By Dan MacIntosh
Although big festivals, like Mayhem and Paid Dues have featured a few upcoming Inland Empire artists, the future of the region’s music is actually being written in concert venues, like The Glass House and The Fox in Pomona, and on a smaller scale, coffee shops like Back to the Grind.
Sadly, rock historians don’t immediately point to the Inland Empire whenever waxing eloquent about SoCal music history. In California, they’re more apt to talk about West Hollywood or even Orange County, before ever getting around to the IE—if reaching there at all. And these are just Southern California regions. Let’s not forget the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, where hippies wrote groove-ily about flowers in hair, and such. Even Bakersfield’s country music, with icons like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, gets more editorial space than the woebegone Inland Empire.
Nevertheless, none other than Frank Zappa was an intrepid DJ at Pomona College’s radio station once upon a time, while Face to Face first cut its punk rock teeth out in Victorville. Perhaps, the most significant current Inland Empire native is Ben Harper, who – along with his family music store in Claremont Village—has a rich local history to draw from.
So, which act is going to be the next Face to Face or Ben Harper? Better yet, is there even an act with the potential to make rock history, like Frank Zappa?
Not So Adolescent
Well, one worthy candidate is Rancho Cucamonga’s Dose of Adolescence (DOA). This quartet has played punk rock together since 1999. Along the way, it’s self-released several projects and are now signed to Solid Gold Entertainment. Anchored by brothers Timmy and Jimmy Brown, the band has already endured more than its share of tragedy. It lost original guitarist, Stephen Patrick Madigan to an alcohol-related accident. “He was a passenger in a vehicle that hit a pole,” explains the band’s manager, John Flores, “he was the only one that didn’t make it.”
While devastating, Madigan’s death has in turn given Dose of Adolescence a newfound sense of purpose, as the group has committed itself to making sure Madigan’s legacy lives on and his rock dreams are fulfilled. In addition to making great, lively rock & roll, this caring act also raises money for The Gavin R. Stevens Foundation and H.A.N.D.S. On International. Yes, they truly believe in helping the needy, which—come to think of it—doesn’t seem very adolescent at all. After losing their original guitar player, it became even more apparent to live out their friend’s dream and achieve their goal. “Each day we do our best to be a little more selfless, treat people with respect and love them with all our hearts. Never love a band that doesn’t love you back,” says Jimmy.
DOA is headlining The Glass House on June 15 with Assuming We Survive, Grieve for Tomorrow, Iron Sharpens Iron and Revenge of the Nerds. DOA is also joining the Vans Warped Tour, bringing lively and original songwriting and stage presence back to the noteworthy touring festival. They have also performed at SXSW 2013, played X1039’s Merry Meltdown with Lit, P.O.D., Anberlin, Switchfoot, Dirty Headz and Sick Puppies. They have also—in the past—been nominated for best Rock/Hard Rock song for the 11th Annual Independent Music Awards.
DOA headlined Wahoo’s Scion Tour and played Vans Warped Tour 2010 and they made a point to sell over 8,000 records DIY. This powerhouse of passionate young hipsters is bound to make anybody swoon, and Jimmy’s frontman capabilities will guarantee a crowd of lustful girls and mosh-ready guys.
Another act that must be in your crystal ball, if you’re attempting to predict the IE rock & roll future, is Naïve Thieves. With a sound combining the musical eclecticism of hipster groups like Vampire Weekend and Local Natives, along with the droll intelligence of The Strokes, this band recently toured with the acclaimed The Deer Hunter. The group’s latest single is “Anxiété,” grooves like African dance music, yet also includes street smart lyrics. In fact, this High Desert act lists everyone from filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard to Morrissey as influences, so you just know it’s got to be cool.
Divide and Conquer
Riverside’s The New Division is another alt-rock act to keep a close watch on. Inspired by Joy Division (Heck, they even borrowed the second half of that pioneering group’s name!), New Order and Depeche Mode, this four-piece creates moody synth-pop. The group’s recent full-length gained a lot of good press, which makes its upcoming project, Together We Shine—on its own Division 87 Records, no less—one of the most anticipated local releases. The album releases in January of 2014, and its first single is the internationally titled “Stockholm.”
Bloody and Fabulous
For those that prefer their music a little harder—the variety that puts the pedal to the metal, so to speak—there’s the gutsy band Sangre. “Sangre means “blood” in Spanish,” says singer Henry Sanchez. “Our old guitar player’s sister said the name, and we were like, ‘That’s different.’ I mean, it’s cool for bands to have Spanish names, Latin names. Sepultura or even Pantera is a Spanish word. Sangre is unique, because even though we’re all fans of metal—and there are different subgenres of metal, even different music all across the board—Sangre unites everything. Blood. Blood is a theme which connects generations and people, whatever our race or gender or beliefs are. It’s always starts with that ancient blood. That’s what flows through all of us. Just like music can flow through all of us. It was a good metaphor, and it works. It was different.”
