CVIndependent

Fri05252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

A Perfect Circle will release its first album in 14 years, Eat the Elephant, on April 20—a date that just so happens to fall in between the band’s performances at Coachella, on Sunday, April 15 and 22.

The album is one of the year’s most highly anticipated releases; it’s the fourth studio album by A Perfect Circle, founded in 1999 by Billy Howerdel, who at the time was a guitar tech for the band Tool. Maynard James Keenan, the frontman of Tool and Puscifer, was interested in the project after hearing some demos Howerdel played for him. The band put out its debut album, Mer de Noms, in 2000, and follow-up Thirteenth Step in 2003; both went platinum. The success and popularity of the band continues to be on the same level as Tool, even after the controversial third album, Emotive, in 2004, which was a collection of “reimaginings” of famous anti-war songs.

The band went on hiatus in early 2005, but returned to touring in 2010. In addition to Howerdel and Keenan, the current lineup includes guitarist James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins; Palm Springs native and touring Eagles of Death Metal bassist Matt McJunkins; and drummer Jeff Friedl.

Eat the Elephant is another timeless rock album—in an age when rock records are being forgotten. (I received a preview copy before the interview.) It’s an offering that will offer hope to what is left of rock’s faithful audience, and will make for an interesting backdrop at a Coachella festival full of new-era mumble-rap artists--and very little rock music.

During a recent phone interview, I asked Maynard James Keenan why the band reunited.

“That’s a good question, but I don’t think it was about either of us missing it,” Keenan said. “I felt that Billy and I went off to do other things for a while, and he was very happy doing Ashes Divide, and I was doing Puscifer. I think it was just time. It wasn’t so much that we missed it, but we felt more like it was time to get back to work on that stuff.”

Tool and Puscifer seem to reflect different sides of Keenan as a music artist—so what does A Perfect Circle offer him artistically that his other bands don’t? He hesitated for a moment.

“I feel like it’s different conversation,” he replied. “… I don’t really think (A Perfect Circle) provides me with something that the other bands don’t; it’s just different puzzles—and I like puzzles!”

Between 2010 and the announcement of Eat the Elephant last year, fans speculated whether a new album would ever become a reality.

“We started recording it in late summer 2017 when I was in harvest”—Keenan owns wineries in Arizona—“and we hauled ass and finished it,” he said. “We had the first conversation about it and delivered it to be mastered in under a year. I think that’s pretty fast, honestly. Before, I would sit with Billy, and he would do what he was doing. I would try to get some vocals in there in between, but this time because of the digital age, I was able to share files, and I focused doing vocals with my Puscifer partner, Mat Mitchell, while Billy was doing guitars and drums getting all of that recorded. We could actually get twice as much done in a day. It was a nice break to get down with a vocal and look online, hearing stuff that he’d done that I hadn’t heard yet. It was pretty cool.”

Eat the Elephant has a wide variety of different sounds that lead to all kinds of emotional possibilities for songs.

“The sounds in general are what I’m reacting to,” Keenan explained. “Whenever Billy comes up with things that are challenging or different, it inspires you to go down that rabbit hole and see how far you can take it.”

I asked what it took to make A Perfect Circle sound new in the modern era. “That’s definitely a puzzle, and you’re absolutely right. Trying to reinvent yourself can be daunting for people who have never had to reinvent themselves. I kind of do it for a living, so I’m covered,” Keenan said with a laugh.”

While Keenan has never publicly supported any political candidate, he is most certainly politically engaged. The press release officially announcing the new album joked about Keenan’s points of view about Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush.

“Boy, was I ever wrong about that guy. What I wouldn’t give to have ol’ Dubbya back in the White House right now,” he said.

Keenan said now is an important time for rock musicians.

“I think as an artist, in the words of Henry Rollins, this is what you train for, and why you listened to Dead Kennedys when you were a kid. This is your time, and this is our moment to shine as punk-rockers. This is it,” he said. “As far as expressing your opinion, politics is about people, and people expressing themselves and interacting. This is us interacting: ‘Here are a couple of opinions; here are some approaches; and here are some things you never thought about, and it’s your turn.’”

When A Perfect Circle released Emotive in 2004, George W. Bush was up for re-election, and the Iraq War was in full swing. Keenan said in a statement posted to the band’s website in 2004: “Look, clearly I’m supporting anyone but Bush in this upcoming election, but I’m not telling anyone who to vote for with this new album. I’m still just trying to encourage people to think for themselves … to stop buying into this absurdity and rampant fear.” When I used the description of “anti-war cover songs” to describe the album, he stopped me.

“Not necessarily; it was more about expressing the voices of people who came before us who had something to say, and presenting those stories in a different light—not necessarily in the specific music they used to express those thoughts; we expressed those thoughts in different beds of music,” he said. “Arguably, we pretty much rewrote the music to all those songs to give you an idea of what that story looks like or sounds like in a different setting.” 

I asked if Keenan was he surprised that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were, in some ways, still going on 14 years later.

“I drink a lot more wine now,” Keenan said with a laugh. “That’s my reaction: Yep, I’m going to have a glass of fucking wine.”

Speaking of wine, I asked Keenan—as a winemaker, the owner of Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, Ariz.—if making wine can be daunting, given there are things over which winemakers have no control.

“I think the hardest part for most artists—and I’m speaking to all of you artists out there—is knowing when the fuck to let go,” he responded. “You have a desire to create a thing, but once you’ve created it, and you’re going to release that bird out of the cage, it’s not yours anymore. You have to let that go. Letting go of shit you can’t control is probably the hardest lesson for anyone, really, but especially to artists who get all precious about shit.”

Keenan is also a vegetable gardener.

“I’ve done it all my life, having lived in Michigan in the middle of a bunch of peach and cherry orchards,” he said. “My dad had extensive gardens for our house. That’s basically what we lived on. It was always something that I was going to return to regardless. No matter where I’ve lived, I’ve always had a garden.”

Keenan said his upbringing in the Midwest contributed greatly to his outlook on hard work.

