In a world of disposable music in which many bands study fashion more than the songs they play, Denney Joints from the Midnite Snack has one thing to say to you: “Blow my head off with your guitar. Give me something moving, that’s how beauty should sound.” And the 26-year-old knows a little something about music. Besides being the lead singer-songwriter and guitar player for the Snack, he eats, breathes and studies music at Cabrillo College. It was there, in 2008, where he met drummer Trevor Hope (of the Vox Jaguars) and the two formed Midnite Snack, adding bassist Sam Copperman a year later and recording their first EP, Soup Samwich. “I wrote most of the stuff we play like four years ago, but I’ve been sitting on it because I didn’t have a band and I hated the way my voice sounded,” Joints explains with a smirk.
Video, Internet and the iPod did not kill the radio star. Lee Bedrouni and Michal Kamran are working to keep it that way. With Bedrouni acting as head DJ, the two are part of the inspired collective putting on KZSC’s “The Rising Tide.” If you know that fresh indie music is lapping onto our shores but you don’t always know where to find it (or you just don’t have the moolah to go out and catch a concert), set your dial to 88.1FM at 8:30 p.m. each Friday night. That’s when the radio show brings bands—local acts and those touring through town—to local airwaves. “We’re just trying to develop a community,” Kamran says. “Once I actually got involved with the show, I met so many people and Santa Cruz has suddenly become really small. People need to know that this welcoming music scene is out there.” Since January, “The Rising Tide” has been giving glimpses into the sounds and personalities of area musos and figures in the community helping to promote them. With the show being part chat, part on-air gig, a palette of musical tastes has struck the studio; Intergalactic Smugglers, San Narciso, Noise Clinic, Harlequin Baby, and Monsters Are Not Myths, to name a few. This Friday, Aug. 13, the show features Santa Cruz concert producer Keith Petrocelli, while the following Friday, Aug. 20, has The Terrible slated for an interrogation and live performance. It’s a revealing chance to explore the people whipping up the verses. “It’s one thing to really be into U2, but it’s another thing to really be into [Santa Cruz’s] Hermit Convention and be able to talk to Craig Prentice and be like, ‘This is the guy behind this music, this seems really genuine,’” Bedrouni says. “It might demystify certain aspects of the sound, but it makes it really personal.” He adds, “If at least one person listening to the show who never heard a certain artist before, picks up on them and then wants to go see them live, then I’ve succeeded.” Bands wanting to unmask on the mic alongside Bedrouni and Kamran should contact them at [email protected] And listeners should be forewarned: you might discover a local band you never knew you loved.
“Man is wolf to man.” Not only is this a quote from the Roman playwright Plautus, one of the earliest known Latin authors, but it is also the title of the earliest known demo recording from local metal slayers Nordic Forge. “[The title track] is a song Jimi wrote almost all at once,” explains the vocalist, Rueben. “Then, I wrote the lyrics after listening to the hymn ‘O Rubor Sanguinis’ by Saint Hildegard Von Bingen.” Determined not to be just another scrawled name in the metal world, the guys in Nordic Forge draw their creativity from classics such as Shakespeare (“Throne of Blood”) and saintly hymns, to an array of bands from the early days of thrash metal and the extremes in Scandinavia. Mario, the act’s guitarist, cites atmospheric and melodic groups like Dissection, At the Gates, and Darkthrone as influences. “Always Darkthrone,” he emphasizes. Only known by their first names, the band of intellectual malcontents consists of Reuben on flesh-curling vocals, brothers Mario and Jimi decimating the guitar scales, Ben on thunderous bass, and Andrew manning the rapid-firing drums.
A girls’ night in can do wonders. Just ask Honeymoon. For a band whose first jam session started out haphazardly as an excuse for a bunch of talented ladies to casually hang out and drink wine at home last November, the band has snowballed into an intoxicating musical force. A powerful brigade of four singer-songwriters coalescing into a fresh new project that wields a juggler’s dream of instrumental variation, a cappella magic, and endearing familial chemistry, the ensemble is on the rise. Lauren Shera, Andrea Blunt, Christina Bailey and Sara Bollwinkel have each made their mark solo or in other bands before stumbling upon Honeymoon—in which they’re now fueling each other’s fires as a standout Americana-folk act.
