CVIndependent

Thu11152018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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.

An enthusiastic and community-minded crowd packed The Hood Bar and Pizza—the choice of Independent readers as the valley’s Best Dive Bar—on Friday, Dec. 15, for the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Party.

Hosted by Jimmy Boegle and Brian Blueskye of the Independent, the awards portion featured a couple dozen winners coming onstage and thanking readers for voting them as the valley’s best—but only after Boegle emphasized the importance of supporting honest, ethical local media.

Following the awards, The Flusters—voted Best Local Band two out of the last three years—capped a busy week by performing to an enthusiastic crowd.

After The Flusters’ set, DJ Tommy Locust spun before the after-party launched with the spooky organ tunes of Herbert; he was followed to the stage by Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Below are some photos from the event, by Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Published in Snapshot

Best Local Album

Thr3 Strykes, CMNCTN-BRKDWN

When I interviewed them last year, the members of Thr3 Strykes told me that putting together the album that would become CMNCTN-BRKDWN was a proving to be difficult task—and taking a long time.

All that hard work and time was worth it: The final result is awesome, and I can’t think of another album put out this year by a local band that matches its energy and insanity. The track with J. Patron and Christina Reyes of Caxton, called “The Colony,” is a must-hear.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Re-established Band

Sunday Funeral

Sunday Funeral was a worthy Best Local Band finalist this year—and what a year it’s been.

The band that Justin Ledesma has fronted for more than a decade has made a remarkable transformation. At the end of 2016, the members set the foundation by cutting back from a four-piece to a trio; meanwhile, Andrea Taboada took over bass duties.

The members found themselves in the finals of CV Weeklys Battle of the Bands in 2017, and have been playing more shows while putting together some great new original material. They’re a definite contender for Best Local Band honors next year; keep your eye on ’em.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Local Live Music Event

The 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener featuring The Flusters and The Yip Yops

The days between the two Coachella weekends are simply packed with great music events throughout the valley—but the one held this year on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza may have topped them all.

The Flusters and the Yip Yops packed The Hood for the 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener, with the bar having to turn away patrons when the venue reached its capacity. Both bands put on spectacular co-headlining sets—after collaborating on marketing materials that were genius and went above and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Benefit Show

The Concert for Autism

Josh and Linda Heinz, the husband-and-wife duo in Blasting Echo and 5th Town, have now been producing the Concert for Autism for 10 years—and every year, it continues to grow.

Because Josh and Linda are the parents of autistic children, this is a cause that is very near and dear to their hearts—and their efforts to help others facing the same challenges that their family faces are simply remarkable.

Of course … the show is always fantastic, too.

—Brian Blueskye; photo of Josh Heinz by Cory Courtney.


Best Customer Service for Those Quitting Smoking

Desert Vapors

I recently transitioned from cigarettes to vaping—I tried to quit cold-turkey, but needed help with the transition away from cigarettes. I had a lot of questions, and I went to a few shops to get some information and ask questions.

Desert Vapors, with locations in Palm Desert and Indio, had by far the best customer service of the vape shops I went to—and I wound up purchasing my first vaping kit from them. I went back a few days later after having some problems and got service that went above and beyond.

Also, the flavors that they offer are fantastic.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Pet Grooming

Desert Pet Grooming

Let’s face it: When a pet groomer is named something like Royal Canine Resort and Day Spa, and the cutesiness level of the place is off the charts, that fluff is for human companions. All Fido cares about is that the potentially stressful grooming experience goes quickly and without a hitch. As for us human companions … if the grooming shop is welcoming, clean and safe, who needs to feel as though our pet is in the line of succession for the British throne?

Desert Pet Grooming, in Cathedral City at Vista Chino and Landau Boulevard, offers everything you need in a quality pet groomer—without the silliness and added cost of massaging the human companion’s ego. The functional shop is spic and span, and all the grooming is done out in the open. The groomers we’ve tried there have all been great, but Brenda in particular will treat your furry friends like her own.