“I kind of refer to my people in West Michigan as snow-shovelers,” he said. “If you’re a shoveler, you know you couldn’t get from Point A to Point B in the winter without removing the obstacles. You get used to understanding puzzles and understanding what it takes to get somewhere. You start to respect or have an appreciation for or empathy and sympathy for people who do other jobs around you. When things are super-cozy, you end up with entitled people. People who somehow find success accidentally and end up touring or on movie sets, they don’t (appreciate) the grips, the carpenters, the stage managers—they don’t have any appreciation for those people and how hard they work if they’ve never had to actually do that job. You’ve heard that cliché before: If you’ve never done it, you just don’t actually know.”

Keenan has played Coachella in the past with all three of his bands—but this year is definitely different, considering how few rock acts are on the bill.

“I guess it’s an indication of where things are. It’s interesting,” he said. “You feel a little bit like a dinosaur, which is fine. Feeling like a dinosaur can be inspiring: Get off your butt, right?”

I asked what Keenan felt it would take to resurrect rock music.

“You’re going to see things coming at you that you didn’t even expect. That’s the nature of punk rock—that anarchist mentality, that reacting outside of the box intuitively, instinctively, situationally or even environmentally,” he said. “That’s what brought us N.W.A., and that’s what brought you the Stooges. All those things kind of happened, and you can’t plan it. I think we’re going to see a lot of reactions come out of this political climate, social climate, economic climate and artistic climate. You’ll see someone coming out and swinging for the fence in a way where they aren’t trying to do that—it’s just happening. But then it will settle back into the art.

“Back in the punk rock days, everything was about … just being mad, breaking shit and fucking playing as fast you can. Then someone comes along like Minor Threat, where there are almost melodies there. Ian MacKaye and those guys took off in a great direction, because they brought back an artistic approach to punk rock. Their attitude and what they stood for was more about the punk rock. The music started settling into something you could enjoy and listen to over and over again. The same thing (happened) with N.W.A., and that progressed into some amazing music with Dr. Dre.

“I think we’ll have our punk-rock moment soon. Maybe we’re already having it—and I’m just too old to recognize it.”

On the morning of March 7, a fire broke out near the kitchen of Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grille—about one hour before the Arenas Road restaurant in downtown Palm Springs was scheduled to open.

The Palm Springs Fire Department quickly put out the blaze—ruled an accident, after linens and oil-soaked rags in a laundry hamper spontaneously combusted—but by then, the damage was done: Bongo Johnny’s kitchen was essentially destroyed, while smoke and water damage closed three of the four other businesses in the building: Stacy’s at Palm Springs, Mischief Cards and Gifts, and the Palm Springs Piercing Company. Only Streetbar, located at the east end of the building, remained open.

More than two weeks later, those four businesses remain closed—and frustration is mounting over a Palm Springs City Council that Bongo Johnny’s general manager called unresponsive, as well as a landlord, Plaza Investment Company, Inc., that’s allegedly being uncooperative.

“My No. 1 goal is to rebuild, as soon as possible,” said Robb Wirt, the owner of Bongo Johnny’s. “The landlord is hindering that. At this time, it’s literally unknown when that will be. … They’re saying they aren’t responsible for the structure of the building. They are!”

Mark Hewitt, Bongo Johnny’s general manager, explained what was happening with the insurance companies, the landlord and the other three businesses.

“I don’t know if ‘fighting’ is the right word to use here,” Hewitt said. “When things like this happen, everybody has their own insurance company. Everyone needs to come to the table here, because at the end of the day, their building burned. Our business burned, and (the landlord’s) business burned. Unfortunately, the stance the landlord is taking is, ‘It’s all your fault,’ and they don’t want to bring their insurance company into it, because they want our insurance company to pay for everything. That’s not how the insurance game works.”

Plaza Investment Company, Inc., did not respond to an interview request as of our deadline.

Wirt said cleaning needs to get started at Bongo Johnny’s so the other three closed businesses in the building can reopen.

“The other businesses have smoke damage, and basically we just need to clean so they can start their process and open up while (Bongo Johnny’s) is under construction,” Wirt said. “We all share an attic space, so if we start cleaning, it’s just going to get dirty again, because the dust will go through the vents.”

Hewitt said they’ve appealed to the Palm Springs City Council for help. “I spoke to Mayor Robert Moon, and he told me, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’ He got involved in Wang’s (in the Desert) over vandalism, but he’s friends with the landlord, and that’s probably why he doesn’t want to get involved.

“It’s a nightmare. I’m under the impression that the City Council’s role is to help small businesses, because we bring in money to the city. I haven’t gotten any help. Geoff Kors hasn’t returned my calls; J.R. Roberts hasn’t returned my calls. I feel like the landlords don’t care. All of the tenants on Arenas pay rent to the same landlord, and (the landlord) hasn’t given back a single dollar to the LGBT community. Yet they take millions of dollars from us, and we all just pay our rent and taxes, and we get nothing out of it.”

Bongo Johnny’s will be closed for months. However, Stacy Louis, the owner of Stacy’s at Palm Springs, expressed hope that his bar could re-open by the end of March.

“There are so many things I’m dealing with, and I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before.” Louis said. “I’m more of the guy who goes with the flow and doesn’t create problems. But when we can’t get action immediately after we’ve had a fire like we did … I am frustrated.

“I actually paid my cleanup company, who was waiting for the landlord to authorize, which took four days and through a weekend. … I could get this going if I have (an asbestos) test, and it comes back at a little less than 1 percent—which it did. I had to wait four days for the second test to be done, because the landlord wouldn’t approve it. My cleanup person paid them out of his pocket to get this second test done so I could get going. I shouldn’t have had to sign a contract with my cleanup company to get started because I’m waiting for one insurance company to work with the other—and I just gave them $5,000 out of my own pocket.”

Stacy’s suffered damage from both smoke and the firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire.

“I have a few holes punched through my restroom, probably from the axes of the firemen, and I have water that’s come in through that same restroom and into the offices and the bar itself,” Louis said.

The employees of both Bongo Johnny’s and Stacy’s are being paid their hourly wages for the time being, Wirt and Louis said, but for Bongo Johnny’s, there’s a race against time: The insurance company will only pay for two months of wages, and Wirt said he is paying his staff what they would normally make in tips out of his own pocket.

