Last July, when I went to cover the bedlam-laden Destroy Boys show at the Great American Music Hall, I had no idea that I was about to learn something. They just seemed like a Bay Area band I should acquaint myself with.
I’ve been to punk shows like Beasties, Bad Brains, Fishbone, and even bands whose names I can’t remember from the old-school Star Cleaner shows here in SF during the dot-com days. So, it seemed like I should be informed about what the kids are doing in that vein … essentially, do my damn job.
Off-top, Destroy Boys are amazing. The shit. They are exactly what the lead singer Alexia Roditis describes them as: “What would happen if Blondie fell into a Misfits recording session.”
I loved their savage hooks and looks, and the crowd reaction was mostly young women freaking out to their heroes. It was cool.
And then they got educational.
At one point, the band emphasized that everyone has a voice and the potential to change society. This was about a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Destroy Boys encouraged the crowd to fight for their rights and then, on a dime, called a nonbinary and trans mosh pit into being. I had no idea that was even a thing—such a teaching moment for me.
This action demonstrated a level of maturity by a rock band that I had not seen in decades. The outfit acted far older than their young years, and quickly put everyone who wanted to participate into a safe place.
Over the past summer, I randomly ran into Alexia Roditis at Safeway on Seventh Avenue. I recognized them by the Cruella hairstyle they rock even in grocery stores. I told Alexia that I caught their show and they remarked how much of a great time the band had at that homecoming. Unfortunately, at the time, I think I had some ice cream melting into my spinach, so I didn’t get a chance to express my deepest gratitude to Roditis.
Hopefully, they will read this.
But in the meantime …
It’s Under The Stars, a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and several other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins.
Praying for peace …
So let’s get it!
MEERNAA, SO FAR, SO GOOD (KEELED SCALES)
I’m learning about two factors that are great indicators of talent, a helpful observation for deep dives into the digital caverns of the best Bay Area music over the years: Tiny Telephone Recording Studio and musician, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and composer Doug Stuart of Brijean, also known as Dougie Stu.
On the brand-new Meernaa album So Far, So Good, these factors contribute to a stellar project in a very exquisite way. It’s enough to make you wish you had it on vinyl. Carly Bond’s dark and stormy vocals are paired with cinematic soul arrangements—I know, they’re overused—that Joni Mitchell would have created for Sade or Minnie Ripperton. I shit you not.
The first song “On My Line” depicts a scenario with which our vocalist is familiar. On top of a somewhat proggy-styled arrangement, she deftly combines swinging strings, deep ’70s-style trappings, and a chilly-detached vocal approach reminiscent of Erykah Badu’s. It’s like that; beyond anything you could ever conceive. According to Bond’s biography, she was raised in several locations in the northern Bay Area, and used poetry and music as an outlet for her feelings. She was introduced to the great power and therapeutic properties of music when she was a young child, thanks to a tape of Whitney Houston’s self-titled album.
Throughout her adolescence, Bond found solace by exploring different genres, such as listening to the classic rock radio station, attending jazz clubs like Yoshi’s in Oakland, and downloading music from Daytrotter.
She eventually started learning guitar through her high school jazz program, and began writing her songs. In her quest to deepen her musical knowledge and while contemplating whether to attend college, Bond interned at Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco in 2013.
Down the road, she collaborated with the likes of Doug Stuart and others on the Meernaa project. Currently, Bond resides in Los Angeles with her bandmate and husband, Rob Shelton. Together, they run their studio called Altamira Sound, along with other Tiny Telephone alumni James Riotto and Andrew Maguire. With So Far, So Good, we can only hope that it sets the pace for exceptional soon to come.
Buy it here.
JAMES BROWN, IN THE JUNGLE GROOVE (POLYDOR/UDISCOVERMUSIC)
James Brown may be so overrated when it comes to his shiny bootprint in the world of hip hop that he’s underrated. How the hell, you may ask?
Welp, when hip hop started to take off—and I do mean make money—for multiple parties, record labels and artists, you started to hear this heavily sampled artist’s work become that much more accessible to up-and-coming producers of the time. They used Brown’s sounds in the hopes their tracks would be put in strong rotation, attracting more attention to the originators.
When I interviewed George Clinton over the phone decades ago, he made it very clear (this was back in the early ’90s) that he would churn out sample-ready CDs of the P-Funk catalog for youngsters making music and coming up, because he wanted to remain relevant.
I’d say the plan worked.
