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Aug 01st
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Love Your Local Band

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Chop Tops

The Chop Tops

Santa Cruz psychobilly veterans The Chop Tops are in the midst of an insane 10,000 mile tour—35 shows across 20 states, in just five weeks. Having survived the East Coast earthquake, the band now finds itself driving into the keister of one of the biggest hurricanes in recent memory, Irene. Putting the “psycho” in rockabilly is nothing new for these road warriors who eschew the corporate model of rock and roll and live every day grateful for the opportunity to be independent working musicians. Stand-up guy and drummer (a la Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats) Sinner started the band 16 years ago and is currently enjoying his eleventh U.S. tour.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Best Friends

The Best Friends

“Who threw away a perfectly good white boy?!” screams a rowdy passerby on Haight Street in San Francisco, addressing The Best Friends vocalist/guitarist, Aiden Ward. Ward yells back for a high-five. Having chopped off his shoulder-length blond locks, Ward does seem clean-cut now, but don't let his ’do fool you. Fans fall for The Best Friends’ melodic dance funk with every shout: “booty scones,” “give me back my grandma!,” “I need another drink,” and “wahahaha,” are just a few of the lyrics chanted during their concerts. Bassist Derek Burte compares the spectacle to their banner: “We have a big sign. It's been caught in the rain, run over a few times. It says The Best Friends, with two dinosaurs high-five-ing.” Sometimes on stage, when they play their song “Dinosaurs,” keyboardist Benjamin Einstein and Ward “have a dinosaur battle,” says Ward. “I imagine myself as a T-Rex,” Ward admits. “I'm more of a Velociraptor,” counters Einstein.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Nathan Dennen

Nathan Dennen

Like the ebb and flow of the tide, singer/songwriter Nathan Dennen keeps getting pulled back to Santa Cruz. In what he says feels like a past life, Dennen split his time between his home in Oakdale, and his grandfather’s house in Rio del Mar. Today, he lives in San Francisco, where he’s been inspired by “groovy music, with a lot more soul.” In the city, Dennen has created what he calls, a “little niche of music that I was really inspired to recreate and expand upon—taking old-timey music and giving it a modern flair.” To produce the ragtime saloon sound on his self-titled debut album, he used a piano built in the early 1900s, and even mixed the album on tape. “I would leave the little pops and buzzes in there to keep that raw sound,” he says. Focused on reviving Scott Joplin-esque northern jazz melodies first, and letting lyrics fall into place second, Dennen says he’s always surprised to get feedback from fans about his lyrics.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Expendables

The Expendables

It’s ill-advised to get a tattoo of your lover’s name, but not the name of local reggae/ska/punk outfit, The Expendables. Despite the impermanence suggested by the moniker, many fans invested in Expendables-themed ink, long before the guys offered free tickets to the Vans Warped Tour in an online tattoo contest. Devotion to the band dates back to 1997, when guitarist Raul Bianchi, drummer Adam Patterson, bassist Ryan DeMars, and lead vocalist/guitarist Geoff Weers—now living on the same block in Pleasure Point—met in high school. Immediately, they began constructing feel-good jams about drinking (they’re sponsored by Jägermeister), smoking and partying, through optimistic and philosophical lyrics. “Positive people have a better time in life,” says Patterson. “It’s no fun being grumpy all the time. Don’t sweat the small things … there is a good side to everything, even if you don’t see it.”

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Jerry and the Silly Monsters

Jerry and the Silly Monsters

Although Juicy Fruit no longer wafts throughout the Westside, a sweetness still lingers about the Wrigley Building’s successor, The Digital Media Factory, thanks to Jerry and the Silly Monsters, and its delectable blend of bubbly, children’s pop-rock. “I’ve listened to a lot of bad children’s music over the years,” says lead vocalist/guitarist Toby Salciccia, otherwise known as “Jerry.” Desiring to change the genre’s reputation, Salciccia turned to his day job—co-manager of Happy Days Children’s Learning Center—for inspiration to create songs that are “positive and educational for kids, and fun for parents.” There, he befriended parent Craig Comstock, who introduced Salciccia to his future bandmates: bassist Ian Babcock (“Bob”) and drummer Scott McPherson (“Murray”) of Ribsy’s Nickel; McPherson’s daughter, Ashley (“Gigi” on stage); and vocalist/ukulele player Moreah Walker (“Gigi” in the studio). The result? Jerry and the Silly Monsters—a mix of clever, motivational lyrics and complex rock music. “We’re really starting to take on more of a family-like nature, now that we’ve had the opportunity to work [together] and know each other,” says Salciccia of their chemistry.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Stryder Callison

