When local singer James Murphy was a kid, he got his musical educations from his dad’s backyard barbeques, which featured musician buddies playing blues, jazz and soul.
“In less than six months we more than doubled our catalogue,” says Stephen Sams, in between sips from his ambiguous drink in a nondescript Mason jar. He’s currently explaining the next evolution of his raucous psychedelic quartet, the Redlight District. “Plus we’re halfway done with a new E.P.”
Don’t call local ensemble the Beggar Kings a Rolling Stones tribute band; they do something completely different. Rather than recreate the Rolling Stones on stage, they bring to life two of the group’s best albums: Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, both from the early ’70s—a fertile time for the band.
Heather Christie sings in local duo the Feral Fauna, which combines organic acoustic instrumentation with danceable electronics. Christie also has a solo project titled Cheraki, but though it shares some influences, she sees it as a very different kind of outlet.
With such a diverse range of people and cultures confined to one area, it’s only natural for seemingly opposing ideas to find balance in a city like Santa Cruz. Along with CrossFit and Netflix, the city can now boast the birthplace of the world’s first Buddhist hardcore punk band, the Deathless.
The Post Street Rhythm Peddlers come armed with a banjo, trumpet, washboard, clarinet, and everything else a prohibition-era jazz band needs. The nine members are all full of grins, a ton of fun to watch, and aware that, to a lot of modern audiences, the music may unfairly seem just like novelty.
S.T. Young, who plays guitar and sings for the Naked Bootleggers, and Joshua Lowe, frontman for Joshua Lowe and the Juncos, found something in each other they didn’t expect: an easygoing side project that really stretches their creative muscles. They call it, appropriately enough, Young and Lowe.
Many locals know local musician Scott Cooper as the rhythm guitarist for Grateful Dead tribute act China Cats. But Cooper also plays in a bunch of other bands—and even writes his own music. In fact, it was the success of China Cats that gave him the push to put together his own group, Scott Cooper and the Barrelmakers. He had already recorded a solo record, but started rounding up musicians for gigs.