Now Ventura! is all about promoting venues who offer music and supporting those artists who live in and around Ventura as well as those who travel here to play.  We’re devoted to inspiring people to support Ventura’s music scene.

FullSizeRenderOver the years our music scene has had its ebbs and flows; no one disagrees we took a major hit when Zoey’s closed their doors a couple of years ago and we continue to feel the effects of no longer having a dedicated listening room for artists. But we have a new venue in town taking over the exact same place where Zoey’s use to be located at 185 E. Santa Clara Street. Now Ventura is first and foremost a higer end italian and seafood restaurant and lounge which has been totally renovated.  The digs are fabulous, the food delicious, the staff on the ball, and what makes it most intriguing to me isn’t their reality TV connection, but rather their rock star connection.  One of the partners at Ventura Now is Michael Anthony, one of the former bass players for Puddle of Mudd.

We arrived on a Thursday evening, and Michael was there greeting patrons, seating them, visiting to make sure their food was prepared properly, and quite open to engaging in conversation about his rock and roll past.

Ventura Rocks:  What brought you to Ventura?

Michael: I just really like Ventura and being by the beach every day.  I’ve been running bars in West Hollywood and Hollywood for the past 13 years and I was looking for a change of pace.

VR: Do you surf?

Michael:  I did try surfing once in Hawaii.  Wasn’t very good so I will just stick to what I know and focus on my restaurant and maybe play some music once I get settled in.

VR: Why did you decide to give up the life of a rock star?

IMG_0053Michael: During the last big tour I already had someone all ready to fill in for me so that I could go back to the opening of PUMP in West Hollywood.  It was stressful for me to be out on the road while opening a huge restaurant right in the middle of West Hollywood.  The morning we got back from tour I had to throw on a suit at get camera ready for staff interviews for Vanderpump Rules.  I looked pretty tired during that shoot.  It’s a good thing my partner in Now Ventura, Rani John, was my AGM at Pump.  He kept me in the loop the whole time.  I would not have been able to get Pump or NOW going without him. The guy that was ready to sub for my was Alien Ant Farm’s bass player Tye Zamora.  I didn’t need a sub after all because the tour got cut short due to some crazy shit happening with Wes.  That’s a whole other story. So, I gave them a month’s notice.  I figured that was plenty of time because that is all I had when I joined the band.

I gave it up for the chance at a semi-normal life I guess.  Touring is fun until you are really doing it and then you come back home to nothing.  I loved being on stage but I did not love all the waiting around.  It was the most difficult decision of my life. I would always buy tickets to see POM back in NJ and was surreal to actually be a part of it.  Would I go back? Yes.  Would I make the same decision to leave again?  Yes.

VR:  Do you currently have any other music projects since Puddle of Mudd?

Michael:  I am actually so focused on making Now the best restaurant it can be that I put playing on hold for a while.

VR: I heard you’re likely to sit in with Puddle of Mudd when they play at Discovery in March. 

Michael:  That is true.  I actually didn’t event know they were playing there until I went in and saw myself of the poster.  Yes, they have not taken me off yet.

VR: What are your plans for live music at Now Ventura?

Michael:  My vision for NOW is quality not quantity.  I want to do live music Thursday to Saturday but not all night. Maybe 2 45 min sets. I’m going to start working on the stage soon.  Need to get all my gear up here from my rehearsal studio in L.A.  All the gear is coming from the Puddle of Mudd rehearsal space.

VR: Will we be seeing you sit in or playing sets? 

Michael:  Yeah, I will for sure do a little cover band night here and play. Need to dust off my bass.

VR: What the ETA for live music at Now Ventura?

Michael: The beginning of February.

NYENow Ventura will be hosting a New Year’s Eve Party with William Rottman preforming acoustic 80’s and 90’s covers from 10 to 12 and will also MC the night.

Once again Now Ventura is at 185 E. Santa Clara Street, (805) 667-2200.  Here’s a link to their website which also features their menus:
Like them on Facebook:
Follow them on Twitter:
Follow them on Instagram:

By the by, when I emailed Michael about sending me some photos, I wasn’t sure if he had any on hand, so I told him to just take a selfie, that it would be good goofy fun…AND HE DID!  We love him!