“On his own accord, Robb has decided that the little bit of personal cash that he has, he’s going to use to make sure the employees are whole first,” Hewitt said. “But what we’re getting from the landlord is, ‘If you can pay your employees, why don’t you just pay for everything else?’ Three days after the fire, we got all of the employees together and said, ‘We want you back, but we don’t know how long this will be for as of today.’ We’re going to continue to pay them for as long as we can, which is not the narrative you want to give someone sitting at home thinking, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen in two months?’”

Louis said his employees have benefited from the kindness of his fellow Arenas Road business owners.

“I said to (my employees), ‘I will pay you for your hours, and if any of you need help because you’re not making your tips, you can come to me, and I will take care of you until we get this figured out.’ But I think the kindest thing that happened was (at Streetbar). Dick Haskamp, the owner of Streetbar, passed away a few days before the fire. The employees of Streetbar came to me and asked if it was OK if (Stacy’s bartenders) could fill in during the memorial service. I can’t even tell you how many tears that’s brought to my eyes. So we made it all happen. We got a schedule together, and they trained them. … During this (service), all the sales would be donated to Stacy’s, on top of the tips that they would make.”

Wirt said he’s been overwhelmed by messages of support from Bongo Johnny’s customers.

“I’ve been getting e-mails from people on Yelp, Facebook and through my website,” Wirt said. “They’re saying, ‘I just landed; I’m on my way.’ They get there; they find out we’re closed; and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I always start my trip in Palm Springs at your restaurant.’ Bongo Johnny’s has been there for 12 years, and it’s iconic for the LGBT community. It’s their first stop when they get off the airplane, and I didn’t even realize that until this happened. Now they’re going somewhere else.

“People bring their dog because we’re dog-friendly. … (Customers) come in on a Friday night—and I can guarantee you they’re not eating anywhere else, because of how they might be dressed. They feel safe. Now that’s been taken away from them, and it’s a detriment to the community that we can’t reopen quicker.”


Following publication, we received this response from Geoff Kors:

I was surprised to see the statement that I didn’t return a call from the manager of Bongo Johnny’s, especially as your reporter never reached out to ask me about this issue or whether or not I received a call.

The fire occurred on the day that my husband’s mother died, March 7. We left for Scotland a few days thereafter and returned Tuesday night, March 20. During that time, I checked with our city manager about the situation and also spoke with a friend whose business was impacted due to the fire. I was told that both the mayor and Councilmember Middleton were working on the issue, and I would be briefed upon my return.

I never received any communication from Bongo Johnny’s, and checked with staff at City Hall today and was told that the only call that had been to the mayor, and it was from Rob Wirt. No message was left for me, and I was never informed of a call.

Trailblazing French composer and electronic/ambient musician Jean-Michel Jarre is largely unheard of in the United States—but worldwide, he’s one of the biggest stars there is.

I’m not exaggerating: In a career spanning almost 50 years, he has played before crowds of more than 1 million people. He’s performed political goodwill shows for organizations such as UNESCO. His shows have celebrated religious figures such as Pope John Paul II (during his visit to Jarre’s hometown of Lyon, France in 1986), and a concert in Monaco in 2011 celebrated the marriage of Prince Albert II and Charlene, Princess of Monaco. He was also the first western artist to perform in the People’s Republic of China. He’s collaborated with numerous artists you have heard of, including Gorillaz, Gary Numan and film director/composer John Carpenter.

He’s in the midst of his first-ever tour of the United States, including performances at Coachella on Friday, April 13 and 20. Jarre’s visual show is just as stunning as his music during live performances—so his is one performance you won’t want to miss.

During a recent phone interview, Jarre described what it feels like to play to crowds of more than a million—and then to much smaller crowds here in the States.

“It’s very difficult to describe,” Jarre said, “My manager is Irish, and she said to me once, ‘You performed to a crowd that’s the size of my country!’ It’s quite surreal, but I see it as a privilege, of course. Whatever the audience is, at the end of the day, the live performance works, or it doesn’t work. … I can play in a small theater, in an arena, or a big festival like Coachella. It’s just a matter of changing the size and performing with this stage design. I’m especially excited to share this with the Coachella audience.”

Jarre studied classical music, and there are many classical elements in his electronic music. 

“I was playing in rock bands when I was a teenager. I studied classical music, and then I discovered electronic music,” he said. “I discovered people were working and approaching music in a totally different way with notes, but also with sound and noise, which meant you could go outside recording the sounds of the street, the sounds of the car—and you can make music with it. To me, it was like cooking. It was sensual and very warm. It’s like Jackson Pollock: People would say, ‘Jackson Pollock doesn’t present anything.’ But he was doing art with sections, oil, and he worked with his hands. You work with your hands, even on a computer with a mouse, or working with knobs and strings. … I believed this kind of music would be a major art form in the 21st century.”

I told Jarre it feels as if electronic music today is huge—and continuing to evolve.

“I think that’s quite logical, because as you just said, it has no boundaries,” he said. “One of my latest projects in electronica was based on the idea of trying to gather around people who are sort of impatient with me and to electronics and technology … like Tangerine Dream, Pete Townshend, Moby, Laurie Anderson, Gary Numan and Pet Shop Boys—all who inspired generations with a style of music. There was one problem: They all love technology, and they’re all kind of nerds in their own way. … By the end of the day, music is technology.” 

The visuals during Jarre’s performances are stunning and innovative, even by today’s standards. I highly suggest checking out his video online during which he plays what’s called a “laser harp.”

“I’ve always been interested in my life to try to find additional correspondence for the electronic songs,” Jarre explained. “Staying behind your laptop is not the most sexy thing in the world, and people don’t understand what you’re doing most of the time. I really try to explore during performances. Because I was working with a lot of lights and lasers, I thought it would be cool to invent an instrument made of lasers where the strings would be played by lights and lasers.

“The idea of being outdoors, like at Coachella, where you have the audience far away from the stage—I’m able to convey what I do musically to people. You can see the music being played from miles away, and this is magical. This is what modern technology can afford. I can try to convey emotions visually and through sound.”

Jarre has long played events with a social message; he said music and politics are always linked.