—Jeff Clarkson


Best Great (but Unpretentious) New Restaurant

Justin Eat and Drink

We like this restaurant on Highway 111 in Cathedral City for the very reason that it’s unpretentious. The Coachella Valley can always use more restaurants like this—serving tasty, interesting food, at reasonable prices, in a simple but hip atmosphere.

This place doesn’t go over the top like some of the restaurants geared toward tourists here in the valley. It’s just a casual, contemporary setting where one can enjoy a relaxed dinner. The portions aren’t huge, but they’re price-appropriate, and while the menu is not extensive, everything we’ve ordered has been delicious.

Although the service is sometimes slow, it’s always friendly—and the food is definitely worth the wait. Now that the restaurant is becoming more popular, reservations are recommended. Justin, the owner/chef, may even pop out and greet you at your table.

—Jeff Clarkson; photo courtesy of Justin Facebook page


Best Local Restaurants (on a National Scale)

TKB Bakery and Deli

Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar

It’s simple math: If there’s a list of, say, 100 top places to eat in the United States, that means the average state will be home to two places on the list. Right? Right.

That means if, say, a not-huge community like the Coachella Valley by itself were home to two places on the list, that would be freaking amazing. Right? Right!

Well, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Yelp’s 2017 list of the Top 100 Places to Eat for 2017. Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar, long an Independent staff favorite, was No. 78 on the crowd-source review website—an amazing accomplishment. However, what Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli has accomplished is even more fantastic: It came in at No. 5 on the list—making the Top 5 for the third straight year, something no other restaurant in the whole country has done.

TKB and Shabu Shabu Zen prove that despite some deficiencies, the Coachella Valley dining scene has much to be proud of.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Quail

Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

I grew up eating quail—not all the time, or even regularly, but often enough that I knew what to expect whenever one of these gorgeous but silly small birds wound up on my dinner plate.

Well … at least I thought I knew what to expect.

That all changed the first time I enjoyed the codorniz estilo Ernesto at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill in downtown Palm Springs. The grilled quail with sautéed tomatoes, potatoes, Anaheim peppers, garlic, green onions and cilantro is very, very good by itself. However, when it’s paired with Chef Ernesto’s diablo cream salsa, which is served on the side … well, let’s just say that none of the quail dishes I had while growing up were anywhere near this good.

A plate of codorniz estilo Ernesto, paired with a Rio Azul house margarita, is about as close as one can get to culinary nirvana here in the Coachella Valley, as far as I am concerned. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Prime Rib

TRIO Restaurant

TRIO is one of my favorite restaurants—but the place used to frustrate the heck out of me.

Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

Several years ago, TRIO would occasionally offer prime rib as a special—and after ordering it a time or two, I was hooked: It was the some of the best prime rib I’ve ever had. (Considering I grew up on a cattle ranch, this is high praise, indeed.)

Problem is … because it was a special, the prime rib wasn’t always on the menu. Therefore, there was a time or three that I got a hankering for prime rib, went to TRIO with my fingers crossed … and got frustrated when the server told me prime rib was not on offer that particular night. However, that’s no longer an issue: Every Tuesday at TRIO is now Prime Rib Tuesday—and the meal costs a downright-reasonable $26.

This system is not perfect—a prime-rib hankering can occur on non-Tuesdays, after all—but at least now I know precisely when I can go to Trio to get that hankering satisfied. And that is a very good thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

Sunday Funeral has been rocking in the Coachella Valley for many years now. Co-fronting the band with lead guitarist/vocalist Justin Ledesma is rhythm guitarist/vocalist Brian Frang. Sunday Funeral recently added drummer Grant Gruenberg to the mix. Sunday Funeral was recently part of two battle-of-the-bands contests that took place at The Hood Bar and Pizza. For more information, visit www.sundayfuneral.com. Brian Frang and Grant Gruenberg were kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are their answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Brian: The Wallflowers, when I was 15. Can’t remember much of it, though.

Grant: Fabulous Thunderbirds and Dr. John, at Oasis Waterpark.

What was the first album you owned?

Brian: Oh, hell … I think it was a Marty Stuart album. I was pretty young.