ZoSo – The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience

ZosoZoso will be rolling through town playing a date Saturday, June 6, at the Majestic Ventura Theater. While there may be a number of Zep tribute bands around, there’s no denying these guys take their craft seriously performing since 1995 traveling not only nationally, but internationally perfecting the essence that is the mighty Led Zepplin; that’s over nineteen years and 2500 shows.

 The Chicago Sun-Times declared ZoSo:
“The closest to the original of any tribute.”

We caught up with Matt Jernigan, founder and lead singer of ZoSo:

Ventura Rocks:  How long has ZoSo been performing?
Matt Jernigan:  We’ve been performing for 20 years this year–longer than Led Zeppelin was actually together.

VR:  What kind of venues have you rocked?
Matt:  We’ve been fortunate to play some amazing places throughout the US and internationally. It’s tough to pick a favorite, but some of the beautiful classic theater venues, of which Ventura Theater is one, are our favorites. Our shows in Japan left a big impression on us because the fans there were so enthusiastic and excited, packing out a huge venue over there. We’re fortunate to play the places that we do.

VR:  What’s the response been like?
Matt:  The response from both fans and critics has been good. We have spent these last 20 years studying every nuance of Led Zeppelin’s live shows, what little footage that there is, to continuously refine and hone our live performances. People often remark about how talented all four of us are at what we do, which is a testament to the work and care we put into ZoSo.

The St. Petersburg Times called ZoSo:
“The most exacting of the Zeppelin tribute bands in existence.”

VR:  There are so many songs to chose from.  How hard is it to whittle down a set list?
Matt:  Our first few times playing a market we play a lot of their longtime favorites, many of which are staples in our set-list. After coming to a market a few times, we will usually go a little bit deeper into their catalog. When we play multiple nights at one spot we’ll play songs from specific albums each night so fans get two or three nights without any repeat songs.

VR:  Which songs typically get the best response?
Matt:  In no particular order:
-Stairway to Heaven
-Dazed and Confused
-Whole Lotta Love
-Ramble On
-No Quarter

VR:  Got dinner plans for that Saturday?  
Matt:  Nope, if you’re buying we happen to be free 😉
Thank you for the interview!

Tickets are still available at the Majestic Ventura Theater:



Nathan McEuen – Side by Side

Nathan McEuenNathan McEuen recently wrapped up production on his sixth solo album called, “Side by Side.”  I’d been hearing about a pending upcoming release for the past year after he started a Tuesday evening residency at Amigos in early 2014.  I made it a point to stop in on a dozen or so occasions to check it out; Nathan has this sort of shy, witty charm about him that is quite endearing.  I quickly came to know by heart the inspiration behind the banjo he played.  In a nutshell, it’s a gift from Russi Taylor, the voice of Mini Mouse.  The banjo belonged to her late husband Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse.  It’s a lovely story with a delightful song written in thanks for the honor of being the recipient of this gift.   But as quaint as that is, you really need to read the liner notes behind Taylor’s inspiration and the song, “Pictures of You in My Heart”.   There’s no doubt about it, Nathan has heart and it certainly comes through in his writing and music.

Of course some of the basics on Nathan are good to know.  He comes from a very talented family of musicians; I’m sure you’ve seen his brother Jonathan McEuen play around town either with his own shows, contributing to other artists or joining Nathan for a tune or two from time to time.  And of course, there’s pops, John McEuen from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  I was lucky to be at Amigos the evening both Jonathan and John joined Nathan for a couple of songs.  When I mentioned to Nathan you could see the genuine affection his family has for one another, he just looked down with one of those shy smiles and said, “Yes, it runs deep in our family.”McEuen Family

Nathan’s record, “Side by Side” features six tracks out of ten on the banjo, an instrument he said he just picked up a few years ago (I did mention he has talent, right?). The remaining four songs are Folk – Americana and not only feature his guitar work, but he brings to the table the amazing Jesse Siebenberg, who helped co-produce this one in part at Brotheryn Studios.

Other musician credits to note:  Randy Tico on upright bass; Jesse Olema on fiddle; Ashley Broder on mandolin; Samantha Harvey on accordian; Craig Eastman onfiddle, Chris Caswell strings and piano; Marcy Vaj on violin and viola; Jeness Johnson on cello and as mentioned previously Jesse Siebenberg B-3, bass, drums, slide guitar and BG vox.

