Polly Interviews The White Buffalo

banner_001White BuffaloThe White Buffalo a.k.a. Jake Smith has had a very good year. A successful tour with Chuck Ragan and Jonny Two Bags, playing summer festivals and the ever increasing legion of fans due to successful song placements (TV show Sons of Anarchy) he was in a great mood. So, on a recent phone conversation with the upbeat, talented singer/songwriter he was multi- tasking as usual. Pounding away on his handmade leather WB coasters in this humor filled chat we discussed his music, his crazy loyal fan base, playing the big room (Majestic Ventura Theater) and his college baseball career.

Polly: Hey Jake, how’s it going? You’ve been busy.

Jake: Pretty busy, yeah, been a pretty cool summer…

Polly: Your last record came out in 2013 (Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways) and it actually charted on Billboard how did that make you feel to get more people to recognize your music?

Jake: I don’t know if that’s entirely true. I guess it did chart huh? Ha-ha, I don’t really keep track.

Polly:   Ha-ha, it was number 164.

Jake: Really? Well that’s pretty cool ha-ha. I don’t think it changed my life very much but, that’s cool. I mean it’s cool… to be 164th Ha-ha.

Polly: I’m a fan of your music and I see when stuff pops up on facebook and I’m so excited for you. Like Jimmy Kimmell! How cool was that?

Jake: Yeah, that’s super cool. It’s great to get these little things that do get some recognition. I think a lot of it kind of legitimizes what I do in some people’s eyes. For me, I feel like I’m kinda doing the same thing.

Polly: But on a broader platform which is so cool.

Jake: Yeah, it’s cool. I think it’s great that we’re reaching a few more people and that’s kind of the goal, to get it quicker rather than slower.

Polly: It took you about ten years to be an overnight success…

Jake: Hahaha, that’s great.

Polly: What do you think the key is? What did you do different last year and the year before? Just more records coming out?

Jake: I think so. I think it’s a matter of just building it and keep building up the fan base. I think the majority of it is touring and getting the occasional licensing… all the Sons of Anarchy stuff and all the other licenses I think help hugely. It’s great that people don’t stop at those songs. They go deeper into the catalog, not everybody does obviously, but some people do and you actually get fans out of that.

Polly: Sure.

Jake: So it’s just a matter of staying at it and not doing anything stupid ha-ha.

Polly: Ha-ha.

Jake: I don’t know it’s just staying true and writing and trying to write good songs and playing hard and performing with passion.

Polly: Right, definitely, because you know when your first EP came out, gosh that was like 8 or 9 years ago and it didn’t seem like there was anything out for 4 or 5 years after and then all of sudden boom we get EP’s and records almost every year. I think a key to your success has been doing something new and fresh every year.

Jake: Yeah, and we’re going to start recording again shortly.

Polly: Wow.

Jake: Yeah, I always had a bunch of songs I just didn’t have the means to record stuff. You know what I mean? And it wasn’t necessarily a lack of material it was a lack of focus, ha-ha…

Polly: And resources.

Jake: Yeah, resources and funds. My first couple of records I made from nothing you know, it was friends who helped, but I don’t think those records are worse or better or anything less than the current albums. It was a different schedule we had to work with and it was a different time but you know?

Polly: And on a shoe string.

White Buffalo

Jake: Yeah, but in a way it makes you dig a little deeper.

Polly: It keeps you humble.

Jake: Yeah, as far as being on a different label that’s probably been the biggest luxury and you know, there’s still not any of them telling me what to do. Like I’ll tell say, I’m going to make a concept album of this fucking crazy story, and they’re like alright, let’s do it. Ha-ha.

Polly: That’s nice. So who influences you these days? Is there somebody out there new or old that kind of grabs you these days?

Jake: Umm, musically? I don’t know. Not really.

Polly: OK, that’s fair.

Jake: I don’t know. I don’t think inspire is the right word. A lot of times people ask who inspires you, and rarely… because I try not to be derivative of or inspired by… but as far as people I like… I like the last Jason Isbell record called Southeastern. I thought that was fucking pretty great. Super emotional and I just got part of that new (Jeff) Tweedy album pretty cool so far. You know there are lots of great people that I like. I really like Dr. Dogg… I like Deer Tick.

Polly: What’s been your favorite show experience so far?

Jake: My favorite show experience?

Polly:  Was it Kimmell? Was it when you went out with Jonny Two Bags and Chuck (Ragan)?

Jake: That was cool. I don’t know if I have one thing. I mean there are places I like to play, cities I like to visit. I think people you know, are pretty spirited and we always seem to have good people come out to our shows.

Polly: Yeah you do.

Jake: I don’t know why. I guess we’re just lucky in that respect that we have pretty nice fans that are respectful of other people. Other than those couple of fights at Zoey’s ha-ha!

Polly: Ha-ha holy cow! I was hoping you weren’t going to bring that up.

Jake: Ha-ha. Right? I mean have you had many fights at solo acoustic shows?

Polly: Geez no! And it was during one of your freaking ballads that they started pounding each other. It was because one guy was really getting into it and he couldn’t hear and the other guy’s – well F you and fists started flying and I thought, well thank God you kept playing.

Jake: People are serious about it! I got it going on…

Polly:  Yup they love you.

Jake: Ha-ha. You know I probably had my eyes closed.

Polly: Yeah, there you go. Ha-ha. Has there, ever been, other than the fight at Zoey’s, a bad experience? Like you pulled up to some place and it was totally not what you thought?

Jake: Yeah, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. There have been times we’ll go to some place and nobody would be there. Now it’s a little different. Now we can go to a place where we’ve never played before and people will be there! We went to Des Moines and there wasn’t a whole lot of people but there was maybe 150 which five years ago it wouldn’t have been like that.

Polly: Well, that’s cool.

Jake: I’ve had some funny experiences and heckling and all kinds of stuff.

Polly: How dare they heckle you!

Jake: Right? It happens though people get drunk…

Polly: He must’ve been drunk ha-ha.

Jake: He was drunk Ha-ha. He was drunk as shit Ha-ha!

Polly: Ha-ha! So you’re writing. You’ve got that old-west sensibility in your music and your songs could be like the sound track to a Deadwood film…

Jake: Hmm…

Polly: Are you a fan of westerns? Is that a lifestyle that kind of intrigues you or that’s just where the music takes you?

Jake: Yeah, I mean, some of my songs have that kind of western feel and some are entirely different. I always just let the song dictate whatever it does. I don’t ever set out to- now I’m going to write a country song here. Or okay that song feels more folk or that one feels more bluesy you know? So the songs go where they may and I just let them. Just let it happen.

Polly: So tell us something we don’t know about you. This is the boxers or briefs question.

Jake: Boxers or briefs…

Polly: Ha-ha.

Jake: Boxers or briefs…um I don’t know. I’m fairly athletic I had a baseball scholarship…

Polly: Oh Really?

Jake: I got a full ride in college. Played Division 1 baseball. I still enjoy playing golf and tennis.

Polly: Oh that’s cool. Where did you go to school?

Jake: It’s St. Mary’s college in Moraga, in the East bay. Same league as Pepperdine and Santa Clara.

Polly: Sure, wow.

Jake: That’s a little known fact. There you go.

Polly: That’s a cool fact.

Jake: Sure.

Polly: Is there a card or something with your picture on it?

Jake: Oh you want some proof of it? No, there’s no proof anywhere. Ha-ha.

Polly: Ha-ha you burned the pictures right?

Jake: Ha-ha, that’s good. I’m sure my mom has something but I don’t know.

Polly: Oh I would love to see that. You know you should do a throwback Thursday with you in your uniform.

Jake: That’s pretty clever. Alright, I‘ll consider that Polly. And I’ll give you a shout out if that happens.

Polly: Oh that would be awesome. People are amazed that we are friends, like my brother, now thinks I’m cool.

Jake: Ha-ha. Nice, that’s funny.

Polly: What advice, and this is your generic interviewers question, would you give to somebody that’s looking to be in the music business other than find a second job or make sure you graduate from school?

Jake: Um, I think that’s important but at the same time I think the biggest thing is to play as much as you can. Play live as much as you can. At least that gives you a fighting chance. To really hone your craft, to really write good songs that mean something to you and feel it. I think that’s the only way to approach it and to just stay at it, you know? I think a lot of it is trying to write songs that touch people, at least for me, and try to write something that moves somebody in any way. Whether it be something nostalgic or happiness, love, fear, heartbreak or you know there’s so many things. And don’t limit yourself. And if you do something that’s pure I think in the end other people will relate to that.

Polly: That’s so true.

Jake: And I think you have to kind of be talented to start with ha-ha.

Polly: Ha-ha.

Jake: Not that I’m saying I am particularly, but that probably helps ha-ha. Yeah, for me it’s fucking keep it honest, keep it real. You know there’s so much bullshit out there these days that people do. And don’t do something totally stupid. Ha-ha.

Polly: Like every other YouTube pop song that comes out.

Jake: Yeah…

Polly: Is there anyone that you’d like to collaborate with or go on tour with. Like if you had your wish right now, would it be like go on tour with Jason Isbell or… ?

Jake: Well for me I am a songwriter but I do have a family and I’m a businessman as well, so I have to… when I look at tours there’s got to be some way that I can capitalize. I’ve never had that career changing tour where I get to open for fucking Neil Young or somebody like that.

Polly: But would you want to?

White BuffaloJake: Tom Petty or Neil Young and play in front of fucking 10,000 people a night that are going to get it, would be the ultimate kind of thing. For me that’s the kind of tour that I would love. There are bands that I love but I think there’s a balance to those things. To check your finances, seeing if you can do it and seeing if at the end if it makes sense. In order to break into other markets and stuff like that, summertime especially, you just have to bite the bullet and you have to say okay I’ve never been to this place so I better support somebody and get there to these places. So I’m not starting out and I’m not playing in you know, Nashville, for 3 people. That you’re getting in front of somebody else’s crowd and hopefully converting some of those people to your Church and hope they come out the next time. The headlining tour with Chuck (Ragan) was cool. And I thought musically and our approach to songwriting and performing were similar. We just kept on getting after it, on and off stage every night giving our all. You know. I think I might have gone off topic…

Polly: No, I like it when you riff. How is the family?

Jake: Rilo and Tanner, the wife. Everyone’s good. Rilo is in 2nd grade. Crazy…

Polly: What?!

Jake: I know, yeah, he’s so big. Doesn’t want to hold my hand in the street anymore. Ha-ha, but he’s still a sweetheart. Yeah, it’s good. Everything’s good.

Polly: Is Tanner still into his music? Is he going to carry on the family business you think?

Jake: Ha, I don’t know I hope so. I heard him playing guitar today. Not sure if he’s going to be in Ventura but he’s sat in with me every once in awhile. I think I’ve got this other guy out which it should be fun.

Polly: Nice. So speaking of Ventura you’re doing the big show. They’ve called you up from the minors and you’re playing in the big leagues now, the Ventura theater.

Jake: Yeah, right? Well they shut down the best place in town (Zoey’s).