Grant: Weird Al Yankovic’s Even Worse.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Brian: Mostly metal: Nightwish, Iron Maiden, Type O Negative, and Judas Priest. Mostly I just listen to whatever sounds good.

Grant: Zebrahead, Avenged Sevenfold, and Reel Big Fish.

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

Brian: Dubstep. I’m sorry, but it sounds like two washing machines trying to screw.

Grant: Goblin core. I don’t get that crap.

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

Brian: I would have loved to see Type O Negative live, before Pete Steele’s untimely death.

Grant: Easy one: Pink Floyd.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Brian: “Careless Whisper” by George Michael.

Grant: New Kids on the Block and DJ Mustard.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Brian: Oh, I can’t pick a favorite; everyone’s treated us really well. On the other hand, The Hood has pizza.

Grant: Local: What used to be J Dee’s Landing. Out of town: Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

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

Brian: “It’s a small world after all.”

Grant: “Fuck you too bitch, call the cops! I’m a kill you and them loud ass motherfucking barking dogs.” Eminem, “Forgot About Dre.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Brian: Michael Jackson probably had the biggest impact. He’s the reason I became a singer. Saw him perform at the Super Bowl in ’93 (on TV), and I pointed and said, “I wanna do that when I grow up.”

Grant: Eminem, because I realized my life really wasn’t that bad. I stopped caring about a lot of things after hearing him.

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

Brian: I’d ask Anthony Kiedis. “Where do you think you’d be today if you hadn’t gotten into music?"

Grant: I’d ask Jim Morrison: “Why are we here?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Brian: “A Tout Le Monde” by Megadeth.

Grant: “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen.

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

Brian: You just love making these hard. Probably Judas Priest’s Painkiller.

Grant: Reel Big Fish, Why Do They Rock So Hard?

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Brian: “What It’s Like” by Everlast. It’s got a message I think more people need to take to heart before judging others.

Grant: Reel Big Fish, “Another FU Song.” (Scroll down to hear them!)

Published in The Lucky 13

John Robbins is best known as a drummer for the local band Sunday Funeral, although he’s actually a talented multi-instrumentalist.

The musician has accomplished much despite his eyesight: He’s completely blind in one eye, and only has a small percentage of his vision left the other. He recently wrote a book about his journey, Echo of Sight. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 27, he’ll host a release party and book-signing at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. The party will feature performances from Burning Bettie, Bridger, Blasting Echo and Boycott Radio.

Robbins is originally from the San Francisco area and has lived in the Coachella Valley since 2001. He plays the guitar, ukulele, piano and drums, but his main passion these days is writing.

“I’m always writing,” Robbins said during a recent interview. “Even when I’m out, I’m always writing on my cell phone. … I have an idea; I write it down, and when I get home, I expand upon the idea, and it just goes from there. … A lot of my inspirations come from my relationships here in the valley—and the music I listen to out here has such an impact on everything that I write.”

Robbins has had vision troubles his entire life.

“It’s a congenital condition,” Robbins said. “My mother has vision problems as well, and unfortunately, for her, while she was growing up, she didn’t know she had vision problems. When I was born, we figured out that I was blind in my left eye. With technological advances in the medical world, optometry and ophthalmology are more advanced. We figured out that I had these same exact problems my mom has, but on a more grand scale. We always thought my right eye would be my good eye, and I had no vision problems (in that eye) from the time I was born up until I was 22.”

He noticed his vision was starting to decline while working one day. When he told his parents, they all went to LensCrafters to determine whether or not he needed a new prescription.

“It turned out it was a worse case than we thought,” Robbins said. “The optometrist there referred me to the Retina Institute of California, and I was told a blood vessel was expanding, and it was leaking, which was causing my retina to detach. Luckily we went when we did, because I needed to have immediate surgery, or I was going to go completely blind.

“The surgery happened three days later, and it was successful. Now, my vision is more stable, and I can do the things I love.”

He demonstrated his vision problems by explaining what he had to do just to see my face while I was seated directly in front of him.

“I’ve lost a major percentage of my vision. I have absolutely no peripheral vision any more,” he said “About 50 percent to 60 percent of my central vision is blocked. Basically, I’m using the lower half of my right eye to see.”