“I think you always have two sides of art and music in general,” Jarre said. “You have the hedonist side, where you like to enjoy music, dancing until end of the night, and just the entertainment of it and having fun. … Of course, (with) any genre of music—like punk and hip-hop, or even techno—there are things linked to social movements. That’s what I tried to do in my collaboration with Edward Snowden … (show) the dark side of technology, and we know we’re spied on by the outside world. We know that in the near future, we’ll have to deal with machines competing with ourselves. I think that politics and music are linked together like any other kind of movement in history.”

Jarre is no stranger to the United States. He performed with the Houston Grand Opera at Texas’ 150th anniversary in 1986; he also incorporated the 25th anniversary of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center into the show at the request of NASA. But this marks the first time Jarre has actually toured America—and he’s having a great time.

“I’ve done a lot of one-off shows in my life, and I toured sometimes,” he said. “… I think of it as if I was shooting a movie, but I’m shooting a movie in my mind, like how I performed in China, in Russia, in Egypt, in Houston, and then when I was touring stadiums in Europe and Asia, I thought, ‘Why doesn’t this happen in America?’ I thought that this is something I really wanted to share with the American audience.

“I’ve actually been blown away and touched by the American audiences who have so far welcomed this tour. Every place I went … I was really touched by the audience saying it was different than what they were used to. As an artist, America has so many different styles of performances and artists, and I always thought you do something with the ambition of being different and trying to surprise people, and I think this electronica concert performance goes in that direction.

“I thank the American audiences who have welcomed this project with enthusiasm. That inspires me to go into Coachella in the best possible way.”

While the members of FrankEatsTheFloor are still in high school, the band has a ton of potential. I had a laugh when I saw the band perform recently—and frontman Matt King was wearing a cape. It reminded me of the episodes of F Is for Family with the fictional band Shire of Frodo. FrankEatsTheFloor will be performing as part of the CV Independent Presents show with Haunted Summer, Brightener and Rival Alaska at The Hood Bar and Pizza at 9 p.m., Thursday, April 12. The aforementioned frontman and bassist, Matt King, was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Claypool Lennon Delirium at the Observatory in Santa Ana. I was right on the rail, and I spent the whole time in shock watching just how insane Les Claypool is on bass. That first concert was part of the reason I play bass today.

What was the first album you owned?

It’s hard to recall, but one of the first albums I remember playing a lot was The Beatles’ Help! I’m a huge Beatles fan, and tracks like “The Night Before” and “Ticket to Ride” were played a lot growing up.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Ron Gallo, Jack White, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Earthless, and Sleazy Cortez.

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

I’m very picky when it comes to music. I don’t really like pop-punky, whiny-vocals music. Many of my friends are into those types of songs, but I’m not really a fan.

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

I would sell my legs to see The Beatles’ rooftop concert. I don’t know how I’d make it up the stairs to see it, but that concert is just so amazing.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

It would have to be the SpongeBob SquarePants soundtracks. I’d be lying if I said they weren’t in my Spotify playlist.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Pappy and Harriet’s, because of the insane catalog of artists who’ve played there (Les Claypool, Paul McCartney, Earthless), and the fact that it’s a very cool place. I’ve played there for the open mic once, but would love to go back to do an actual show.

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

A song by Ron Gallo entitled “Please Yourself”: “Trying to please everybody, you just let everyone down, including yourself. Don’t wanna be like the old oak tree, spend my whole life helping everybody breathe.” These lyrics have rung true lately, and I think they’re very meaningful.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Beatles. My grandma bought tickets for me to go see the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas about them, and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I know every song like the back of my hand, and own almost every album, along with posters, shirts and shoes. The Beatles made me want to start a band; Paul McCartney made me want to play bass; and without those factors, I wouldn’t be playing music and doing what I love.

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

I would ask Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age what it was like starting a music career at a young age in the valley, and if he thinks it’s possible in the current era.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

This is a tough one, but I think I have to go with “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes. It’s such a killer song, no pun intended.

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

Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles. It’s just an all-around amazing and super-trippy album. Goo goo g’joob.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Every one of you reading this should go listen to “School Food Sucks” by FrankEatsTheFloor. Vocals and bass guitar are by yours truly, and it is available to listen to on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, YouTube and just about everywhere else! (Scroll down to hear it!)

Palm Springs native Matt McJunkins’ music career has thus far been pretty incredible: He's been a member of bands including Eagles of Death Metal, Puscifer, Ashes Divide and Thirty Seconds to Mars, and is currently a member of A Perfect Circle, which will be performing at Coachella on Sunday, April 15 and 22. McJunkins was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Doobie Brothers/Foreigner/Gary Hoey at the Twentynine Palms Marine base! It was also the first time I smelled the unmistakable odor of the whacky tobacky. There’s a bit of irony in there somewhere.

What was the first album you owned?

Skid Row. The first album. On cassette. Knew every song and every word. Still do (pretty much) to this day.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m all over the place on this one. Right now, it’s mostly a lot of Nick Lowe, Phil Spector stuff, The Jam, and the Boogie Nights soundtrack.

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

I can’t say that I “don’t get it,” but I would say dubstep generally didn’t bend my ear all that much.

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

TV on the Radio! It’s a band I’ve really fallen in love with the last few years but haven’t had the opportunity to see live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance.”

What’s your favorite music venue?

That’s a tough one. Recently, I was floored by the beauty and design of the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Old theaters like that, that really have a unique design and some history to them, are always appealing to me.

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

“It’s a God-awful small affair to the girl with the mousy hair,” David Bowie, “Life on Mars.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Def Leppard was my first favorite band, and Hysteria was the first album that I really sunk my teeth into. I think I’ve been stuck on music since then. And that record still holds up wonderfully to this day.

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

Well, unfortunately, he is no longer with us. But I’d ask David Bowie, “Would you write and record a song with me?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance.”

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

Well, the kid in me would say Def Leppard’s Hysteria. But now at this moment, I would have to pick David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Chips Down” by Cody Chesnutt. Instant contemplative/good mood every time I hear it. I love songs like that, with multiple layers to it which require more than one listen to really get the whole picture. A beautiful song, really. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Shortly after the new year, a new band arrived called Mega Sun—and thanks to a great sound that comes straight out of the desert-rock scene, the group has become something of an overnight success.