Polly: Ha-ha that’s nice of you to say.

Jake: Yeah, I think this is going to be a good jump. You know, but what else do you do? It’s like we play in Santa Barbara all the time. There’s really not that many great mid size venues. Soho is what it is, there’s the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. It’s all seated but it kind of doesn’t totally vibe with our drunken crowds. Ha-ha. But, Yeah, I’m excited. I’m little nervous. Hoping we make it feel good and fill the room up.

Polly: Well we want to get your fans out. It’s been awhile since you’ve played Ventura so that’s what we’re aiming for.

Jake: I hope so.

Polly: Have you thought about where you want to be in 5 years or is that too far into the future. You have goals?

Jake: In 5 years?

Polly: Or in 2015 you’ve got this album coming out…

Jake: Yeah, I’m always looking closer into the future than that. But I keep my expectations small so that hopefully next year is better than the year before. Partially it’s the nature of how I’ve built my business and how I’ve built the fan base. It’s just slowly and surely I just keep churning out songs and keep playing and performing. And you know it just keeps getting a little bigger and a little bigger and it seems like more people come every time. That’s just how it’s been which has been good.

Polly: As it should be.

Jake: Yup. I’ve been lucky.

The White Buffalo www.thewhitebuffalo.com, at The Majestic Ventura Theater Saturday Sept 20th 7pm doors/8pm all ages show. Tickets www.venturatheater.net

Polly Interviews Derek Jennings

banner_001Musician Derek Jennings of Ventura talks about songwriting, family, the Beatles, his former band The Return, and why his new record “Bummertown” is not a bummer.

Polly:  What’s your Ventura history?

Derek JenningsDerek: I was born in Camarillo actually, two cities away, about 5 minutes on a good day.  I was born at Pleasant Valley hospital and lived in Camarillo ‘til I was about 17/18, I went to high school in Oxnard and I frequented Ventura Theater all through those years, just going to see shows so I’m no stranger to the area.

Polly:  Was it a conscious decision to become a musician or was that something like the music chose you?

Derek:  It’s somewhere in the middle. I think it’s where both of those two things meet. My dad was a big influence on me in that he would always have music playing.  The biggest thing I remember was “Breakfast with the Beatles”.  I forget what radio station but every Sunday morning he would just turn on the radio and he’d let it play, you know, as my parents cleaned the house, chores, and me and my brother would fool around but I’ll always remember that as well as the radio just being on pretty much non-stop. There was a lot of classic rock so I grew up on all the same songs that my dad grew up with when he was a teenager.  Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles so that was mine and I’m sure like a lot of people the big introduction to music. Where it changed is my dad also had a couple guitars lying around the house.  He had a steel string acoustic and a classical nylon string, and I liked to play with the nylon strings because it wouldn’t hurt my fingers as much. When I was about 14 I decided to actually pick it up and try to figure out how it worked. So at that point once I was able to figure it out it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t necessarily difficult either.  I was able to play it and was really excited and that’s kinda where those two things meet.  The music chose me…and then I chose the music.

Polly:  Who inspires you? I know you mentioned your dad and the Beatles, which I want to get back to you when we start talking about “Bummertown”.  Who inspired your songwriting?  

Derek:  I have always looked up to those old rock stars like the Beatles, Stones and then when I was learning to play guitar it was guitarists Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, they really shaped and molded the way I wanted to play. It was after high school with artists like Pavement and Elliot Smith, some of the more indie rock bands that opened my eyes to the songwriting. Not that the Beatles, who were like the greatest songwriters, but being so young I wasn’t quite ready for that. So there’s kinda like two sides to the influence. It’s the playing and the wanting to be a rock star you know, not necessarily being famous but definitely well known. I want to be a master of my craft more than wanting to be famous. When I realized I could spend a little bit more time and actually write a song is when I started listening to Elliot Smith and actually going back and digging deeper in to those early influences and looking at how they wrote songs and how they came about, deconstructing those songs that I grew up with and finding a lot more meaning in them.

Polly:  What do you think about writing a song, does it come naturally? Is it music first and then lyrics?

Derek:  I think for me it’s always been music first. I always usually start with guitar in hand, that’s my main instrument, and then the lyrics. The riff tells me what kind of lyrics. Sometimes I’ll give it some more thought but it’s usually the song and the emotion, the tone of the song, that’s when I decide to put lyrics to it.

Polly:  You’re basically a self taught musician, have you ever gone to music school?

Derek:  No, like I mentioned before when I was 14 I picked up the guitar and I think the first song I tried to learn was a Green Day song they were the big acts, you know, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins. I’m a 90s kid at heart. In fact I watched a biography on Kurt Cobain last night got nostalgic. I think it was a Green Day “hidden” song on one of their records, it was like 3 notes, and I said, “I liked to play this”. I learned to play it, the rest came from there.  Then when I was 15 someone my father worked with  was a blues guitarist. A weekend warrior you know, he’d play on the weekends. So I took maybe 3 guitar lessons from him all of which I asked him to tab out Nirvana songs, a complete waste of his time, haha he did it you know of course and we paid for his time.  But that was the also first time I played his beautiful vintage Gibson Les Paul which I damn near dropped because they’re so heavy and so amazing. So yeah, I am self taught and I totally wasted his time.  But he did show me those songs and a few other things and it opened my eyes even more so I can’t I say I didn’t take anything away from that. It was definitely a good experience.

Polly:  Let’s talk about the record.

Derek:  Absolutely.

Polly:  There are four songs on the record.  Did you originally go in thinking okay I’m going to lay down four songs and how did that evolve?

Derek Jennings at ZoeysDerek:  I as you know I had won the Zoey’s Ones to Watch and I contacted Shane (Alexander) who agreed to help me produce the record. When I think about EP I think 4 or 5 songs and we both agreed 4 songs would be good with the time it would take, that was the best way to go.  I had a short list of songs that I had played for years, even when Zoey’s was on Main.

Polly:  I have heard a fast version of Quicksand (song 1 on the EP) was that one of the early songs?

Derek:  Quicksand is, of all the songs, actually is the only one that hadn’t been written recently. Its a couple years old. I recorded it as an instrumental while I was living in LA and it’s still one of my favorite songs. It’s kind of an Americana style instrumental and that’s something I’ve always loved growing up.  Like old Fleetwood Mac. I love instrumentals as much as I love to sing. If I could I’d write instrumentals all the time.

Polly:  You’ve got a great guitar style I really enjoy watching and listening to you play the guitar but I also love your songs.

Derek:  Oh thank you. I don’t know where that came from…

Polly:  Haha

Derek:  I thought about that the other day and I tend to bring in…umm, the way I hit the strings it’s like my own built in rhythm like percussion. I noticed that recording the record and at the very beginning of Quicksand it basically starts out with the guitar strumming and it almost sounds like a drum roll intro. Yeah, I love it, I don’t know where it came from but I’ll take it. It’s something that developed.

Polly:  Your record is very reminiscent of 70’s British pop, Beatlesque, Paul McCartney. Does that sound speak to you? Do you hear that? Do you feel that?

Derek:  Yes absolutely, I’ve always been the biggest fan of John Lennon’s lyrics but Paul McCartney’s music, especially his The Ram record… which I’m sure a lot of people site as a big influence. I recently read that when it came out it was kind of a flop.  People didn’t like it, they didn’t get it. For me I grew up hearing like “Uncle Albert”, he mixes 3 songs into one long song and that blew my mind! That’s the most amazing thing to me. I’ll also to do that. I’ll take 2 old songs and kind of meld them together.  That’s how Quicksand came about. It was an instrumental at first with a lead guitar playing over it and I kind of mimicked what the lead guitar was playing and started singing over it… and unfortunately in 2011 my dad passed away.

Polly:  I was going to ask you about you dad because of the lyrics in that song.

Derek:  It was unexpected he’d been sick for a while he had heart complications from his time in Vietnam and he also battled with alcoholism and I wouldn’t say drug addiction but he liked to smoke pot.  And he couldn’t have one without the other. Definitely a sad addiction and he got sick.  So I don’t think… he never really quit or slowed down. It got to a point where he needed to exercise and he wouldn’t even get up and take a walk. He lived up in Northern Calif. He moved up there to help my brother. My brother has a couple little girls and was going through a rough patch with his ex-wife so my dad moved up there to help him out. My dad just kind of settled.  They have a really good VA hospital up there. They really took care of him but he couldn’t take care of himself.  So when he passed away it wasn’t a surprise but it was sudden.  I shot up there and all he really had left was this old guitar. A beautiful Epiphone late 70’s I believe. I took that and re-wrote Quicksand with his life in mind.

Polly:  Wow

Derek:  Yeah, his biggest regret was that his father never got to see me. I’m the first born. His dad passed away not even a month before I was born.  I’m glad he got to see pictures and to talk to my daughter. He kind of fulfilled his wish to live long enough.  At the same time my grandfather also died due to alcoholism and he was 50 years old, really young.  My dad had a self fulfilling prophecy so when he turned 50 he did really well, but he died at 63. He had a good decade on his pops but a lot of that was downhill.  That’s how that story came about, him to being able to at least know his grandchild.  He was a really good grandpa.

Polly:  It is a great tribute to your dad, lovely lyrics, the melody is amazing and you play it so well.

Derek:  It gave me a lot of closure and helped me mentally.

Polly:  The song “Don’t Forget About Me” was collaboration with you and musician Shane (Alexander). How was that?

Derek:  That was great. The beauty of collaboration and songwriting…  that’s the one thing I haven’t done since the split up of my band, to really sit down with other people and play music. And sitting down with him was brilliant because Shane is absolutely brilliant, his knee jerk reactions are just perfect. I had a short list of songs I wanted to do and most were 2, 3, 4 years old and I had this idea of a chorus that just popped out …”road your bike back home…” but I had it in double time with all the chord changes and I wanted it to be this big production and I showed it to him, showed him the intro, and I didn’t have much, I had a verse and a chorus. He just said “Yes!” and he kind of was giving me some pointers and we were working on it and I told him I really liked this song and we shook hands, I said let’s co-write this. He was really into it and I didn’t want to take the time to write the song myself otherwise it would never have made the record. Nor would it have sounded as great without his help. So we sat in his kitchen and wrote the song right then and there.  We wrote the melodies and the lyrics, barring a little bit of editing here and there that song was written in about 30 mins. That was a lot of fun. That came out of spontaneity.  The only idea I really had was kind of a mixture of two time periods the innocence of when you’re a kid… I used to ride my bike a lot and when I met my wife, I met her through bike riding.  On our first date we went on a bike ride. So I meshed those two ideas together and Shane helped me develop that.

Polly:  So it’s a song about and for your wife Kat.

Derek:  Yes, it’s for my wife with that melancholy, that childhood thing, because I think that draws a lot more people in. I think everyone can on some aspect relate to that rather than me coming out and being all you know lovey dovey to my wife haha, but I really am, I really am.

Polly:  Let’s talk about your family.

Derek:  Aha

Polly:  If you want to.

Derek:  No, absolutely.

Polly:  Knowing you I feel that your family is your center, your central purpose of why you do what you do.

