So many punk bands focus on aesthetic over substance, so many musicians go on tirelessly about their problems with “the scene,” and when the Countless Thousands, a Los Angeles-based band, played in Ventura for their first time a few months ago, they were all smiles in their collared shirts as they handed out their 16-song album “We’re Just Really Excited to Be Here.”
And it showed.
The three-piece band, playing what they’ve branded “enthusiastic rock music,” won over the Billy O’s crowd that night in the opening slot for Epitaph punk band Union 13. Minutes after unplugging, the band was courted by members of local bands and asked to come back the following week. And the week after that. The excitement proved contagious, finally snowballing into a Monday-night residency this month at Billy O’s.
It’s a difference of enthusiasm between the crowds in Los Angeles and Ventura, explained the Countless Thousands frontman, Danger Van Gorder. “People in Ventura have the excitement of ‘Let’s go out and drink and see four bands because it’s Monday!’ ” he explains. “In Los Angeles, we played to some amazing crowds. . . . But there are endless entertainment options and it’s harder to convince people to spend their evening with us.”
Van Gorder, 27, who calls himself a “show choir reject who was never cool enough for punk rock,” has been at the helm of the band for about eight years, cycling through teams of drummers and bassists until finding the perfect combination in bassist Davey Munch and drummer Jonathan David, both 32. It’s a combination that Van Gorder says makes the Countless Thousands almost as good as your favorite band.
During a Countless Thousands show, it’s not uncommon for the audience to drift toward Munch’s side of the stage, slowly lowering their jaws in disbelief, and begin drawing comparisons to the likes of Victor Wooten, arguably one of the best bassists ever.
“I firmly believe our bassist is the finest technical artist I’ve ever met,” states Van Gorder. “He can do things with his craft that are just mind-blowing to me.”
The Countless Thousands, like most bands who’ve had a whiff of minor success, want to make a living doing what they love most. Finally, for almost a decade of persistence, the pieces are in place for Van Gorder. The album he has dreamed of making since high school is still receiving positive reviews, plans for SXSW are being finalized, and booking agents are beginning to take notice of the band’s atypical appeal and its genuine approach to rock ’n’ roll.
“I wouldn’t want to get fans because I have a Mohawk,” says Van Gorder. “I want to get fans because they are coming from the same emotional place as I am, which is, ‘Music is fun and awesome.’ People pick up on energy and enthusiasm, and that is exactly what I want.
“Twenty years from now, I want that same impression from my music and it not to be dependent on style. Everything I do, from the relationships I have and the music I enjoy, all of it is genuine. That is what I want more than anything else.”
Playing Monday nights in November at Billy O’s in Ventura.