The band first played at The Hood Bar and Pizza as part of the CV Weekly Music Showcase back in January—and in February, the group returned to The Hood, opening for Se7en4.

Mega Sun consists of Jeremy Parsons (bass, vocals), Chris Rivera (guitar) and Tyler Ontiveros (drums). When I showed up to interview them at Rivera’s home in La Quinta, they seemed astounded by how much buzz they’ve received after only a few shows.

“What’s crazy is our early practices … were so spread out,” Parsons said. “We’ve been kinda making stuff up for months, and it would go for one practice—and four weeks would go by, and then we’d have another practice. Then we decided we were going to start playing shows, and we started getting serious about it.”

That first practice actually led to a police presence.

“I guess they thought it was a big ol’ party happening, and it was literally us three, and my roommate sitting there watching us,” Parsons said. “I blame it on grumpy neighbors. One of the hardest things is trying to find a place to play. I remember for the longest time it was just like, ‘Come on!’”

The band members have already learned about the dangers of equipment failure: Rivera’s amp head blew a fuse during the Se7en4 show. But after borrowing an amp head from Nick Hales of Sleazy Cortez, Mega Sun was back rocking, as if nothing happened.

“The show with Se7en4 had some bumps in it,” Ontiveros said. “But overall, I think it went well, with all of the technical problems that went down.”

So how did Mega Sun start?

“We just wanted to get something going,” Rivera said. “We started looking for a drummer, and Jeremy was actually playing guitar when we first got together. He decided to go to bass, because we couldn’t find a bass player. We found Tyler—and then we knew that was it. Bass is definitely an instrument to learn if you want to get in a band really quick, because it feels like there’s a shortage of bass players.”

The band’s sound came from the members’ influences and what felt comfortable to them.

“It’s naturally what came out,” Ontiveros said. “Initially, we started writing or playing some songs that Jeremy had written already and put our own little twist on them, and then when we started writing some originals together as a three-piece, it kind of went down that alley with that desert vibe and all of our different influences. There’s metal in there, too, because Chris comes from playing in metal bands.”

When I mentioned that the band’s name and logo were actually decent, Rivera asked with a laugh: “Our logo with the three sperms?” Ontiveros then explained the inspiration.

“We were trying to come up with something that (referred to) that three months of being here during the summer,” Ontiveros said, “something that was on the level of the sun being brutal and beating down on all of us. But we didn’t want to be cheesy and throw ‘desert’ into the actual name, even though Mega Sun is pretty cheesy. But those three things in the logo are supposed to be heat waves … and there are three of us.”

Mega Sun did not win that CV Weekly Music Showcase, nor did the members expect to win—it was their first show, after all. However, they were hoping to get some good advice from the judges.

“We knew going in that we had a lot of work to do, but we wanted the criticism to move forward and pick apart what we needed to work on,” Ontiveros said. “We didn’t really expect anything out of it—and the response we got blew us away, plus being asked to play on Se7en4’s comeback show. There was a packed house that night, and we got a great time slot right in front of them.

“We had some promising doors open to us, and we’ve had some people come up to us and offer to record us for free, which is awesome,” Ontiveros continued. “That’s definitely one of the biggest factors: the financial standpoint. But quality is what we’re looking for, too. We don’t want to keep people waiting who really want our music.”

Parsons agreed and said that having music available for purchase is an advantage.

“It’s better when you know what’s about to be played (at a show),” Parsons said. “I can go see a band and be really into it—but after I get their CD, and the next time I go to (a show), that’s where it’s really cool.”

For more information on Mega Sun, visit www.facebook.com/megasuntheband.

In the ’90s, Boyz II Men enjoyed an incredible ride to the top of the charts—and in the years since, no group has matched Boyz II Men’s combination of style and talent.

The group continues to record and perform around the world as a trio, and has had a residency in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel and Casino since 2013.

Boyz II Men will be stopping by The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa this Friday, March 2.

During a recent phone interview, Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman discussed Under the Streetlight, the group’s most-recent album, featuring doo-wop covers such as “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “I Only Have Eyes for You.”

“It was a whole lot of fun to record,” Stockman said enthusiastically. “These were songs (where) we obviously weren’t born during the time they came out, but we did listen to them as kids, because our parents played them. We feel just as connected to them as they do. It helped us as future vocalists to appreciate a certain type of sound. Doo-wop is beautiful, and the songs we picked are the nearest and dearest to our hearts, because we heard them when we were children. It was a fun project. because it brought back a lot of memories.”

They recruited a friend, fellow ’90s R&B vocalist Brian McKnight, for the album; he appears on three of the tracks.

“Brian is a good friend, and we’ve known Brian since the beginning,” Stockman said. “We came out at just about the same time, and we’ve always had this rapport and friendship that’s lasted at least 20 years. Reaching out to him, he almost never says no, unless he has something pressing that he has to do. We never say no to him if there’s something he needs from us. That’s just a friendship thing. It just made sense for him to be a part of this.”

Boyz II Men represents the last of the great artists on Motown Records. The group appears on many Motown Records compilations—along with some of the most recognizable R&B singers in history.

“It was almost like everything was set up for it to just happen, and we were just there,” Stockman said. “There are certain things you cannot plan. I feel blessed every day, and I mean that; I’m not just saying that to sound good during an interview. There could have been so many people; there are so many better singers than myself, and I didn’t have to be part of this group. I’m thankful and grateful to have experienced what I have so far, and I’m taking full advantage of it.”

It seemed as if Boyz II Men was trying to create something new, by combining group harmonies, doo-wop and the new jack swing sound of the ’90s.

“Even though there was a surge of musical groups that came out at the same time we did, I think the thing that separated us from everyone else was we came from the same background, and we sang together in high school,” Stockman said. “We were very familiar with each other’s voices. It was like being on a football team that practiced. When we were presented to the world, we were fairly groomed with a sense of knowing how to perform, vocalize and deliver a song. I think that was our greatest advantage.”

The group’s 1991 debut, Cooleyhighharmony, was a smashing success, a rarity for musical groups. The song “Motownphilly” peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 3. Boyz II Men also managed to score a hit with a cover of the G.C. Cameron single “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”

“It says everything it needs to say when you miss someone that you love, or someone that you love is gone forever,” Stockman said about “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” “That’s pretty much it. The greatest songs are the simplest ones and carry the deepest sentiment and translate into the simplest form. That’s what makes songs great. Everyone can relate to it. That’s the beautiful thing about that song: It’s beautiful and it’s simplistic.”