Jennings FamilyDerek:  Growing up I always thought I’d play music.  Even when I got stuck in a rut with my day job I’d always play music as a habit. But when my kids were born I was proven so wrong because they absolutely have become my reason for living… the meaning of my life are the kids.  And it’s so crazy and so corny but it’s absolutely true. They are so brilliant and they are so little versions of me and my wife and I see my dad, my mom, my mother in law. I see everything in them. It’s so crazy watching them grow up. And being able to show them stuff, things, music, instruments, art it’s so much fun. Everything I do is for them and I don’t wake up in the morning without wondering how I’m going to better their lives as best I can.

Polly:  So moving forward how do you balance that being a musician and trying to get your career going having a family?

Derek:  It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done because I am a musician.  I’m a hard dedicated worker at what I do and if given a task I will do it. But in my heart I want to be a musician and that’s really the end of my abilities.  Like I said it is going to be the hardest thing I’ll ever do. Looking at someone like Shane he’s been a big mentor and my guide as to what I’d like to do with my music. I see how hard he’s worked. That guy is a hard worker. That’s always been really difficult for me. I’m the you know the guy, give me a guitar, I’ll write the songs, but hire me someone to book me a tour or get me something to drink because if I start recording in my apartment, on the rare days I get to go home I fiddle around, I won’t eat or drink anything because I don’t know how to take care of myself. So it’s going to be a long road.  But life has opened my eyes to what I can do and I’m going to take that and run with it. I’m gonna work as hard as I can and I’d love to phase out the day job aspect of it  because it’s really draining. And I don’t think anyone in life should have to settle for anything less in what they really want to do. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Polly:  And you’ve got the support of your wife…

Derek:  Yes absolutely, she’s really supportive. She’s always trying to help me out whether it’s shopping for a new guitar, or trying to get an idea on a word that rhymes. She’s super supportive, my family has always been, and my kids…they love music.

Polly:  They are adorable.

Derek:  Yeah, that’s an understatement, they are really something else.

Polly:  Your goals, ambitions – you’re looking at playing out more, doing tours?

Derek:  Yeah, I forget that I’m a lead man at heart. I would love to be able to write music for film, TV, other people. I foresee myself doing that in the future but I’m probably pretty naïve about it. I don’t know how that world works. I’ve been told that’s a whole different machine. I would like to share, I write a lot, and I’d like to collaborate but at the end of the day I’d love to be on the road, playing shows, playing live music, that’s really what I like to do.  I’d go out and play on the street if I wasn’t so terrified of doing so.  Again that takes me back to the day job thing. It’s so draining when you have a song idea stuck in your head and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that. I think we should all be able to step away when we need to. Again that’s going to be difficult. But I would like to play more live music, all the time, every time…haha

Polly:  Your newest record is called Bummertown so let’s just get that out of the way. Why Bummertown?

BummertownDerek:  Bummertown (song 3) came after Quicksand. It’s just something I would say. It’s just a saying you know like oh, we’re out of food, bummertown.  Haha, and I love it. My dad comes from the the early 70’s you know, “bummer”. He used to always say “bummer, I love it, so cool”. And the way I use it myself is tongue in cheek you know I mean things are always going to be bummertown but there is always some kind of a silver lining.  Somebody asked me “is your record going to depress me?”  I said absolutely not. It all kind of turns around on itself, things may be bad but there is always a silver lining. Just depends on how you look at it.

Polly:  It does have that you know, oh man this is gonna to be a bummer, haha.

Derek:  Haha that’s just how I am, black comedy. I do try to focus on the more positive aspects, the lighter side of a dark story. That song just kinda came about. I don’t know what it was…when my band split up, I started playing solo more, I’d play Zoey’s a lot. You kept having me back, which was great, I don’t know why but you kept having me back, so that was a lot of fun. And then I met my wife. We made a decision to move to LA. I felt like the music scene in Ventura, I wasn’t connecting with anyone like before when I was in a band. I felt almost alienated but I probably did it to myself. I probably dug in. I played less and less, but I’ve always written. Moved to LA, still wrote, I didn’t really connect with anyone there.

Polly:  Did you play shows in LA?

Derek:  Here and there. I’d hook up with people from Ventura, old friends, from older bands.  And again I didn’t try anything new.  This is another thing about me.  My wife and I got pregnant and coincidentally my old job needed me and I needed a job so we moved back to Ventura. I just kind of laid low. I was day job dad. And I was happy with that. But I was always writing. And then of course you called me and kinda got me out of my shell. Then at that point there wasn’t a lot of places for me to play so it was great to have a place.  Bummertown came about when I lived in LA and it was about not connecting and the revelation that it’s nobody else’s fault but my own.

Polly:  Song 4 “A light That Still Remains” was that a last minute?

Derek:  Yes, originally we were going to go with “Waiting for A Train” which everyone knows is “my song” and I will probably re-visit that when I do an album. I kind of had an idea and I showed Shane and again, his reaction you can’t beat it. When you see that look on his face and he’s into it there’s no going back. He’s going to make me work now. He’s gonna make me finish this fucking song…

Polly:  Right, you’ve released the Kraken.

Derek:  Yeah, haha, I had no other ideas for that song. We had a start date and I knew I would have to have the song completed. You know there wasn’t really any pressure other than from myself so that song came about sitting in my living room. I was fortunate enough to have an apartment which has kind of a limited view of the ocean. So it’s really nice, as luck would have it there was a storm and it knocked down the neighbor’s tree giving us a beautiful view of the ocean.

Polly:  Haha.

Derek:  Haha, so the sun was setting and I was fiddling around, I had my guitar and like I said before, the music comes first. I had a little guitar riff that I really, really liked and I just went basic – sun, setting, boom I’ll start there. The song came about with no real story behind it so I created a story. It’s basically, and I’ve never really felt this way. I’m really connected to my family but the song was about having one foot out the door. You’ve got your responsibilities but there’s a whole other world out there.  It’s kinda playing on the…

Polly:  Yearning.

Derek:  Yes, there’s always more. You have your responsibilities but you have your yearnings. It kind of plays off that and I think everyone in the back of their minds has had those feelings at one time or another. It’s not about being… untrue. It’s just about those feelings and to deny that, is to be untrue, you know? We are all human. It took me a while to get there but yes, we are only human and that’s what that song is about.

Polly:  Well, it’s so pretty.

Derek:  Working with Shane has been amazing because when he heard me play he said wow this is music that I like. Working with him and seeing his enthusiasm it made it all that much easier I was able to be myself and I was able to write what I wanted to write, no pressure at all, he’s a pretty mellow guy.

Polly:  But he’s a task master.

Derek:  Absolutely, and like I said I don’ t know if I’ll ever be able to have that discipline but he is someone who knows what he wants. I’ve always been jealous of people who have that ability to   know what they want. To wake up in the morning and say I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this and I’m going to check off all my boxes you know. I get up in the morning and say oh what do you want to do today, oh I don’t know what do you want to do today? Haha.

Polly:  Haha.

Derek:  I’m really fortunate to have support and a lot of good friends, I think that will help me find my way. It’s nice to be able to be doing this again and I’m not naïve at all when it comes to dues. I absolutely have to pay my dues all over again.  As I said I was in a band for 10 years.

Polly:  Yes, let’s talk about that.

Derek:  I was in a band called The Return and we were kind of in the vein of the Police and The Clash but we had a little bit more post rock influences, like the band Fugazi and influences from some of our peers who are still around today. We started out as a SKA band in high school and it whittled down to the 3 core members. Myself, Justin Dempsey, who currently plays with Stop Breathing who was just on tour with the Pullmen sitting in on drums. He’s really continued playing music on his own and Justin is absolutely a juggernaut on the drums and Andrew Gavigan played bass.  Andrew actually doesn’t play music anymore but is a very successful fitness equipment entrepreneur and has done very well for himself. The 3 of us initially decided to go it on our own.  We set up all our own tours, toured around the country for 6 years, we were invited on tour over to the UK in 2006 with RX  Bandits they wanted us to come. We got on Myspace, sent out a plea saying we need a driver for us in the UK and someone came back and said he’d do it. So in true punk fashion we drove around the UK and toured in a hatchback. They drive the smallest cars over there. It went really well and we recorded 4 full length records, that we are all super proud of them. After a while we couldn’t quite get to the next level even though we had the talent, we had the songs but I think is was hard to come back after every tour and start over.  How do you pay rent?  The bane of all touring musicians is – what do you do when you come back from tour? You just want to go right back out on tour because that’s all you know, that’s how you sustain. It finally came to a head. No bad feelings but we all kind of looked at each other one day and Andrew, not that he was the catalyst or anything because it was all in our heads, said “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore”. He said, “I want to move to New York, I want to do something different”. And there was no push back.
Justin and I just looked at each other and we kind of agreed. There was not “What!?” “What are you thinking?” There was no animosity. It was just, wow, we’re so glad you said that.

Polly:  Hahaha.

Derek:  And you know the months after we were really regretful and remorseful because that’s all we wanted to do but we didn’t do anything to continue. So that whole thing when I say I paid my dues I literally feel like I have.  We worked really hard, did everything on our own, printed our own T-shirts, we did have a record label, who was just one person Matt Martin, he was like the 5th Beatle or the 4th Return but we wouldn’t have been able to do anything without him. Between the 4 of us we did everything ourselves. And it was really great and it was really rewarding but it was really hard. I’m not going to play dumb when I say this time around I’m going to know that I’m going to have to pay my dues, again. I’m not expecting anything from this F’d up world. I know that I’ve been playing for awhile and I could be like hey, where’s my record contract and where’s my money but I would like to think that I’m too humble to do that. Because I know there are a lot of hard working people out there that have been doing it for a long time. They totally deserve it and for some they’re never going to get it and that’s too bad. I don’t want to be one of those people. I’m really going to work for it and hopefully get my break somewhere along the way. In the meantime I’ll still work and I’ll still be dad and I’ll always write. That’s my goal to somehow play music. Then again I should probably compartmentalize that goal cause of ”what do you want to do? I don’t know what do you want to do?” It’s going to be much more difficult. I should probably set some goals and I have. I’d like to set up a tour I’d love to release a full length record and just get out on the road.

Polly:  And eventually do this as a full time job.

Derek:  Absolutely, I’m living vicariously through Lee Koch. He’s just been with his family on the road in a trailer and that’s just beautiful to me I’d love to do that. And his shows are not at huge venues but he’s on the road and he’s been playing and he has no hang ups and at any moment he can stop and turn the car around somewhere else and he’s got his family with him, his guitar and so I’ve been closely monitoring that.

Polly:  You know it’s possible.

Derek:  That’s what I learned when you go on tour, you set it up and stay in peoples homes and you meet and become friends and play shows and that’s where the magic happens. And my wife, she’d be there in a heartbeat. If I came out and said out of the blue, you know it’d be really cool if we could just get the F out of here and before I’m even done talking, she’s like already on Craigslist looking for a trailer. She’s very into it.  But I’d love that, to go around the country and play music and meet people. That’s probably not great for being a lucrative rock star because all I’d want to do is play free shows but I’m sure there’s a way to meet in the middle. To at least do the day to day and be happy.

