MACHIN’, CALIFORNIA CELTS, AND MONKEY LIVE AT SCHMIDY’S FRIDAY, APRIL 4TH
By Robin Linn
MACHIN’…”Promoting Unity Through the Manipulation of Sound!”
David Macias breathed life into his band, Machin’ just a couple of short years ago. In the short time they have been performing together they have carved a name out for themselves in the Coachella Valley and High Desert as an original American Latin rock band. They describe their style as “Spanglish Jive”, an eclectic mix of sounds ranging from Ska, Reggae, Cumbia, Gypsy and dance music. The lyrics are in Spanglish and fun to dance to and make you feel like you are in the hands of loved ones the entire time they play. That’s because David, Andy, Bri, and Mitchell love you with their music. They absolutely DO promote unity through the manipulation of sound. But, it’s not just Macias’ music. It’s his state of being.
Macias embraces one of the most powerfully positive attitudes about music and the communities he interacts in. He is a Latin lover…in the sense that he shares his music, his philosophies on life, and his hand in friendship effortlessly and willingly with all those around him. He is unjaded and outgoing both as a community member and a musician. He expresses himself openly in conversation and with his music. The live Machin’ show is dynamic and fun. Macias takes a Latin inspired rhythm for a ride and the audience responds in dance. His lyrics are bilingual and uplifting and his delivery is authentic. Macias fuses many different styles and genres into his set and allows the band to interject themselves in a free form that makes for an exhilarating live show. Machin’ continues to grow and evolve as a band and their commitment to developing as artists is evident in all they do.
Machin’ features upright bassist, Andy Gorrill who is a beautiful player that puts a lot of emotion in everything he does, playing with wreckless abandon in the true spirit of a punk rock bassist. I have heard him play sweet jazz inspired progressions on his upright in an acoustic performance, and I have seen him lay down those latin grooves with Machin`. Whether it’s on upright or his electric bass, Gorrill is a humble and warm spirit that is all about the music. Together with Mitchell Arganda on drums who embraces the spirit of a jam band drummer, able to improvise and drive the song forward with structure and form, the vision created by Macias is realized with Machin’. Classically trained violinist Bri Cherry is like icing on the proverbial cake, and her contributions are melodic and brave as she explores the unfolding grooves. She is open and expressive and a lot of fun to watch.
With a unique attitude on life and a passion to experience life through their music, both Bri and David travel about playing acoustically as well. These travels have taken them to crowded street corners in places like Santa Barbara, where on State Street they camped and played for the afternoon with guitar case open to receive tips from appreciative passers-by. So well received were this wide-eyed musical couple that they earned hundreds of dollars which they used to take them to the next stop and then the next. Bravely earning their travel money as they played moving from destination to destination, the couple found adventure on the road, from Oregon to the bay of Northern California….street minstrels, seeing the country by way of their acoustic street jams. Dave and Bri are making vague plans to boldly explore Europe using these same means and methods over the years to come.
On April 4th, David Macias and his brand new entertainment agency, Machin’ Militia, will be hosting a night of ska music featuring San Jose based band Monkey, and local treasures, California Celts. When it comes to the show production side of things, Macias attempts to maintain a continuing flow throughout the show, using one back line so that there is no wait in between sets. This is part of his personal recipe for uninterrupted organic live entertainment. His approach is interactive and inviting. The show is a party, dance til you drop to riveting high energy ska with flavors from Ireland to Latin America.
I asked Macias about how Machin’ has evolved and to share a bit of what it has been like to build a band in the desert. Here is what he had to say…..
RL: When did you put the first version of Machin’ together?
DM: The first time I actually got on stage and performed some of the songs we play with Machin’ was early in 2012 at The Hood’s open mic. It was completely spontaneous and people really liked it. That was the first time I felt I could actually form a band and front it performing the songs I had been writing. It wasn’t until my birthday, July 24th, 2012, when I did my first acoustic solo set of all the original material I had been writing. That same day I was invited by Robbi Robb and his wife Amritakripa of 3rd Ear Experience to come over for dinner, and that was when the time felt right to begin the planning of the birth of Machin’. The rest of August consisted on practicing and putting together a fundraiser festival for local artist Bobby Furst. On September 8, 2012 Machin’ was born and welcomed by the people of Joshua tree on our first show and we haven’t stopped since.
RL: Tell me about some of the people and players that have been involved in Machin’ over the years?
