CVIndependent

Mon11192018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

When I sat down with Sunday Funeral to discuss the band’s latest album, Hit ’Em Again, frontman Justin Ledesma chuckled when I mentioned the band’s history.

After being founded 11 years ago, Sunday Funeral has included a seemingly ever-rotating cast of local musicians with Ledesma. However, the band re-established itself two years ago after parting ways with former vocalist and guitarist Brian Frang. Ledesma has found solid ground fronting the band with Andrea Taboada on bass and Grant Gruenberg on drums.

The group’s once-shaky live performances are now solid, and the band has been nominated for awards by readers of both the Coachella Valley Independent and CV Weekly.

During a recent interview in Palm Desert, the members discussed how Hit ’Em Again—the first album to feature Taboada and Gruenberg—is a far cry from previous releases.

“I hope it goes to show that I put in a lot of work,” Ledesma said. “That third record, Rising of the Dead, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I was doing a lot of drugs. This one, I spent a lot of time and put in the work, so I hope people can tell. I spent a lot of time on each little section of the songs. I’m pretty sure it comes across as far better than the last ones. On Rising of the Dead, for some reason, I started with the guitar and finished with the drums second, which was stupid! This time around, it was Grant playing live, and Andrea recorded her parts separately.”

Sunday Funeral did include three of the band’s older songs on the album as re-recorded versions: “The Mirror,” “Deadly Kiss” and “Alloy Stars.”

“The brand-new recordings of those songs are nothing like they originally sounded like,” Gruenberg said.

Two of the songs on Hit ’Em Again were originally Taboada’s work.

“‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Who Knows’ are songs I wrote the bass lines for,” Taboada said. “We collaborated on writing the rest of the song, and Justin helped with the structures of the songs.”

The band has a newfound obsession with the ’30s and ’40s. Ledesma has performed wearing a vintage military uniform; Sunday Funeral has done covers of ’30s and ’40s songs; even Ledesma’s microphone stand is inspired by the era. The group sometimes performs with a rotating list of local female vocalists called “B Company,” who also wear military uniforms.

“I liked Indiana Jones when I was a kid,” Ledesma said with a laugh. “I’ve always liked 1930s and 1940s things like the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the movie Swing Kids. I’ve always liked that kind of culture and don’t really know why. Originally, I didn’t want to go full-on military when we would perform live with B Company. That first night, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do some kind of soldier thing, too,’ and went, ‘Nah, that’s taking it too far.’ The whole Hit ’Em Again thing really fits in. The more I stopped holding back, the more it worked.”

While Ledesma has endured hard times with Sunday Funeral, he said he couldn’t be happier with where the band is now.

“I’m happy I stuck with it—but there was never a point where I wanted to give up,” he said. “I want to play music, and it’s just really neat that we struck upon something that people are really enjoying. I hope not to take it for granted, because there was a time when people used to think we weren’t that great.

“I have our Coachella Valley Independent award hanging in two rooms of my house,” he said, referring to the band’s Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 staff pick as Best Re-Established Band. “It lifts my spirits when I look at it, and it means a lot to me. It’s really neat to be recognized for something you do. It feels really good.”

For more information, visit www.sundayfuneral.com.

The Flusters have been busy playing shows in Los Angeles and San Diego, and preparing the band’s second EP; according to frontman Doug VanSant, the new music will drop in the fall. For more information, visit www.theflusters.com. In the meantime, we checked in with guitarist Danny White and asked him to endure the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

KISS in Jackson, Miss. Skid Row and Ted Nugent opened.

What was the first album you owed?

Tom Petty’s Wildflowers or Huey Lewis and the News' Sports. My mom used to put CDs in my Easter basket. I don’t remember which came first.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I've been on a Gary Clark kick for the past few weeks. I've also been inspired lately by a lot of deep funk. Mickey and the Soul Generation has been playing a lot; the Poets of Rhythm as well. I’ve been really enjoying Bird Concerns, a band we did a show with in Los Angeles not long ago. Amazing harmonies!

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

It's not up to me to “get” anyone’s music.