Interview: Chris Jay – Baker’s Dozen Film


During their down time local musicians Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg (Army of Freshmen) decided to write a screenplay. As anybody in the biz can tell you this is not a small feat. This project has been a long time dream of the super energetic Chris Jay. We chatted about the low, low budget film and their decision to shoot it entirely in Ventura.  They will film all over the city for the next 13 days but their immediate need is for extras on MLK day – 1/20/14 at Camino Real Park Ventura from 10am-5pm.

Army of Freshmen

Polly: Tell me about this film project that you’re working on, how did it come about?  It’s you and Aaron right?

Chris JayChris: It’s me and Aaron, we co-wrote it.  Actually, we started to not tour as much when the music industry got a little funky.  We began working on a little screenplay on our off time, here and there, just a little bit, for the past couple of years really.  It’s a comedy.  What happened is we got a producer who produced one of our old videos. We got in touch with him, turned him on to the project and he helped us put the script together to a presentable point.  We made the decision we didn’t want to do what we do with music where you spend so much time begging people to listen to you and help you and sign you. And we knew that for first time screenwriters no one is going to read a script two musicians wrote.

Polly:  Right

Chris: So we decided to fundraise on our own.  We thought the film was funny, the concept was funny.  For the past couple of months that’s what we’ve been doing raising money but we have also been working on pre-production we’ve actually been putting it together.  Like you know I contacted you months ago asking to film a scene at Zoey’s long before we got any interest.

Polly:  Yes, I remember.

Chris: We were hoping once we got the funding we could jump.  We were basically in pre-production on a film that had no money and may not exist.

Polly: Haha, well did you finally get that producer on board and who is that?

Chris: Yes a gentleman by the name of Reza Rezai and you know he’s just a friend who did our video and also did some smaller indie films.  So he knew really low budget.  Even if we did raise some money it was going to be incredibly low budget.

Polly: So what is your budget?

Chris: I can’t really tell you our budget because we don’t have a finalized one yet.  And frankly we are trying to continue to raise money but we did get more people on board and one or two investors who decided to back the project enough for us to get cookin’.

Polly: Nice, good for you.

Bakers DozenChris:  We’ve been going absolutely nuts for the past two months basically putting the movie in to production.  And we are happy to report we’ve been working, working, working.  We kinda kept our months shut, because we didn’t want to seem like we were bragging and telling people we were doing it because these things can fall apart so easy especially when we had this many people, and money and stuff,  we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves.  So we put everything in place.  We picked a date, got tons of people, we’ve been casting, working on the script, just literally doing a crash course on the film business.  We started filming yesterday [1/18/14] and we are filming 13 days over the next 19 days all in the city of Ventura. Every single scene is going to be shot in a location in Ventura.

Polly:  Wow!

Chris:  So we have 13 more days on 6 days off on a 20 day schedule.  We wanted to keep it homegrown.  We wanted people to contribute and people have been amazing!  We got all of our locations for free with the exception of the baseball field we had to rent from the city which is understandable because we had to shut down part of the park.  But we got everything else for free.  We have gotten every single meal donated for the whole shoot, just local restaurants helping us out.

Polly: That’s so cool.

Baker's DozenChris:  It’s been wonderful! Our producer was hesitant to film in Ventura simply because it’s an hour outside of L.A. actors driving and all that kind of stuff, but he’s been thrilled and what we’ve found is that community feel, and all the bonuses, and the fact that people are excited!  So say if we did go down to L.A. and we walked into the “Zoeys” of LA and asked to film for a day you know their fee is going to be $1000 bucks. Flat out.  That’s how they make extra money.  So many people are filming down there, film permit people are hard, it’s a nightmare.  Here it’s been such a smooth ride.  Especially since we are so ultra, ultra low budget just to be able to have people so on board and so helpful it’s been really, really cool.

Polly:  That’s so great.  So you started yesterday.

Chris:  Yes, and it’s been more work than I’ve ever done in my entire life.  Music videos are great but that’s one day.  This is a like a music video times 2 weeks.  We got enough people to be in the film but we are so low budget we couldn’t hire a production crew.  We do wardrobe, we do location scouting, we supervise catering.  Literally we weren’t prepared for that on set work so for the past 48 hours it’s just been this whirlwind of four hours of sleep. Getting there at 6am it’s great.  The energy has been great but it’s been a whirlwind.  We are going for it!  Tomorrow is day 3.

Polly:  Tell me about tomorrow and needing Extra’s at El Camino Park

Chris:  It’s our big baseball day and we’re at the park we need a bunch of people hanging out, in the stands, kicking it, we just need to create that vibe.

Polly:  What’s the basic storyline?

Chris:  It’s a raunchy comedy in the vein of “40 Year Old Virgin” or “Super Bad” or “Old School”.  The plot is a loser in life and love gets into a high stakes bet where he has to find and go out with the girl he had a crush on for every single year he went to school.  So he’s got to go back and find 12 different girls, find out what they’re up to now and somehow convince them or trick them into getting with him.  That’s the gist of it but there is an evil company owner that if he wins the bet he gets the company and he can give it back to his dad.  This is not high brow.  This is Adam Sandler stuff.

Polly:  Haha, right.  Is this a short film?

Chris:  No, it’s a full length feature film.

Polly:  Wow.

Baker's Dozen setChris:  We are going for it a full length movie.  That’s the insanity of it.  If it were a short film we’d shoot for 3 or 4 days but we’ve got tons of characters and locations. We’re basically making a low budget movie by Hollywood standards on no budget. To be frank we are trying to make a million dollar movie on a tenth of that budget.  People are telling us we’re insane, we can’t do it, you’re getting in way over your heads but that’s the only way we’ve ever don it, we don’t know any other way.  So if we’re going to fail we might as well fail in a big way. We’ve got a bunch of extras in it, bunch of homies from the local music scene.   If this comes out, when it comes out at least from a local stand point we’re going to rent a screen at Century 16 and invite everybody and say – we don’t know what the hell we made here but at least we’ll get a kick out of it.  And you’ll see a bunch of people on the screen.

Polly:  That’s awesome. I’m so happy for you guys.

Chris:  It’s always been a dream of ours.  It’s a weird thing.  It’s either put up or shut up.  It’s one thing to work on a screen play but it’s completely another thing to make it because the whole time you’re wondering man if this stinks I just spent a massive amount of my life working on this project.  So it’s wild.  And you put your faith in so many people.  That’s what I’m learning too.  You know me, and much like yourself we’re micro managers.  We want to have our eyes on everything we do.  But it’s hard to trust someone with your baby.  That camera man he’s got your baby.  That director, he’s got your baby.  Those actors they have your baby.  You may have a little bit of say but you’re not going to tell the camera guy who’s gone to school where to put the camera.  You’ve got to roll with the flow.  So in the last 48 hours I’ve learned to breath and if you’re not digging what you’re seeing you have to trust that they are doing it for a reason.

Polly:  That’s so exciting for you guys.  We’d love to be involved.  How can we be involved?

Chris:  Well thanks for spreading the word and encouraging people to come out.  There’s going to be some really neat stuff.  We have cameos from three legendary wrestlers.  I know that sounds funny but I’ve always been a big wrestling fan.  We ended up getting Jake “the snake” Roberts, Tommy Dreamer and Diamond Dallas Page.  So if anybody comes tomorrow afternoon, if you’re a wrestling fan, these wrestlers will be hanging out, in Ventura, in Camino Real Park, and will be accessible for autographs and stuff.  And I know this is super last minute.  But that’s how film world is.

 Polly:  I know, you audition on a Friday and then you have to be on set at 7am Saturday. 

Chris:  Exactly.  Thanks for everything, spread the word and if you can please swing by tomorrow it will be an experience!


Interview: Eric Rachmany of Rebelution

Rebelution – 2 shows, December 30 (sold out) and December 31 2013, New Year’s Eve, at the Majestic Ventura Theater.

Before sound check for their show tonight (Dec 30) at the Majestic Ventura Theater, I got to talk to Eric Rachmany, lead singer, for Rebelution. He waxed nostalgic about his time in the 805, his first show at the Ventura Theater and what the band’s philosophy is all about when it comes their music.

Just a sample:

Polly Hoganson:  How you doing?

Eric Rachmany:  I’m Great!

Polly:  How’s the tour going so far?

Eric:  It’s been great, we had a little bit of time off we’re recording our next album for the last couple of weeks and then we just played a couple shows in Santa Cruz. Then we have these Ventura shows and then we have a couple shows in Orange County.  We start our big tour in February.  That’s like our winter tour.

Polly:  I saw your schedule, it’s pretty gnarly.  It’s exciting you’re criss-crossing the country then you’re also making time to go to Thailand?

Eric:  Right Yeah, we have a festival to play in Thailand on March 1st

Polly:  Have you ever been?

Eric:  I’ve been to visit but never to play.

Polly:  That’s cool.

Eric:  Yeah

Polly:  I was on your website and you have the video “Skys the Limit” posted.  I really like that song by the way. 

Eric:  Oh Cool

Polly:  You have a great voice.

Eric:  Thank you

Polly:  It was directed by Marley (bass player) and  it looks like you shot a lot in Isla Vista.

Eric:  We did, we thought it was probably a good idea to go back to where we got started and just kind of feel the vibe of Isla Vista while we were filming the video.

Polly:  Whenever you come back to the 805, is it nostalgic?  Does it bring back memories for you guys?

Eric:  Definitely, you know we spent a pretty substantial amount of time here both while we were in college and then actually after we all finished school we all stayed in the Santa Barbara area for a few years. Although we weren’t here a lot of the time we were touring this was still our home base and you know when we got dispersed to different parts of California now but Santa Barbara will always be our home.

Polly:  Now when you got started in ’04, does that seem like a lifetime ago? Or does it seem like yesterday?

Eric:  It feels like yesterday.  It really does.  Time has flown by it’s really hard to believe it’s almost 10 years ago. That’s actually mind blowing to think about. We’re just having so much fun with what we’re doing.  We love performing we love playing and recording music and when you have fun doing time flies by that’s the truth, haha.

Polly:  Haha!   Well looking back through the years and where you’re at now is the journey what you thought it would be?

Eric:  You know I think since I was a little kid I always thought the music I was apart of would be exposed to the world somehow.  I didn’t really know what it would take to do it. So I feel like that has happened and I’m thrilled that I’m playing music for peoples.  I can do this for a living. But I didn’t really know what it would feel like or the steps we would have to take to get our music out to people around the world you know?  I think with Rebelution we played so many shows starting from Isla Vista, playing small clubs to festivals, outdoor venues and amphitheaters now I think we’ve done so many shows that we are confident in what we’re doing and although 10 years have gone by very fast it’s been a nice, slow progression for the band so I think in that regard we feel very comfortable in what we’re doing.  It’s not like we’ve had this huge jump in success.  You know we’re an independent band and we do everything our selves. We’re kind of rising slowly but surely. We’re really happy with that.