My own personal protocol when it comes to reviewing an album is that I spend some time with it.  A lot of time.  I’ll listen while driving around, I’ll listen while working at my computer, and I’ll sit there doing nothing else but paying attention to detail.  The great thing about Nathan’s “Side by Side” is that I was already familiar with most of his songs and now I had the chance to learn the lyrics and hear what his songs sound like with a full band behind him.  But I know an artist has passed my own personal acid test when I find myself whistling or singing a line from one of their songs. “Side by Side” has passed with flying colors.

Nathan has a way of writing clever lyrics:

“They say I’m always up to no good
I’m the best at bad decisions

But am I always up to no good?
Well if you stand where I’ve stood
Your high horse might be broken
What’s so bad about feelin’ so good?”

 “Up to No Good” is my favorite track but I’ve found myself humming to all his lyrics and I have a new found love for “Pictures of You in My Heart” after learning the true life back story on it.  Nathan does justice to their love story.

I recommend picking this one up the next time you see him or on his website.  The CD will get a broader distribution in a few months.

The Interview

Nathan McEuenI sat down with Nathan at Amigo’s the night before leaving for a few weeks taking his new material on the road for shows in the Colorado Rockies, Idaho, Utah.

Ventura Rocks:  How long have you been working on material for this one?

Nathan:  Probably about a good year and a half.

VR: What inspires you to start writing?

Nathan:  I started writing as a child when I was about eight years old simply because I was surrounded by a bunch of people who wrote songs and it was such a cool thing to create something out of nothing.

VR: Are you always writing material?

Nathan:  Absolutely. Today before the show, I had a songwriting session in Thousand Oaks even though I just released an album, I’m already working on my next one, actually two of them.

VR:  I recall when we spoke last year you had different types of material, some harder than others, like the Foo Fighters?

Nathan:  Well, in the stylings of…I didn’t want to release an album with five different genres on it; that would be too difficult to explain to people, so the first one I ended up putting out an album with banjo and guitar. Half of it’s banjo instrumentals and joined with a bunch of other musicians that range from an upright bass, mandolin, fiddles and a little bit of percussion that go around the banjo.  The other half is singer songwriter fully produced full band material.  so this album is a cool complete contrast. half of it’s instrumental and the other half singer songwriter.  That was a lot of fun and it seems to be going over really great at live shows playing the banjo then singer songwriter thing. It’s a fun blend.

VR: I don’t know that I was a fan of the banjo before, but watching you play the past year it’s in my realm of reality now and I’ve really begun to appreciate it, even dig it.

Nathan: It’s definitely an acquired taste.

VR: I sit there and watch you picking, it’s amazing. Let me see your fingers!.

Nathan: Okay.

VR: (Inspecting Nathan’s fingers) Oh my god (impressed).

Nathan: Yeah they’re calloused a little bit.

VR: Yeah they are!

Nathan: I’m constantly playing.

VR: How long have you been playing the banjo?

Nathan: A solid four years. I grew up with a banjo playing father which a lot of people know, and some people don’t. People might assume I started playing it at a young age, but no, we kind of out of respect for my father, my brothers and I, and even my sister, we kind of decided to not play the banjo for a long time for various reasons.  But four years ago I started finding my own voice on the banjo and I started writing a bunch of songs.

VR: What does your dad think about that?

Nathan: When we talk about it, he’s told me things like, “I don’t know Nathan, you’re finding a bunch of notes that I never had.”  Or, “I can’t play that like you.”

(we laugh)

Nathan: And it’s nice because I can’t play like he does. It’s fun thing because it’s not like I’m copying him.

VR: Right, it’s your own style.

Nathan:  And there are some things that I think he’s very proud of just to say the least.

VR: Well I was here (at Amigo’s) that night when your brother Jonathan and your dad joined you for a couple of songs.

Nathan: That was so much fun, and that was a very rare moment.  He just happened to be passing through town.

VR: I was just sitting there watching the three of you and it was clear, you could see the genuine affection that you all have for one another.

Nathan: Yep. (pauses) It definitely, runs deep in our family.

VR: So where did you record this one?

