By Tracy Dietlin
The band 5th Town definitely falls into the category of Supergroup, with all five band members also performing in other bands concurrently. Not only that, but several members have also been part of many other desert projects over the years. For these five individuals to come together as a band is a recipe for success. Comprised of Chelsea Sugarbritches (lead vocals), Linda Lemke Heinz (lead vocals, flute, keyboards), Martin Barrera (lead guitar), Josh Heinz (guitar), Troy Whitford (drums) and Armando Flores (bass), they are musically cohesive.
Together since July 23, 2015 the band has garnered a substantial legion of fans that attend their shows, singing along to the lyrics of most of their songs. The songs that we all know, and there are many that are radio ready and could already be Top 10 hits such as: “Pretty,” “Road to Nowhere,” “Good Day,” “Ghost,” “5th Town,” and “Magic,” where Lemke-Heinz offers a beautiful flute performance. But this band isn’t resting on their laurels, they continue to write new songs often, including “Hot Stove,” “No Rain,” (Lemke-Heinz) and the latest with the working title of “The Depths” (Sugarbritches).
Back on April 8 of this year, 5th Town won the CV Music Showcase Finals put on by CV Weekly at The Hood. In the Finals, where they competed against five other bands they got a perfect score across the board in all categories from all five judges, being the only band in all of the CV Music Showcases from the last few years to accomplish that.
As a result of that win, they received $1500.00 cash, a photo shoot, a video production and time in the recording studio with one song produced by the award winning Ronnie King (Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Offspring, Pepper). The last two weekends the band spent time out at King’s studio Chateau Relaxo, recording their first single “Pretty.”
5th Town is definitely the band to watch. They were also nominated in this year’s CV Music Awards in 8 categories and were awarded “Producer’s Pick” for Most Promising Band. Now keep in mind that they’ve accomplished all of that just from their live shows without having a single, an EP, album or video, so just imagine what’s about to happen for this band now.
They will be performing this Friday, September 8 at The Hood Bar & pizza for Chelsea Sugarbritches birthday celebration. If you’ve never heard them before do yourself a favor and check them out. The band took some time to answer some questions for CV Weekly.
CVW: You all are in more than one band and some of you in several (please list all bands you’re currently in), how does being part of 5th Town differ from the other bands you’re in?
Chelsea Sugarbritches: “I’m also in Long Duk Dong, but we’re currently on hiatus and sometimes Bobby Taffolla and I do some music stuff… we’ll be working on that more this year.”
Linda Lemke-Heinz: “5th Town and Blasting Echo. 5th Town is very organic. We aren’t trying to achieve a certain “sound”. The sound we have come about naturally and it is a reflection of the influences and history each member brings to it. We don’t have a gimmick. What you see is who we are. Each member is of equal importance and carries equal weight. Blasting Echo is the same way. I’m very lucky to be in both bands.”
Martin Barrera: “5th Town is a great mixture of friends from different genres of music. We all encourage each other to be better. I’m currently part of a Duo with Michael Keeth, doing a mixture of original songs that Michael Keeth wrote, and cover songs. Aphrodisiac Jacket is a Cult tribute band. A band that we can let loose and be loud. Really great players make this tribute band work.”
Josh Heinz: “Blasting Echo and 5th Town. For me it differs because I’m not singing in 5th Town, just playing guitar. I can relax a little bit more because I don’t have to focus on doing two things at once. Also, in BE songs tend to be very intense, where as in 5th Town the tone is more carefree.”
Troy Whitford: “I am currently in 5th Town and Throw the Goat. Besides comparing the differences in music in the bands (which is obvious), there is love I have for every member and every song that we write and play. That’s like asking somebody which family member you like best. I love them all individually and musically because each one is different in their own way. They all bring their own steak to the table.”
Armando Flores: “In addition to 5thTown I currently play in Blasting Echo, with Courtney Chambers, and in The Sundrug Project.”
CVW: What are 5th Town’s goals for the next year and how do you plan on achieving them?
Sugarbritches: “Get an album recorded, make more music and have fun.”
Lemke-Heinz: “We plan on recording our album, shopping songs, and shooting videos. We will sell merch and work hard to achieve those goals. Looking forward to more great opportunities to perform and grow as a band.”