Polly:  That goes to my next question in that you guys are pretty DIY.  Is that the direction where you think the music business is going?  Bands are pretty much going to do their own thing?

Eric:  You know, I think the music that we play isn’t really typical for the music industry latch on to.  That’s what I think a lot of the bands we’ve come up with both in the Santa Barbara area and around the country that play similar music to us, are all independent as well.  I think the bands just like us we do it for the love of the music, we do it to spread a positive message, to bring happiness to both ourselves and to the crowd, to the people.  We like staying independent there’s no pressure,  we write music that we love and that’s what it’s all about.  It’s not about making money for us it’s about you know staying positive and keeping a big smile on our faces as we get older. You only live once and we’re trying to live that way. Haha

Polly:  Haha, there is that philosophy that if you do what you love and eventually you’ll reap the rewards.  So it sounds like you’re time is at that point. 

Eric:  Yeah, and I understand it’s really hard to make a living out of this business and the music industry is really cut throat and that’s another reason to stay independent.

Polly:  Right.

Eric:  And It’s also I don’t need a reminder as to why I’m doing this.  We get out there and we play the music that we love and it’s always been that way since day one.  And while we’re happy doing what we’re doing there’s no reason to change our philosophy, change our sound, we do it because we love it.

Polly:  I’ve always been fascinated by how a group of friends get together and form a band.  How did it come about that you guys in college decided to hey one day, let’s make music.

Eric:  Yep, I was always into music when I was a kid. I started on piano then moved to guitar. Once I got to Santa Barbara City College I took this songwriting class. I just fell in love with it.  I don’t know.  The first thing they make you do in class is play one of your own songs.  I’d never done that before and I never thought of myself as a singer.  I always thought of myself as a musician/guitar player and I got up and sang a song and I listened to everybody else and I was able to form some friends and felt really comfortable at it.  And it was through that music dept at City College that I met our bass player Marley and we both shared a love for reggae music and we figured that out in a relatively short amount of time.  Then he found our drummer Wes in another music class us three got together and then we met our keyboardist Rory along the way and then we were jamming a lot of classic reggae tunes like Sublime, this was the kind of music we all related to at the time.

Polly:  Sure.

Eric:  And then we played a show wow this is the most fun we’ve ever had and we just kept on doing it.  Next thing you know we’re writing original music and I think it’s because of that one songwriting class that I gained that courage to you know sing, because I’d never really done that before.

Polly:  Well you’ve got a great voice.  I love your voice.

Eric:  Thank you

Polly:  Any tips for up and comers, that you know you would recommend?

Eric:  Just what I was touching on earlier you just have to love what you’re doing and not think about the rewards, like you were saying if you love what you’re doing the rewards will come.  It may not be like a monetary thing.  It’s important to just play music for the love of playing music.  You should never really forget that.  It is I understand it’s very difficult to be a musician full time but yeah, but from my experience it is possible to be an independent band and to play music for a living.

Polly:  Sure.

Eric:  We worked really hard played multiple shows.  I think it’s important to get out there and perform live.  Nowadays it’s very difficult.  The major record label would never go over with us basically what we do.  We’ve always wanted to do it ourselves.  It’s definitely possible.

Polly:  When you listen to music, when you’re on the road, who’s on your iPod?

Eric:  Haha good question.  To tell you the truth I’ve been writing so much because we’re preparing for this next album so um I’m not really sure who I listen to.  Obviously I’m a big fan of reggae music, once in a while I’ll check out what music is coming out of Jamaica and around the world.  A lot of the times I’ll start listening to stuff I used to listen to whether it’s hip hop, rap, metal, punk rock, there’s folk music, oldies, I’m a big Beatles, I love everything.

Polly: The last record that you guys put out, “Peace of Mind”, what was the evolution of and the thought process of putting out a triple record? (A regular record, an acoustic version and a dub version). That’s pretty ambitious.

Peace of Mind albumEric:  Yeah,  I think it was our love for different types of music that we decided to do that.  We always talked about doing an acoustic album but the idea stems from our good friend and manager Dean who said what if we released it all together?  I thought it was a great idea and I love playing acoustic.  It was relatively easy when we went in the studio we were just free with it and had the acoustic album in a few days.  I think we’ll try and do something like that in the future.

Polly:  Well it’s a great record and I appreciate the acoustic aspect of it.  To see what it sounds like without all the bells and whistles.

Eric:  Yeah, haha.

Polly:  You guys did a really good job.  I did see that you posted some pictures that you guys are in the studio now.  Going to hear anything new and different?  Or pretty much, you follow the same formula, but try and change it up here and there?

Eric:  Yeah.

Polly:  Going to be along the same lines?  Or are you bringing in more cow bell?  Haha.

Eric:  Haha, yeah well it’s actually confidential information.

Polly:  Haha!

Eric:  It’s really hard to explain. PEACE OF MIND was probably our most creative album to date.  It had a lot of different styles of music.  This one I think is different but it’s similar than that it’s got a different style.  I really can’t describe it.  But I think everybody will be happy. There’s something for everyone I think is the best way to describe it.

Polly:  That’s cool.

Eric:  But I think it’s the most thrilled I’ve been about recording an album ever.  I think that’s got to say something.  But like I said earlier we love doing what we do.  It feels good the way we recorded this.   The vibe and the energy that went into it, I think people will be into it.

Polly:  I’m sure they will.  You never let your audiences down and that’s why you guys are so popular.  You’ve got a sold out concert tonight (Monday, December 30, 2013 Ventura Theater).  That’s exciting.  Two nights at the Ventura Theater.  You must be excited about that.

Eric:  Definitely, yeah, a little funny story.  The first time we played the Theater we shared an opening slot with Iration they kind of started in Isla Vista as well.  Whichever band sold the most tickets was the one that would get direct support from the artist Yellowman (headliner) I ‘m pretty sure Yellowman didn’t bring anybody.  The Theater relied on us and Iration to sell all the tickets. It’s funny just thinking about that and fast forwarding to right now and playing 2 nights at Ventura Theater and how we remember our first start there.

Polly:  It must be a great feeling.

Eric:  Yes, it is. It’s a legendary spot for us.

Polly:  Eddy Numbskull is bringing you back to Ventura.  You guys collaborate a lot? He’s a good friend.  A great guy that puts on a quality show.

Eric:  Definitely, we always had a pretty good relationship with Eddy. For a long time now, and he’s been promoting our shows for several years.

Polly:  I  see you’re super popular in Guam.

Eric:  Oh Guam. Yeah.

Polly:  It’s funny because my parents are from Guam.

Eric:  Really?

Polly:  Yeah, I wanted to know if you had any of the local cuisine while there. Haha.

Eric:  We had a lot of amazing fish while I was there.  I forget what other local stuff.

Polly:  Red rice is big, BBQ Ribs…

Eric:  Yeah, Guam, the first time we went to Guam one of our songs was a big hit.  I think it was “Safe and Sound” and it’s still to this day probably one of the most amazing shows we ever played because we were a small band from Isla Vista and all of a sudden our music became this big hit on this island and we played a show for about 6000 people.

Polly:  That’s awesome.

Eric:  That was an amazing feeling definitely.

Polly:  And they love to party and they love to dance.

Eric:  For sure.  We went to a small Chamorro village and it was spectacular going to this small village and seeing how people had been living for decades and the culture. It was amazing.

Polly:  A lot of great musicians, bands started in the 805 some still make their home here like Ozomotli, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, all those guys came up through the 805.  What is it about this part of California that makes it such a fertile ground for live music?

Eric:  Yeah, I think the college town is big for us.  Because there are a lot of people we played to. Isla Vista all jam packed in a small community.  All the students were young and they were hungry for music.  Typically it’s the younger crowd that comes out to see live music.  They are searching for different types of music.  A lot of people visit Santa Barbara. It’s a beautiful place.  You have the coast, the ocean the mountains.  You can see all sides.  Santa Barbara is a perfect way to describe California. Santa Barbara and Ventura too is both warm and cold.  I think that California in general is a melting pot.  There are so many different kinds of people here.  It’s also a spot that you get a lot of people from down south and up north coming to this area.  It’s a place that makes people happy.  You want to rejoice.  You want to be surrounded by the arts,  the music, dancing.   In that regard it’s a great place for that.

Polly:  Now both nights are all ages shows.  Is it important for you to always get the music out to all ages?

Eric:  Yeah, I like to it’s preferably to a 21 and up show.  We think our music relates to all different kinds of people. It’s funny I have grandparents that listen to our music and little kids, like our cousins, 2, 3 and 4 years old that fuss when our music doesn’t come on in the car.  Yeah, I think we’re trying to spread a positive message and there is a lot of negative music out there we hope we’re getting people on the right track.

Polly:  I really love your music.  It is feel good music and it is for the ages.  Any New Year’s resolutions?

Eric:  Haha, that’s a good question.  I got asked that question last night.  Just keep writing music. Just keep on being creative.

Polly:  I sure appreciate your time.   Have a great show tonight, Happy New Year.  Travel safe, looking forward to hearing your new stuff in ’14.

Eric:  Perfect, thanks so much Polly. Appreciate it. Talk to you soon.

(See photos that VenturaRocks.com took at the Monday night Rebelution show:

Eric Rachmany – Vocals / Guitar
Rory Carey – Keyboards
Marley D. Williams – Bass
Wesley Finley – Drums
Khris Royal – Sax


New Year’s Resolutions

It’s New Year’s resolution time again.  To make promises to better ourselves or to quit doing things that we feel are harmful to us or to others.  This tradition dates back to ancient Babylonia and was first celebrated in March. Then those feisty Romans changed it to January in honor of the God Janus.  He was the patron of arches, doorways, beginnings and endings.  I contacted several locals to see what they are resolved to do and was buoyed by their positive messages and the notion that 2014 is full of promise and inspiration.  We hope you and yours have a very happy New Year!

