By Esther Sanchez
Birthed from members of multiple bands…some still in existence, others no longer with us, come a group that has become a favorite of music fans across the desert empire over the past year and a half. Let’s be honest, people…The fact that 5th Town is fronted by more than one pretty face doesn’t hurt them in the slightest. But, the reality is obvious to anyone lucky enough to have checked out their shows. What 5th Town brings to the table is a combination of beautifully written lyrics, with well- orchestrated melodies, executed by top-notch musicians. All great qualities for any band that are skillfully and soulfully topped off by gorgeous harmonies sung out in a manner that is truly impressive.
In all reality, if you truly want to understand 5th Town, you must comprehend the fact that first and foremost we are talking about a group of friends. People who like each other regardless of flaws and idiosyncrasies, people who know about the drama in each other’s lives and generally enjoy each other’s company. They are all very different in so many ways, but it’s those differences that bring in the wonderful and eclectic ingredients that make up a truly fantastic project.
A unique component of 5th Town would definitely be the band’s team of sultry and sassy co-frontwomen, Linda Lemke-Heinz and Chelsea Sugarbritches. Lemke-Heinz, an Austin, Texas transplant is a classically trained, multi-instrumentalist with a background in opera. Also a member of Blasting Echo and Kellie Derrickson’s band, Linda is a music instructor by day that brings a touch of class to any situation and does so with more grace than most of us could ever muster up on our best day. I was excited to see at their last gig (The 9th Annual Concert for Autism) that they finally started utilizing Linda’s skills as flutists in a new single that was appropriately named, “Magic.”
Her natural talents, which have been sculpted by her formal training in music, are genuine and enviable. As true as that statement is, Lemke-Heinz has not always seen her musical education as a plus when it comes to being in a rock band.
Lemke-Heinz: “In the beginning I was so insecure. I was like, ‘I don’t know how to sing that way.’ In opera it is all about perfection and that is how I was trained. There is not only zero room or allowance for error…there is no allowance for improvisation or the ability to be able to let go and sing a song the way it moves you. That is something Chelsea has that I envy and have learned more about from her.”
“Learning from one another, and challenging each other as musicians,” is a concept that was in one way or another repeated by every member of 5th Town during the time we spent together conducting this interview. Each person in this group of friends had so much to say about the talents of their bandmates that I couldn’t possibly fit it all on this format.
The group’s rhythm guitarist and frontman for Blasting Echo, Josh Heinz, also happens to be married to Linda. Over the past decade, the Memphis native has become a well-established character on the local music scene along with partner in music and life, Linda. Together, the Heinz’ have not only made great music together, but have raised funds and awareness for Lumpy’s Foundation for Autism through 9 years of benefits that keep getting bigger and better with each passing year. As truly talented as Josh Heinz has proven himself to be, he is as humble as a rocker can get and spent the bulk of our time speaking about his bandmates and what they bring to the table. Particularly when bringing up lead-guitarist, Martin Barrera (also of Aphrodisiac Jacket, Kellie Derrickson’s and Michael Keeth’s bands.) He spoke with genuine heart about how Barrera’s skills as a guitarist have continuously challenged him to become better at his craft.
Similar thoughts were expressed by 5th Town’s stellar rhythm section, bassist Jeff Mazer (also of Long Duk Dong and Weezer Lite) and drummer Troy Whiteford (also of The Sweat Act and Throw the Goat). They both spoke about how truly impressed they are by what every band member brings to what becomes an eventual outcome, that never would exist in such a unique form without everyone’s individual flavor bringing forth a truly tasty musical treat for us all to enjoy.
Chelsea Sugarbritches: “I think when it all comes down to it is that we, as a group have learned to understand each other and work with one another in a way that flows…that makes sense. Chemistry.”
Check out 5th Town along with Long Duk Dong and Wild Sons this coming Friday, Dec. 16th at The Tack Room Tavern in Indio.