Sophomore album II was an even bigger smash success in 1994, with songs such as “I’ll Make Love to You,” “Thank You” and “On Bended Knee.” The pressure during the recording of II was intense, but the members worked through it, Stockman said.

“It’s funny, because when you first get signed, no one at the label knows you. No one really cares about you, and maybe there are a couple of people who are excited about you. You’re successful all of a sudden, and then you have a whole bunch of chefs in the kitchen. You have all these people up your butt that you didn’t have before, and that causes craziness and pressure. But we weren’t just some contrived group; we were friends. We were able to deflect a lot of that stuff that came with success. The first album did well; the second album did better. There were a lot of people trying to get in on this success. That part sucked. But we managed to keep it cool and keep it about the music.”

I asked Stockman about the 2014 album Collide, which was panned by some critics thanks to an EDM sound and Auto-Tune vocals.

“The irony of the music industry is if you keep it the same, people say, ‘Ugh! They kept it the same!’ If you do something different, ‘Ugh! They did something different! Why didn’t they keep it the same?’” Stockman said. “So, really, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There’s always going to be someone who won’t be happy. Collide was one of those records that didn’t get us a lot of the attention we hoped it would, but I still feel like it was a great effort.”

Stockman recently recorded vocals on the title track of the Foo Fighters’ newest album, Concrete and Gold.

“I ran into Dave Grohl and met him a few years prior at a really hard rock ’n’ roll spot called ‘the flower shop,’” Stockman said with a laugh. “It was actually just a flower shop, and we were buying flowers for our wives, and we just happened to see each other. We started talking about music. When he was recording Concrete and Gold, I saw him sitting outside the studio. … He was out there working on some lyrics, and we started catching up, and he was like, ‘Hey, I’m recording this record. Want to be on it?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Just give me a little while, and when I’m done doing my thing, I’ll come by your studio.’ That’s how it happened. I’m old-school in the sense that I don’t need a team of lawyers to be beside me to get a song recorded. It’s all about vibe and good energy. I like Dave, and I’m a fan of the Foo Fighters, and that’s how that came about.”

Stockman is the father of an autistic child.

“It’s a daunting condition. No one, including the people who are directly affected by it, want to talk about it,” Stockman said. “It’s rough to look at your child and see something different about him that you have to help regulate. It’s a rough thing, and people don’t like to give to charities in the first place, especially to something they don’t understand, and for autism, a lot of people don’t understand it. It’s not a condition that you can pinpoint to one cause. No one knows why kids develop autism. … With our foundation, Micah’s Voice, which is named after our son, it’s about being proactive with the people who have autism, and leaving the speculations up to the experts. All we know is that there are over 70 million people in the world with autism, and that’s like the population of an entire country. These people will grow up to become adults, and some of them are adults, so you have people you have to protect.”

Boyz II Men will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $55 to $75. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

The biggest music month of the year—April, of course—is approaching. That’s the month when Coachella, Stagecoach and the return of hot weather (as if it ever left) occur. But we’re not there yet—and March is no slouch, with a whole lot of great music events taking place.

The McCallum Theatre has a packed month in March. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 1, folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins will be performing. In the turbulent ’60s, Collins was one of the era’s great folk singers, helping to inspire political change. She’s among the last of the great folk icons remaining from that era—a great reason to go see her. Tickets are $27 to $77. If you were hoping to catch one of the two Beach Boys shows on Sunday, March 4, we have bad news ... the shows are sold out. Tickets were $77. Get thee to secondary ticket-sales outlets if you really want to go. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 13, jazz vocalist Steve Tyrell will take the stage. He’s an icon of vocal jazz; his voice has won him a Grammy Award, and he’s put out nine albums. He’s been performing at the McCallum for 15 years; go check him out. Tickets are $47 to $87. Check the McCallum website for other great events. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a full slate of great events; here are just a few to consider. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, you can enjoy a double bill of Starship and Eddie Money. You might remember Starship as a continuation of the ’60s psychedelic-rock band Jefferson Airplane; it surfaced in the ’80s with a new wave sound—as in “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” You probably remember Eddie Money as a late ’70s and early ’80s pop-radio staple, known for songs such as “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets to Paradise.” Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, female-blues powerhouse Bonnie Raitt will be performing. I saw Raitt when she performed the last time at Fantasy Springs—and I truly enjoyed the show. She has a set of great songs and a fantastic backing band. Tickets are $49 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 30, Trump supporter and comedian/singer Rodney Carrington will be performing. Remember that time in the ’90s when you opened your AOL account, and one of your friends had sent you that long, 30-minute download (via dial up) of that stupid song “Dear Penis?” Well, Carrington wrote that. You’re welcome. Tickets are $39 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several fine events coming in March, and there’s at least one you won’t want to miss: At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, Mexican romantic-music group Los Temerarios (above right; photo by Carlos Perez) will be performing. Founding brothers Adolfo and Gustavo Angel have been going since 1978, recording 20 albums and winning multiple awards. Tickets are $45 to $85. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is going to be a fun place to be in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 3, jazz guitarist George Benson will be performing. Jazz guitar is a tough subgenre to appreciate, but Benson is talented enough to win almost anybody over. Tickets are $55 to $75. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, comedian Carrot Top will bring the funny. If you like rather stupid prop comedy, Carrot Top is your man. He and his suitcase full of props were popular in the ’90s. He’s well aware of the scorn he’s gotten from people who don’t like him—but he’s made fun of his critics in an amusing way that sells tickets. Also … his muscular physique and red hair, in combination, are quite scary. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 31, R&B/funk superstars Kool and the Gang will return to the valley. I love Kool and the Gang; they made so many great songs from the ’70s and ’80s that were the soundtrack of my childhood. Fun fact: Eagles of Death Metal sometimes use “Ladies Night” as an entrance theme. Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a special St. Patrick’s Day-themed event planned. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 16, Irish punk band Flogging Molly (below) will be performing. There was a time when it seemed like Irish punk was trending, with Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly packing venues across the country. Flogging Molly has more of a traditional Celtic sound; while the band calls Los Angeles home, frontman Dave King is originally from Ireland. Tickets are $49 to $105. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some big sold-out shows, and is starting to make announcements about the outdoor season—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: March has some great events with space still available. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 10, the best Johnny Cash tribute you’ll ever see, Cash’d Out, will be performing. This band is legendary—and goes well beyond a standard tribute act. In fact, Johnny Cash’s drummer, W.S. Holland, has sat in with this band before. Cindy Cash, Johnny Cash’s daughter, gave the band a glass locket that belonged to the Man in Black himself that supposedly holds some of his hair. This is Columbia Records-era Johnny Cash in a way you’ve never heard before. Tickets are $15. At 10 p.m., Friday, March 16, FYF presents OH SEES and Pretty Eyes. OH SEES is a great psychedelic rock band; this show is definitely going to be noteworthy. Tickets are $26. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 23, singer-songwriter Pearl Charles will be performing. I’ll let this description from her press kit explain it all: “Pearl Charles lives in the moment, seeking excitement whether it leads her down a dark, dusty road or into the arms of a trouble-making lover.” Sounds great to me! Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a couple of events you’ll love if you enjoy dinner and a show. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 16, enjoy a tribute to Palm Springs with Palm Springs Jump! The show is a high-energy tribute to stars such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and many others. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, if you’re an Elvis fan, you’ll love Scot Bruce’s Elvis: The Early Years. Elvis’ early years are the years that I prefer, when Elvis rocked and captured the imagination of the youth of America. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed seems to be doing one show, more or less, per month, and in the month of March, it happens at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 17, when So-Cal reggae band Fortunate Youth will be performing. Fortunate Youth is a regular at The Date Shed, and the shows are always popular. Tickets are $20 in advance. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Copa Room Palm Springs has a couple of fun March events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 3, a tribute to Bette Midler titled The Divine Miss Bette, featuring Catherine Alcorn, will most likely be well-attended. The previews of this show look spectacular—it’s a must-see for any Bette Midler fan. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, actress and singer Mary Bridget Davies will take the stage. She’s performed in many blues-tribute bands, and supposedly did a fantastic job playing Janis Joplin in the Broadway show A Night With Janis Joplin. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Local band Dali’s Llama is celebrating 25 years of existence—and the members are celebrating in a big way.