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

Jimi Hendrix.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

1950s doo-wop.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Any (venue) that has a shower. If we are talking about to attend, I like dark, intimate venues. I’m not big on stadium and arena shows.

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

“Kiss of mountain air we breathe; goodbye, it’s time to fly,” from “Surprise Valley,” Widespread Panic.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Widespread Panic. It was my first love and a long one. I don’t listen a lot these days, but every now and then, I'll stream a live show from the ’90s, and sit down for a listen.

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

I would probably ask John Bell of Widespread Panic where he found his inspiration.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I'm not gonna die.

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

If I had to choose, maybe I’d go with Little Creatures by the Talking Heads, just because there is never a bad time for that album.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Casual Sex” by Bird Concerns. (Scroll down to hear it.)

If you’ve seen Gutter Candy perform recently, you may have noticed a new yet familiar face behind the drums: Dani Diggler, also a member of Sticky Doll, and the guitarist and drummer for Van Vincent. That’s not all: Diggler is also a solo artist. Catch him in action with Gutter Candy this Friday, July 13, at The Hood Bar and Pizza; and Friday, Aug. 3, at Gadi’s, in Yucca Valley. See him with Van Vincent on Friday, Aug. 10, at the Joshua Tree Saloon, in Joshua Tree. Diggler was kind enough to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Aerosmith, 1993, in Costa Mesa. Jackyl was the opening act. It was a great show, and I remember most of it.

What was the first album you owned?

Too far back to recall, but I believe it was a cassette tape given to me by my aunt: Draw the Line by Aerosmith. (Aerosmith was) also my first favorite band.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m always listening to Tool, Primus and The Doors.

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

Rap. It’s just not music at all.

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

Without a doubt, it would be The Doors. I can’t think of a show that could be more legendary than that.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Tori Amos. She’s amazing. Most people can’t believe I’m into her. Why not? She’s amazing!

What’s your favorite music venue?

I’d have to say the Greek Theatre (in Los Angeles). Great place to see a show.

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

“Death makes angels of us all, giving us wings where we had shoulders, smooth as ravens claws,” The Doors, “A Feast of Friends.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Again, The Doors.

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

Les Claypool: “How the hell do you do what you do on the bass so well?” Greatest bassist of all time. Period.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Two songs: From a band I was in years ago Chili Cow, “... And the Story Begins,” and an original I wrote, currently unreleased, "Death My Friend."

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

Tool, Ænima.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Right in Two,” again by Tool. So accurate. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Stoner-rock band Fu Manchu was founded back in 1985—and went on to become one of the pillars of the genre. Today, the band is still around, having outlasted many of its contemporaries, including local legendary stoner-rock band Kyuss.

The band is currently touring behind its 12th album, Clone of the Universe, released back in February. The group will be coming to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, July 28.

During a recent phone interview with frontman and guitarist Scott Hill, he said the formula Fu Manchu has used to start recording its albums hasn’t changed in more than 25 years.

“We have this cassette 4-track machine, and we all sit in a circle with our amps pointing inward. We put one microphone straight down the middle, and on one track, we just record all of the music,” Hill said. “I have three more tracks to do vocals on. We do that, take the songs home and listen to them, and rearrange them. We’ve been doing that since 1992. This is kind of a rough demo of songs before we head into a studio.”

Fu Manchu has recorded its albums in a variety of different settings, and with a range budgets.

“We’ve spent a lot of money and gotten a great recording, and we’ve spent not a lot of money and gotten a great recording,” Hill said. “It’s all about who you go with as a producer and where you go. You can spend a lot of money in an expensive studio that’s really nice with air conditioning and a big lobby, or you can do what we did with our last couple of records, at a small storage place where the studio is. It’s really hot, and you sweat after walking into the place, but you get a really good recording. It depends on what you want to do, where you want to do it, and what your budget is.”

Fu Manchu’s rock ’n’ roll sound has not changed much since its first full-length album, No One Rides for Free, in 1994. That’s a source of pride for the band.

