Jamie Leffler and Robert Cepeda are the principal musicians and songwriters for the Los Angeles indie-pop group Dwntwn (pronounced Downtown), but over the past four years they’ve worked to keep from being the typical boy-girl duo. Which probably wasn’t difficult considering Leffler had just broken up with Cepeda’s brother when the two started playing music together.
I always like to start with the “newsy” stuff. So, what is happening with the band right now?
We are in the middle of a west coast run that ends on Saturday in Fresno! We’ve been rehearsing a lot getting ready for the shows and we are excited to be playing all of the new songs off of our EP that came out a couple of months ago.
You just released a video for “Heroine.” Tell us some about the song and the process of making the video?
Future Islands‘ singer Samuel Herring was recently described to me in a Facebook message as “the best frontman in the biz today.” This was the opinion of a friend who was smitten by the synthpop trio after seeing their set at Coachella. The description was followed by a video link of that set and this message: “Fast forward to 21:00 and that was the point the crowd lost their s%$t on his sexual energy.”
During the late 2000s, Austin, TX, songwriter David Dondero could often be seen in Fresno’s indie-rock circles, playing support for local favorites like Niilo Smeds, Rademacher and Nik Freitas. Dondero also had a Valley tie with Future Farmer Records, where he released three albums. The label’s founders are both Valley natives.
Point being, Dondero has stopped through Fresno so many times and for so many year, we should start claiming him as our own. Or at least supporting him that way. He plays a free, all-ages show 9 p.m. tonight at Peeve’s Public House. Local musician Swimming in Paint opens the show.
In light of the dozens of original live performances happening through next week, I should probably reconsider what I said about Fresno being a cover-band town. Here’s your weekly BANDGEEEEEK! roundup.
“I moved to Santa Cruz for school and I didn’t have any friends, so I locked myself in my room and started writing songs with the intention of starting a solo project. I would use my looper pedal and write both guitars and bass parts,” says the group’s guitarist Mike Gibson.
Those songs became the impetus for a creative collaboration with several local musicians including electronic producer/singer Sahab. That collaboration in turn, spawned the band. And that band turned those songs into an album, which gets its official release 8 p.m. Saturday, with a performance at the Love the Captive Loft, 1830 Van Ness Ave.
I caught up with the group to find out more.
Let’s start with the basics. Who does what in the band?
Mike: Brian Bakalian plays drums. Bobby Griffiths plays bass. John Tucker plays guitar and I play guitar as well. We don’t really have a rhythm or lead distinction between guitars, we have more of a ‘whatever part you wrote is the part you play kinda thing.’
How long have you been playing together and how did the band get started?
Mike: We have had this lineup for a little less than a year, but me and Brian have been playing together since last November, I think. I can’t play drums for the life of me so I always knew I would need to enlist a drummer at some point.
Sahab is my best friend and one of the most talented producers in California, so I always planned on just going into the studio and recording all of the parts and having a studio drummer fill in the rhythm section. When it came time to record, I chose Brian because we had been playing as Sahab’s backup band for a while and I really liked his style. We only played together maybe three or four times before we recorded, and a lot of the drums on the album were kinda figured out on the spot. That’s Brian. He is really in his element playing on the fly. Once I realized I had a drummer that was exceeding my expectations for the project, I made the decision to put together a full band so that this stuff could be played live.
I had originally expected to just record an album because I thought the songs deserved to be recorded. I had no idea I was going to become so attached to this project. When searching for a bassist and second guitarist it was a pretty obvious choice since John plays in another band with Brian called Blind Bison, and he can play the parts that I wrote better than I can (not to mention the other parts he eventually recorded on the album, which I could never hope to play). Bobby has long been my ‘go-to’ as a second guitarist. We have played in bands and written together for years. Since I already had second guitar filled, he ended up on bass.
While the album was almost finished by the time I presented it to them, both Bobby and John ended up adding to several songs once we had become an official band.
The song ‘Wolf Computer’ is the exception. That song was written by all of us and recorded by all of us, it was kind of a tack-on at the last minute.
Gayle Skidmore is one of those out-of-town acts that might seem like a local to the casual follower of the scene. The San Diego singer/songwriter has been playing Fresno on a fairly regular basis for five or so years — you might have seen her at this year’s Catacomb Party. Skidmore is back in town tonight to kick off a series of house shows put on by Love The Captive. I emailed the singer a couple of quick questions in advance of the show. Here’s what I got back.
You started writing songs at 8. Was music something you were always drawn to? Were you even listening to music at that point? What is your very first musical memory?
Music has always been a big part of my life. I started writing my own little songs on the piano at age 4, and my parents promptly started me in piano lessons. I listened to a lot of oldies and classical music, and I loved the Everly Brothers. I later discovered a great affinity for Led Zeppelin. One of my first memories of playing the piano was coming up with fifty different variations of “Greensleeves” at age 6 or 7. I am sure that was pretty irritating to my family.
1. SAY HAPPY 15TH TO KUPPAJOE
All-ages music club Kuppajoe celebrates its 15-year anniversary tonight with a hard rockin’ show featuring Phinehas and many others. Check out my feature on Kuppajoe’s anniversary. [More]
Alt-rock/Christian band Project 86 visits Fulton 55 tonight, fresh off the release of “Wait for the Siren,” its latest album. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them in Fresno, and this time, the SoCal-bred rockers are playing with San Jose rockers I Am Empire and Fresno band Session. Get your tickets here. Or, if you’re the first person to leave a comment saying you want to go, we’ll get you a pair of tickets from promoter Love the Captive. You’re welcome. Just be sure to leave a valid e-mail address so we can contact you. An since this tonight, be close to your e-mail.
Fitzsimmons plays gentle folk music with a little electronica on the edges now and then. You might recall that he played in Fresno previously at Frank’s Place.