Barrera: “We are in the process of getting the rest of our original songs recorded, writing new material and focusing on more out of town shows. We want to incorporate more networking with different bands and would like to do some collaborating too.”
Heinz: “I think the goal I would like to see for 5th Town to achieve is doing a full album.”
Whitford: “First and foremost, finishing our single with Ronnie King is top priority. After that we plan on shooting a music video and getting our material out to the public. That has been one obstacle
that we have yet to overcome. Besides that, I don’t think we have any set plans except writing music, playing shows, and having a good time. I’d say a full length album will be in the foreseeable future, nothing has been written in stone as to when the exact date will be, however, we assure you it is coming!”
Flores: “Honestly, I think my band mates would be better suited to answer that question… I just joined the band, like 2 months ago.”
CVW: What do you think sets 5th Town apart musically from other current local bands?
Sugarbritches: “We have a flute player. And I guess having 2 female vocalists isn’t the norm.”
Lemke-Heinz: “Catchy and well-written songs, a diverse set list, top-notch players, we truly enjoy working together and have a lot of fun. We also like to make people laugh so we throw in a parody song often and “PRETTY” always seems to get a great reaction from the crowd.”
Barrera: “First off, we are fortunate to have two great singers from different backgrounds. Linda has the opera voice and plays the flute and piano, so that in itself is unique. Chelsea brings her soulful, Anne Wilson-esque voice whilst playing acoustic guitar. Troy Whitford brings a different drum feel to the music with sounds ranging from jazz to punk rock. Josh Heinz brings another view to every song we play and he is constantly adding new ideas that make the songs fuller. Armando Flores comes from a vast background and I’ve seen him grow musically first hand. He plays songs in a way that lets the guitarist have the freedom to fill in more leads in the songs. He can play almost every kind of style on bass, plus he’s a drummer and guitarist too!”
Heinz: “Certainly have two female lead singers harmonizing is something that sets us apart. You don’t see that very often anywhere, not just locally.”
Whitford: “The amount of members we have on stage (hahaha). I don’t spend a lot of time comparing 5th Town to other bands in the Valley. I feel like it can be distracting when you’re focusing on what other people are doing and how they’re doing it, I feel it’s best to keep your head down and keep going. So far so good…”
Flores: “Personally, I think it’s a combination of things: Female duo fronting the band, straight ahead songs that offer catchy hooks, and solid musicianship. Does this separate 5th Town from anyone else? eh… maaaaaayyybeee.”
CVW: How would you describe 5th Town’s music/style?
Sugarbritches: “Arrrrrrrrrg! I never know how to answer this question! TranceFolkRockPoP that’s what we are.”
Lemke-Heinz: “Organic and a natural culmination of the influences, history, and skills of each member of the band. Some people say we remind them of Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Pink, or Pat Benatar.”
Barrera: “We have so many different sounds that it’s difficult to put us into ‘One style’ of music. People have compared us to Heart, thanks to our two leading ladies, but we still can’t categorize ourselves. Honestly, each song we write turns out differently from the last one. It always feels fresh.”
Heinz: “It’s kind of hard to describe. There is certainly a rock-pop element to it, but there can be a little bit of folk to it as well. But the band is pretty open to have songs that touch on various genres. There isn’t a hard rock or real heavy song yet, but if one comes along, I’m sure we could do it.”
Whitford: “Rock and/or Roll??”
Flores: “Adult Contemporary ala Heart!”
CVW: Who writes the lyrics and what is your songwriting process as a band?
Sugarbritches: “Linda and I write all the lyrics. A lot of times Martin will play us something he’s come up with and we’ll write lyrics to it. Sometimes Linda is driving in her car and starts humming a tune and a whole song spews out of her. Sometimes I just write lyrics and say ‘here guys here’s some words let’s make a song.’”
Lemke-Heinz: “Chelsea and I write the lyrics. Some songs I’ve brought to the band in whole or in part, Martin, and Chelsea, too. We collaborate as a group, everyone adding their own thing and making changes to structure, tempo, dynamics, countermelody and harmonies, etc. The seriously cool thing about our songwriting is that we all come together with no egos involved. It’s very freeing. “MAGIC” was truly a magical experience for Martin, Josh, Chelsea, and me. Martin had something he started working on that week and brought it to us to hear. The four of us sat at my patio table with Martin and Josh on guitars, Chelsea grabbed her pen and notebook and started feverishly writing the lyrics, I added melody and harmonies and flute, and bam! It was an amazing experience I will never forget. It was magic.”