“We just all like this straight-forward riff stuff. To me, it’s never boring, and there are always new riffs and drum beats,” Hill said. “With Clone of the Universe, we did an 18-minute song, which we’ve never done before. It took up the entire Side 2. We all like playing like straightforward, heavy and fuzzy rock ’n’ roll. It never gets old, and we’re not tired of doing it.

Hill said he sees many ethos similarities in the stoner-rock and punk-rock scenes.

“I got into punk rock in December of 1980; that was the first time I heard live Black Flag and was like, ‘What is this?’ I guess it’s kind of the same in the sense that you play where you can,” he said. “You play backyards, little clubs or big clubs … you go for it wherever and whenever you can. Hardcore and punk rock are my main influence, and that’s when I really got into music and started wanting to play guitar. I’d go to shows and think, ‘That looks so fun!’ and would just watch the guitar-players. As the late ’80s rolled around, I’d pull out the old Deep Purple and Blue Cheer records and mix it all together. I’ll listen to Foghat, and I’ll listen to Black Flag in the same sitting. It’ll all make sense to me.”

On Clone of the Universe, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson makes an appearance on the aforementioned 18-minute-long song, “Il Mostro Atomico.”

“Our manager is friends with (Alex Lifeson’s) manager, and our manager asked what Alex was up to, and he was like, ‘Oh, he’s just in the studio recording guitar stuff.’ He asked what we were up to, and we were getting ready to record. Our manager asked, ‘Hey, would Alex like to play guitar on a Fu Manchu song?’ He got back to us and said, ‘Yeah, send him a song.’ We thought our manager was kidding. We sent it to him, and he asked us what we wanted him to do, and we said, ‘Wherever you want to do something, for however long you want to do something, whatever you want to do—do it.’ He did a bunch of guitar stuff all over the song.”

Hill told me a story about one of the strangest shows the band has ever played.

“We flew to Spain for one show that was actually a festival,” he said. “We flew there the night before and hung out. We went to the big festival and played a couple of bands under the headliner; it was probably about 40,000 people. We got up onstage, set up and played four songs, and they said, ‘OK, that’s it!’ It was getting really windy and stormy, so that was it. We went all the way to Spain to play four songs and went home. It was the weirdest one for me, given we flew all that way to play four songs.”

Fu Manchu will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 28, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $18. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

July is the hottest month of year in the Coachella Valley—and the month is bringing some hot shows along with the toasty temps.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has three big shows in July. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 7, enjoy your post-Fourth of July weekend with Michael McDonald. McDonald has been part of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. He’s also been an iconic force as a solo artist, winning five Grammy Awards and collaborating with greats like Elton John, Ray Charles and many others. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, July 13, venture back to the ’90s with the Counting Crows. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the Counting Crows helped define ’90s pop-rock when hit single “Mr. Jones” was played endlessly. Tickets are $49 to $109. If you think it couldn’t get hotter, there’s more: At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 21, famed producer and electrifying performer Pitbull will take the stage. The man is known as “Mr. Worldwide,” and it’s been said that one way to guarantee a song’s success these days is to have Pitbull on board as a collaborator or producer. Tickets are $69 to $129. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa sails into July with some old-school events you won’t want to miss. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 7, head down the highway to the danger zone with Kenny Loggins (right). It’s amazing how many epic ’80s movie soundtracks Loggins found himself on—and even if the movies were box-office bombs, the songs were still hits. One example I’ll leave you with: “Meet Me Half Way” is from my favorite box-office stinker of all time, Over the Top. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 14, you may not be able to handle all the disco when the Village People stop by. If there was ever a time to see the Village People, it’s now, because the original frontman, the cop/admiral himself, Victor Willis, is back after a lengthy absence. Willis had problems with drugs but has cleaned himself up and has enjoyed an epic run since rejoining the Village People in 2017. Tickets are $28 to $98. At 8 p.m., Friday, July 27, continue on with the tradition of the ’70s with Donny and Marie. The two famed Osmonds are part of a large family of entertainers, and are a regular act in Las Vegas. Tickets are $95 to $150. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a relatively quiet July, but there’s still some cool stuff going on. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 14, Bronco will be performing. The traditional Norteño band has been going for almost 40 years, has sold more than 10 million records, and continues to put out new music. Tickets are $49 to $69. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