This act recently represented the IE at the California Metal Fest where it played songs from recent full-length album, Great Tribulation. An album title like that one might lead you to believe Sangre is a spiritual group of some sort. But that is just not what the group’s all about at all.
“It’s based on the Great Tribulation part of The Bible, end of the world,” Sanchez says, when explaining the album’s title track. “It was kind of like I heard everybody talking about the end of the world in 2012, and I wanted to write something that was reflecting, like, okay, well, if it’s the end of the world, we need to prepare. We need to be ready for it. And if you’re religious or you believe and you want to go to heaven, then this is what you’ve got to do. If not, then be prepared to suffer, if that’s what you believe. To each his own. I’m not really a religious person. I grew up Catholic, but I’m not super religious, I don’t press it on anybody. But I believe in just writing songs people can relate to. People can listen, hear the lyrics, and go, “F@*k, okay, that’s kind of neat.” But at the same time I don’t do it so subliminally that people don’t understand it. I want them to know what I’m talking about.”
This group’s Latin heritage has opened up some unique doors; including touring with popular extreme metal band Brujeria for tours in both the U.S. and Mexico.
While surveying the Inland Empire’s local music, let’s not forget about hip-hop. One of the IE’s best rappers is Curtiss King, who relocated to the region after college.
“My stage name, Curtiss King, is a constant reminder of my humble beginnings in music and some not so positive times that I eventually found ways to overcome,” he explains. “When I was younger, I attended Curtiss King Middle School in Carson. During this period, I was shy, awkward and quiet around my peers. Writing poetry and creating music was one of the best weapons I had to overcome those insecurities, which in turn made me a self appointed king of those insecurities from my middle school years. Hence the name Curtiss King.”
He evolved from reciting poetry, to entering beat contests. Eventually, he found himself performing at San Bernardino’s Paid Dues Festival, an event headlined by such high profile artists as Kendrick Lamar. Now signed to independent label Black Cloud Music, King is also in demand as a producer, producing such artists as Noa James, Top Dawg, Ab-Soul, Glasses Malone and Mack 10.
King considers it an honor to be signed with Black Cloud Music, an emerging local music label. “About four years ago, when I first moved from Carson to the Inland Empire, I wasn’t too aware of the local hip-hop scene, but I was invited to perform at The Common Ground by Noa James,” he recalls. “After months of building as a solo artist with Noa James and Black Cloud Music CEO Jynxx, I was eventually asked if I would be interested in joining. At that time Black Cloud Music was three artists and starting to expand. Four years later, I’ve watched it grow into a very diverse independent label of seven solo artists.”
When it comes to King’s music career, though, there’s no slowing down. “Coming off of the success of my debut album Atychiphobia peaking at #61 on the iTunes charts, I felt it relieved a lot of pressure that I felt on my shoulders when creating music,” he explains. “The music on that album was filled with a lot of pain, joy and passion to tell my story. I told my story and the people responded with love and understanding. However, the music I’m working on now is full of celebration. Having an opportunity to see the U.S. on a two-month tour with Murs, getting recently engaged to my girlfriend, and witnessing the energy in the IE circulating Black Cloud Music’s return home has me wanting to write records people can have fun listening to, dance to, party to, etc. There isn’t an album title at the moment, but there will be songs dropping in the near future.”
Will any of the aforementioned acts become the next Frank Zappa or Ben Harper? It’s quite possible! Then again, you can look all up and down the Sunset Strip, and not find another individualistic talent like Frank Zappa. When God made Frank, He broke the mold. The same, but to a lesser degree, can be said about Ben Harper. He’s a little like an old blues man, trapped inside a younger man’s body. Even science can’t explain that sort of beautiful freak.
Although big festivals, like Mayhem and Paid Dues have featured a few upcoming Inland Empire artists, the future of the region’s music is actually being written in concert venues, like The Glass House and The Fox in Pomona, and on a smaller scale, coffee shops like Back to the Grind. If you’re waiting for some Victorville or Riverside act to headline the next Coachella Valley Music Festival, you might wait a long time—but these artists are determined to break through—let’s see what they got! Plus, it’s more important to do the right thing and support regional music at these local IE venues. If you do so, you might just be on the cutting edge of the next big thing.