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On this week's seasonably muggy weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World looks again at life in the Stupidverse; Jen Sorenson debates which crowd-funded health-care plea to support; The K Chronicles celebrates even more of life's little victories; Red Meat takes the weekend off; and Apoca Clips discusses the latest move by Steven Seagal.

Published in Comics

The Flusters have achieved big things locally. Now, the band is working to achieve big things beyond the Coachella Valley.

On June 1, The Flusters began an all-or-nothing, 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 in “seed money” by June 30. The goal is to boost the band as the members leave their day jobs to embark on a six-week, 20-city national tour, as well as release the Flusters’ second EP in the fall.

The crowd-funding campaign has a lot of perks offered to those who donate, including new limited-edition merchandise and a copy of their new EP once it’s released. The campaign’s updates have included video footage of a private performance for a teenage girl, graduating from high school, whom band members called their “biggest fan”; the release of the music video for their song “Your Arms”; and a video of a mural of the band being painted by local artist Adam Enrique Rodriguez in their practice space.

As of this story’s posting, the campaign had received $14,308 in donations.

I recently visited the Flusters’ headquarters in Palm Desert before a scheduled practice to discuss the campaign and the plans surrounding it. Will Sturgeon, front man of Brightener, was also present and picking away on guitarist Danny White’s Fender Telecaster as we discussed the campaign. Sturgeon recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Brightener’s new album; he raised $7,665, with an original goal of $7,000.

“All of our money goes to Will Sturgeon,” front man Doug VanSant joked.

Sturgeon smiled, nodded and said, “Time is money.”

VanSant continued: “The Kickstarter was something we had planned to do ever since our first EP release last year. We knew that we wanted seed money to grow our project to the next level, and had seen people like Will close in on a couple of successful ones himself. Our friends Kreg and Kelly at (Palm Desert restaurant) Wilma and Frieda’s also ran a successful one. It was something that we always had in our scope to do, and we finally did it. Will has been a huge help in doing consultation for this, and he’s been our co-producer. He plays keyboards with us, and very early on, we had meetings in phone and in person on how to do this. His knowledge is invaluable.”

The Flusters took a risk by running an all-or-nothing campaign: If the band members don’t raise the whole $20,000, they’ll receive nothing. It’s a risky endeavor; popular local band The Hive Minds failed to reach a crowd-funding campaign goal, despite a well-done video to promote it and a lot of great perks. Sturgeon also helped the Hive Minds with that campaign. VanSant said the Hive Minds’ experience proves that crowd-funding can be tough.

“I watched their video, and they had a great video,” he said. “They said exactly what they were going to do with the money, and they were clear-cut in their goals and offered great rewards, but it didn’t work. We backed that project, too.

“We have so many people counting on us,” VanSant continued. “The live venues are counting on us; our management is counting on us; and our fans are counting on us.”

The other band members expressed nervousness as well.

“To imagine doing this without all of that (crowd-funding money) is another terrifying thought; it’s like Russian roulette,” Danny White said.

Mario Estrada laughed and added: “But that’s also what makes it really fucking exciting!”

Meanwhile, the band continues to prepare for the tour and to head into the recording studio to record Extended Play No. 2. Drummer Daniel Perry explained that the recording will include some familiar tracks.

“It’s going to have ‘Elevator Dance,’ and our instrumental ‘Stinger,’ as well as a new song called ‘Everyday Dreaming’ and ‘Time Traveler,’” Perry said. “We are also going to finish it up with a song we’ve re-worked and re-titled ‘When Will Then Be Now?’ We’re going to do the new two in between synth instrumentals ‘003’ and ‘004’ as well.”

Similar synth tracks—a few seconds of strange noises in between tracks—can also be found in the form of “001” and “002” on the first EP. I asked VanSant about the reason behind them, and he responded that all will be revealed with the next EP release.

“If you read the project updates, you’ll read the narrative of EP 1. … That story gets continued in EP 2. EP 2 serves as the mirror of EP 1,” VanSant said. “Every song has a counterpart; every synth sequence has a counterpart; and (EP 2) picks up literally where EP 1 left off. There’s going to be a complete seamless transfer of all 10 songs across the board. When you get the double EP, there’s actually going to be a bonus track at a secret Web location, and we’ll release the location when you buy it, and it’ll be hidden in the sleeve. But you’ll have to get that sleeve at our live show, and you’ll have to hunt for it.”

While the EPs are linked, the band will be recording the second one at a different studio, with a different producer.