What do you get when you cross fresh beats with intelligent rhymes that mix humor into the trials and tribulations of real life? Santa Cruz’s Haji P. Born in Hawaii (no, he doesn’t know Obama), Haji grew up alternating between Oahu and New Jersey, and attended college in Wilmington, N.C., where he formed hip-hop duo Brown Co. with friend and fellow artist DunDee; he finally settled (for now) in Santa Cruz in late 2007. Last February, Haji released his second solo album, Neighborhood Kid, in collaboration with DJ MF Shalem. Even though it’s riddled with witty metaphors and addictive beats, and follows a Brer Rabbit-style storyline, Neighborhood Kid is essentially a down and dirty look into a life dealing with racism (“You’re gonna burn my church but you can’t just give me a cup of Kool-Aid?” he raps on “Neighbors”), along with the other, normal pains of life like dating—all the while trying to stay as normal as possible (“You ain’t got to knock on my door, I’ll be sitting on my front porch,” he assures on “Porch Swing”). “It definitely took a minute getting used to the Bay,” he states with a constant laugh and tongue-in-cheek demeanor. “The minute I got here I was like, ‘Yo, this ain’t the same! There’s no biscuits, no racism, what am I going to do?’” But unlike most rappers today, Haji P. is the real deal, staying as close to the truth as possible and continually practicing what he preaches. Along with writing rhymes, Haji works at the Boys & Girls Club and is currently legitimizing a nonprofit children’s charity called “Neighborhood Kid Foundation.” Despite all his community work and creative work, don’t think that he lets it all inflate his ego: “I’m not a saint, I have my troubles, you know? Whatever the situation is, I gotta make the best of it; if it didn’t kill me, I’m lucky. I write it down and make it into something entertaining.”
There can be beauty in chaos, melody in meltdowns, and bliss in torrential sonic attacks. Just ask Taito Reed and company. When you want to investigate the old adage “There is light through all the darkness,” hit up the former Junk Sick Dawn frontman’s latest project, Noise Clinic. Balancing structure with floods of improv, pitting screeching elements of jagged rock against classical strings and random found sounds, spewing shouts and spoken word, singer/guitarist Reed, violinist/singer Sayaka Yabuki, drummer Rick Walker, and bassist Joe Gabent eschew the norm. The quartet, made up of veteran musicians long steeped in the local scene, lands itself in an ambiguous state where the aggressiveness of punk coalesces with quiet poetry.
Despite the moniker, Project Felon is the brainchild of two friends who share a simple love for hip-hop and good times, Playz and Kevlar. “We’ve made mistakes in the past,” explains Playz, “but we’re beyond it. I’ve got kids, they need me and that’s as real as it gets.” Kevlar adds in agreement, “A lot of the time people live in the past and let that determine their future. It’s all about making the right decisions.” With that mantra in mind, Project Felon has been working hard trying to establish Santa Cruz in the hip-hop world. Armed with Playz’s rhymes and beats, along with Kevlar’s freestyle flow, Project Felon’s live performances have earned the duo everything from radio interviews to television spots.
There’s nothing like a little volcano ash to make a band bust a move. That’s what happened to Santa Cruz 11-piece soul ensemble The Inciters, when it got stuck in Germany this April because its plane home was grounded due to a headline-making volcanic eruption in Iceland. The band thought it had finished its European tour, but with debris looming overhead and dues to pay for last-minute room and board in Hamburg, it was show time. “We had to hustle,” founding trumpeter Rick Kendrick begins, “we were all broke, running out of money at the end of a tour, and having to pay for all of us to stay at a hostel.”
For a lot of bands, there’s one definitive show that changes everything; an inextinguishable fire is lit and there’s no turning back. Call it something in the stars, call it the apex moment when all the hard work culminates into one triumphant display of maturation, call it Fate casting down her signal to say, “I’ve been watching you and I’m here to help.” For Santa Cruz’s burgeoning Hammond organ trio, On The Spot, that gig was last September at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room. Three years since first assembling, having joked around from the start that someday Soulive would be sitting in the crowd at one of their shows, guitarist Danny Mayer, organ player Kris Yunker, and drummer Emery Nelson were invited to play—insert jaws dropping here—a Soulive after-party.