The group is playing a Silver Anniversary Show on Friday, March 9, at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert. The Hellions, Decon, Sean Wheeler (performing as Zezo Zece Zadfraq and the Dune Buggy Attack Battalion) and Mario Lalli (of Fatso Jetson) with the Rubber Snake Charmers will all take the stage.

When frontman Zach Huskey showed up to our meeting, he explained that he came alone because his wife, Dali’s Llama bassist Erica Huskey, was out of town handling family business, while drummer Craig Brown had a “hot date.”

The band recently parted ways with guitarist Joseph Wangler, and brought back guitarist Joe Dillon. I asked Huskey whether the band has ever gone through any painful transitions as members have come and gone.

“Painful transitions? None!” Huskey said with a laugh. “The core of the band is me and Erica. We try to just get people who play well, and people who we’re friends with, because it’s no fun to be in a band with someone you can’t get along with, no matter how good of a player they might be. I always enjoy playing with Joe Dillon, and he’s been in and out of the band for at least 10 years. He’s always fun, because I’ve known him for 36 years. We’re friends, and we have all our inside jokes and can talk about people who are no longer here. He’s also a really underrated guitar player and songwriter, as well as a lead vocalist.”

Dali’s Llama last year released a three-song EP, which headed in a more bluesy direction—a bit of a departure from the band’s regular desert-rock sound.

“We recorded most of that at Mikael Jacobson’s studio here in the desert,” Huskey said. “One of the songs, ‘Bacteria,’ the acoustic one, I did it at Scott Reeder’s place. That one was a little delicate, because it was all about microphone placement. That was done in one take. The other ones just kinda had a groove, and I wanted to get a little more of a Zeppelin groove going.”

Huskey said Dali’s Llama has deep personal connections to all the bands playing at the show.

“Those are people who when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was in bands with,” he said. “We got Herb (Lienau) and Decon; Mario (Lalli); Sean Wheeler, who I was in a band with back in 1982; and we got The Hellions, because they’re the “new” old friends, even though they’ve been around for a while.

“The Hellions are kind of the slowest songwriters in the world,” he added with a laugh. “Whatever their process is, it either has to fit them right or something. I don’t know.”

In the years before Dali’s Llama, Huskey said, he played in several bands that came and went.

“I was playing in a band with Sean back in the later years that was ’60s garage stuff, and I was really into that—original, but really influenced by the old ’60s stuff,” he said. “It all fit, because the scene was just a bunch of dysfunctional, pissed-off kids doing it ourselves. Mario did bands like Across the River, which led to more of a metal side, especially in songs like ‘N.O.’ that people go all over the Internet to find. … We all played in different bands, and I was trying to find my songwriting and get that after playing with Sean for a couple of years. Everybody was also trying to figure out their vocal range and how they should sing until it came naturally.”

There have been periods when Dali’s Llama has been inactive.

“We have done little breaks,” he said. “We have two boys. One is 20, and one is 16. I did three solo acoustic albums for a while. But we would take the kids when they were really little off to Phoenix to play. I’d also do the Phoenix folk festival every year, and songwriting things where they’d have me show people how to write songs. When Erica was ready again, and the kids were old enough to have a baby sitter who was a family member, we’d do another project or start the band back up.”

While Huskey spoke proudly about the desert music scene, he mentioned there’s one thing he despises: battle-of-the-bands competitions.