On the flip side … Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a lot going on in July. Here are but a few events to consider for a high desert night out: At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 7, jam-band Moe (below) will be performing. The Buffalo, N.Y., band members are contemporaries of Phish, Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band. Bassist Rob Derhak recently won a hard-fought battle against cancer—and Moe returned to the stage without missing a beat. Tickets are $30. At 8 p.m., Thursday, July 12, stoner-rock band Dead Meadow will be performing. If that’s not enough, desert-rock band Yawning Man, featuring Gary Arce and Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson, is also on the bill. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Thursday, July 19, Los Angeles producer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Adams, aka The Blank Tapes, will take the stage. If you’ve never heard of him, you should stop what you’re doing and look him up. Admission is free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

We Are Scientists’ Chris Cain and Keith Murray met at Pomona College in 1997. Several years later, they’d take the world by storm.

In the years since the band’s debut, We Are Scientists released six albums that helped define today’s indie rock—before pushing the bar even higher with Megaplex, the group’s seventh album, released in May.

We Are Scientists will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, July 14.

During a recent phone interview with Chris Cain, he explained the process the band went through to make Megaplex.

“With each record, I think we’ve been reacting to the music that we were listening to at the time, or a year or two prior,” Cain said. “That’s part of why each one ends up a bit different: It’s our natural shifting tastes and interests. There’s also a very conscious effort on our part to make sure we don’t make the same record over and over again.

“With this one, we consciously set out to incorporate some synth elements and electronic beat elements that we haven’t really dabbled with on previous records. That’s because Keith and I have become more conversant with the software everyone uses, which had never really been a part of our workflow in the past. We figured it was time to learn that stuff and begin that journey during the writing process. … Any of the tools you use to create are inevitably going to create a different result. Combine all those things, and this record for us definitely feels like a pseudo-generational thing that we’ve made. I assume the next one will be earth-shattering as well.”

Many mainstream bands today make music that follows a certain formula.

“There is sort of a new perceived wisdom about how quickly you need to get to the chorus, how quickly you need to get yourself through the first verse, and so forth,” Cain said. “I think that’s true for a certain type of outreach that you are doing with your music. There’s always kind of a balancing act. (You want to) really get your existing fans fired up. These are people who are automatically going to give a new record more time to impress them. We prefer a record that takes a minute to grow on them. You’re balancing that with a desire to reach new people. Poor old U2 got in trouble for trying to reach new people by having their record placed on everyone’s iTunes account a couple of years ago. There’s no point where a musician wants to stop trying to have new people hear what they’re making.”

When the band signed with Virgin Records, the members insisted on using Ariel Rechtshaid, who was then largely unknown, as the producer. Rechtshaid would go on to become one of the world’s most popular producers, recording U2, Adele, Beyoncé and many others.

“We had made a demo with Ariel that ended up on Love and Squalor,” Cain said. “We really loved that, and we made that album without a label and just with a publishing company footing the tiny bill for the production. We thought he totally knocked (that album) out of the park, working on a short deadline and no money for studio time. He really got the best out of us. When it was time to do Brain Thrust Mastery and we signed with Virgin Records, they had a clause in the deal that they needed to approve any producer, and we fought to have an exemption in there that if we wanted to do it with Ariel, they would have to accept that. They didn’t want to do that, but ultimately, they let us. They begged us to consider alternatives—and obviously, history is on our side.”

I asked Cain if he felt like rock music and its subgenres were in a sort of music purgatory right now.

“I’m concerned by it in the sense that I’m attentive to it. It’s a very uncertain time, but I don’t feel a sense of dread,” he said. “I think it’s more that there are a lot of unknowns about how consumer behaviors are going to change and how distribution is going to change—also, the technology for making music and how that will change. I think those all affect how we do our job, and they’re all changing. I don’t know how to predict where they will go. I am concerned, but not in a critical way.”