Barrera: “Chelsea and Linda usually have lyrics/poems that they’ve kept from the past and from everyday life. I have ideas that I’ve been sitting on for a few years that I starts messaging randomly, or a little jam song that just comes up during rehearsal but nothing is really set in stone. We all have input to make the song feel and sound complete.”
Heinz: “Lyrics are written by Linda and Chelsea; sometimes together, sometimes individually. We’ve had songs that Linda wrote music and lyrics, brought it to the band and we tweaked it and then it was done. We’ve had songs that started as poems by Chelsea and Martin wrote music around that. And then we’ve had Martin playing a new song for us on the patio while hanging out and it inspired both girls to write immediately. You never know.”
Whitford: “Linda and Chelsea write the lyrics. Now as for the songwriting process; Linda is a classically trained musician and has a great ear for harmonies and melodies. Chelsea has a wall of a voice and really helps set tones for songs as well as lyrical patterns. Martin is the “Rico Swave” of guitar players, he can play the perfect guitar line into any song that is brought to him. Josh is a ball of positive energy who knows what makes a good song in its entirety. I’m not sure if Mondo is classically trained as a bass player, but he plays like he is. He’s got a great ear for what’s appropriate in a song, also a great talent for not stepping on any toes. Take all that and put a drum beat behind it, and that’s how we write songs.”
Flores: “I’m too new to answer that one, but I would say the ladies write all of the lyrics and Martin and Linda write the majority of the material.”
CVW: What was it like recording in the studio with Ronnie King?
Sugarbritches: “Ronnie was super cool! We had a great day with him at Chateau Relaxo. We made music, we had chicken and beers…what more could you ask for?”
Lemke-Heinz: “It was a great experience. Ronnie is a pro and made us all feel at home. Chateau Relaxo is exactly as the name implies. And you can go down the road a piece for a whole chicken, tortillas, sides, and a 2-liter for just $20! Ronnie insisted. Seriously though, very grateful to CV Weekly for awarding this prize to us and to Ronnie for his expertise, talent, hard work, and patience.”
Barrera: “It’s been a great experience and opportunity to record with him. He has been very open to the song we brought over to get recorded. We are waiting on the mixing process and excited to hear the final result of the song.”
Heinz: “It was a good time…very calm and chill. Ronnie keeps a very relaxing vibe down at his place.”
Whitford: “Ronnie was very welcoming to all of us. He made a very positive environment for us to kind of let us do what we do. He fed us, got us beer, didn’t rush anybody, and for a person whose gone multi- platinum that’s worked with huge artists his entire life, he was a very humble person. We are just a bunch of local musicians that were fortunate enough to get an opportunity like this. We never felt small, and he was always on point on getting the song right, which we all respect.”
CVW: You recorded the song “Pretty,” is the song finished?
Sugarbritches: “It’s going to be mixed and mastered in the next couple of weeks.”
Lemke-Heinz: “Ronnie King will be taking the recording to Orange County to be mixed and mastered. He also invited us to tag along. I’m very excited about seeing how it’s done.”
CVW: Do you have a release date?
Sugarbritches: “We’re hoping Santa will bring everyone some 5th Town in their stockings.”
CVW: What is the next step for 5th Town?
Sugarbritches: “We’re hoping to start playing gigs in a galaxy far, far away.”
Lemke-Heinz: “We are finishing a new song now and have two others on deck to complete. We’re hoping to get somewhere someday. In the meantime we’ll just keep doing what we love to do. We’re looking into some more gigs in LA, maybe a festival.”
Barrera: “Finish recording the rest of the songs that we have completed and doing a full album release show. Start playing out of town and promoting the album.”
Heinz: “Getting a video done for “Pretty” I think is the next step. And then getting in a studio and doing a full length album.”
Flores: “If I had to guess I would say, finish writing enough material for a full-length album, then record it.”
CVW: What one band or artist has had the most influence on you and why?
Sugarbritches: “There’s no way I could name just one. I grew up on Jimi Hendrix and The Who and Led Zeppelin and Motown…Janis Joplin… Michael Jackson… Madonna. Everything influences me.”