Tickets cost $15 and you can get them in advance from Love the Captive. It’s an all-ages show, which means Starline won’t be serving booze. But you can pop next door to Starline Grill and grab one if you’re old enough to imbibe.
A big shout-out on the illustrated flier. Diggin’ it very much. I hear it’s the work of Jordan Wiebe and Neighbor Collective, which also did one for the upcoming Black Milk show. Bravo!
Local concert promoter Johnny Q seemed like a natural fit for 7Qs. If only for the Q in his name. So we met up at P*DE*Q to talk about local music — his Love the Captive crew has a big weekend ahead — eats and more. We’re joined by Baby Oz, who also has a lot to say.
1. LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER
It’s Mardi Gras time! Sunday is the Tower District is Fresno’s annual parade. The rest of the afternoon should be filled with happenings in Fresno’s most happenin’ part of town. You can catch tunes at Audie’s Olympic (Dusty Buns will be out there too!) or party it up at Starline later in the night.
SF psychedelic rockers Howlin’ Rain arrive in Fresno on Sunday with a bunch of momentum — the band just released its new album, “The Russian Wilds” on Valentine’s Day. It was produced by the uber-famous Rick Rubin.
You can buy tickets at lovethecaptive.com — $8 in advance, or $10 at the door — or you can win a pair from your Beehive buds.
Leave a comment below telling us your favorite artist Rick Rubin has worked with and you’re entered to win. Deadline is 2 p.m. Friday. We’ll draw a winner at random and notify them via e-mail — so please leave a valid e-mail address and please check it. Complete rules (and some Howlin’ Rain goodies) below.
JERAD FINCK: Speaking of Fulton 55: Pop/rock singer Jerad Finck makes a stop there tonight. He’s an on-the-rise guy whose music fits nicely on Y101 and on TV shows. But he’s also pretty committed to being an DIY musician. Check out his best-known song: “Runaway” for an example. Doors: 9 p.m. Cover: $8. Abigail Nolte opens.
While you’re figuring out that last-minute Halloween costume.
1. LIVE LIKE A NEANDERTHAL Neanderthals — one of Fresno’s favorite party bands in the late ’80s — has a reunion gig Saturday night at Fulton 55. If it’s anyting like that Wild Blue Yonder reunion, you can expect a big ol’ crowd. [Tickets]
There’s no doubt that Fresno concert promoter Love the Captive had its most ambitious year to date in 2010. It booked shows at Starline and Audie’s Olympic, had its own venue called The Captive for a short time and was the chief promoter behind the resurrection of Frank’s Place this summer.
Well, not everything penciled out for Love the Captive, so it has put together a benefit dinner for Dec. 27 at Veni Vidi Vici. VVV’s head chef Tony Briceno is preparing a four-course meal that starts with appetizers at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $32 and are available in advance via Ticketfly.
Writes LTC’s head honcho Johnny Quiroz:
In the 6 years of our existence, we’ve worked with some great bands and met some amazing people. Unfortunately 2010 had its share of hardships and trials, thankfully we made it through the year alive. It has always been a pleasure helping bands chase their dreams, to me that’s what LTC is all about. And, for the first time in six years, LTC is crying out for help. This dinner is designed to help us pay off a few LTC bills that are over our head.
Money raised, he says, will help Love the Captive recover from 2010 and plan for 2011.
To make this whole thing even sweeter — one lucky Beehive reader will get in FREE. Yep, a sweet night of soul music and no cash out of your pocket. You can double thank promoter Love the Captive, who is bringing Hawthorne to town and giving up the free tix.
Of course you want to enter, so just leave a comment below and tell us your favorite soul song of all time. Easy enough, right? Deadline to enter is 4 p.m. Friday. We’ll pick one winner at random and notify that person be e-mail, so leave a real one and check it. No repeat comments please. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days.
Complete rules — and one of my favorite Hawthorne jams — are on the jump.
UPDATE: Our winner is Cyndi. Congrats! Thanks for playing everyone.
ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday night, Frank’s Place hosts folk singer/songwriter William Fitzsimmons. It’s not going to one of those nights of indie music where the sweaty kids are dancing and jumping around.
No, it’ll be a little more mellow. Fitzsimmons is one of those performers who demands your attention — maybe it’s because of his jumps-right-at-you beard, or his hauntingly evocative songs.
Tickets to see him cost $15 … or, you can win a pair here courtesy of show promoter Love the Captive. Just comment below to enter yourself into our random drawing.
Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Wednesday. Winners will be notified by e-mail, so leave a real one and check it. No repeat comments. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days. Rules are on the jump.
How cool is Avi Buffalo? Cool enough to be playing upcoming concerts with My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Sonic Youth. Cool enough to get signed by uber-cool indie label Sub Pop Records.
Not bad for a band fronted by a just-out-of-high-school kid from Long Beach.
Avi Buffalo (named for frontman/kid Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg) makes its Fresno debut tonight, playing at Frank’s Place with the ever-buzzed about local band Fierce Creatures starting things off. (Avi Buffalo played Visalia last year, you might recall).
Well, it looks like Neighborhood Thrift Store in the Tower District has cemented its place as the hippest thrift store in town. In addition to its mural (yep, it’s still there), word is that the store’s newly opened cafe will serve as an all-ages music venue.
It fits about 150 people and shows will probably be weekly through the summer, says Joey Lynch, who has been working with Neighborhood Thrift to get live music happening. Lynch plays in local band Buffalo Guns and is part of local promoters Love the Captive.
Love the Captive and fellow show bookers Religious Appeal will be cycling the music through Neighborhood Cafe. Per Lynch, you can expect an assortment of indie rock, folk, acoustic and rock on the calendar.