.

What’s your favorite music venue?

To perform: Spotlight 29. To attend: Hollywood Bowl.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

I love these questions! I wake up every morning with a different random song stuck in my head, but the sax intro to “Careless Whisper” is what really haunts me.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Wow. Sarah McLachlan. She was the first female musician I heard doing what I wanted to do musically. She was making music that affected me in every way: sonically, lyrics-wise, (and her) emotive deliverance. It was the first time I thought that I can do this. I used to make drives to the beach at 19 listening to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. It's still, to this day, one of my favorites, and one of the most powerful records I've ever heard.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Brian Wilson: “When do feel you had the best musical ideas, stoned or sober?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,” Sarah McLachlan: “and if I shed a tear, I won’t cage it. I won’t fear love, and if I feel rage, I won’t deny it. I won’t fear love.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Dang. Now that is a tough one. Well, I've been gushing most of this interview about Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Space Cowboy,” Kacey Musgraves. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Avenida Music is the reigning Best Local Band per the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll—and with good reason.

Not only is Avenida Music one of the top cover bands in the valley, known for putting exciting new twists on tunes we all know and love, with hundreds of songs ready to go at any given moment; the band members are setting their sights on something bigger: For the past few months, Josiah Gonzalez, Samuel Gonzalez, Vince Gonzalez and Sean Poe have been hard at work transforming a vacant space in the heart of downtown Indio into an oasis for artists.

“This is our headquarters,” said Josiah during a recent interview with him and his brother Samuel. “This is going to be a combination of office space, rehearsal space and lessons (space). We’re going to be renting out rehearsal space to other bands and acts, (and offering) lessons for every instrument in order to be able to pay for the location,” located at 82713 Miles Ave.

“We want it to eventually be a space for showcases of the music and art in our community. A big part of that is developing programs and events that highlight the artistic community of the valley. We’re sticking to making it all-ages, so that everyone can show up. It’s not going to be a bar; it’s going to be a place dedicated to music and the arts for everyone to access. Along with having bands play here, we’re going to activate the location for educational events, such as teaching creatives how to take their art and turn it into a business. We’ve been meeting with people within the city government in order to make that happen, so the city can help the artistic community have a voice and find a place for their skills.”

Samuel added: “It’s been cool seeing it all come together, much quicker than we expected. This definitely isn't something that came about by accident; we’ve wanted to have our own space for a while, a place where we’re able to provide more opportunities to people of the valley. We want to create an environment that is positive and that fosters people instead of looking down on them. That’s what’s big for us. We want this place to be as supportive as possible, so that people can take what they want to do and turn it into a living.”

I’ve witnessed nothing but sheer generosity and selflessness from the Avenida Music guys—and these character traits are influencing the new space in amazing ways.

“We’re working right now on a couple of partnerships with nonprofits—the AMP (Academy of Musical Performance) program as well as Desert Arc,” Josiah said. “With Desert Arc, we are working to bring in people with developmental disabilities, and they’ll be able to partner up with local musicians to do music lessons. We’re going to be donating the space for them to use, and helping them find funding to employ musicians—who wouldn’t otherwise be playing during the day—to come and teach. We’re also going to be putting a ramp on the stage, to allow people with disabilities to be able to perform. We hope to be able to partner with more nonprofits in the future.”

Few local bands have ambitions as large as this one, but Avenida Music is not your average local band. I was curious how this determination developed.

“The dream has always been to get out of our parents’ garage,” Josiah explained with a laugh. “The vision wasn’t anything beyond just needing a practice room, though. As we started to build out our business plans, and plans for the future, the vision developed into what it is today. We thought of ways that we can use our space to help develop the community and build the infrastructure that helps other musicians build a career and have a place in a welcoming community.”

Of course, the members of Avenida Music are already looking ahead to the next phase of development for the new space.

“Our next step will be putting a recording studio in here,” Josiah said. “We want it to be capable of doing live recording sessions with both audio and video. We’re already looking toward the future, and are looking at ways to develop cost-effective music production that will be accessible to people in the Coachella Valley. We’re working toward what essentially will be a ‘music incubator.’ We want to help out with every facet of someone’s career—bringing them in, recording them, producing the music, helping with merchandise, and helping with booking and management. We need space for all of that, and our reach will evolve as opportunities arise.”

While the exact date for the opening of the Little Street Studio had not yet been finalized as of this writing, it’s coming soon.

“We’re looking to be launching in mid-September,” Josiah said. “We’re going to be partnering with the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce to have a big ribbon-cutting grand-opening event where people can see what will be available to them here. I’m on the board for the Indio (branch of the Greater Coachella Valley) Chamber, and we’ve had a lot of support from the city. We want to be up and running fully in October; we’re going to be partnering with the city for a couple of events. Opportunities are going to show up as we continue to do what we’ve set out a vision for.

“If people have any ideas … we’re open to talking to people about how we can be a resource or point others in the right direction. We want to start that conversation, building a network of advocacy starts when people come together.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/littlestreetmusic or www.littlestreetmusic.com.

The Zombies are one of classic rock’s greats—and one of classic rock’s great paradoxes. Even though the band has been wildly successful—the British Invasion made “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season,” with its famous opening riff and echoey vocals, big hits in the United States—the name is unbeknownst to many.

