Thanks again to Sabyrtooth for rocking First Friday for us.
photos by Brian Crabtree
Photos by Cat Johnson
Last week, Mary Gauthier and her band swung by the store to play a handful of songs for us. It was a great set featuring old and new material, and a perfect warmup to her show that night at the Kuumbwa, where she proceeded to bring the audience to its feet with her heart, humor and fire.
Mary has a new live album coming out soon and we’re usually stocked with her back catalog, so come down to the store and see what all the fuss is about.
Photos by Brian Crabtree
Hot off his appearance on Letterman the other night, Cory Chisel is bringing his roots-rocking stage show to the Santa Cruz Streetlight with a free in-store concert on Monday, August 6 at 6pm.
This Thursday at 6pm San Jose/Salinas indie rock outfit Skyway View is playing a free in-store concert at the San Jose Streetlight Records. Here, guitarist Ruben and drummer Jerald talk about the band’s origins, its evolution, the stories behind some of the songs and the local music scene.
Streetlight Records: Can you give us a little background on the band?
Ruben: The band came to be in the winter of 2007. We had recently changed our name from Breaking Hour, and had recently changed our male singer for a female singer, which totally changed the dynamic of our sound. At the time, we were not having any luck playing in San Jose, since there were so few venues to play at, so we took our act to Salinas. In Salinas we began to network with lots of bands and did a number of shows that helped develop our live show as well as our sound. We had some success and gained a good fan base. However, our singer at the time was a rather troubled girl, she was a runaway who choose to live on the road, crashing at different places, and started having black outs constantly.
We eventually put out our first record, Vanity in 2009, and got some press exposure as well as a cool tour that saw us playing at all the bay area Hot Topics where we would perform acoustic sets, as well as meet and greets. At this time, our singer began to come undone, and ended up in the hospital after a number of shows due to her black outs, which I felt were from a combination of a lack of sleep, being mal-nutritioned, and drug use. (It’s just how I saw it) Eventually this caused us to pull out of a number of big show opportunities, so we parted ways with her.
Unfortunately, the band underwent a big fallout, and I had to put a roster back together from scratch. Luis the bassist was the first to come on board in 2010, then Jerald the drummer in early 2011, and finally Daniella The singer in late 2011. I really feel we were like the Phoenix, because we arose better than we were before. We all were on the same page, were on the same level as far as musician ship, and had lots of chemistry with each other.
SLR: How did Skyway View come to be?
Ruben: Truth be told, I was getting ready to leave the music scene, and sell all my stuff, I started playing in 1993 and had gotten tired of all the tough times, and the loss of many good friends over bands breaking up. My cousin convinced me to give it one last shot, and so I decided to approach music with an honest set of songs, that found me writing songs about all the things that I would never talk about. The things that were dark in my past, things I saw common in the human condition, conflict, and disillusion, the low points I have had in life, and the power of overcoming those times. So fast forwarding a bit, I knew Jerald through a number of mutual friends, I had actually gigged with one of his former bands back in 2003, but didnt really know him too well, but the moment we got to jam together in Skyway (at least for me) I knew that we were speaking the same language. It was like we were communicating with our respective instruments. To date he is the one musician I have had that kind of connection with. When we jammed the first time, he came at me with all his chops right off, he was and still is the most amazing bassist I’ve ever jammed with. He can do super-human things on the bass, that I can’t wrap my head around (technique-wise) I felt that this was the first person to push me as a musician right off the bat, I had to come back at him guns blazing with all the best chops I had. He was a great addition to the group, not only for his chops, but also because of his mellow cooperative attitude.
With Daniella, we had been searching for a singer for a number of months. I replied to her Craigslist ad, and sent her a few rough demos of our songs “Stay” and “Ojos Sin Fin,” she contacted me right away. We met up, and I was impressed with her voice right away. I told her that even if she wasn’t selected for the band, I would continue to jam with her and at least do open mics. The day she was going to audition for us, she had to cancel due to being severely sick with the flu to the point where she couldn’t get out of bed. So we had to audition another girl, who impressed the others, we actually ended up going with that girl as our singer, (Though I really liked Daniella) . I told her what had transpired, and she was cool with it, and we decided to jam anyways like I had said.
In a matter of two weeks, the other girl began to flake, so I recorded Daniella performing our songs, and showed the recordings to the band. They were impressed, and we decided to actually let her audition for all of us. She came in and had already memorized a majority of the songs that made up Under the Digital Sky it was like we were meant to play them as this line up all along, we didn’t miss a beat with her, she actually led us in the songs.
SLR: What was the inspiration for the name?