“We’re going to a place called comp-ny in Los Angeles to work with a guy named Be Hussey, who runs comp-ny, and he recently won a Latin Grammy Award as a producer,” VanSant said. “For tracking, we’re going to give this studio a shot, and we’re a band that tracks easily, because we have a pretty organic sound. Obviously, our comfort level is to mix with Will (Sturgeon), but we might mix with Be. We don’t want to fix what isn’t broken, but do things in a grander fashion.”

The Flusters’ tour will include gigs in VanSant’s hometown of Philadelphia, and White’s hometown of Jackson, Miss. The band had help in mapping it out from Sherpa Management, a Los Angeles outfit put together by musicians and for musicians.

“We had Sherpa Management schedule the whole thing,” White said. “They’ve been extremely supportive and helpful. We couldn’t ask for a better team in our corner. But as far as people showing up, it’s going to happen, and probably not going to happen. It’s just going to be what it’s going to be. The main thing for us is getting that experience on the road to get ready for the next tour.”

VanSant said he’s a little worried about mishaps that come with touring.

“The logistics worry me a bit,” VanSant said. “Is the bus going to crap out? Is the sewage pump on the bus going to work? Will any of our gear break down? Are we going to get held up somewhere? These are things life throws at you. Having cultivated a strong group mentality of, ‘Let’s get through this,’ and, ‘Let’s be solution based’ when challenges and adversity come across our plate, we don’t bicker at each other. We’re working together, and the Kickstarter is proof—and we’re right on target.”

VanSant said the goal after the tour and second EP is to focus on writing more music, and working together to keep reaching for more success.

“We already have about five songs for our full-length album. We’re starting to book shows through November and looking to do some pretty big-ticket shows coming up here,” VanSant said. “It’s going to be a mixture of playing new markets, playing bigger venues in the same markets, and promoting those two EPs—and leveling up and staying busy. We believe we need to give ourselves six months, a full trial of focusing on The Flusters. That means jumping in the bus and going to another market for a week or two, setting up a residency to play that city, and then bouncing to another city.

“A lot of bands can’t level up, because they can’t chase the opportunity. Everybody scatters to the corners to their day jobs and tries to pay their bills, and we’ve decided to work together to pay all our separate bills. The solution is within this band. If we can play one gig and pay Daniel Perry’s car payment, that’s worth it to us. If we can play one gig and pay my rent for that month, that’s how we want to make our living. We’re going to go find the gigs—and they’re out there.”

For more information on The Flusters, visit www.theflusters.com.

Brightner’s last full-length record, Hummingbird, was largely acoustic. Headroom, Brightener’s Kickstarter-supported follow-up, is quite different.

Returning home after a brief tour, Brightener will celebrate the release of Headroom on Friday, April 7, at the Art Pop Gallery in Palm Springs.

During a recent interview, Brightener mastermind Will Sturgeon talked about the successful Kickstarter campaign, which recently surpassed the $7,500 goal.

“It’s been going well,” Sturgeon said. “I did a Kickstarter a couple of years back for the first full length, Hummingbird. I prepared a lot for it and was very successful. We’ve hit over our goal, which is incredible.

“Artistically, it took me six years to record that record (Hummingbird). That led to a sense of really wanting to be immediate with the next one. I really loved doing the Kickstarter thing last time, and I didn’t have funding coming from anywhere else, so that made it easier to produce the record. … It’s been a lot of work in that I’m preparing for the album release and (was) planning our first tour. I wanted to do it in the same month so that there was a lot going on for us.”

Sturgeon played everything on all the tracks on Hummingbird—and that’s the case again with Headroom, even though he now has a band behind him that includes Raefer Finnegan (bass), Michael Santella (guitar) and Elias Texel (drums). His sister Abigail, music-school classmate Aman Alem and former CIVX bassist and Kayves frontman Nick Hernandez are among the musicians who have backed him during live performances in the past.

“I actually did everything myself on this album as well,” Sturgeon explained. “The recording of this album has been over the course of the past couple years. During the recording, I got a band. But the recording has been in my room and on my laptop. When I did the last album, I thought I should go into a studio and do it the right way, but it took so much longer, because there are more people involved, and you have to work around other people’s schedules. The mixing for the last record took a year. The process is a lot faster when I make all the decisions myself. It’s a process that I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. Elias did play drums on a couple of these tracks, but otherwise, this record is all me again.”

Sturgeon insisted he’s not pushing the rest of the band aside.