Nathan: Mainly I recorded it in Southern California between the Valley and LA; it’s simply a guy who has a studio in his back yard. And I recorded the majority of the banjo instrumentals there. The majority of the singer songwriter part was in Ojai at Brotheryn Studios, and a couple of studios in between. Once tracked needed a string quartet so I recorded that in Venice. The first song that I ever tracked for this album actually was tracked in Atlanta, Georgia called Tree Sounds Studios. So I started in the East Coast actually and then brought it to the West Coast.

VR: When mixing the album did it sound like it was recorded in different places?

Nathan: Well the whole point is to have contrast.  I didn’t want the banjo to sound exactly like the produced singer songwriting stuff.  So there’s a continuity between the songs, but there is a drastic change halfway through the album people will notice, but it seems to flow.

VR: Who produced it?

Nathan: I produced most of it.  The last half I co-produced with a friend of mine, Jesse Siebenberg. I had other executive producers, but they took care of financing. But Jesse was producer with me the last four tracks, and I produced the rest of it.

VR: He plays on it as well?

Nathan: Yes. Jesse is an animal in the studio; a lot of people who work with him know him to play everything it seems. But on this album in particular he is playing – between the four tracks – some slide, the bass the drum, keyboards, and singing background vocals even!  We had a great time, we just got a lot of work done.  A majority of those songs we got done very quickly and once we got to the point where we needed to add strings, it was just very easy because we worked so well. He’s easy to work with.

VR: He’s a pro. Very talented.

Nathan: For sure.

VR: And you have your own label?

Nathan: Yes, my own label with six solo albums out now. I’ve been acting as my own label for the whole thing; some days it’s answering the phones, and some days it’s emptying the trash and other days playing songs on the stage.  It’s been fun keeping it going, but I am looking to partner up with people who see the vision and the grand picture but I can still act as my own label and pay for all the recording, but partnering up with a distribution company will be very beneficial for me.

Kelly’s Lot French Connection

If you know Kelly Zirbes, then you know she’s one of the hardest working women on the music scene. She’s forever booking, promoting, playing, writing, and breathing music. She’s awesome; plus, she’s got the talent!  Calling their brand of Blues, “Roadhouse Rockin’ Blues” Kelly’s Lot features amazing musicians including Kelly’s husband Perry Robertson.

I caught up with Kelly to get the low down on the band’s upcoming Valentine’s Day show at the Patio at Player’s Casino.  Not only is the Patio pulling out all the stops to make a night of romance with some of the most delicious dishes in town, but Kelly’s Lot will have a special guest player all the way from France, Jean Francois Thomas.

FrenchTrioVentura Rocks:  What’s up with this international exchanging of Blues artists Kelly?

Kelly Zirbes:  It’s all about meeting and playing with other musicians who love the blues.  What I love about this genre is ‘The Jam’. During a blues jam you will play with total strangers and find that you connect. Music is a universal language with the Blues being a universal bridge and language. Even across the world we can all relate to each other when we play the blues. Jean Francois Thomas shared us with his friends and fans in France and we will share him with ours in Ventura

How did you meet?

We met Jean Francois in France on our 3rd tour in European in 2011. We had played at a record store together and became fast friends and he invited us back to his house for dinner. There was 6 of us so that was rather generous. We all fell in love with him, his energy, his songwriting, his guitar playing but mostly just him. We talked at dinner about coming back and doing a few concerts together and in 2013 Perry and I decided to take Jean Francois up on his offer and emailed him. He was thrilled. We all three decided just Perry and I would travel there and start with an acoustic trio adding Jean Francois. He booked some shows and we flew to France. It was a fantastic trip and our bond became even stronger. We repeated the same thing in 2014 but with many more shows and bigger audiences. It was then that we invited him to come to America and play with us. He wasn’t sure he could because he was afraid to fly. But after a couple weeks he changed his mind and told us he would come.

Jean Francois ThomasTell me about Jean Francois Thomas.

He’s a multi-faceted guy. He’s a a teacher of Economcs and Law in Auvergne, France and a touring musician. He discovered blues the age of 30 and was a boxer when he was younger.  He has one of the most giving spirits of any musician I have ever met and he loves the Blues more than any person I have ever come across.

How big is he in France?

I’m not really sure but he has performed at many large festivals in France land has opened for Tommy Castro, Patrick Verbeke, Shemekia Copeland, Nina Van Horn. He has released quiet a few CDs since 1995 and has been given lots of accolades by the French press and media.