  • Cheryl HeitmannCHERYL HEITMANN
    Mayor Ventura, CA – “Better time management!”
    Singer/Songwriter – “Spend more time with friends & family and to take more pictures!!”
    Musician/SingerShane Alexander/Songwriter – “I’m a Buddhist so I literally start EVERY day with resolutions – to be the best man I can be, to be the best artist I can be, to develop and maintain a blissful life condition and to keep my home-life balanced and flourishing.”
  • bill locey_100BILL LOCEY
    Music writer Ventura County Star – “I live as if every day is New Year’s Eve, Christmas and my birthday”
    Doug PettiboneMusician/Singer/Songwriter John Mayer band – “This year I will try to be the best father, husband, friend I can be.”
    Blues/Rock Musicianguy martin_t – “My New Year’s resolution is to write, record and produce a long overdue original album. My last effort was in 2000.  Lots of unfinished music has been written since then!”
  • MB HanrahanMB HANRAHAN
    Artist/Muralist – “Never do something ‘only for the money'”
    Musician/Singer/Songwriter – “Aside from the usual resolutions like trying to live Kyle Hunthealthier and get in shape, I’d really like to release the new songs I’ve been working on. I’m looking forward to sharing them with everybody. On top of that I’d like to go see a lot more live shows. I’d like to check out some of the bands I haven’t had a chance to see.”
  • Todd HanniganTODD HANNIGAN
    Musician/Singer/Songwriter/Producer – “No resolution this year.  I usually end up breaking them all year.”
    Mark MassonMusician Shaky Feelin’ – “My New Year’s resolution is to live everyday to the fullest appreciate all my friends, family and even all of my lovely acquaintances around Ventura. Life is short and we never know when it’s going to be taken away from us. Oh yeah and work out and stay in shape, drink only the best beer and keep on playing my music and rocking hard to pursue my dreams for me and other people who are pushing for me. Basically my resolution is to just try and be a better person.”
  • Jodi FarrellJODI FARRELL
    Music/Voice teacher/Singer -“To thine own self, be true”
    Owner/Partner Green Art People – “I can tell you this I have Lisbet Freyresolved to have more fun (unrelated to work) and to connect authentically with friends, family and music. I want to be more present and live and make connections out of love, not obligation. I also plan on working on my own music this year and getting back into singing/writing.”
  • Brendan Willing JamesBRENDAN WILLING JAMES
    Musician/Singer/Songwriter Member of Grizfolk- “I resolve to be conversational in Swedish by the end of the year, to meet Steven Colbert, and eat sushi in Japan.”
  • Christina DiazCHRISTINA DIAZ
    Artist/Editor in Chief E-Volved Magazine – “My 2014 resolution is to continue to stay sober (I have a 15+ months) and keep moving forward.”
  • Amanda PeacockAMANDA PEACOCK
    Rock Photographer –“I think my New Year’s resolution is: Less time spent on social media, less time spent in bars (did you know that I don’t even drink?), more time with Family and friends, connecting on a deeper level. The past year has brought me new insight to what matters most.”
    Manager Bombay Bar & Grill – “To make downtown (Ventura) safe and thriving and to provide quality local entertainment in a safe and fun environment.”
    Musician/Singer/Songwriter/Producer – “Every moment counts so I plan to pay close attention and take regular tech breaks for goodness sakes!! And most importantly I plan to continue to love big, always love big!!!”
  • Jim RiceJIM RICE
    Executive Director Bell Arts Factory – “My resolution is to have a new resolution every day …not just once a year….but a lifestyle resolved to simply be… “BETTER”.
    Blues/Rock Musician “My resolutions are many…Tommy MarshLOL, lose some weight… Love my friends and family more apparently and deliberately… To give more of my time and substance or help others find their path or get back onto it… And of course the biggie…To WIN IN MEMPHIS!”
  • John ReeseJONNY REESE
    Owner Amigo’s Surf Cantina  “I am resolving to take better care of myself and the people I love. Be more open to new and different music styles!”
  • Samantha RossSAMANTHA ROSS
    Comedian/Acct Exec VC Reporter – “I’m looking forward to 2014. Although this year was positive creatively, 2013 was challenging professionally. I was afraid of change, but in the end it was the best thing for me. This next year, I’m going to embrace new experiences and focus on a little thing called follow through.”
  • Tom HiltonTOM HILTON
    Radio personality KVTA Tom & Sandy’s 805 – “My New Year’s resolution it’s to lose 10 LBS without cutting down on beer LOL!”
    Owner VenturaRocks.com – “My New Year’s resolution is to create and maintain a well organized office. It will help smooth the way for getting more projects done. Oh! and dance more!”
    Music Advocate and Writer VenturaRocks.com – “Well I hope to travel to where ever Paul McCartney is and enjoy a once in a lifetime live concert.  Pick up an instrument, I think I have time now, and live a simple, healthy life, physically, mentally and spiritually. Here’s to 2014!”

Steve and Polly Hoganson

Favorite Holiday Recipes



Enjoy these quick and easy recipes during your Christmas through New Years get- together with family and friends.  If you make any of these please take a photo and share with us!


 FROM SALLY JAYE – Singer/Songwriter & ½ of the duo of The Ladies Gun Club


sally jayeIngredients: One loaf of Challah bread, Canola oil, 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbsp honey, ½ Tbsp sugar. Dash of salt, fresh berries, syrup

“Wake up. Go buy some nice Challah bread from a local bakery, maybe grab a cup of coffee there and smile and chat with some folks in the neighborhood. Take it home, turn on some music (we put the iPhone in a glass on the counter), and make sure the kitchen is nice and clean before you start.”

Slice bread about 1 and 1/2 inches thick and set aside. In a glass mixing bowl (I prefer glass), combine milk, eggs, vanilla, honey, salt. Don’t put your eggshells in the garbage disposal!  Whisk together. Pour into a small, shallow glass casserole dish. (I prefer glass). Add Canola oil to a medium size skillet, just enough to create a light layer all over. Turn stove onto medium. Lay slices of bread in mixture, coating each side but not soaking. Let bread sit in mixture for a few minutes. Place slices of bread in skillet. Cook for two to three minutes and flip. Repeat for other side. Flip again for about a minute, and flip again for another minute. Just don’t leave it for too long on one side or it will burn.  NOTE: Don’t let it get cold, so if you’re making a lot, keep it in a warm oven (low temp) while you make the rest. Serve with syrup and fresh strawberries and blueberries or fruit of your choice. Bananas are good too. This goes especially well with bacon and fresh orange juice to drink. 

The unabashedly Appalachian voices of SALLY JAYE and SARAH ROBERTS make for a stunning anomaly. Soon after meeting, they borrowed the name LADIES GUN CLUB from an actual ladies’ gun club in North Carolina and, happily commenced to makin’ bona fide Roots Music in the midst of Tinseltown. The NEW LGC single is out on iTunes! Check out BIG BASS DRUM, produced by Josh Day, written and performed by LGC with Brian Wright, Philip Khronengold & Dylan Cooper www.theladiesgunclub.com


 TAYLOR KASCH – Artistic Director Flying H Group – Theater Company

My drunken Irish grandfather passed on to me”

                                               DRUNKEN MEATBALLS!!

taylor kasch1c catsup, 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/2 to 1 cup bourbon, 1 package frozen meat balls.

Mix it all together in a crock pot and cook on high for 2 hrs.  Pretty damn good!

Flying H located at 6368 E Bristol Rd Ventura is a place for the professional actor & beginners alike to study their craft in a warm & welcoming environment. An ensemble group of actors has been created that “speak the same language”. Aside from our live productions, workshops and private instruction are offered. For further information go to our website at www.flyinghgroup.com

 POLLY HOGANSON – Writer VenturaRocks.com

“This is a family favorite and oh so easy!!”

                   HAM ROLL UPS

024Danish Ham – 16 ounces, Green Onions – 1 bunch, Soft Cream Cheese – 16 ounces

Wash green onions, cut off root ends, reserve green stalks. Take a slice of ham and lay flat, spread enough cream cheese to cover.  Cut 1 stalk of green onion the width of the ham, roll it up like a jelly roll.  With seam side down slice 5-6 “wheels”.  Place on a small platter or dinner size plate.  Continue through the pack of ham or until you run out of cream cheese.  It usually makes enough for 6-8 people.


RAIN PERRY – Singer/songwriter

“Here’s a recipe I invented in honor of my nephew’s wedding.”


rain perryOne part Hendricks Gin, One part *ginger-infused Sake (see below), two parts raspberry lemonade from Trader Joe’s, raspberries to float on top

*I always store sliced ginger in sake because you can never use up a whole root before it goes bad. One day I thought “I bet that sake-flavored ginger would be pretty good in a cocktail!”

Rain Perry’s “Beautiful Tree” is the theme for the CW Network’s “Life Unexpected,” where she also had the surreal pleasure of appearing as herself in a music festival episode alongside Sarah McLachlan and Ben Lee. She has released four albums on her own Precipitous Records (2 of which had their CD Release Parties at Zoey’s), as well as writing and touring a solo play about her unusual childhood called Cinderblock Bookshelves: A Guide For Children of Fame-Obsessed Bohemian Nomads. A high point: hearing Nanci Griffith’s sweet voice on Tom Russell’s version of her song “Yosemite.” A not-so-high point: when it made the radio EP but not the album. In addition to her career as a singer-songwriter, Rain also promotes concerts in Ojai and teaches Songwriting for Civilians, specializing in classes for people who harbor a secret desire to write songs but need encouragement and tools.

Christmas with Claud Mann and wife Perla Batalla – Sharing precious time with family is the best gift of all.

I reached out to one of the most talented couples I know for their favorite holiday recipe.  What a pleasant surprise when I was rewarded with this lovely gift.  Their Christmas dish and accompanying story is filled with a long history, a rich family tradition and most of all love.

                   POSOLE DE PERLITA

claud perla evaPosole soup is a one-dish Mexican supper my wife Perla’s family has shared every Christmas as long as anyone can remember. Simultaneously comfort and celebration, the hominy and pork (or even free-range turkey) soup is passed around the table, and each person garnishes a huge bowl of the broth, hominy, and shredded meat in a different way: avocado, shredded cabbage, fresh chiles, radishes, cilantro, onions, chile sauce like creating a beautiful garden in the center of the table, and conversation plays as big a part in the dish as the edible ingredients.

This recipe began with Perla’s grandmother. I suppose anything that comes from a grandmother’s hands is comforting. On our very first date, Perla’s mother and grandmother were making posole soup at her sister’s. It was my first visit there. Her mother is Austrian-Hungarian, but she grew up in Argentina and learned to cook from Perla’s father, who was from Acapulco. Every single Christmas, Perla’s mother would buy a pig’s head from Grand Central Market, the only place that supplied Mexican foods and produce. Back then the reason to cook the head was economical: use every part of the animal. Today it’s more expensive to buy the head than the rest of the pig’s body.

Now when I make the soup I use a pork shoulder, which is called the butt. (The derrière is actually the ham.) And I use pig’­s feet, to replace the flavoring the cartilage from the head would have provided. Unlike other stocks, there’s no mirepoix. Just garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns. Perla’s mom wouldn’t add more than water and salt. Still, this version has met with her approval. The key to a great stock is to keep the water just this side of simmering so the meat doesn’t dry out and the fat isn’t incorporated into the stock. At the family gatherings someone is always famished and goes over to the stove to turn the heat up to a boil and speed things along, but you can’t do that. It’s a long simmer, but as soon as you can pull the bone free, the soup is ready. You pick off the fat, shred the meat from the bone, and serve it in a separate bowl.

I’ve been tempted to use fresh hominy, but Perla is convinced that the real dish needs Mexican white hominy: large, rough kernels straight from the can.

It’s the condiments that reflect the regional aspects of Mexico. Perla insists on the purity of a white broth, while I am of the red school, so I make a red chile puree and leave it on the side as another condiment, which I swirl into the clear stock. We always add Mexican oregano, crushing the leaves between our hands so that the smell is everything. And then tons of lemons; each person squeezes half a lemon into the soup, which turns the broth cloudy. And then we pass around the various condiments. We know some families who offer red cabbage as well. And some who put green apples in the soup. And the only other side dish we serve is fresh tortillas.