Likewise, in the mid-to late-’80s, several James Brown compilations started to make their way into the world. Do you think record labels were keeping an eye on how things were moving?
I’d say yes, indeed.
1986 Brown compilation In The Jungle Groove delivered “Funky Drummer,” which became a bedrock sample for the hip hop movement. The 1969 single had never appeared on an album before, which didn’t matter to the kids who no longer had to raid their parent’s record collections. Now, they could buy the albums new, and they sure did. The comp also came with deep-crate gem remixes of such hit singles as “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose” and “Talkin’ Loud & Sayin’ Nothing,” and other well-known cuts including “Soul Power” and “Hot Pants (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants).”
These ready-made beats poured gasoline on that hip hop fire.
For me, it’s the lead track “It’s a New Day Pt’s 1 & 2” that drives home the power and genius of what James could do with a groove and a vibe. It still moves.
So celebrate hip hop’s year-long 50th anniversary, but you damn well need to celebrate James Brown too.
Order the 1986 compilation In The Jungle Groove in a two-LP clear translucent vinyl limited edition here.
PACHYMAN, SWITCHED ON (ATO RECORDS)
In a recent interview with NPR Music, Pachy Garcia, who performs under the name Pachyman, stated that with his new project Switched On, he wanted to be more of himself and less like his heroes. That would be in contrast to his 2021 project The Return of… Pachyman, on which he played all the instruments himself, including bass, drums, piano, and congas. He layered the sounds on top of each other as a tribute to the elders of reggae music, such as King Tubby, Scientist, and Mad Professor, who stitched and looped together genius with the tools they had.
For his new project, Garcia is combining the past and present by using instruments like the Korg Poly-800 synthesizer and the güiro, a traditional instrument from his native Puerto Rico.
Garcia is perhaps best known as the drummer-vocalist for LA-based band Prettiest Eyes, a pop-noise project that reflects his other formative interest, synth punk. As a teenager, he was drawn to the guitar as a fan of bands like Nirvana, hardcore Dischord label bands, and Puerto Rican hardcore pioneers Tropiezo and Juventud Crasa.
Yet, he kept an ear out for imbibing electronic music, drum and bass, jazz, fusion, more specifically Wes Montgomery—one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century, known for his unusual technique of plucking the strings with the side of his thumb, and his extensive use of octaves, which solidified his distinctive sound.
But not to worry. With Switched On, Garcia’s bass notes are still just as melodic, and the drums and piano still hit hard like ashy tree trunks.
Pick it up here.
LOVESHADOW, “LAST ROOM” (DARK ENTRIES)
The Bay Area DIY pop duo Loveshadow will release their second full-length album on November 17 by way of the prestigious San Francisco imprint Dark Entries. Their sound lies somewhere between coldwave and two-step linn-drum bliss. When Anya Prisk and Izaak Schlossman first met in Oakland in 2016, they bonded through their love of ’80s music, and started creating their musical universe right away. The album’s debut song “Last Room” is an ’80s sound bath with keytar love, liquid basslines, and scavenging hooks that will take you back to the days of VHS tapes and smoke-filled music videos with asymmetrical hairstyles swaying in the background. However, it should be stressed that Loveshadow is not attempting to be ironic; Kashif would be pleased with these slowed-down arrangements.
CON BRIO, SCREAM AT IT; AT THE GUILD, NOVEMBER 22
Here is the good news: when Con Brio puts out a new album, it’s the perfect excuse to go out and see them live, again and again and again. For starters, the crowd they bring is a look-good, smell-better affair. Folks dressed to the nines, just ready to cut loose, get lost, and move in the direction this high-octane seven-piece band sees fit.
The group’s new release Scream At It, that edict is front and center, straight into the funk and roll. Deeper in the uptempo disco, smoother in the silky-like high-tempo arrangements that can either go HAM or downtown glide.
Portland-based vocalist Sarah Clarke and the Bay’s own Viveca Hawkins trading vocal duties, and the contrast in their styles plays appropriately with the band’s wide songbook of genre clusters, leaving no gaps. Both are so well-matched that the band may be doing too little with an eight-song, 39-minute run time.
Even the standout trippified groover “Searching for a New Word,” featuring the Monophonics backing vocalists Rainbow Girls taking the lead, feels right in the album’s wheelhouse.
Scream At It will leave you wanting to see this veteran Bay Area outfit put that live energy boost on these new standards—because that’s what the album is built for.