The first thing a new listener might notice about Desmadre is its high-pitched lead rock guitar licks. But it’s the complex rhythms that make it stand out in Santa Cruz’s music scene.
When asked how he and his bandmates settled on the name A Thousand Shall Fall, lead guitarist Dan Johnston explains that the moniker comes from Psalms in the Old Testament. “It’s a biblical quote; it’s a creepy passage, but we’re not a religious band,” he says. “Every time we play there is lots of smiting. We’ve smited many crowds.” At first listen, the band screams “metal.” But, Johnston would argue that their sound is more complex. “We play something that is in between genre lines,” he explains.
Jack Bowers has had an impressive career so far. The local musician first entered the scene in the 1970s with electric folk-rock band Oganookie. “We used to play at the old Catalyst, where Bookshop Santa Cruz is now, every Saturday night,” Bowers recalls. Back then, there were far fewer bands in the area, so steady gigs and a loyal following weren’t hard to find. “Our band lived up on a commune up in Brookdale in the San Lorenzo Valley,” he says. “We used to gig with Asleep at the Wheel and Commander Cody—we knew how to have fun.”
For the four members of sea knight, it is all about making music. Not rock music. Not pop music. Just music. “Whatever we write is whatever we write,” explains guitarist Patrick Andrews. “Musically, we come from all angles.” That unique approach has a lot to do with the San Francisco- and Santa Cruz-based band’s influences, which Andrews says run the gamut, and help him and his bandmates—Linda Sao (vocals/guitar/piano), Cory Aboud (drums), and Sami Hiromi (bass/violin)—keep an open mind creatively.
You’ve probably heard Nick Gallant’s work, whether you knew it at the time or not. In addition to being the audio director for Disney Mobile, Gallant has made music for TV, films and video games, including Guitar Hero. In the mid-2000s, the game developers for Guitar Hero enlisted the help of Wave Group Sound, an audio production studio in Fremont, Calif, where Gallant was working as an audio engineer, producer and composer, to record covers.
After an eight-month hiatus, The Harmony Honeys, a local old-time bluegrass band, are back in action. And vocalist Chelsea Curtin couldn’t be more excited. “It’s been a little while since we played out and about,” she says. “But we’re happy to be out on the scene again.” During their time off, Curtin moved to San Francisco for a new job, and bandmate Becky Hendricks (vocals, fiddle, guitar) spent some time playing with other bands. But fate has brought The Harmony Honeys back together, and their upcoming show at The Crepe Place will be a special one.
The Red Light District isn’t your grandmother’s band—unless, of course, your grandmother happened to see The Doors perform at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles in 1966. The local four-piece’s rock music swirls with a grinding groove and is punctuated by lead singer Steve Sam’s poetic lyricism, guttural cries and leather pants. Sam and lead guitarist Galdino Guijosa (aka Nano) went to high school together in Salinas, but the two didn’t dream of forming a band until they found themselves living together years later in Monterey. According to the wild-haired Sam, the move to Santa Cruz a few years ago was inevitable.
For Marissa Valera and her brother, Millard, the act of listening can be a wellspring of inspiration for songwriting. Many of the lyrics they write for their local band, Midnite Mojo, are autobiographical, but they also get ideas from observations and other people’s stories. “[Sometimes we] listen to people when we go out, and hear their stories and think, ‘That guy’s story sounds like a pretty cool song—we could totally write that,’” Marissa says. The band began as a duo in 2007, with Marissa on guitar/vocals and Millard singing and playing upright bass.
During the Persian Gulf War in 1990, local guitarist Don Caruth was working a construction job in San Jose when his best friend Ken Colby (aka KC) phoned him and told him to hurry over. KC had been bringing some friends together for a new unnamed musical project that focused on roots funk music. Minutes before Caruth arrived, KC and the other band members overheard a television newscaster say, in reference to the war, “the Joint Chiefs are in session.” KC knew they had stumbled upon the band’s name.
For Andrew Kunz, Siren Solstice is more than just a passion project, it is also a way for him to help shine the spotlight on some of the area’s great musicians. “I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for about four years and have come to realize how many really awesome, talented people there are here,” says the pianist. “I figured it would be amazing to collaborate with [some of them], utilize and showcase everybody’s talents, and highlight what they’re all about.” The psychedelic jazz fusion band released its self-titled debut EP in August, and its penchant for hypnotic repetition one minute and improvisation the next is a treat.