The unique atmosphere and history of Pappy and Harriet’s does not concern We Are Scientists.

“We’ve sort of managed to entertain in a pretty wide variety of venues in our career,” Cain said. “We’re not the kind of obstinate dudes who refuse to read the room and just do what we want to do. Part of the pleasure of playing live is pleasing the audience.”

We Are Scientists will perform with Beverly at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 14, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

With a population of about 25,000 people, Desert Hot Springs is one of the smaller cities in the Coachella Valley—yet DHS has the second-most traffic accidents among the nine cities.

These accidents are often deadly: In 2016, there were seven fatal traffic collisions in DHS, while in 2017, there were eight—and the stretch of Palm Drive between Pierson Boulevard and Camino Aventura seems to be particularly dangerous.

“Our accidents are actually decreasing, but it’s still a major issue for us,” said Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Dale Mondary. “In 15 years, we’ve had at least 25 fatal accidents. It’s not as many as Palm Springs … but that’s still a lot for Desert Hot Springs.”

In an effort to curb the number of accidents, a safety-enhancement zone will soon go into effect on that stretch of Palm Drive between Pierson and Camino Aventura.

“Any fine for a moving violation is doubled in that area,” Mondary said. “That was just another part of our approach to try to get people to slow down and drive safer. There are people who don’t pay any attention to the speed limit. They think, ‘I have to be at work in Palm Desert at 8 a.m., and if I leave my house at 7:20 a.m. and drive 70 mph, I can get there in time.’ They do that instead of getting up earlier and driving the speed limit.

“This is just one way we hope to slow people down. A lot of the offenders are repeat offenders who get more than one citation in that area, so if their fine is doubled, they’re going to think, ‘I can’t afford $700 to $800 for a ticket!’ That’s a tough sell for us, because we are a blue-collar working community, and we don’t want to take money out of people’s pockets that could be spent on their families. But what if you’re driving 65 in a 45, and you run over somebody and kill them? You’re going to be criminally charged and spend years in prison.”

Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas said a recent fatality helped lead to the safety enhancement zone.

“The last death that happened was Pamela Carrillo; she crossed the street and lost her life,” Matas said. The 17-year-old was struck by a car and killed in March. “We brought the family in and talked to the family members, asking what we could do better. One of the things they suggested was putting together a speed-safety zone. We hope that signage, streetlights, stoplights and restriping the roads will work together. Do we want to cause our residents more grief when they have to pay a ticket? No, but we do want to hold people more responsible for what they’re doing. You can’t go 65 mph up a street when people are walking along the side of it.”

A lot of jaywalking takes place along that aforementioned stretch of road—something the city is also trying to crack down upon.

“Over the past couple of months, we’ve written probably at least 50 jaywalking tickets,” Mondary said. “We need more crosswalks, because the reality is if you live in this particular part of the city, the nearest crosswalk is a quarter-mile away. People are going to say, ‘I’m just not going to walk down that far; I just want to get to the bus stop across the street.’ The problem is they try to run across five lanes of traffic that are in a 45 mph zone.”

Matas said the city has been examining the problem over the past two years with surveying and traffic studies.

“When I became mayor 2 1/2 years ago, one of the priorities I wanted to set with the City Council was so many pedestrian accidents and deaths,” Matas said. “I wanted to make our roads safer. We put together a plan to prioritize the stretches of roads that were the worst. Our staff did an analysis and showed us where the problems were. … We’ve put together a plan on where we needed to put some funding and received a state transportation grant about two years ago. The bids are due by the end of July for construction, and construction (should) start late August through September. We’re going to add an additional stop light on Camino Aventura, and choke and restructure the lanes so they aren’t as wide, which causes people to slow down. We’re going to put better bicycle lanes in, sidewalks on the west side of the street, and crosswalks for the kids, given there are schools close by. We’re going to add 23 streetlights to light up the streets better, and with the new LED technology, they will point straight down onto the streets and not up into the night sky.”