Ruben: To me, Skyway View, the band name, comes from a critique of the modern society we live in, A skyway is a bridge that exists between two buildings, much like the walk ways that connect casinos in Vegas. The idea or interpretation I give the name is, we have all these luxuries that make life better for us as a society, however we have lost touch with the world that surrounds us, and in a sense have become disconnected from it and each other.
Skyway View, in my opinion, is being able to see the beauty outside of the safety bubble we have created, and longing to reconnect with it as we stare at it off in the distance. The person who came up with the name actually left the band after Vanity came out, He was the former bassist Joshua Torres, who is still good friends with all of us, I always make sure to give him credit with coining the name, which was influenced by the street Skyway Drive which was the street his girlfriend lived on. He felt the name had to do with his vision of the future.
SLR: Skyway View’s sound is a well-crafted balance of high-energy, heavy and creative instrumentation and really lovely vocals gliding along the top. Can you talk about how the band’s sound came to be? Did you know where you wanted to go with it from the beginning?
Ruben: I have always been a fan of bands like Depeche Mode, London After Midnight, and many of the new wave bands from the ’80s. However I also enjoy bands like the Deftones, Korn, Adeema, and Orgy. I found that those bands had lots of melody in their music, So much of my guitar playing was developed by trying to imitate the synth sound. At the same time, I learned how powerful a good hooky chorus can be by listening to bands like Nirvana, Coldplay and STP so I tried implementing those elements into my songwriting as well. I feel I developed my sound a few years ago, comfortably, however, Skyway got its sound from the other three members performing in their unique way, Jerald’s musical theater background helped set the mood in the songs, Luis’ groovy playing and sense of allowing space in his phrasing and his ability to lock in with Jerald gave us a sound I get lost in sometimes when we perform. And Daniella, has a dreamy, clean vocal tone, that fits the songs like a glove. Her ability to feel the emotions that were written into the songs really helped bring across our collective vision. To tell you the truth, I feel like many of the songs wrote themselves, and I had been lead to play the riffs by something else, the melodies and lyrics then were developed afterwards, but I always like giving a haunting feel to the vocals.
SLR: I hear a lot of styles in your music including prog, rock and goth. How do you describe the band’s sound to someone who has never heard you?
Ruben: I tend to tell people I’m in a rock band; ambient rock, to be a little more specific. If I get a puzzled look, I reference bands like Paramore, and Flyleaf, with elements of the Deftones and 30Sseconds to Mars combined. I feel that sums us up to some extent. We do definitely identify ourselves as a prog rock band as well, and I feel the goth has to come from my love of bands like London After Midnight, and Velvet Acid Christ.
SLR: Can you tell us a little bit about the new album, Under the Digital Sky?
Ruben: Well, this album was recorded in 30 hours roughly. We had prepared for a few months prior to when we actually tracked the record. The record was actually developed over the last few years, as soon as the first CD Vanity came out, I began writing the songs for this record, in the hopes that it would come out in November of 2009. The songs are about personal things that I have experienced in life. I wrote the song “Ojos Sin Fin” about a girl I use to date as a kid. I grew up as a real wall flower and I consider this song the anthem for the wall flower. She was very guarded because of abuse she had suffered as a child. She wouldn’t let anyone in, and was rather mean to who ever tried to get close. I had never been the one to try and take a chance in romantic matters, but in this case, I was lucky enough to see past the rough exterior, and over come my insecurities, and actually became involved in a loving relationship with her once she put her guard down, that’s roughly what that song is about, feeling like your not good enough for that person you hold on a pedestal, then taking that chance and finding success and reciprocation of those feelings.
The song “Seventeen” was about asking a higher power for the strength to get out of a deep depression I found myself in that actually led me to a failed overdose suicide attempt. I knew things had to change, and that I needed to do better in this second chance I was given. The song says remember when we both were seventeen, people assume I’m talking to the girl, whereas I’m actually talking to God, saying, Do you remember when I was happy, help snap me out of this.
The song “Wall of Hurt” is a song about a point in my life where I had been struggling with anorexia. I had secluded myself for the three months of summer vacation before my junior year in high school, starved myself and worked out non-stop, in the hopes to lose weight or die trying, In that time I lost 130 lbs, and got down to 155 lbs, I returned to school and found a new popularity, I was disgusted that everyone wanted to know me now. I thought that these people had no idea what i went through to get here, and even began to battle bulimia with the added pressure of staying this size. That’s the line, The faceless pretenders will haunt you. The song also makes reference to being aware of that and overcoming it. I’ll leave it at those three to keep this answer a bit shorter.
SLR: How did the recording process go? How is it different from your earlier album?
