ANCHOR AND BEAR
anchorandbear.bandcamp.com

Photo by Ashley Holman

Constantly touring at the edge of the world, Anchor and Bear’s “nautical rock” is completely within its element along the Gold Coast, its new album Ahoy! carrying them further into uncharted waters where the metaphors spawn and the music goes just swimmingly.  Featuring Brian Bringelson, vocals, guitar, banjo; Kenny Bringelson, guitar and vocals; Katy Pearson, bass, ukulele  and vocals; and drummer Eric White, the band is actually made of two separate acts: Paul Starling and Bearkat. A dozen new fan-funded songs were recorded in Fillmore onto 16-track analog tape with Record Outlet mastermind KC Staples. “We were truly taken aback by the generosity of our fans/community,” says Brian.  Their next voyage takes them to the Harvest Moon Spooktacular in Ventura on Oct. 25, the proceeds of which go to help the Open Classroom K-8 initiative. — David Cotner


CURTSY
soundcloud.com/curtsy-music

With angelic harmonies and enough reverb to kill a small horse, it would be very easy to call Curtsy a My Bloody Valentine tribute. Yet when you hear Curtsy and understand its influences, the band begins to take the shape of something bigger and ultimately more palatable than that.  Formed a year ago, the five-member outfit, co-fronted by Austin Knecht and Crystal Napoles, knocked out a lean but luscious four-song EP and is currently in the process of recording its first full-length. Being a huge fan of Radiohead, Slowdive and Elbow, Curtsy seems poised to stake its claim in the world of experimental post-shoegaze pop alongside contemporary heroes Beach House. Napoles speaks for the band when asked about Curtsy’s broader goals: “We just want to make music we’d listen to and, hopefully, other people will, too.” Knecht and Napoles get a little more specific, “Maybe our music could wind up on a soundtrack to some reflective movie where someone meets their first love, a new love . . . or maybe it could be used in a murder scene or a drug trip sequence. Yeah, a drug trip sequence.” — Essie Lustig


BULLET MADE STATUES
soundcloud.com/bulletmadestatues

A group of guys who feel comfortable churning out sexy soulful pop music in the same vein as My Morning Jacket and MGMT, Bullet Made Statues has become a local music staple.  Vocalist Wes Pagano grew up on a steady diet of doo-wop classics until friends introduced him to the mid-90s hard rock that helped him realized he could sing — it gave his voice an edge.  A Belfast transplant, bassist Paul Fitzgerald joined the group in 2012. They recently returned from a brief West Coast tour and have an impressive body of recorded music available online.  So what’s a Bullet Made Statue? According to the band, it is a person like Martin Luther King Jr. or Robert F. Kennedy, shot by an assassin’s bullet, inspiring social change as much posthumously as in life. Fitzgerald tries to encapsulate the band’s sound in a single term: “psychedelic indie R&B.” Pagano takes an egalitarian approach to what Bullet Made Statues sets out to accomplish, “One thing I always say on stage is, ‘You do your thing and we’ll do ours. Hopefully, we meet in the middle.’ The quick explanation is, we never want to force our music on anybody. We always let the music speak for itself. I’m just blessed that it has something to say.” — Essie Lustig


DARKSIDE OF THE HAND
facebook.com/darksideofthehand

Photo by West Cooke

Darkside of the Hand alchemizes genres with its rock band flesh and hip-hop heart, resulting in what some might call “hard hop.”  The rhythms, easy on the ears and cathartic to the neck, are the backdrop to a kind of lyricism that talks about interpersonal problems and pressing matters of the modern soul.  “We are in preproduction mode and getting ready to hit the studio to record our first EP,” says guitarist Ruben Palazuelos. Within the last several months, the group has added new members to the lineup.  The transition from a four-piece entity to a larger concern has been a challenge.  “Getting everyone up to speed and accustomed to our expanded sound and focused direction has been a priority, as we like to give everything our all.”  Consisting of drummer Tyler Castro (son of famed L.A. session percussionist Lenny Castro), bassist Adam Figueroa, ranter Damon Gilmer, and Palazuelos and Seth Watson on guitars, Darkside of the Hand makes a big noise. See for yourself on Oct. 30 at Sans Souci. — David Cotner


DEREK JENNINGS
derekjennings.bandcamp.com

A self-described “post-punk folk singer-songwriter,” Derek Jennings is more like a golden-voiced Neil Young. Since 2000, Jennings has been performing both solo and in The Return, a band with a Clash/Police vibe. During that period, he became a husband and father, put some of the punk in the past and moved forward with his recent EP, Bummertown, which was produced by Shane Alexander. It is, as Jennings describes it, “mellow, acoustic and sparse” as much as it is lush and ambient. “The title is about understanding where you come from and realizing that at some point, you just have to say, ‘Fuck this town.’ But I do like this town and the idea that within one to two hours you can be anywhere or literally in the middle of nowhere.” He’s a die-hard Beatles fan who can also appreciate Crass and Black Flag and, most of all, he feels that he had the “luxury” of getting into music before the Internet began dictating taste. His advice to other musicians? “Don’t stop writing. Keep creating music whether people like it or not.”  — Essie Lustig