This is a Valentine’s Day gig.  How romantic will it get?

Jean, Kelly & PerryThe Patio will be doing a French themed menu and serve French wine. I know Jean Francois will warm everyone’s heart and he will get the crowd going.  I think that in itself will bring romance to the room. The French are some of the most romantic people I have met and it is fitting to share Jean Francois with our Ventura fans on Valentines. You know, he didn’t want to play a lot on this trip. Just one or two shows. It’s a vacation for him, his wife and a few friends and they want to have time to enjoy the sights. Of course Ventura was my first choice to book a show because of all the music lovers that we have discovered in the 3 years of playing here locally. Needless to say there will be lots of love to go around.

Reservations are highly recommended (805) 658-8975, or go high-tech and get your reservations online:

Kelly’s Lot on Facebook.
Kelly’s Lot Official Website.

Interview: Nine Mile Skid

Nine Mile SkidVentura Rocks got wind that there was a new collaboration going on, a new band, serious local musicians having some fun playing the Grateful Dead – so we had to investigate.  Turns out our old and dear friend Chris Jensen is just one of the many talented artists in the band.  They had played downtown Ventura on a Saturday afternoon, and I was super bummed to have to miss having an earlier obligation to fulfill.  But I’m making it up by doing a little big of a Q&A with a few of the guys including the mastermind behind the project, Evan Grosswirth.

But before we continue, just a quick acknowledgement to Gary Sula-Goff for REPRESENTING.  God I love seeing our t-shirts out and about!!

So Chris Jensen, you’re always working on so many different projects between your photography and a couple different bands at any given time.  What do you have going currently?

Chris Jensen:  This week it’s basically three, 9MS, 50xTNT (50 Sticks of Dynamite) and Fido which is presently booking their bi-annual show TBA…Swing Cheese seems to be on hiatus.   I’m super excited about Nine Mile Skid though.

Big Dead fan Chris?

Chris:  I purchased my 3 LP set of The Grateful Dead – Europe 72 when it came out in 1972…and devoured it.

So then whose bright idea was it to create this band?

Chris:  That would be Evan Grosswirth…he’s our fearless leader.

Well Evan?

Evan Grosswirth:  I started this band about six months ago because of my passion for Grateful Dead music. I wanted to join up with others that shared that enthusiasm.  So we put together 9 Mile Skid.

What would you call the genre?  Grateful Dead tribute band?  Dead cover tunes?

Evan:  The genre would be psychedelic jam Rock…. I guess!   We are more of a Dead Cover band than an actual Tribute band…. if there’s really a difference.. With this music there is so much latitude to stretch out.  And hey, the Dead never did the same song the same way anyway so……..

Chris:  9MS play homage to the music of the Grateful a Dead…all Dead all the time…including cult favorite songs e.g. “He’s Gone,” “Cumberland Blues,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “Mr. Charlie,” “Althea,” “Sugaree”,  Eyes of the World” and others…let us know your favorite dead tune…we take requests!

Nine Mile Skid comes from The Grateful Dead song, “He’s Gone.”  What were some other titles you guys have been throwing around for a name for the band?

Evan: I kicked around a few other names but everyone liked this and we decided to use it.

What era of Dead tunes are you covering? Are you staying away from the “radio favorites”?

Evan: We really are not concentrating on any time period, just trying to choose good tunes. But we are staying away from the ones that you can hear on the radio.  But…. Truckin’ is always a favorite. You can do a pretty righteous jam on that one too.

Ventura has always been Dead friendly, more than other communities I’ve lived and worked in.  Why do you think that’s so?

Evan: I really couldn’t say exactly why.  I do know that our town has a very rich and vibrant music scene that can outshine most places in this country. I know that from all of the traveling that I’ve done by way of my job as a pilot. The  vibe of Ventura definitely aligns with the Grateful Dead vibe .   It’s a good fit.

Do you feel younger people embrace the Grateful Dead?  If yes, why?

Evan:  I am continually and pleasantly surprised to find the amount of younger people that dig this music.  I think it’s all about the soul. The younger people who this music appeals to share the same soul as the folks who discovered it originally. It’s certainly not mainstream and we kind of like that. The people who dig it, really dig it. Not a lot of middle ground.

