Unless a band has management and industry connections from the very beginning, becoming successful requires more dedication than its means may allow. So if you hear that the six-song EP by Oxnard’s Softsilence, a band that didn’t exist two years ago, was recorded at the legendary Hollywood recording studio Sunset Sound (which has tracked artists such as The Doors, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, to name a few) without spending a single penny, you might think:
A: I wish I knew how to break into recording studios
B: That’s not fair, my rich uncle doesn’t even send me cards, or
C: They won the free studio time — obviously.
The real answer? They just asked. The polished alt-rock four-piece that won last year’s BlastBeat Battle of the Bands, and recently opened for Scott Weiland and Hoobastank, is a prime example of what happens when passion and talent combine with brass tenacity and, as lead singer-keyboardist-guitarist Brian Dixon puts it, “good manners.”
As Dixon explained at their sold-out show at Rock City Studios in Camarillo with Monster Eats the Pilot and L.A. pop-rock bands Scarlet Grey and Assemble the Skyline, “I called up every recording studio in the city of Los Angeles.
We just explained to them, ‘Look, we don’t have a lot of cash, but we have a major opportunity coming up, and when we get our [record] deal, we can repay you double.’ ” That major opportunity is a plan to shop their EP around L.A. this week in hopes of showcasing for a major label.
The band’s sonic similarity to other hugely successful acts like the Fray and Coldplay makes it very likely that Dixon’s anticipatory claim of ownership of a yet-to-be record contract, may not be all premature bombast. The band has begun establishing itself in the local scene, but is creating more buzz with producers south of the county line with the help of professional management. And it appears to be on the precipice of the next step. “We think we’ve gone as far as a band can go without money,” says Dixon.
Starting Thursday, Jan. 21, J.J. Brewsky’s Restaurant & Bar in Old Town Camarillo is teaming up with Mike McGrath, the face of local music promotion company VC Sound, to start filling the weekends with live music for 21-and-older guests. The venue already has live bands Friday nights, but now every other Thursday night you can see “Lee’s Garage,” which features an all-star lineup of musicians from around the county, including members of Pile, SoulVang, Northbound, TheAttriks, the VooDoo Dogs and Seconds from Disaster, playing a mixture of original songs and covers.
McGrath says the name was inspired by a friend who keeps a store of live instruments in his garage, but does not know how to play them, and as a result became the host to a favorite jam spot for the group. J.J. Brewsky’s will also begin hosting some big shows with local bands on Saturday nights starting Jan. 30, including the Situation, “jammin” in celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday Feb. 6.
But it will always be that the best shows are still house shows. They add a tangible comfort to the music, even if it is performed in the courtyard of a downtown Ventura apartment complex, as Seth Pettersen (Franklin for Short) and Arizona folk-punk bands Kepi Ghoulie and Andrew Jackson Jihad did in front of roughly 60 local fans and families last Saturday afternoon. After unsuccessfully trying to set up the afternoon show at two Ventura bars, which apparently don’t open that early, the bands relied on local hospitality, and the result was for the better: an open, free, all-ages mini outdoor show in the heart of downtown. The bands jammed under the warm afternoon sun before dozens of punks, hippies, toddlers and puppies. (It doesn’t get much cuter than punks and hippies.)
Sounding the 805 is Ventura County’s only biweekly local music column. If you have a tip, a suggestion, a complaint, some dish or just a kind word, shoot Chris Mastrovito an e-mail.