Ruben: This time around, it was great to actually have everyone in the studio at the same time, to develop unique little parts to the songs to make them more interesting, and to have that positive energy through the whole process. It was also great to have a group of great musicians who cared about the end product as much as I did. On the Vanity sessions, I went in with my cousin who was filling in for the drummer, and knocked out the record, did overdubs on the guitar, recorded the keys, then brought in the bassist and singer on separate days to do their parts. It felt very disconnected, but it was where Skyway View was at that point in time.
I would have to say [this one] was a complete 180 degree change. Everyone was involved in the process. We rented the Workhouse Recording studio for the entire weekend, and were able to get real good takes out of everyone. We brainstormed the artwork and layout, which was also a great experience in itself. And now, have a great record that we are all proud of.
SLR: Who are some of the band’s key musical influences?
Jerald: A Perfect Circle, Deftones, various jazz artists (in terms of the drumming) Ruben: Nirvana and many of the Seattle scene bands from the ’90s were influential in my getting into music. As well as Coldplay and the Cocteau twins as far as learning or better yet understanding songwriting structure. Stone temple Pilots, Muse, Keane, Portishead, Radiohead, Circa Survive, Dredg, Carlos Santana, Bjork, Victor Wooten, and Billy Sheehan (Luis’ influences) As well as many of the great soundtracks from some really good Animes such as the Wolfs Reign soundtrack, we all are really into anime, and me being the novice of the group feel that aside from the great stories they tell, get a reaction from the viewers by using beautiful music that can take you to another place.
SLR: What are your thoughts on the San Jose music scene?
Jerald: I feel the scene is, well, lacking, although there is definitely talent hidden in the city’s crevices.
Ruben: I can remember there being more life in the San Jose music scene, having huge turn outs at shows, and people going to see entire shows, not just going out to see their friends band, and text the whole time they are playing, but mingle, meet people, get stickers, try to get demos find out where the next show was going to be at . I feel the instant gratification that today’s generation is accustomed to is to blame for the loss of the show experience. However, I can see the scene is turning around. Little by little I am starting to see venues downtown filling up again, and it’s starting to feel great to be out in our own town.
SLR: What’s Skyway View up to these days? What’s next for the band?
Ruben: We are playing shows throughout California to support our release. We have also began writing our next album which will be a concept record. It’ll be a sort of leitmotif or a kind of “story told through music and lyrics.”
Well, lucky us here at Streetlight Santa Cruz to have had this amazing performance for free. Taking alt-country to another level with her “lean, mean, bass-pluckin’ machine self,” Amy Lavere captivated the folks in the store on Thursday. Accompanied by the skilled David on guitar and Sean on a snare drum with a brush, Amy gave us all a little taste of that lovely voice of hers, with tinges of angst and sadness that definitely evoke a rich feeling in her songs. Some of the songs held down an upbeat groovy bass line while others brought to mind a lonely desert night full of sadness and regret. All in all, this is one talented woman who can hold her own when it comes to taking the lead with her trusty standup bass!
Big news: Amy LaVere is playing a free, in-store concert this Thursday at 3pm. LaVere, who released her most recent album, Stranger Me, last year to much critical acclaim is swinging through the store before her gig that night at Don Quixote’s. A genre-defying singer-songwriter-bassist whose music embodies country, folk, jazz, rockabilly, indie and pop, LaVere also played rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson in the film Walk the Line. Here she is talking about greasy food gigs, a Joaquin Phoenix outburst, Stranger Me and her appreciation for record stores.
Streetlight Records: Hi, Amy. How are things going on your tour? Any high points or low points you can share?
Amy LaVere: The tour is going well. Spirits are high and the overall mood is relaxed and easy-going. Another less appealing adjective for this tour so far is “sleepy”. We have been up in the North West for the past 2 weeks playing this string of bars in the McMenimin’s resorts and the weather is perfect, the crowds polite and the food heavy and greasy. I think we are all anxious to get back to a more challenging environment of rowdier crowds, power shows in clubs and living on little less food and less sleep. A lifestyle that I thrive on a little better.
SLR: Your latest album, Stranger Me, is being celebrated as a break-out album by publications such as Paste and Spin. How is it different from your earlier work? When you set out recording this one, did you know it had the potential to attract such praise?
AL: No, I had no idea what anyone might think of it. I didn’t approach anything particularly different than my other records. I did however feel it was a special thing somehow. It’s a strange record that I love and it feels both painfully personal and ridiculously foreign to me when I listen to it. I’m proud of creating it, amazed that I did it really. And while I appreciate all the praise and the vote of confidence from music writers about it being a “break-out record” it seems to have crawled back in from where it broke out as if it was waiting for the season to change. Radio didn’t grab it. I’m hoping it’s possible that it get’s a second opportunity somehow to be heard.