Even after the changes are made, it’ll be up to DHS residents to be smarter drivers and pedestrians.

“(Pedestrians) don’t realize that even though they might have the right of way to cross the street, you’re not going to win a battle with a 2,000-pound car going 55 mph,” Matas said.

Mondary added: “The solution is people being responsible and crossing where they should be crossing.”

Matas said the state transportation grant was a huge help.

“The problem that we have is we know where the problems are; the problem is always money,” he said. “… Traffic safety has always got to be a priority. We just bought a motorcycle for our police department, because we need to slow traffic down. Whether you lose one life or 15 lives, it’s alarming either way.”

Mysterious signs that say “No Matas” have appeared near the intersection of Dillon Road and Palm Drive (see photo below); they also call for a signal light and crosswalk to be put in at Camino Aventura. They were apparently put up by an attorney with the support of former Mayor Adam Sanchez.

“This individual came in and was uneducated about what we were doing, and he tried to make allegations that the City Council wasn’t doing anything,” Matas said. “One of the first things I did (as mayor) was put together priorities of our City Council, with traffic safety being a priority, but it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to find money and put together the projects. We were already in the process of fixing that roadway long before he put up that sign.”

It's been a big year so far for local-band Mega Sun. The group played its first-ever show just after the new year—yet it took home Best New Band honors at the CV Music Awards, and drummer Tyler Ontiveros was named Best Drummer. For more information on Mega Sun, visit www.facebook.com/megasuntheband. Ontiveros was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

It was either Thrice with Deftones, Journey or Blue Man Group.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album on CD I owned was Boston’s self-titled album, given to me by my dad. The first two I purchased with my allowance were Follow the Leader by Korn and Nevermind by Nirvana. Around the same time, I also acquired two tapes. Yes, tapes were still a thing. They were Dookie by Green Day and a random and literal find, His Greatest Hits and Finest Performances by Fats Domino. What a mix!

What bands are you listening to right now?

To feed my desert rock/doom cravings, I’ve been listening to Nightstalker, The Sword, Earthless and Red Fang. Some others I’ve been into are Katatonia, Ghost and TesseracT. The most recent artist I discovered is Anderson .Paak, who sings/flows and plays drums at the same time. The live performance of him with The Free Nationals on Tiny Desk Concert, which you can find on YouTube, is straight fire.

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

I just can’t seem to grasp country music. Although I’ve heard there’s good money in country, I’d rather play what I love.

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

Led Zeppelin, with “The Beast,” aka “Bonzo,” aka John Bonham. Come on, man!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

No guilt, but something most don’t know is that I listen to classical music almost daily.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I haven’t ventured out enough to answer that honestly quite yet, but I would really like to check out the venue at Hollywood Forever at some point. There has to be some crazy energy there.

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

Since I just recently came across this, it would have to be: “That’s a whole lot of reefer; let me help you with that pre-roll,” from Anderson .Paak’s “Come Down.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

As much as I’d like to credit just one specific band or artist, I’d have to credit my instrument. I don’t want to go in depth on the importance of rhythms and vibrations, but drumming is so powerful. Just research Shamanic drumming.

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

To Frank Sinatra: “If your perceived affiliation with the Mob is true, how did it impact your career, and what doors were opened because of it?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I would prefer to have all attending participate in a drum circle with numerous percussive instruments, especially hang drums.

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

Given the first song I learned on drums was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I’d have to say Nevermind by Nirvana. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

I’m really diggin’ that song “Come Down” I mentioned earlier. Paak is a genius and locks into that pocket so hard and so effortlessly. (Scroll down to hear it.)

There’s not much of a standup comedy scene in the Coachella Valley—but The Hood Bar and Pizza and aspiring local comedian Jacob Cantu are hoping to change that.

Cantu has often made people laugh during the Wednesday-night open-mic at The Hood—and management has taken notice. As a result, Cantu is now organizing a standup comedy night at The Hood every other Sunday.