“I fucking hate those things. I hated them then, and I hate them now. You want to criticize me as a songwriter? Especially now? Fuck you!” he said. “Look at the panels of those things. No, ain’t gonna happen. Even when I was a kid, I learned you have to have that sort of ‘Fuck you!’ attitude in order to protect yourself and develop on your own. I don’t want criticism. OK, maybe I’ll take it from my wife or another band member, but even from another band? I don’t want to hear it. There’s constructive criticism, too, but I’ve never been good with either one. Believe in yourself. So a band had a better performance and gets a trophy? They even had that shit back when we were kids. We always stayed clear of those as kids. We were out in the desert playing with T.S.O.L., so fuck you. You could be going in the right direction, and someone’s words might be, ‘You can’t sing.’ Well, maybe your voice is unique, and just because this person didn’t like it, or four people sitting at a table in agreement didn’t like it, fuck them. Most of the backyard bands in the scene today like Panzram, Terror Cult, or Facelift—they don’t care what anyone thinks about them. That’s the similarity to how it was back then.”

Huskey also said he wished his wife and band mate, Erica, got the credit she deserves.

“Name another woman who has been here for 25 years playing in a band,” he said. “She’s a solid bass-player. There was a time when we were recording Raw Is Real, and we found out she had breast cancer. We recorded the basic tracks of that album one day before she went in for surgery, having a full mastectomy and hysterectomy, and then she continued with radiation and chemotherapy while we recorded that fucking album. That chick is badass! The only equivalent is a guy saying, ‘We were there for a couple days, and then the next day, I went and had to have my nuts cut off.’ She’s really something.”

Zach and Erica Huskey decided not to take part in the recent documentary Desert Age, in part due to their feelings about drug use.

“I had a drinking problem and stopped when I was 24. When we moved back to the desert, we were clean. We had already been through that shit. There’s not anything exciting about meth anymore,” Zach said. “By the time we started this band, that wasn’t an option—it was about music. I don’t like the whole feel of, ‘Drugs and alcohol go hand and in hand with music.’ That’s a bunch of bullshit, because they don’t. Sean and I had a talk about that when he was getting clean years ago, for the last time, and I told him, ‘You have to get that out of your head,’ because we grew up thinking that—you can go, drink, get fucked up and play music. Whether it’s weed, frying on meth, drinking or thinking we’re Keith Richards and looking cool—you grow up with that mentality that it goes together. No, it doesn’t go together.”

Dali’s Llama will perform with The Hellions, Sean Wheeler, Mario Lalli and the Rubber Snake Charmers, and Decon at 9 p.m., Friday, March 9, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $5. For more information tickets, visit the event’s Facebook page.

It’s unbelievable that Earthless puts out such a big sound with just three musicians.

Think of Earthless’ sound this way: Imagine an instrumental version of Led Zeppelin, occasionally with a darker, psychedelic-rock sound. If you want to hear for yourself, check out “Uluru Rock” and “Lost in the Cold Sun.”

The group’s new record, Black Heaven, is coming out March 16; it was recorded at the Rancho de la Luna recording studio in Joshua Tree, with studio owner and Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching as the producer. To celebrate, the San Diego-based group will perform at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, March 8.

Earthless is made up of Isaiah Mitchell (guitar), Mike Eginton (bass) and Mario Rubalcaba, who is also the drummer for the punk band Off!

During a recent phone interview, Mitchell said he often hears people criticize Earthless for not having a vocalist.

“It’s not for everybody; I know that much” Mitchell said about the band’s music. “But I don’t pay attention to (the criticism) and don’t really notice it. I know a lot of people are like, ‘I can’t stand instrumental music. You guys just jam on forever.’ The people who like instrumental music are pretty into it.”

Earthless writes songs in a variety of ways, Mitchell said.

“There are all sorts of different ways to do it,” he said. “Mike and Mario had a couple of songs that were already pretty well worked on and finalized as far as the instrumental bits. … I went in and altered them a bit to make them the songs that they are now. There’s no one way of doing it, especially on this new record. Before, on previous records, Mike would have a riff; I’d come up with a riff; and we’d go back and forth, and it would be one song. Some songs come out of a jam. There’s usually a moment of creativity we all really dig on—and there’s a motif for a song. I haven’t thought of a way that we don’t use to write.”

Mitchell said he has not found his band to be a hard sell for live shows due to the lack of vocals.

“If you have a reputation, word of mouth is really the best way for that reputation to get around,” he said. “We’ve had some people who have never even heard of us go to a show, and they couldn’t believe it. Their minds were blown. I’m not saying we’re blowing minds all the time, but for a lot of people, it’s an experience they’ve never had before, and have never seen anything like it.”

However, things change—and on Black Heaven, there are some vocal tracks.

“I think it might have had a lot to do with time constraints, with getting together and working on multiple large pieces of instrumental music. This just came more naturally with the time we had,” he said. “We do have other instrumental songs that are longer, but we feel like we just haven’t ironed them out yet. They’ll be ready for the next record, though.

“It’s fun to do something different. We’ve done some stuff with vocals before, but not on an album—only splits or compilations. With the time we had, it just felt natural, and it’s a fun experience. We have to block out time for getting together. I live in San Francisco, and everyone else is back down in San Diego. We have to plan it out in advance. I have my things going on; Mario has his; and Mike has his.”

Beyond the vocals, Mitchell said there aren’t too many differences between Black Heaven and Earthless’ previous recordings.

“I think if you listen to our other instrumental songs, the title track ‘Black Heaven, or the track ‘Demon Lady,’ those songs are definitely in line,” he said. “It still sounds like us, instrumentally or with vocals, from our past recordings. There’s a song called ‘Sudden End’ that’s slower with vocals; that’s probably the song that’s so unlike us on that record, because it’s darker and moodier.”

Some instrumental bands find success in scoring films.

“I would love to do that,” Mitchell said. “I think there was something offered to us not too far back for scoring for a film. We’ve done stuff with Vans and surf-movie footage, but it wasn’t the big screen; you’re watching the video and composing on the spot. But I would absolutely love to do something like that and put something together along with a movie.”

Mitchell spends a lot of time teaching guitar lessons via Skype through his personal website—at a pretty reasonable rate.

“I just got off a lesson right as you called me. I stay pretty busy doing it, which is a lot of fun,” he said. “Getting people to come to your house in person, or going over to someone’s house in person—that eats a bunch of time up. So having that schedule on a computer is great. Advertising on the band’s website and social-media pages is also really helpful. People see the ads and think, ‘Oh, I’m in Russia, but I can take a lesson with this guy and pick his brain.’”

Earthless will perform with Kikagaku Moyo and JJUUJJUU at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20 to $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.