Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Aug 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

A Whale of a Time

music_OrTheWhaleOr, the Whale prefers a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll
Back in the early aughts, when he was studying for his bachelor’s degree in history, Alex Robins was playing in a punk band. He recalls—with a chuckle—his passion for a decidedly heavier genre of music than the sometimes woeful, sometimes rollicking brand of alt-country for which his San Francisco group, Or, The Whale, is now known.

“I was super into metal in college,” Robins says. “I was like, ‘More solos! More time changes!’”

These days, while he certainly still appreciates “the physical capabilities of humans being able to shred that hard,” you won’t hear an Or, The Whale song featuring blistering Phrygian sweeps and pinch harmonics screaming out of Mesa Boogie half stacks.

 

Instead, when Or, The Whale comes to a musical interlude, as it will when the band hits The Crepe Place on Friday, March 11, you are more than likely to hear some old-timey, foot-stomping fiddle runs and mournful pedal steel slides, supported by finger-plucked banjo and sauntering two-step, country bass lines.

Robins, one of three founding members of Or, The Whale—which takes its name from the alternate title to Herman Melville’s classic novel, “Moby Dick”—says that at 28 he is far less interested in crafting complex and hard-hitting tunes than he was in his late teens and early 20s.

“For me, writing a good chorus or a good riff—that’s what I’m good at and that’s what I try to stick to,” he says.

Robins is apt at spinning twangy, sorrowful yarns, as on “Death of Me,” from 2007’s Light Poles and Pines, in which his heartache is as palpable as the presumed hangover that comes after the long nights he spends “keeping his whiskey down” in an effort to cope with his emotional anguish.

Or, The Whale is dynamic—easily alternating between drawling Gillian Welch-esque lamentations and bouncy piano-driven numbers, which recall The Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You. The band is currently supporting its 2009 self-titled release, and just returning to their home state from a tour through the United Kingdom and a stint at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Robins expresses excitement about touring in England and Scotland. It is the first time Or, The Whale has taken its shows overseas, and, as an added challenge, this will be the first tour with several new members who just joined the band at the end of 2010. “Hopefully people dig it,” he says of the dates in the UK.

Robins isn’t sure when the band will record its third album, but says he is sure that it will be more of a straightforward rock album, with fewer country influences.

One reason for the change in styles, he says, is that Or, The Whale has become a more collaborative group since forming in 2006 and more band members are contributing to the songwriting process. While he names Neil Young amongst his biggest influences at the moment, he acknowledges that every band member has their own unique tastes in music.

It is an evolution he welcomes with open arms. Although each of Or, The Whale’s members may not share in his adulation of Young’s On the Beach, they all share a common vision of what the band ought to be.

“We want to be a big, fun rock ’n’ roll band,” Robins says. “A four-four, mid-tempo song just feels great. It’s so fun to play.”

 


Or, The Whale performs at 9 p.m. Friday, March 11, at The Crepe Place. Tickets are $8. For more information, call 429-6694.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.