“I always had it in the back of my mind to do it, but I just didn’t have the balls to do it,” Cantu said during a recent interview. “My grandpa died in 2015, and I was taking care of him. He had Alzheimer’s, and I took care of him for about five years. I was depressed, and my therapist told me, ‘You know, you’re funny here when you tell me about sad stuff; you should try standup comedy.’ I told my wife about it, and my wife found an ad for an open-mic—and I just did it. I sucked, but I got hooked and got a couple of laughs.”

He’s now been performing for almost three years. At a recent open-mic night, he told a humorous tale about a woman in yoga pants chiding him and ruining his day because he was purchasing Doritos.

“I still don’t know how to be myself when I’m onstage yet,” Cantu said. “That bit at open-mic with the Doritos was probably the most comfortable I’ve felt onstage ever. I’ve consciously been trying to do stuff like that.”

Cantu has long had standup comedy aspirations, and said he was inspired by greats including George Carlin and—before his, uh, recent troubles—Bill Cosby.

“I had Bill Cosby’s Himself on tape, and I just watched it over and over and over again,” Cantu said. “When George Carlin was putting out an HBO special every year, I was living in Mexico. My dad made sure he had DirecTV as soon as it came out and that we had HBO. I watched any special that would come on—stuff like Chris Rock when he did Bring the Pain, and Dave Chappelle. It was before the internet.

“I did a class with this guy who had the only standup open-mic (in the valley) at Caliente Tropics. I knew it was a hustle, but I supported him, because I didn’t want them to stop the open-mic. I paid him $50. It wasn’t like I was being told anything I didn’t know already. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one thing I learned from them is to go up there and be yourself. The jokes come later. The first part is learning how to be yourself onstage.”

Cantu said The Hood’s open-mic night has been a great place to learn.

“The Hood is a tough room, especially on Wednesday,” he said. “People want to go see music, and the thing about music at a bar is that music is in the background. When you (perform) standup, you have to get people’s attention. I’m not a dirty comic; I don’t cuss, and I walk on the borderline talking about death a lot. It’s hard for me to get a bar’s attention on a Wednesday night—but it’s also made me better. I let them listen to themselves be assholes. If you’re quiet for a second, the talking of the people watching you will shut everyone up, and I’ve learned to do that at The Hood, which has been a good thing.

“One of my main motivators is having a regular comedy show there. I also want to have a comedy open-mic somewhere so people can try it. It’s going to be raw; it’s going to be a little rough, and there are going to be people who are funny—or who think they are funny. But at least you know what you’re getting into, and that’s how you get better.”

Cantu said putting together the first show, which took place June 10, was personally challenging.

“Driving over here to meet you, I was worried, because I thought I was going to get ambushed or something. That’s what makes you a standup comedian,” he said. “Nigel (Dettelbach, the promoter/booker at The Hood) is used to dealing with confident people. He’s used to dealing with people with self-esteem. Nigel wasn’t so sure, and it came together on the fly. I put together the show real quick, and comedians came down from Los Angeles.

“There’s no comedy scene here, and when I started doing this, I had nowhere to go. I’m 35, and I know where I am in life. I’m not going to be on television. The highlight of my life would be to run a show here in the Coachella Valley and get paid for it—or getting a famous person who thinks I’m funny to write jokes for them. Why not here? Standup gives you an outlet. You can’t play an instrument, but you can talk on a microphone.”

On top of the shows at The Hood, Cantu is working with Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails in Thousand Palms on a local-comedy night.

“My wife is pretty mad at me, because I’m dedicating a lot of time to this, but I think it’s important,” Cantu said. “Someone has to start this, and I know there are other standups in the valley, but it takes a lot of work to put shows together. … (It would be nice) if I had someone to help me, because I don’t want to get divorced anytime soon.”

Numerous bands have joined the Vans Warped Tour over the years in the hopes of getting a career boost.

One of those up-and-coming bands that has benefited from the tour is Real Friends, out of Tinley Park, Ill. The group will again be a part of the Warped Tour when the final national tour kicks off at the Pomona Fairplex on Thursday, June 21.