For fifteen years I have cooked posole soup for our family at Christmas. So it is a complete meal. And it’s so filling! Partly because you end up eating at least three bowls . . . until you need a nap. Which is a good thing, because by that time someone’s started an argument, so it is a good time to retreat to the couch.

Note: Mexican-style hominy is found in Latin American groceries. Try to purchase half-cooked hominy from a tortilla factory and finish cooking it at home. Alternatively purchase posole from a health food or gourmet store and cook according to the directions, 3 to 5 hours. Fully cooked canned or frozen hominy is available at most grocery stores.


POSOLE DE PERLITA Serves 10 to 12

For the soup 3 pounds bone-in pork shoulder butt, cut into 4 pieces 3 pounds pig’s feet, neck bones, or shanks, cut into 2-inch-thick pieces (have the butcher cut these for you) 2 large white onions, quartered 2 whole heads garlic, halved across the middle 1 bay leaf 2 tablespoons sea salt 4 cups fully cooked Mexican hominy (see Note) 1 recipe Ancho Chile Sauce

For garnish, optional Coarsely ground dried red chile Dried Mexican oregano Finely chopped white onion Halved lemons and limes Finely chopped red cabbage Thinly sliced radishes Diced avocado 1 recipe Ancho Chile Sauce


Makes 2½ cups

6 to 8 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed, coarsely torn 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons white vinegar Combine the chiles, 2½ cups water, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a small nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in small batches. Strain and pour into a serving bowl.

Claud’s Bio:
Chef de cuisine for Dinner & a Movie, Claud Mann graduated from the California Culinary Academy and cooked his way up and down the West Coast, including stints as executive chef at the five-star Palmilla Hotel in Cabo San Lucas and Nicola restaurant in Los Angeles. His nonprofit endeavors include Project Open Hand and his own guerrilla catering company, Eat the Rich, which simply never made a penny. Claud also co-runs Mechuda Music, an independent record label, with his wife, vocalist Perla Batalla. They live in Ojai, California, with their daughter, Eva, and are breaking ground on a home-style organic restaurant.

Excerpted from Cooking from the Heart, © copyright 2003 by Michael J. Rosen and Share Our Strength, and reprinted by permission of Broadway Books.

Claud Mann  Email:  foodstories@mac.com

Interview: Todd Hannigan

Todd Hannigan was navigating his way to LA to see friend and business partner, musician Jesse Siebenberg, who was playing at the Fonda. I had the pleasure of talking to the singer/songwriter, record producer and Grammy winner who had a lot to say about music, surfing, film-scoring, turning 40 and his hometown of Ventura, California.

Todd Hannigan

photo by Bridgette Lopez

Polly:  You grew up in Ojai or Ventura?

Todd Hannigan:  Both actually. We went between Ojai and Ventura but spent most of our time in Ventura and I went to Ventura High.

Polly:  In high school I was like a hippie theater geek, what kind of group did you hang out with?

Todd:  I did as little time in high school as I could, haha, but when I was there I hung out with the surfers and I also played golf and tennis.   But mostly surfers, and I was trying to get out of class so I could ride the waves.

Polly:  So Surfing was a big deal for you as a teenager growing up.

Todd: Yes it was like the biggest deal.

Polly:  I saw the short film posted on your website. Tell me about the Patagonia “Worn Wear – A Film about the Stories We Wear” project and how did you get involved?

Todd: I was talking to Lauren and Keith Malloy (local surfer/film maker) and they thought they’d be making a short called Worn Wear and I told them I’d like to be involved tell me a little bit about it and when it came time to do the music I was doing stuff with Emy Reynolds, a few other people and Lee Koch was going to be involved.  So I’d already been working on most of their stuff, so usually Keith asks me to do music for them.  We actually co-wrote a song that’s in there.

Polly:  I recognized Emy right away, her music starts out at the beginning of the film.  Who else plays on it? You play on it and then you got the Malloys?

Todd: Yes, me and Keith but I’m still getting the artist list together I apologize.  One of the things I’m doing right now is getting an official list of all the songs that made it in and I’m going to post it because a lot of people have been asking where to buy it.  Plus I didn’t do all the music so I’m still getting all of that together.

Polly:  Well it’s a beautiful sound track and I can see how people are interested in getting it.  What is the process that you go through in scoring a film?

Todd: Really I try and spend a little time before I start, getting a real good idea of what the director wants. A lot of the guys I’m working with nowadays are more experienced and good at telling you what they want or whether you’re allowed to do what you want.  There’s a couple different styles of how you approach scoring.  See what comes to mind first.

Polly:  So it just depends on the director then, sometimes they have a clear cut specific idea and you collaborate and other times he gives you free reign.

Todd: Sometimes they say write something and they’ll send me the idea/theme and dialogue or they’ll send me a theme with a track of something they can’t afford like a Rolling Stones song with the tempo to cut to, and what the images look like and the rhythm they’re looking for. From that you get the picture of what they want.  I match the tempo with our song and throw that Rolling Stones sample track out.  That way our song matches all the same cuts.

Photo by Cliff Montgomery

Photo by Cliff Montgomery

Polly:  Patagonia is such a huge presence in Ventura county and around the world. A unique business that’s more a way of life. Do you know and have met Yvon?  (Chouinard, owner of Patagonia)

Todd: Yes, we’ve met. I’ve actually spent several hours recording an interview at the old Brotheryn.  He told a lot of cool stories and a lot of my friends work there.

Polly:  The Patagoina’s philosophy seems to have influenced in my opinion your lifestyle and a lot of people in Ventura.  Do you see that?

Todd: Yes, I agree with that. I don’t do much climbing but I surf and do like their message with the worn ware philosophy. To re-think the disposable economy and plan on keeping your stuff for a couple generations and learn how to fix your stuff and buy stuff that will last at least your lifetime.  Especially now during the holiday shopping season their campaign says a lot. And if they have the balls to do that with their advertising campaign then I should try and look long term.

Polly:  This is another great Malloy project. You’ve been collaborating for years. How did that happen?

Todd: We started hanging out together at Emma Wood and down around California St a long, long time ago when I was probably 9 or 10 years old. Then when I first started playing guitar I couldn’t wait to show them my first riff or my first set of chords.  And when I saw Nick Drake I told them hey check this guy out or check out Robert Johnson. We’ve been really connected musically for years.  So when they need music they call me.  I was able to come through with a couple songs initially and as they’ve grown I’ve become more involved and that it’s been good shit. I’ve been really lucky, yeah lucky.

Polly:  It seems like they started out surfing and now they’re making their name in the film world which is pretty cool.  So you’ve done a lot of soundtracks at Brotheryn.

Todd: We actually got nominated for a second Grammy a couple days ago.

Polly:  A second Grammy?

Todd: Yeah

Polly:  That’s awesome!  I was going to talk to you about The BIG EASY EXPRESS. (Brotheryn 2012 Grammy winner for best long form music video featuring Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & Old Crow Medicine Show)

big easy express photoTodd: Right, which we mixed.  That was one we didn’t write any music for because it was about bands who make music themselves. We mixed all of the sound, the dialogue editing and final mastering.  Big Easy was really fun to work on, a very exciting project by Emmett Malloy. That’s actually the first time I’ve worked with Emmett.  I’ve always worked for Chris, Keith and Dan (Malloy) and when Emmett hired me it was really kind of cool.  It was his first Grammy too.

Polly:  That’s a great accomplishment, so what’s the second Grammy award for?

green day cuatro posterTodd:  It’s a film called “Cuatro!” a documentary about Green Day.  We mixed a while ago, last year, but for some reason it really got no press, nobody saw it, nobody heard about it.   I was really surprised when it was nominated.  It’s a great film.  A friend Tim Wheeler directed it and Tim Lynch produced it the same producer on the Big Easy, they are the guys from Farm League down in Santa Monica where I get a lot of work from.  Farm League has really been responsible for getting me a lot of the work that I’ve been doing and I owe them a lot.

Polly:  It seems like the connections that we make even at a young age and the friendships it kind of leads to other things and grows and these days, it’s really who you know.

Todd: Yeah, we definitely have to have the opportunity to do good work and to even learn how to do it.  You also have to deliver once you get hired.  I’ve been in a position before where some friends were getting really popular or famous and making some moves and I wasn’t ready to go along for the ride, I didn’t have enough experience.  You really have to be in the right place at the right time and be ready.  So you work your whole life and try to get good at something and hopefully you get the opportunity to show that on a larger scale.

Polly:  Your studio in Ojai – Brotheryn is a full service recording studio?  Who are the musicians you’ve worked with in studio?  

Brotheryn StudiosTodd: This year – a musician named Johnny Boyd, Lee Koch, Dan Grimm, Dave Palmer are projects we’ve done this year.  Jason Mariani does a lot of the music work, a lot of the mixing and is the head engineer at Brotheryn.  A lot of the bands contact him directly where as I’m more hunting down filmmakers specifically.

Polly:  Your partner in Brotheryn is Jesse Siebenberg, who’s been out on tour with Lissie.  How did you guys meet?

Todd: Well, you know that’s so funny, I met Jesse Siebenberg when I was hired to do a session for a guy named Syd.

Polly:  You mean Syd, Syd?  (Erin Sidney, local Producer, singer, musician and drummer for Mia Dyson, The Pullmen, Hotels and Highways)

Todd: Yes, he was coming in to do his record when he was working with Hartley (Fitzgerald-Hartley) back in the day.  That recording session with me was long, long ago.  I had no partners, I was by myself at the Haley ranch (first Brotheryn Studios location in Ojai).  He said he has this guy coming in that’s going to play drums, guitar and bass on the album and he’s awesome and it was Jesse!  Jesse came in and said hey I can’t believe this place is here.  He’d been in the area for awhile but didn’t really have anyone to record or hang out with.  He said you know I have a bunch of gear and maybe we can figure out a situation where I can leave it here and use it whenever I need to.  So a week later we get a U-haul, drive it up to his dad’s (Bob Siebenberg drummer for Supertramp) place in Yosemite. We got a mixing board, mics, a bunch of stuff and we became partners basically right then and there.
Todd and Jesse Canyon ClubPolly:  That must have been a long time ago.  Was that in the 80’s?

Todd: Hahaha, I wish we had started back then, no I was still in school in the 80’s.

Polly:  Oh right haha.

Todd: It must have been around 2001.  No, 1999, I remember having conversations about Y2K with Jesse.

Polly:  Right, all the world’s computers were going to shut down.

Todd: Yeah.  Back then Jesse hired Jason to do some mixing on another record and also on Syd’s record.  Jason was freelancing in L.A. and we were giving him more work than he was getting in L.A.  We told him move up here, in fact just bring your stuff up here and it’s worked out for everyone involved I think.

Polly:  How did you get started as a musician? You mentioned you were about 10.

