Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes “pop music.” Elisha Kim, lead singer/songwriter of indie-rockers Totoake, sees one unifying attribute.
Singer-songwriter Hod Hulphers has no illusions about it, he has a weird name—but he doesn’t try to fight it. In fact, he’s chosen a moniker that’s even weirder: “And Hod,” which is a result of always being the opening act for years and seeing his name listed at the very end of the flyer as “And Hod.” He just thought he’d go with it.
It’s been a short two years since the inception of Rat Trap, and the release of their 2012 sophomore album, Blueprints of a Paper City. But in that time, the group’s been through a lot of changes. Initially, Grant Simmons started the band as a two-piece garage rock cover band, which turned into a five-piece indie-folk band (including a violin). By the time they jumped in the study to record Blueprints of a Paper City, Simmons had traded his acoustic guitar for an electric, and started listening to a whole lot of post-rock bands like Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky.
When we met up with Oliver Tree Nickell last year, the 20-year old producer and sometimes DJ was riding high from the release of his three-song EP, Demons. Nickell—who performs under his middle name—had earned the blessing of Thom Yorke to remix and record his own version of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” was flown to England to record, and started to work on his first music video, for the song “Rabbit Hole.”
People spend their whole lives perfecting their jazz chops. But for Santa Cruz pianist Alex Raymond, who fell in love with the genre only a year and a half ago, it’s been an accelerated process. Nowadays, he plays out with his trio, the Alex Raymond Band, five times a week at the Red Room (Wednesdays), the Blue Lagoon (Thursdays), Lulu Carpenter’s (Saturdays), the Tannery Arts Bar and Café (Sunday mornings), and Louie’s Cajun Kitchen (Sunday afternoons). The gigs started about the same time as his love affair for jazz began.
Once upon a time, hardcore meant shaved heads, circle pits and violent punk rock instead of coiffed hair, tight pants and melodies. Bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Battalion of Saints brought the kids out from Los Angeles and San Diego, but in Santa Cruz, all that mattered was Bl’ast!
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.