Aside from writing, music has been his escape.

“I remember hearing one of my cousins playing piano one day, and I sat down next to her, and I asked her, ‘Hey, can you teach me how to play what you’re playing?’” he said. Fifteen minutes later, I learned how to play that same song she was playing, with both hands. That’s how I knew I liked playing music. From then on, my dad took it upon himself to teach me piano, and introduced me to all the contemporary artists he liked at the time. He also showed me Led Zeppelin and The Doors. The first instrument I took a major interest in was the guitar around the age of 8.”

Robbins used fictional characters and situations to write about his personal journey while being visually impaired in Echo of Sight, which is being touted as a young-adult novel.

“The book means a lot to me in the sense that it shows what it means to be visually impaired, and the steps that you have to go through to adapt to life,” Robbins said. “I was in a bad place when I first started writing the book. I thought that I had no direction, and I didn’t know if my life would get any better, despite going to the Braille Institute for a couple of years. There was still something I needed to get out into the open. …  I wanted everybody to see how a blind person lives and to understand what they’re going through, and for people to have empathy.”

Robbins said he is happy with how the book turned out. “I feel that it’s my masterpiece, and I’m really proud of the book, and I really hope a lot of people read it and enjoy it.”

He also has a positive perspective regarding his vision issues.

“I’ve always said I view being visually impaired as a blessing in disguise,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it didn’t happen.”

Echo of Sight: The Release Party takes place at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 27, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free; copies of the book will be available for $8. The event will include performances by Burning Bettie, Boycott Radio, Bridger and Blastic Echo. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/echoofsight.

Published in Previews

Justin Ledesma (vocals, guitar) is the main creative force behind the blues-rock band Sunday Funeral, which has been entertaining local crowds since 2007. Learn more about Sunday Funeral by visiting the band's website at www.sundayfuneral.com, or head to Schmidy’s Tavern on Friday, Sept. 26, to watch them play a free show with Burning Bettie and Cosmic Jellyfish. Ledesma—who also plays in a Dresden Dolls tribute band, The Caesareans—was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

My very first concert was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Coming Out of Their Shells Tour. It was essentially a ninja-turtle boy band. It was held at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center in 1990, and I went three times. It’s pretty dorky, but some of the songs were catchy enough that they still reverberate in my memories and my ears from time to time.

What was the first album you owned?

Album? As in vinyl? My first vinyl record was Frank Zappa's Apostrophe. I was about 10 years old. First cassette album was The Ghostbusters soundtrack. First CD albums were Jimmy Page's Outrider, and Queen’s A Night at the Opera—all of which I still love.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I just recently got way into Watsky. Besides that, I’ve loved My Chemical Romance since they hit the scene. You can hear their influence in Sunday Funeral’s song “FVD!” My other standard favorites over the years have been Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Megadeth, Shinedown, Faith No More, The Black Crowes, Epic Rap Battles of History, The Human Failure Rate … and Burning Bettie. My all-time-favorite band is Cry of Love; you can really hear the influence they had on my singing. We used to cover a song of theirs call “Hand Me Down," which was always fun to perform.

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

I like most music. I’m not a fan of most current pop music. I’m not a fan of most rap, but there are always exceptions. I’ve recently gotten really into Watsky, and it’s made me more open to other rap. Also, I’m not a country guy. Once again, there are always exceptions, like Brad Paisley’s “Alcohol.” That may be solely because he says the name of my hometown (Milwaukee) repeatedly, though.

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

Iron Maiden. The other guitarist, Brian (Frang), and I missed seeing them when our “Alloy Stars” music video shoot coincided with Maiden’s most recent show near us. I stupidly set the date not realizing what we’d be missing.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

The Real Ghostbusters cartoon score. I still love those instrumentals. (Haim) Saban was clearly asked to capture the feel of the movie soundtrack for the cartoon and succeeded with flying colors. I even use one of those instrumentals during the intro for Sunday Funeral’s song “Hell.”

What’s your favorite music venue?

Wherever I’m performing my original songs. It could be anywhere, as long as I’m doing what I love and entertaining people.