You guys have some social media in place to help spread the word?  Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, stickers?

Nine Mile SkidEvan:  We just started playing out and we have a Facebook page that we just put up. As far as other social media,,,, nothing yet but that’s coming soon.  I kind of figured that if a person wants to check out a Dead tune on Youtube, well they are more than likely going to want to see the original band , not some , uh, shall I say, Other Ones!   But we do have Stickers!

What dates do you have lined up so far (doesn’t have to be just in Ventura)?

Chris:  Dec, 10 at Green Art People, Dec 28 at Amigo’s

Thanks boys!  Looking forward to seeing the band soon!!

Nine Mile SkidThe line up (per photo left to right)

Gary Sula-Goff (guitar) plays in Mojo Filter, The Delfinos, Arvee Park.

Paddy Marsh (guitar) Crooked Eye Tommy, The High Grade Pats, and the Lousy Drunken Uncles.

Brad Strickland (guitar) also plays with Mojo Filter and occasionally with his own jazz/rock band Fever Dream.

Chris Jensen (drums) from 50 Sticks of Dynamite, Fido, Swing Cheese.

Evan Grosworth (bass) has played with The Preachers and many others around town…you’ve undoubtedly heard Evan at the Wed blues jams at Bombay.

Roy Katnic (guitar) plays in Deadiquette and the Laundry Love Band.

Always to be sure to check in with calendar listings for all future shows of Nine Mile Skid!

Nine Mile Skid

Brothers Gow

Brothers GowOriginally out of Flagstaff, AZ, Brothers Gow are currently bassed out of San Diego and will be making their third appearance in Ventura.  With an eclectic fusion of rock, funk, jazz and reggae, the band’s contagious energy is sure to win over more fans with their next gig Brothers Gow Reflectionsin Ventura at Bombay’s on November 20.

Brothers Gow just released their 4th studio album called “Reflections” and is currently touring through the Western US states from Arizona and New Mexico to Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and California.

Ventura Rocks:  We’re looking forward to the band’s return to Ventura later this month (November 20) at Bombay’s. For those who aren’t yet familiar with the band, describe your sound and what they can expect at one of your shows.

Kyle Merrill:  Thanks! We’re really excited to be returning to Ventura! As far as the band goes we play an eclectic fusion of rock, funk, jazz, and reggae. We love to make people dance! We have an energetic stage presence fueled by powerful vocal harmonies, complex arrangements, and ripping guitar solos. To top it all off we have an awe inspiring light show run by our very own Matt Collier AKA MC6.
Brothers GowVentura Rocks:  The band does pretty well touring. How often do you get out on the road?

Merrill:  We try to hit the road once every two months, but with our new partnership with Hoplite we hope to be on the road as much as possible!

Ventura Rocks:  Tell us about how you came to be a Hoplite Entertainment Artists and what does that mean for the band?

Merrill:  We have been searching for a booking agent for a long time now. A booking agency needs to see that you can sell tickets in your hometown, and that you’ve been touring and paying your dues on the touring circuit. It is very difficult to land a booking agency. In today’s music industry getting a booking agent is more important than a record contract. The money is in live shows and not in CD sales. We pride ourselves in our live shows and want to play for as many people as possible and Hoplite will help us make that happen!

Brothers Gow

Ventura Rocks:  We always love hearing how bands give back to the community. You guys started a non-profit called the Brothers Gow Music Foundation. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Brothers GowMerrill:  With budget cuts in schools more and more arts and music programs are being cut. We feel that art and music are crucial for a child’s development. If we wouldn’t have had band and music classes in middle school and high school I don’t know if we would be doing what we are today, and following our passion. Even if kids aren’t going to pursue music and art as a career it still helps them learn valuable skills for the real world. We have donated 18 guitars and ukeleles to our local OB elementary school. We are in talks with the nation wide not for profit, Guitars in Classrooms, about donating guitars to them. Our goal is to take donations from the different cities we tour in, and donate guitars to schools in those cities.

Ventura Rocks:  How can people keep in contact with the band? What types of social media do you keep up with?

Merrill:  We stay very active with our Facebook and Instagram accounts. We also post a lot of videos to our youtube channel. Not just concert videos but funny videos and our own day in the life reality show, “Life of Gow”

Instagram Handle: Brothersgow
People can also check out our website,

Ventura Rocks:  Anything else you’d like Ventura to know?