SLR: If we could backtrack for a moment, you played the legendary Wanda Jackson in the film Walk the Line. How was that? Any memorable moments from that role or the film that have stayed with you? Were you a Wanda Jackson fan before you played her?
AL: Absolutely. I was a big fan of Wanda Jackson and I still am. She is without a doubt the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Most memorable was being asked to play the wrap party for the film and having Joaquin Phoenix shake a beer on us in some drug induced enjoyment over us playing some rip roaring version of “Railroad Boy” and then having my band abruptly and angrily pack up their beer splattered gear and split on me. I was left to carry out the PA alone with the exception of the last few items that this guy named Orlando Bloom helped me load. I only realized when I was thanking him goodbye that it was the actor. I confirmed this by saying “Hey, you’re the bow and arrow guy from that movie right?”
SLR: Your music is often described as Americana. Is that how you think of it? It encompasses so many genres and styles including folk, country, pop, rock and soul. How do you describe your music?
AL: I don’t bother. It certainly isn’t “atmospheric country” as it says on all the flyers pinned up around these McMenanins gigs. The music is it’s own thing. It’s all the styles I’ve absorbed, twisted and spun into my own paintings using colors only I can make. That’s how I see it.
SLR: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
AL: Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush and Johnny Cash.
SLR: What music are you currently digging?
AL: Bill Callahan has been in heavy rotation the past couple of weeks. Lamb Chop too. They both seem to fit the temperament and feel of this part of the tour right now. Looking forward to things picking up as we head down the coast. I’m thinking something more aggressive is in order. Maybe some Beasts of Bourbon, Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Captain Beefheart or even Metallica’s Ride The Lightening. Ideas welcome…
SLR: What artists or albums have been in your collection the longest?
AL: Dark Side of the Moon is a consistent stand by for me. Morrissey. The Beatles’s Revolver.
SLR: Care to share your thoughts on record stores?
AL: My favorite thing about record stores is how they act as an adventure in memories. Sifting through and stumbling on an old record that had some meaning for me can rock my whole day. And knowing that when I take something new home and that it has the possibility to become a powerful memory for me one day is thrilling.
As part of our ongoing First Friday in-store concert series, local found-sound artist, multi-instrumentalist and looper extraordinaire Rick Walker treated us to a set in which he played guitar, banjo, a kitchen bowl, bells, plastic straws, a metal sculpture, a beer bong and a bunch of other unexpectedly musical instruments. The set was full of textures, rhythms, sound-scapes, loops, a little beat-boxing and a spirit of organized experimentation. Here are some photos to provide a glimpse into the musical wonderland that Rick created.
Photos by Caroline Reid
Yesterday Donavon Frankenreiter and Matt Grundy graced us with an excellent in-store concert. It was intimate, mellow and groovy and Donavon charmed the joint with his easy-going, friendly disposition and his impressive guitar work and songwriting skills. He and Matt played for us a handful of tunes from Donavon’s new album, Start Livin’ and a by-request song entitled “Butterfly.” After the set, he spent some time shopping the vinyl section. Turns out he has a collection of Jimi Hendrix records from all over the world.
Photos by Cat Johnson
This Thursday, June 7, Donavon Frankenreiter is playing a free, acoustic in-store concert at 5pm. As a little warm-up to the show, Mr. Frankenreiter was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new album, the freedom of being an indie artist and record stores.
Streetlight Records: You referred to your new album as a love album. What was your inspiration for this record and how does it differ from your other ones?
Donavon Frankenreiter: My wife and kids. Also the life of a friend and losing him…and travelling. I did this one in seven days with one other guy, Matt Grundy. It was the most fun I had in the studio and it sounds different then any other record because of the instruments we used.
SLR: Recently, your albums have been released on your own label, Liquid Tambourine Records. Can you talk about the importance of maintaining your artistic freedom and how your musical path led you to your own label?
DF: I made my own label because all the others are failing and its what’s going on now. You have to have a do it yourself attitude. I love recording and putting music out and this is one way of doing it and having control and ownership of your masters etc.
SLR: You have a history of supporting record stores through various projects and in-store concerts. What is it that appeals to you about working with independent record stores?
DF: I love record stores. There are very few nowdays and they’re the lifeline to buying music in a unique way, the way it used to be. There’s something special about record stores.
SLR: Care to share you thoughts on vinyl?
Records are my favorite thing in the world. They’re just do much fun.
SLR: What other artists are you listening to and digging these days?
DF: So many. I like a lot of old stuff like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.
SLR: Will you have time to surf while you’re in Santa Cruz?
DF: I hope so. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
SLR: Anything you’d like to add?
DF: Start livin!!!!!!!!!