The reason? While the band is approaching its 60th anniversary, it’s been active for less than half that time.

The Zombies will perform alongside musical genius and Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson at Fantasy Springs Casino Resort on Sunday, Sept. 1, as part of the “Something Great From ’68” tour. I was able to speak to lead vocalist Colin Blunstone about this opportunity.

“I’ve always listened to Brian Wilson’s music with awe. I think he’s absolutely wonderful, and the guys in his band are great too,” Blunstone said. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful experience to tour with him and his band—from a musical point of view, but also just to be traveling with brilliant musicians and fantastic people. It’s going to be a truly wonderful show!”

Earlier this year, the Zombies were at long last inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside Radiohead, The Cure, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson and Roxy Music.

“It was so exciting to get that kind of award in the autumn of your career,” Blunstone said. “It’s a recognition from both your fans and from the music industry that they’ve appreciated what you’ve been doing all of these years. It’s a wonderful feeling and still very exciting.”

The band’s momentous achievement was well deserved, as the Zombies’ career has been full of hard work and sacrifices.

“It was nonstop craziness in the ’60s,” Blunstone said. “When we first came over, we played in New York for the Murray the K’s Show at the Brooklyn Fox on Christmas 1964. We opened on Christmas Day and played for about 10 days, and did six or seven shows a day! Most of the artists did one or two songs, and there were about 15 acts on the bill: Dionne Warwick, the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las, Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, and more. That was our first experience on a stage, and it was absolutely brilliant. We were a little apprehensive since we were only 19 and came to the land of rock ’n’ roll. Every British musician wants to play in America, because this is where the blues, rhythm and blues, and rock ’n’ roll originated. We came in awe of the history of American music, and there was a very good backstage camaraderie, because we were all away from home over Christmas, so there was a great team spirit feeling there.”

The Zombies went on to tour relentlessly. The conditions were not ideal.

“It was quite physically demanding,” Blunstone said. “We were doing huge distances, and often not staying in hotels after shows. We did the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars and played with Del Shannon, Tommy Roe, the Shangri-Las, and Velvelettes. Since some of the artists lower on the bill weren’t earning as much, we would have to sleep on the bus every second night: They would drive slowly through the night so we didn’t have to get a hotel. We would arrive as late as possible in hopes that our rooms would be ready, and we could catch a bit of sleep before the show. We were all very tired at the end of that particular tour.

“Dick Clark had a few different tours out in the States, and the top acts would meet up at the end of the tour. We went up to Canada and got to play with Tom Jones, Peter and Gordon, Herman’s Hermits and a whole host of other artists at the end, which was very exciting. We played very big, sold-out venues, and there was still that ’60s hysteria. It even got a bit scary sometimes, because the audiences got a little bit out of control sometimes. It was a very strange phenomenon to witness.”

Feeling frustrated over what they perceived as a lack of success, the members of the Zombies parted ways in 1967. The band wouldn’t truly reunite until 2000.

“We had been together since 1961, and our first record was in 1964. We had only been together professionally for three years, but we worked very, very hard. I think we all needed a break,” Blunstone said. “In 1967, the band finished. Maybe if we had taken a break, we could’ve got back together. We perceived ourselves as being unsuccessful, and it is only years later that we realized we’d always had a hit record somewhere in the world. Without the internet, we didn’t realize what was happening. We would get the chart positions from countries around the world almost two years later!

“In ’67, we saw ourselves as unsuccessful, but really we weren’t. Everyone thought it was time to move on, and so we did, but then we found ourselves in a very strange position when ‘Time of the Season’ reached No. 1 on the Cash Box (magazine) chart (in 1968), and there was no band. We were all committed to other projects, and it was just too late to put the band back together. … It’s very unusual that we didn’t get back together to promote and exploit the hit record, but it was never even talked about between us.”

The members of the Zombies stayed close. They frequently collaborated on projects, including Blunstone’s debut solo album, One Year, in 1971.

“(Fellow Zombies members) Rod Argent and Chris White produced many of my solo albums, which were quite successful in the U.K. and Europe, but never in America,” Blunstone said. “People think that I just stopped and didn’t start working again until recently when we regrouped, but I was always working; I just had no chart success in America, so there’s really no reference for it.”

What finally led the Zombies to reunite after more than 30 years?

“There was a band put together with Don Airey, who was in Deep Purple and played with Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne and many other rock groups,” Blunstone said. “He called me quite often and encouraged me to get out on the road. He put a band together, and we started touring in 1997. … Eventually, Don and the guys moved on, and we had six shows left with no keyboard player. I rang Rod Argent, who had established himself as a successful producer and had been in the studio for a long time. I didn’t think he’d want to get out on the road again, but he said he’d do those six. … Here we are, almost 20 years later, still playing. I try not to make too many plans, because nothing works out the way you think it will. But 20 years on, and here we are, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“It’s always been the same with the Zombies—we’ve always played because we just enjoy playing; there was never any thought of hit records or awards. We just really love music, and that’s always what’s driven us. The music business is very tough, and if you’re not in it because you love performing, writing and recording, then it’s incredibly hard to keep any level of enthusiasm.”

The Zombies will perform with Brian Wilson at 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 1, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Drive, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $89. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

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