Merrill:  If you come out to our show, you’re gonna have a good time! This is not just a group of guys playing music, it’s a performance with a full light show that will leave people feeling great!

Brothers Gow:
Alex Gow Bastine – Keyboards/Vocals
Ethan Wade – Guitar/Vocals
Kyle Merrill – Guitar/Trumpet/Vocals
Nathan Walsh-Haines – Drums/Vocals
Carson Church – Bass

Chris Jay on Army of Freshmen UK Tour

Army of FreshmenI once wrote that it’s been such a pleasure getting to know our venue owners and artists and that the gamut of personalities range from sweethearts to dickheads. Enter in the boys from Army of Freshmen and they definitely fall on the sweetheart end of the spectrum.  Chris Jay is one of the hardest working, nicest guys in Ventura’s music scene and one of my favorite people to run into when I’m out and about. He was happy to answer some questions about the band’s upcoming tour of the United Kingdom (November 13 – 23, 2014).

Ventura Rocks:  When was Army of Freshmen’s last time in Europe?

Chris Jay:  We were over there last year in the spring for the Hit The Deck Festival and a one off show with The Aquabats in London. Short run but a lot of fun. We try to get over there at least once year.

VR: In ten words or less, how did this tour come about?

Chris: We bothered our booking agent in the United Kingdom. For the record, I just did that with nine words meaning I have a word to spare. I shall make that final word be coolio, as in the state of being, not the rapper.

VR:  Had you played with Lit before?

Chris:  Actually, no, but we’ve had a writing session with Jeremy from the band on two different occasions. The two songs we wrote together never made it to a record but we got a long really well. We came close to the playing with them on occasion but never really happened. We’re excited cause they’re a band we’ve always thought we’d fit well with. We consider ourselves a rock band but we do end up playing with a lot of punk bands and ska bands which we don’t mind but it will be nice to play with a straight up rock band. Crowd will be a little older I imagine and since we’re old too that will be nice! They seem like really good guys too so hopefully we’ll get a long well on and off stage. We have a lot of mutual friends as well.

VR: What are you looking forward to the most?

Chris: I just love being on tour. We don’t get to do it nearly as much as we used to so I think we tend to enjoy it more and appreciate it. Every night is like a big party. It’s more like vacation than work. In all honesty the UK in November is not the greatest place on earth, cold rainy, dark but it’s still being on tour. Looking forward to seeing old friends and hanging with everyone in the band too. We don’t get to see each other as much as we used to.

ItineraryVR:  How big are the venues (crowd-wise)?

Chris: It’s a large club tour. Not sure how crowds will be as later in the year is always a difficult time to bring people out- lot of distractions and people are saving up money for the holidays but I think no matter the size, the audience will be made of people that really want to be there and that always makes for really great shows.

VR: Getting the band’s schedules all aligned to hit the road can’t be easy. What’s the biggest hurdle you guys had to overcome?

Chris: You nailed it. Schedules. Work schedules for the most part. Everyone has “real” jobs and financial commitments and what not so getting everyone to be able to take a week or two off at the same time is not easy. Then of course the money to fund it all.

VR: Who pays for your travel? If you guys pay your own way, I trust the tour will reimburse? Just curious.

Chris: We pay for our travel and that’s the other big issue. Being an opening act or supporting act, the pay is bizarrely uneven versus the headliner. International touring is especially difficult cause of the cost of flights. Makes it all extremely difficult. Most of the time the tour doesn’t reimburse. More than ever, with a few exceptions, you do it cause you love it not to make money. But with that said, we’re always looking for financial help from donations to just buying a t shirt at the show. Everything and anything helps. It’s hard times for dope rhymes. The whole music industry and labels collapsing has been a real double edged sword.

VR: Feel free to add any additional thoughts you’d like to share.

AoF-PodcastChris: Thanks for talking to us as always and keep up the good work on the site! I know how much time and effort it takes. Ventura’s music scene is special but it has it challenges. For more Army of Freshmen news come find us on Facebook and be sure to listen to our weekly podcast, Fresh Talk!