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

“I’m in my room making cardboard castles with shoestring rope. Soup spoon drawbridge, tinfoil moat. I’m still dreamin’ after all these years,” Watsky, “Cardboard Castles.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Black Crowes. When I heard The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, it came to me at just the right time in my life. I was 16 years old and full of angst. That particular album got me through what seemed like rough times in 1998. Also Aerosmith’s Nine Lives.

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

Kurt Cobain: “Be honest: Did Courtney have you murdered?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Cry of Love, “Saving Grace.”

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

Judas Priest, Painkiller.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Sunday Funeral, “Alloy Stars.” (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

It wasn’t long ago that two members of Sunday Funeral faced separate, life-changing horrors.

The lead singer suffered a near-fatal car accident on a long desert highway. The rhythm guitarist was robbed at gunpoint after buying groceries for his ailing father.

Brian Frang and Justin Ledesma now use these experiences to inspire their music.

Sunday Funeral’s influences range from swamp rock to grunge, with a bit of classic punk and almighty ’70s metal thrown in. Now add fire-hoop dancers, perhaps, to their well-thought-out rock songs, and it becomes clear why Sunday Funeral is gaining fans across the valley.

Brian Frang (singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist), Justin Ledesma (singer, songwriter and lead guitarist), Jeff Mazer (singer, bassist and keyboardist), Jason Obando (keyboards) and Johnny Elsewhere (drums) love to bring a diverse set of sounds to their rock ’n’ roll.

“We want our audience to enjoy themselves,” Ledesma said. “We play just because we love to play music. Fame and glory would be great, but we do it because we simply love to play. From classic blues to Southern rock to heavy metal, we try to incorporate every nuance we can and find that thread of sound that the listeners can just enjoy.”

The band formed in 2007 after Ledezma moved to the valley.

“Brian and I met at the Village Pub in Palm Springs during a ‘Lead Singer of the Band’ night,” Ledesma said. “A three-piece band played music, and the customers were welcomed to sing lead. That’s where it all began.”

In a sense, the roots of Sunday Funeral go beyond that night at the Village Pub.

“I come from a background where many influences in music inspired me, from classic rock to heavy metal. Our influences between me and Brian seem to merge … through life experiences. We tend to work well (as songwriters),” Ledesma said.

Take, for instance, the track “What Is Real,” on the band’s 2012 album Reckless Life Syndrome. The two singers take turns telling their individual stories. Within the track, a subtle softening surprises the listener before the song quickly reverts back to a hard-rock sound.

The band has delved into cinema, too. They filmed a mockumentary, This Is Sunday Funeral (which can be watched in pieces at www.youtube.com/user/Justin5279) for an estimated $3,000. The goal was to offer a humorous look into the band’s journey.

“Although it’s not a polished film, by any means, we just wanted to have fun with it and have something to show people that we love playing music,” Ledesma said, smiling.

After that near fatal-car accident, Ledesma found himself on a creative journey that goes beyond the obvious. He branched out to form The Caesareans, which has its roots as a Dresden Dolls cover band, as a side project. The Caesareans are lead by the enigmatic Kanima Beck, who is also one of the fire-hoop dancers that sometimes performs with Sunday Funeral. Ledesma plays the drums, garnished in full Dresden Dolls regalia.

“We found we really enjoy doing more than one project. Sunday Funeral tends to merge creatively with our other side projects,” Ledesma said.

Though the band has gone through major changes over the years—Ledesma estimates the band has had around 10 members in its six years of existence—Sunday Funeral continues to deliver performances that set them apart.

“We try to give the audience something different every single time we play,” Frang said.

Sunday Funeral’s next performance will take place at Schmidy’s Tavern on Friday, Oct. 11. The Ceasareans will follow with a performance of their own.

“We invite people to come experience our sound and just have a good time. That’s what we are all about,” Frang said.

Sunday Funeral and The Caesareans will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, Suite J3, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on the show, call 760-837-3800, or visit www.schmidystavern.com. For more on Sunday Funeral, visit www.facebook.com/sundayfuneralband. Philip Wayne is a freelance writer who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Previews