Lemke-Heinz: “That’s so hard! I can never pick just one; of course, Heart, Pink, Pat Benatar. I’ll add Simon and Garfunkle, Dolly Parton, Queen, Def Leppard, and MCR (don’t judge me). There’s so many for me. I love harmonies, countermelodies that weave in and out, the epic and grandiose, as well as a simple 4-chord song.”
Barrera: “I have so many influences that I’ve grown up listening to, too many to name. As well as the many local musicians that makes me want to be a better guitar player. Playing with different musicians and watching their different styles gives you a perspective on how they write and play their music and helps to give you different ideas that you can incorporate to your songs.”
Heinz: “Ha. Pearl Jam. Doesn’t everyone know that already?”
Whitford: “NOFX: They sort of perfected the whole DIY movement for musicians. They spent the first decade of their career playing house parties, driving Fat Mike’s mom’s car, and doing whatever they could do to play a show no matter where it was or who would show up. Granted, they sucked in the beginning, but they harnessed that and used it towards their advantage. Now they run one of the biggest record companies for Punk Rock bands. They did what they wanted, how they wanted it, and it worked. I admire that.”
Flores: “Too many to list!”
Who in the business do you most respect and why?
Sugarbritches: “My band mates are who I respect the most.”
Lemke-Heinz: “I have the most respect for those who work hard, stay humble, share their wisdom with younger artists, and keep their heads on straight. Locals I have a ton of respect for would be Courtney Chambers, Rick Shelley, John Stanley King, and Michael Keeth.”
Barrera: “I respect everyone that is in this business as I am, it doesn’t matter what kind of music they play. We as musicians have to help each other to be respected in what we do. Making more connections with bands and producers will get you more opportunities. It’s a hard business to be in.”
Heinz: “That’s a tough question because I don’t feel like I really KNOW people that are in the ‘business’. And the stories I hear about people IN the business usually aren’t that encouraging. I can only say that I respect songwriters who write without gimmicks and from the heart. I don’t appreciate or respect people that lie, deceive and manipulate for their own gain. And unfortunately, even on our tiny little local level, that seems to be a common behavior.”
Whitford: “Jackson Browne, Look him up and you’ll find out why.”
Flores: “Anyone who’s been able to make a decent living without the assistance of a 9 to 5. Being a full-time musician takes a ton of dedication and hard work. I respect ANYONE who can do this.”
CVW: What is your least favorite genre of music?
Sugarbritches: “I don’t know. I try to find something I like in all genres… I’m not super into Christian rock? I really dislike that sort of Florida Georgia Line brand of country pop.”
Lemke-Heinz: “Modern Country, because you can hear the ‘formula’ in nearly every song on the radio. I guess that goes for a lot of Pop, too. If a bunch of dudes in a boardroom wrote it while sitting around a table with laptops, I probably don’t want to hear it.”
Barrera: “I don’t have a least favorite genre of music. Every style of music inspires me.”
Whitford: “Overproduced music that sounds too familiar that makes me wanna bob my head for no good reason. I don’t trust music that gets stuck in my head too easily.”
CVW: What band are you listening to that people would be the most surprised by?
Sugarbritches: “I’m not sure what people would be surprised by…. oh I know! I listen to the 40’s junction station on satellite radio. I’m obsessed! Is that surprising?”
Lemke-Heinz: “My Chemical Romance. My daughters turned me onto them. And Flight of the Concords, Dresden Dolls and Steel Panther.”
Barrera: “I have Norah Jones on my phone. But I have many different artists that help me to work on my vocals. Maybe I’ll bring that into 5th town in the future…”
Heinz: “I love to listen to good movie soundtracks: Hans Zimmer, John Williams, James Horner, James Newton Howard, and others. I probably listen to the soundtrack to ‘The Thin Red Line’ in whole or part every other day. It’s beautiful.”
Whitford: “Pearl Jam, I can’t get enough of that shit. Josh and I have date nights every week solely for the purpose of listening to Pearl Jam without our wives judging us.”
Flores: “Hmm… Flight of the Conchords.”
5th Town perform on Friday, September 8 at The Hood Bar & Pizza with Blackwater Gospel, Throw the Goat and Death in Pretty Wrapping.
Check them out on facebook/5thTown.