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, at The Majestic Ventura Theater Saturday Sept 20th 7pm doors/8pm all ages show. Tickets

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: Owen Bucey – The Calamity

0207_OwenBucey_001One evening taking in music around Ventura I came across Owen Bucey performing a solo set at Bombay’s.  Owen of course has played keyboards for Army of Freshmen since day one.  I hadn’t seen him perform solo before, so I was impressed. Jeff Hershey was in the crowd and encouraged me to check out one of Owen’s “other” project The Calamity.  Less than a week later I found myself sitting down with Owen on Main Street at Palmero’s talking about Army, Calamity and the the music scene in general.

Honestly, the tape ran much longer than what you see here, as we got off topic more times than not just talking about Ventura’s music scene which we both love! But here is the spliced down version of our conversation.

Ventura Rocks:  How did The Calamity originally get started?

Owen Bucey:   Calamity was a project that got started with Kai, Aaron and myself when we were touring on the East Coast in Jersey around 2004/2005.  We just hung in one night when everybody was going out and we were staying at Chris’s folk’s house.  They live in a place in Cape Main.  His mom’s a music teacher so they have a piano room and we were just messing around, drinking beers and whatever; and we just put it together. It was just sheer organic fun.  We loved what came out of that night and decided to explore it a little bit more.

VR:  How was the experience different from Army?

Owen:  In Calamity everyone was on different instruments, except for me, but I was starting to write lyrics which was a new experience for me.

The CalamityVR:  How soon did you realize you had enough for an album?

Owen:  We’d meet up occasionally to keep it going.  We took baby steps, you know?  We’d record a couple of songs with someone. But we finished a full length record in 09 and put it out on Missing Words label (The Return, Matt Marten’s label).  It was cool, because he did a real push and even got us on college radio.  We played a couple shows, but we continued to write more.

VR:  And the rest of the guys?

Owen:  Balt joined right before we finished Songs from the Gold Coast (the record that came out in 09.)  Some of the songs were done, so he contributed to some of the songs on bass. But we were always like a three piece, just Aaron, Kai and myself.  We basically wrote almost a full record like that, then Balt came in and we added three or four more songs for a full-length.  Phil was added after that for more texture and guitars.  We’re all from the same circle of friends and bands; it was a chance to jam out and get something with a little more guitar texture so it doesn’t end up being too Ben Foldsy, straight up piano pop.

The CalamityVR:  And how was that writing?

Owen:  The songs that were coming out of me were about what was going on in my life at that time, relationship stuff, marriage stuff, it was difficult, the economy, everything.  So it was little more moody, so it was cool to have those other elements.

VR:  And you got out and performed?

Owen:  Yeah, when Phil came in, there was like an injection of passion, which was cool because he was all jazzed about doing some shows, so we organized some more and and this was all going on at the same time as whatever Army of Freshmen was doing. So we’d run around with Freshmen and go out on a trip for a week, then come back and have a show here and there with Calamity.  We just coordinated everything with our off days.

VR:  And what about the marketing of Calamity?

Owen:  Well the cool thing about this, is that nobody really cared about whether or not it took off. It was all about just playing music, and writing songs.  But we were real proud of it. It was always great when we had an opportunity to perform it.  And we had some cool opportunities like when we got invited to play with Camper Van Beethoven’s camp out which they do every year at Pioneertown.

The Ghost of These MomentsVR:  When did you guys decide to cut a second album?

Owen:  Winter of 2012. We knew we could book time at “The Captain’s Quarters” (Satellite Studios) in spring of 2013

VR:  Who produced it?

Owen:  The Calamity and Armand Tambouris

VR:  What are you hoping to achieve with A Ghost of These Moments?

Owen:  We wanted to achieve a more organic and raw sound with real instrumentation. The songs were a natural and personal culmination of the previous year. Something we can always be proud of. No agenda really

VR:  How did the idea to cover the album start to finish at the show at Bombay’s on March 1 come about?

Owen:  We liked the idea of making the show a one time event. Give the entire concept of the album in one fell swoop.

VR:  Is there anything else you would like to say about the project?

Owen:  Basically, the Calamity has always been about the music. Trying out new things without trying too hard, and playing with friends.

See’s music review of A Ghost of These Moments

The Calamity Members:
.aaron goldberg
.baltazar cano
.kai dodson
.owen bucey
.phil tibbs


Buy The Calalmity – A Ghost of These Moments