Before signing with Fearless Records and putting out debut album Maybe This Is Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing in 2014, Real Friends had already built a fan base across the country. The band will be releasing its third album in the near future, and has already released a new single, “From the Outside.”

During a recent phone interview with bassist Kyle Fasel, he explained how Real Friends appealed to the masses before receiving label support.

“It was really all doing it independently,” Fasel said. “We didn’t have any record-label backing or anything, and we didn’t even really have any management during that time. It was just us as a band of five guys. We did our best to get the word out there. The best tool was the internet. I definitely look to the internet as the biggest tool of our success. We did some touring, and that does help, but in 2013 and even today, the internet, even among American bands—it’s such a prevalent tool.”

When labels began courting Real Friends, the band members weren’t sure what to do.

“We were definitely skeptical about signing to a label, because we were all able to quit our day jobs to do this band full-time without a label,” Fasel said. “We were looking at it as, ‘Why would we need one?’ We were definitely hesitant with Fearless and the other labels who had reached out. At the time, we were asking labels, ‘What can you do for us? We’re still growing.’

“There are questions in my head like, ‘What if we never signed? Would we still be where we are?’ I’ll probably never know the answer. But if we didn’t sign, I’d be sitting here, asking, ‘What if we did sign?’ I think that it definitely helped us, and we noticed after releasing our first album that it had reached so many people. I think retail was still sort of relevant back then. Best Buy isn’t going to even have CDs next year, but in 2014, it was still relevant, and it was crazy to see our CDs, not just in independent stores, but in places like Best Buy. It was readily available to a lot of people, and it helped us grow. We noticed a change after recording that album.”

In 2016, Real Friends released sophomore album The Home Inside My Head. It may not be the band’s best work, Fasel said.

“We wrote a lot of it while we were on tour. That was actually very stressful to write a record on the road. I feel like we were pressed for time, and I would never do that again,” Fasel said. “I don’t think any of us are really totally satisfied with the final product of that record. … We’ve been pretty open about The Home Inside My Head being a big lesson learned. It was actually the first record we did where we were properly produced as a band, because all of our EPs and full-lengths were just with an engineer. I think we leaned on that aspect too much. We thought we could go in with a producer and change them around … and it really wasn’t the case. That’s not to fault Steve Evetts, the producer, or discredit them, because they changed the songs around, but we just leaned on them too much. I don’t think it’s a bad record, but it’s not that memorable. I don’t think anyone said, ‘Wow, this is horrible,’ but I think they said, ‘I don’t want to keep listening to this over and over.’ That’s the reality of it to us.”

The new single, “From the Outside,” tackles one of the hazards of social media.

“I think it’s a topic everyone can relate to, especially in today’s age of social media,” Fasel said. “It really reflects a generation posting all these pictures where everything is fine, and life is perfect, but in reality, we all know everyone has their problems in life. At least to me, I connect the song to that. It is just a simple aspect of: ‘You think I’m OK, but I’m not.’”

Fasel said the end of the Warped Tour presents a sad reality.

“It’s the end of an era, which is really unfortunate. But I see it as everything has to change,” he said. “I think of it as the last tour of its kind, really—a traveling tour with that many dates and that many bands. It is sad, but it has to adapt to the times. They’re saying it’s the last full United States-based Warped Tour, so I’m assuming they’ll do something like a festival-based show like Riot Fest or Lollapalooza. It’s sad, but I’m excited to see where they go with it in the future.”

The Warped Tour has definitely helped out Real Friends.

“We released our first album while on the Warped Tour in 2014,” Fasel said. “I feel like our band took a couple of steps up as far as attendance draws at shows and merchandise sales, and I account a lot of that to the Warped Tour. It’s really the situation where all the kids have heard of these bands, but never listened to them, and this is going to be where they break the ice and listen to them for the first time. It’s the period at the end of the sentence for these kids in this music scene.”

Real Friends will perform as part of the Vans Warped Tour; doors open at 11 a.m., Thursday, June 21, at the Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona. Tickets are $45 to $51. For more information, visit www.vanswarpedtour.com.