EASY BEAR
soundcloud.com/easy-bear

Hard at work digging through the nuggets of its tight psych psyches Easy Bear is hard at work on its forthcoming EP due out early next year.  Recording with Canadian engineer Scott Ord at York Recording in Highland Park, the band — singing guitarist Joey Enthoven, drummer Matt Lopez and bassist Noah Edward —  is currently busy playing the local festival circuit (Fourth Annual Santa Barbara County Local Festival and the California Lemon Festival), but it does plan a triumphal return to Ventura for another live action.  Songs like “Give Me Your Heart” and “Stole My Heart” show off  the crystal harmonies and toe-tapping, head-nodding goodness of pop that’s all wrapped up in Enthoven’s plaintive petition to that one special girl all the boys join rock bands to woo in the first place. — David Cotner


 

DIE EVIL DIE
dieevildie.com

Photo by Zaakery Hankel

If you happen to be cruising Downtown Ventura on a Saturday night, a street-walkin’ cheetah, a slave to the groove, or just a big ol’ Johnny Thunders fan, Die Evil Die is your best bet. Kasey Herbison and company have created a hard-hitting surf-rock party-band sound that could command respect from Spuds Mackenzie. Ever since his previous band, Dirty Words, called it quits, Herbison’s been hopelessly bereft of a worthy outlet for his millennial angst — he may have found it with Die Evil Die. Though a relatively new band, with its classic sound and formidable influences — from Chuck Berry to Nirvana to horror films — we have high hopes. With a free four-song EP available for download, you have full access to the single “White Lies.” The only instruction Herbison offers is this: “Turn it up loud, real loud.”
— Essie Lustig


AARON ORBIT
aaronorbit.com

Photo by Ryan Cleary

Aaron Orbit is an appropriate name for the solo project of Aaron Johnson. Why? Because, frankly, you could make a strong case that the local music scene does in fact orbit around Johnson. Since he first started Pyscho Cafe as a teenager in the 1990s, through his time touring the country with 8STOPS7 and his beloved Le Meu Le Purr, which made it to a major label before said label imploded, to a host of random cover and tribute bands, Johnson has been as enmeshed in Ventura’s music scene as, well, anyone. His debut solo release, Sunday Morning Murder Songs, was a long overdue and landmark record in local music, and the follow-up, the M.E.C.O. EP, was just as good with Orbit channeling his inner David Bowie on songs like the gorgeous and haunting anthem, “Ballad of Halley.” The aforementioned song is so good, if you haven’t heard it, don’t even finish this story. Go listen to it! Orbit is a not just a gifted local musician, he’s a gift to the music world. Whether or not the world appreciates him as it should, ’round these parts we know genius when we hear it. Orbit on, Mr. Johnson, orbit on. — Chris Jay


RACHEL FLOWERS
rachelflowersmusic.com

Photo by Mario Lopez, Aztec Photography

Twenty-year-old Rachel Flowers has been blind since she was an infant. But that hasn’t prevented her from becoming a truly gifted piano player who’s accomplished in multiple genres. Her story is so inspiring that a feature-length documentary about Flowers is currently being produced by Ventura County film guru Lorenzo DeStefano, who stumbled upon Flowers during a performance at Squashed Grapes. Scenes of her wowing customers with an impromptu performance at a local big-box store and her first-ever solo concert this past summer at a packed Libbey Bowl will be featured in Hearing Is Believing, set for release in 2015. As for Flowers’ original music, it’s rooted in genres as diverse as the classical and jazz she cut her teeth on as well as the keyboard-heavy progressive rock of artists such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The film will no doubt bring a whole new level of exposure to Flowers’ music, and hopefully her personal and musical journey will inspire thousands, if not millions of people in the process. — Chris Jay


GALVANIZED SOULS
galvanizedsouls.com

It seems every music scene has that one high-school band that’s on a different level than its peers. In Ventura County, that band is Galvanized Souls. With members from Camarillo, Somis and Ventura, it was formed at the Camarillo all-ages staple Rock City Studios, which was recently purchased by the bass player’s family. Among the band’s achievements are: getting featured on NME.com, being a Beat 100 Ultimate Musician winner and winning the Thousand Oaks Teen Center Battle of the Bands last year. This year it attracted a massive amount of attention for its anti-bullying song/video “Carry On.” The video, which received more than 100,000 hits, starred an actual bullied kid from Michigan who, through a Facebook page created by his mom, has become somewhat of an Internet celebrity. The big time will most likely come when all the band members secure their driver’s licenses. Until then, supportive parents will double as roadies, drivers and managers, all with a common goal, the fast track to rock stardom. — Chris Jay


MAX KASCH
maxkasch.bandcamp.com

Photo by Hillary Swift

Max Kasch might be best described as a post-country artist insofar as his music is an introspective exploration of the inner country of the soul, not the backwater of endless trucks and booze-borne miseries.  His work ethic is as spare and demanding as those country singers of earlier, harder times. “Firstly, it’s about the songs.  What works and what doesn’t.  Boiling it down to the marriage of music, melody and words.  If I’m doing what I need to do, I’m writing haikus.  Trimming all the fat.”  His latest work, a song called “Old Road Alone,” is one example.  Kasch’s musical mind is constantly racing.  “I get distracted very quickly when I’m recording, so I do like recording live with crack players and doing a bunch of takes with a different feel.  It keeps me interested.”  And if you’re interested, he’s a regular here and at points north and south. He will be recording his full-length with Jesse Siebenberg at Brotheryn Studios in January.  —David Cotner