A quick journey down the 405, or a long journey depending on when you make it, gets you from Los Angeles to Orange County and the many cities in between. Countless bands, influential and nationally known, have come out of cities along this stretch of road. Interestingly enough, for such a small distance in between them, the imprint these cities have on musicians, influences them to make drastically different music, all representative of their hometowns. Even while each of these three bands could be considered rock bands, this differential phenomenon can still be seen with RadioFlag featured artists Popular Giants, India House, and Get Back Shadow.
Every so often, you’ll hear a band that will make you realize what you’ve been missing. Listening to Popular Giants, I had that experience; it hit me like a brick—heavy, head banging, rock n’ roll, feel-it-in-your-feet bass lines. I’ve been deprived. With the popularity of bands like The Black Keys, Twenty One Pilots, The Dresden Dolls, Two Gallants, and, of course, The White Stripes, it seems like fewer and fewer bands are choosing to feature what was once considered a quintessential part of every band’s rhythm section. Popular Giants is not one of those bands. On the contrary, when bassist Chet Johnston adds his thick layer of bass onto one of the band’s tracks, it becomes a focal point of their deep and gritty sound. Add to that the monstrous drums of Miah Palmer, all-over-the-neck guitar leads by John Fortin, and screaming vocals by Christopher Peacock, and you’ve got yourself a distinctly dark L.A. rock band in tune with Social Distortion and The Minutemen. There are so many moments in listening to songs like “Revel” where it feels as if the band might just go off the rails into musical entropy. However, unlike the mishandled attempts of so many garage punk bands out there, this is a controlled chaos that can only be achieved by mature and skilled musicians, like those in this four member rock beast.
Traveling south, we arrive at Long Beach—a city with as much of a musical identity crisis as a geographic one. Not quite L.A., but not quite Orange County, Long Beach has a vibe all its own. One that’s a little too edgy for Orange County, and a little too laid back for L.A. It’s most musically known for producing two artists: rock band Sublime, and rapper Snoop Dogg. The city’s mixed influences of rock and hip-hop have spawned several local bands who both recognize and exploit these contrasts. Long Beach native India House, is one of such bands who have created a fusion of styles truly symbolic of the city. With a fuzzy sound and fun loving energy reminiscent of Grouplove or Best Coast, there’s an audible youthfulness to their genre-defying music. Maybe it’s the way they are not afraid to experiment and take risks with their music, or maybe it’s just the fact that they actually are really young, (in terms of young I’m talking ‘enrolled undergraduates at Cal State University Long Beach young’), but it’s a youth that’s certainly detectable in their music. In their first EP Party Wave, the band is still looking for its sound; a little bit garage rock, a little bit surf pop, but largely unfocused. In their second EP Gnarly Safari, released just two months ago, it’s obvious that they found the sound they were looking for and made it their own. From lyrics to production, Gnarly Safari is a much more sophisticated endeavor coming from a band formed not even two years ago. Their rate of growth combined with their continued experimentation makes this band one to keep an eye on. I recommend listening to their layered track “Daybreakers” off the Gnarly Safari EP to hear why.
Last stop on the 405 highway before San Diego, our journey ends in Orange County. Though it has the reputation of being one of the safest collection of suburbs in the country, Orange County has produced a preponderance of punk and rock bands that break the mold of their perspective genres. From No Doubt to Agent Orange, rocks bands out of the area have a signature Orange County sound; that citrusy sweetness of harmonic melodies and surf guitars that allude to sunny days on the beach, even while the lyrics tell stories of losing one’s mind. Get Back Shadow carries on this tradition well. After listening to “Storm,” you’ll be singing the lyrics for hours afterward, but unlike the catchy pop drivel that usually gets stuck in your head, Get Back Shadow writes catchy songs with a soul. From upbeat tunes like “Warrior” to the slower paced “Against the Grain” and “Everyday (We-At-Ease),” the indie band uses music to say something, which is something sorely missed on mainstream radio these days. Luckily they’ve had success getting radio deejays on RadioFlag and free-form radio stations like KCTY and KRFH to dig their sound and play their music live on air. Their ability to mix guitar driven songs with tunes that have a more electronic vibe, and maintain those trademark Orange County melodies with thoughtful lyrics, makes Get Back Shadow’s music easily recognizable, and harder to forget.