Todd: Well, I was infatuated with music as a listener.  My brother had a guitar when we were growing up which he would hide from me but eventually let me play it.  My dad also had a roommate who had a guitar who let me use it.  I would play every day for months and months, I wouldn’t put it down.  After a while I got pretty good pretty quick.  Then my uncle Peter a classical guitarist showed me a couple classical pieces where I’d have to use my fingers. Which is the style I use to this day.  Then I’d just jam to cassettes. I listened to a lot of psychedelic music, a lot of Hendrix.  I’d just play guitar, no real songwriting, then record on a cassette deck.  When I was about 25 for whatever reason I sang a song called “Blue Sky” and my friend who was making a movie heard it.  He asked hey who’s that?  I want to use that in my movie.  Well, that’s me.  He said bullshit I didn’t know you could sing?  I said I didn’t either.  And that track made it into the movie.

photo by Pam Baumgardner

photo by Pam Baumgardner

Polly:  That’s incredible.

Todd: Yeah, then I knew, wow that’s pretty crazy. So maybe I should write some more songs.  So I ended up doing that.

Polly:  And it’s served you well.

Todd: Well I didn’t write my first song with lyrics until I was 25.  Anybody can do it as long you have passion for it then you should just do it.

Polly:  You really need to have passion.  

Todd: With surfing and music the one good thing is how it’s always different.  Like waves are always different or your mood, that’s why I never get bored with music or surfing.  And that’s why I love music – to go in and create is my favorite thing to do.  It gets even more fun the longer you do it.  Like surfing.

Polly:  I checked your website and FB.  You just put up some new tracks.  Are you working on a new record?

Todd: Yes, I’ve put a lot of new music up on my website because there are some composing agencies in L.A. and San Francisco who wanted to hear examples.  So I posted those.  To give those folks an idea of my writing style for film opportunities.

Polly:  What’s your process when you write a song?  Do you hear the music in your head or do the lyrics come first?  

Todd: Usually I’ll start playing a melody on the guitar, a certain rhythm will inspire me for the most part.  Sometimes I’ll wake up with a lyric.  Not to be too literal but it could also be something that happens in my life that will inspire me.  Sometimes the music and lyrics can come at the same time like with the song “Where I need to be”

Polly:  I was listening to your song “End Game” and there is a line that I thought was really interesting you say “I’m going to keep on trying til my dying day and I’m going to keep on dreaming until they take it away”  Is that a message you’re sending out to the Universe of where you’re at?

Further Than the BowTodd: Well I’m trying to convince myself…

Polly:  Hahaha

Todd: Definitely to other people, and as you know life can beat you down a little bit.  You don’t have to look far to see that.  Often times I write songs to convince myself to keep trying harder.  In this case it’s about a goal.

Polly:  So I wanted to share something with you I don’t know if you realize this but there are some circle of friends who lovingly refer to you as Todd Hattigan because of your hats. Did you know that?

Todd: Haha.  Oh my God.  That’s funny.  I’m trying to grow my hair out so I don’t have to wear hats.

Polly:  What was your most memorable gig?

Todd: The Canyon Club with Jackson Browne.

Polly:  That’s cool.  Where is your favorite place to surf around the world?

Todd: Favorite place?  Probably here when the waves are good.  It’s a great feeling to be at home and be surfing.  When the waves are pumping and there’s not a lot of people in the water.

Polly:  What advice would you give to up and coming singer/songwriters?  Any words of wisdom?  I know part of it is to make sure you have the passion.

Todd: If I was starting out and I ran into myself in the future I would really wish I had read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell  which has a little bit to do with music but mostly about how to get good at anything.  He talks about meeting your 10,000 hours. It’s really fascinating and I’d really recommend it. For me I’m just starting to feel like I’m owning what I’m doing as an artist.  It’s a lifetime choice to be involved in music and it’s not about the money. It’s something you choose to do because it makes you feel good and hopefully you have something inside of you that you want to share with the world.  Doing it for the right reasons and know that it’s going to take awhile.  And get a second job that allows you to do your music is something I figured later on.  My job in studio allows me to not depend on making money playing music as much. That helps me writing wise that let’s me write stuff that I believe in. Be a waiter or server or anything that pays you as much money in as little time as possible so you can play and write the rest of the time.

Photo by Amanda Peacock

Photo by Amanda Peacock

Polly:  Right.

Todd: And don’t be afraid to play gigs.  I was petrified Polly, when we played our first gig at your old place upstairs.  I was so, so scared.

Polly:  You’re kidding!

Todd: Oh my gosh I was so scared for the first couple of years but you know that was a really, really cool way to jump into the music world.  But I think maybe even the first 25 gigs at Zoey’s actually…haha

Polly:  It definitely is the more you do the more comfortable and better you get.

Todd: Yes, that’s what I was trying to say it helps doing open mics and what you were doing where you were encouraging up and comers.  Another thing I would suggest is don’t be so concerned about money from the gig so much.  Just play as many gigs as you can so you get better at your craft.  Then you can worry about making a livelihood from your craft as you get better.  Don’t put money before the craft, put it after.

Polly:  That’s good advice.  Well I was going to ask you, because you just recently had a birthday…

Todd: 40!

Polly:  40 years old really…

Todd: Four Zero

Polly:  How do you feel about that? hahaha

Todd: Oh man, I don’t know, how should I feel? I don’t know, I was fine for my 30th .  As far as turning 40 I’m trying to ignore it and keep running laps and eating organic food.

Polly:  I don’t think age is that important anymore as far as a number.  I think it’s just what’s in your heart and what you put out there. I mean, 40 is like the new, what 29?

Todd: Hahaha, yeah, The Heavy 29’s (name of his band).  Well I hope so, I wished I’d said that.  40 is the new 29.

Polly:  I was going to ask you, okay so you’re 40…or 29, are you where you’re at or did you ever think you’d be where you’re at now personally and professionally?  Are you in a good place?  

Todd: Yes, I think I’ve already reached a path where I’m achieving as far as being involved with music, yes, I’m very happy and surprised actually. I still have a lot of time to get better and work on the highest level in the world.  I’m actually further along than I expected.  It’s kind of crazy.

Polly:  Good for you Todd.  What’s your assessment of the local music scene, you’ve been involved for so many years?   

Todd: I would say the number of artists that I’m aware of seems to be growing. There are pretty solid artists that have put in their time. But I’d say we need to work on more venues that are basically like the ones you guys had (Zoey’s) because I think that helped cultivate the most.  That’s like having a farm and the musician is like the crop.  It seems like with the absence of Zoey’s the scene is more about drinking than listening to the music.  Some places are trying like Bombays.

Polly:  I know Diego is trying.  It’s almost Christmas, are you ready?  

Todd: As ready as I’ll ever be.  I’m doing memberships to the Organic CSA, buying vitamins. Thanksgiving was great.  I like spending time with the family.

Polly:  Any New Years resolutions?

Todd: None this year but I make and break them all year long.

Polly:  Last question, you’ve played music and surfed all over the world. What keeps you coming back to Ventura County?

Todd: It feels like home.  And this place is as nice as anywhere.


photo by Pam Baumgardner

photo by Pam Baumgardner

Top Ten Gift Ideas

The holidays are fast approaching and maybe you’re like my friend Lynn who finished shopping for perfect gifts months ago, or like me, you are still psyching yourself up to hit the shopping centers dreading the hordes of people, long lines and canned Christmas music.  Before you contemplate slipping into body armor, I have an idea!  (And if you know me you know what I’m about to say) Give the gift of music!  I’ve put together a list of a few artists who call the 805 their home or play in the area regularly.

  • White BuffaloThe White Buffalo’s latest release “Shadows Grey & Evil Ways” is deep, powerful, hypnotic. If you’re an avid fan of the popular biker saga Son’s of Anarchy you’ll recognize The Buffalo’s songs/voice woven beautifully into the storyline. Genre: Americana/Folk   www.thewhitebuffalo.com
  • Shane AlexanderShane Alexander  A voice blessed by the Gods along with amazing guitar work his newest effort “ Ladera“ will want you pressing repeat again and again. Genre: Folk/Pop/Rock www.shanealexandermusic.com
  • Delaney GibsonDelaney Gibson’s 3rd full length album “Tall Like the Tree” reflects her growth since moving out of Ventura and maturing through experiences in life and love.  Fans still get the satisfaction of her soaring vocals but with the added bonus of a fully formed lyricist. Genre: Pop/Theatrical  www.delaneygibson.com
  • john fullbrightJohn Fullbright’s first record was Grammy nominated and rightly so.  A brilliant songwriter we are waiting with bated breath for new stuff ‘cause we can’t get enough.  Until then “From the Ground Up” will do nicely. Genre Americana/Folk www.johnfullbrightmusic.com
  • Reverend Tall Tree Reverend Tall Tree & the Blackstrap Brothers, AKA Chris Pierce’s newest musical project, has finally recorded their soul stomping sounds. The self-titled album is in limited release. Snap them up quick.  Genre: Driving Blues/Gospel/Howling harmonica www.reverendtalltree.com
  • LissieLissie – On a world-wide tour in support of her newest record “Back to Forever”, smoky, explosive vocals, crazy-amazing hooks, Lissie harkens comparisons to Janis. But know this – she is absolutely her own woman.  Genre: Rock/Pop/Folk   www.lissie.com
  • Milk Carton KidsThe Milk Carton Kids – Joey Ryan & Kenneth Pattengale were solo artists who then joined forces a short three years ago and are conquering, bludgeoning, slaying the Americana world.  Zoey’s was honored to have been a part of their very first live recording “Retrospect “.  Pick that up along with “Prologue” and their latest “The Ash and Clay.” You’ll thank me later.  Genre: Folk/Americana   www.themilkcartonkids.com
  • Brian WrightBrian Wright thoughtfully weaves imaginative tales of pain, love and woe. Close your eyes and enjoy the ride of “Rattle Their Chains” Genre: Americana/Rock-n-Roll www.brianwrightmusic.com
  • MassengerMassenger. The ultimate Ventura Indie band their record “Massenger” is all things good about Ventura beach life. With the able bodied vocalist Sasha Green and support by Seth Pettersen this is a gem. Genre: Surf/punk/pop/rock www.massenger.bandcamp.com/
  • 50 Sticks of Dynamite50 Sticks of Dynamite – A fan of their live shows we do have to recognize the hardest working band in the city and their latest record “Love, Dream, Truth, Love”.  If only for the fact that lead singer Ian MacFadyen plays electric banjo! Genre: Banjo fueled Rock N Roll.  www.50sticks.com

Polly Hoganson The MusicMuse

I am super excited to join Pam and VenturaRocks.com as a guest writer on a semi regular basis!  I hope to bring insight as a former music venue owner, music lover, indie advocate and longtime resident of Ventura County on the music and art scene of the place I hold dear.   I will write out loud about – “how to” ideas for the DIY Indie band/artist, shine a spotlight on up and coming musicians, bring exclusive interviews of stars in the music industry who make the 805 their home, cool new music and find answers to – Can Ventura really be the new Austin?

My goal is to continue to build our Ventura County music community and focus on how amazing we are.  I’d love to hear from musicians who either are from or play in the 805 along with promoters, and all you music fans!  Send us the happening news.  Message me at therealmusicjunkie1@gmail.com   Let’s do this!