Stryder Callison

Stryder Callison just got a new app for his iPhone. “Voice Tutor” is a vocal warm-up that helps singers like himself perfect pitch, and it’s a sign that the local rocker’s old habits—he “used to smoke cigarettes, stay up until six, and scream” the night before a show—are long gone. He’s finally taking himself seriously. After recording his first solo album, Years in the Making, Callison learned first hand what happens when you push your voice to its limit. “The more you abuse your vocal cords, it creates a little red bump,” he says. “When you sing or even talk, your vocal cords won't vibrate at the right speed.” Callison's late night jam sessions earned him a vocal polyp—a swollen growth on one of  his vocal cords—that Whitney Houston and Julie Andrews can sympathize with. Over the following year, Callison began repairing his voice by allowing himself to speak for only one minute every hour.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Ashwin Batish

Ashwin Batish

Ashwin Batish breathes sitar. He wakes up every morning, puts on his shirt, then grabs his eastern axe. Bringing his self-coined musical fusion, Sitar Power, to Don Quixote's this Sunday, Batish says he is excited to connect with the audience: “I think it’s the sharing of an experience. And there’s a lot of people, I believe, that live for that. Sharing an experience is seriously like bonding.” The Batish family is big on bonding. When he started playing music at 14, he would break from his sitar studies to sing along to Beatles records with his sister. Meanwhile, his father, S.D. Batish, was actually hanging out with the Fab Four in London, giving them sitar lessons. His father was later offered a teaching job in Santa Cruz, and the family quickly made it their home. In the ’70s, Batish and his father would play at their family's restaurant every night, in the same way that he and his son, tabla player Keshav, perform together today.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men

The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men

For Ben Lomond brothers Jamie and Kellen Coffis—the former, a 25-year-old keyboardist and singer, and the latter, a 21 year-old vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player—it’s not a matter of what life has to offer, but when they’ll get it. On “Love On My Side,” off of their debut album, they wonder, if “life is really just a battle with time, and I’m sick and tired of waiting in line, when will that arrow point at me?” Turns out they don’t need Cupid’s assistance, since locals have fallen fast for these budding folk rockers. The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men was released on June 17, after four days in Gadgetbox Recording Studio, with the help of producer Andy Zenczak and friends, The Mountain Men: bassist Mason Hutchinson, drummer Henry Chadwick, and guitarist Kyle Poppen. “We are all more than satisfied with the results because there is a nice mix of impatience and spontaneity on the record, which gives it a kind of personality,” says Jamie.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

Yuji Tojo

Yuji Tojo

As a young man in Tokyo, guitar master Yuji Tojo’s life was filled with non-stop touring and too many Japanese talk show appearances to count. “Everything became too much,” says Tojo. So, he went to India on a spiritual journey. Upon his return, the musician began playing in a new way. Tojo describes his newfound spiritual sound as, “a really magical thing. It can have a healing energy too. I always write or play with energy and love and peace. I try to make people happy—it's my destination.” It seems he's finally reached that destination in our beach town, where he moved in the late ’70s. Playing bi-weekly at The Crow's Nest and monthly at Paradise Beach Grille, the self-proclaimed “Nice Guy from the East” is content to groove with the locals. Performing covers of artists like Ben Harper in his own style, jamming to reggae and flamenco guitar, Tojo’s music is ever-evolving. “I have a lot of influences from traditional Japanese music, to Indian music, European music and American music,” he says. During his live shows, his eccentric guitar work—tapping, slapping, harmonics, and somersaults on the guitar (he often plays behind his back and upside down)—adds to the fun, and contrasts with looped rhythmical patterns.

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Music - Love Your Local Band

The Juncos

The Juncos

There’s a homegrown sensibility about The Juncos. Perhaps it’s their name—a little local bird that’s busy, territorial, not particularly shy, but also not well known. Or perhaps it’s the resonant chord that strikes deep within the band: no matter what befalls the world at large, The Juncos will keep playing. Spearheaded by locals Josh Lowe (banjo, guitar and vocals) and Jeff Kissell (double bass and vocals), The Juncos are the assimilation of indie roots, Americana, old jazz standards, jug band, honky-tonk, bluegrass, field hollers, and the occasional Pogues tune. Gathered around a wooden table, cluttered with tattooed forearms and beer, at one of their favorite haunts—The Crepe Place—Lowe and Kissell drop knowledge like a junco drops eggs. Kissell finds parallels for their timeless acoustic tunes: “I think there is a strong connection between punk and American roots music.

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