“I think they do want to be involved, although I think that it’s clear that I am doing it this way because this is the process that works for me, and I’ve explained to them my rebounding from the last record to this record,” he said. “It’s not to exclude them, but nobody knows more what I want than I do. I can spend three hours in my room after midnight, and it’s just a much easier process for everyone.

“We did record a couple of songs at Pink Satellite Studios up in Joshua Tree as a band a couple of months ago, courtesy of Tachevah, given that was part of what we won last year. That was a really fun experience to record together as a band. A couple of the guys in the band had never even been in a recording studio before. I’m always looking for ways to include them, while at the same time honoring the process of recording that works for me.”

Sturgeon said the energy level of Headroom is the main difference between the new album and Hummingbird.

Hummingbird was much more acoustic, and this one is a lot of synths and a lot more electric guitar and drum-propelled songs,” he said. “I think it sounds pretty good. I don’t know if people are going to be able to hear the difference. To not record in a studio, there might be some loss of recording quality, but I think this record feels better, and that’s more important, in my opinion.”

Sturgeon said he’s happy with where Brightener is at right now.

“In college, I was in a band called The Smiles, and it was like a surf-rock band,” he said. “I played bass and sang. Where we are now with Brightener, it reminds me of that era of my musical life. … It seems like a natural evolution, and it’s exciting for me to explore more synth-based and upbeat stuff. I went through my acoustic singer-songwriter phase, and I’m not in any rush to return to that.”

April last year was also a crazy month for Brightener, after winning the Tachevah music showcase and being selected to perform at Coachella.

“I loved Tachevah, and it’s a great platform, especially for us, and it’s a great benefit for the local music scene,” Sturgeon said. “But one of the biggest weird things about it is that you’re not used to competing with other bands. A little competition between bands is not generally in the musician’s psyche. Maybe it’s the reason musicians are musicians, and athletes are athletes. It was weird to compete, and I’m not a very competitive person, so it was a stress on all of us. It just felt weird interacting with the other bands, many of whom are our friends, with one of us moving on and the other not, even though everyone puts in the same amount of work and is super-talented.”

Brightener is touring outside of the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles for the first time. The week-long tour took the band to San Diego, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles.

“It’s our first tour. We self-organized it, which was really hard,” Sturgeon said. “I haven’t done a lot of booking outside of the valley or Los Angeles, so it was definitely a challenge to figure out how to play shows. We found a lot of shows, which is really nice.”

Brightener will perform at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 7, at Art Pop Gallery, 1566 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Published in Previews

Welcome to 2015—and, therefore, the start of the third year of the Coachella Valley Independent’s existence.

Regular readers of this space know that I used it last month to thank our readers, our employees, our contributors and our supporters. Well, forgive me for repeating myself a bit—because I have yet more thanks to give.

First, I want to thank the 39 business, organizations and individuals who opened their wallets to donate to the Independent’s first crowd-funding campaign. We did not meet the overly lofty goal we set for our Indiegogo-based effort, but we did raise a fantastic $3,246.

What are we going to do with that money? Well, we’ve already spent a good chunk of it: We just ordered 28 brand-new newspaper racks, which will help us increase and improve our circulation. That means more copies of the Independent getting into more people’s hands—and from our admittedly biased point of view, that’s a very good thing.

We’ll also use some of that money to fund a brand-new events-preview section, which we’ll be launching in our February issue. In other words, due to the generosity of our supporters, we’ll be able to shine an even brighter, more comprehensive light on the goings-on in the Coachella Valley.

Thank you, everyone. For a list of all our crowd-funding supporters, visit our “About” page.

Second, thanks to everyone who attended the party for our first-ever Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll. Dozens of winners joined Independent readers and contributors at Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge on Wednesday, Dec. 3, to celebrate—and a great time was had by all.

The presence of rain—which moved the party, which had been slated for Twin Palms’ lovely patio, indoors—didn’t keep a whole bunch of people from getting their awards, sampling some of Twin Palms’ fantastic food (Gator! Gumbo! Mmmm!) and enjoying a cocktail or two. To view some pictures from the event, check out our Snapshot feature.

Now, it’s time to look forward: We’re kicking off our third year with one of our best print issues ever. It’s chock-full of great stuff, from Kevin Fitzgerald’s extensive piece on the east valley’s political machine, to Brian Blueskye’s fantastic preview of the first-ever El Gato Classic skateboarding event. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments and suggestions.

Thank you for being part of the Independent family.

Published in Editor's Note