DM: Well since the birth of the band we have played with some of the best players I have ever met. Local musicians who have made a name for themselves in the community we live in. All of 3rd Ear Experience members, Erik Mouness, Robbi Robb, Amritkripa, Jorge Bassman Carrillo, were the backbone during the first 8 months of the band. We had the pleasure to have Robby Krieger perform “Esta Vez No” with us on April of last year thanks to Hot Purple Energy, and we also got to be the backing band for him as well as Michel Bolton and Josh Kelly. Ian Comstock of TJ Nasty, Aaron Mercado of Dead Beat Daddies, and Giselle Woo have joined us in our performances as well. Among other supporters is Eric Ryan of ESR studios who helped us mix and master our first demo. We have developed an allegiance with Flow Box (circus performance art team) and have coordinated some of our shows with fire dancers, magic, theatrics and acrobats, which has definitely been fun to do. Machin’ promotes unity within people, artist and musicians and I foresee a growth in the number of people who will be involved in the future.
RL: Tell me about the other members of Machin’?
DM: Currently the line-up for Machin’ consists of Bri Cherry on Violin, who brings the music and melodies to life with the stroke of her bow. Andy Gorrill on Upright Bass holds down the pulse of the songs and Mitchell Arganda on Drums brings the heartbeat to the music and takes our grooves to a new level. This is the core of Machin’, but at any given moment you may find anyone playing with us!
RL: What are your musical influences?
DM: I have an extensive list of musical influences. I love it all and I have played many genres of music and will continue to do so in order to develop the proper appreciation for the cultural aspect of music. Being born in Chihuahua Mexico, I was exposed to folklorico and Mariachi Music. Later while growing up in East Los Angeles, I got to experience playing in a Mariachi band and really dug into the roots. I was fortunate to go to a school that offered those programs as well as Latin Jazz, Salsa, and Jazz band. I really enjoy Celtic music. I played for 3 years with The California Celts and there is where I got to understand that style of playing as well as bluegrass. While studying music I found great influence in Gypsy Jazz and gypsy punk as well as flamenco and currently that is what I have been enjoying the most. Can you hear it in the music? It’s hard to list all the music that has made an impact on me, there is so much out there that I feel I haven’t lived long enough to properly answer that. I can’t wait to discover that which will influence me in the future.
RL: What inspires you and drives you as a writer and performer?
DM: My biggest inspiration as a writer, musician, and performer is integrity. The integrity to pursue a dream and to stay true to yourself, your art, and the people that support it is my biggest drive. I spent 8 years in the military and the only reason I left that career was to do what I always wanted to do, which is to play music. The realization that you only live once and that life can be over at any given time gave me the courage to start a new life as a civilian. In order to honor my life in the service and those who I’ve had the honor to serve with, I have to achieve my personal legend as a musician. At the end of a lifetime no one wants to regret the things they didn’t do.
RL: Tell me about Monkey and The California Celts and how this show at Schmidy’s came to fruition?
DM: I spent the first 3 years of my musical career playing with The California Celts, during that time was when I had the opportunity to play and get to know Monkey. During a conversation with Chris Poland, front man and founder of Warsaw, Poland Bros and California Celts, he mentioned that Monkey was going to be passing by on tour and were looking to play somewhere in the Inland Empire. It dawned on me that this would be a good opportunity to put together a show with the band I shared many stages with, as well as a great way to introduce our San Jose friends to our desert scene. It’s going to be a great night, bagpipes, horns, men in kilts, men in ties, pirates, Spanglish music, English music, and the most important thing…Lots of dancing!
RL: What is next for Machin’?
DM: Currently our focus is on performing and meeting new people. It’s what we do and we find it to be the best way to get the exposure that we want, which is by personally interacting with the people who attend our shows. We have a residency every Thursday at the Purple Room in Palm Springs from 7-10pm and we plan on putting together some more shows like the one on April 4th at Schmidy’s Tavern featuring some more great bands. We hope to continue to write music that moves the masses and we will continue to promote peace through the manipulation of sound and evolve with the music we create.
MONKEY, “The hardest working band on the West Coast”
Monkey is a band based out of San Jose that incorporates a real love for traditional ska in their original compositions. The band is comprised of CURTIS MEACHAM on Guitar and Vocals, MICAH TURNEY on Drums, RUDY SERMENO on Bass, DUSTIN JAMES on T-bone and keys, and DAN ROOT on Saxophone. Founding member Curtis Meacham sites influences ranging from ska pioneers to Tito Puente, speaks fluent Spanglish and definitely has infused some Latin love into the Monkey sound. They are a high-energy organ driven, Ska/Reggae group whose intense live shows and rock-steady rhythms are known to get the audience up and moving. They have developed a strong following over the years and have been honored with several awards, including the prestigious California Music Award (BAMMIE). They are called the hardest working band on the West Coast because of their intensive tour schedule, in excess of 200 shows a year. They are currently touring in support of their latest record, “Lost at Sea” on Asian Man Records. The record is highly charged and packed full of punchy horn lines and great lyrics. The band has 4 full-length albums, and has also been featured on over 25 compilations, video games and film soundtracks, including the new independent horror-comedy, a Russ Meyer tribute film, “Pervert the Movie” on Stag Films. They have opened shows for world class acts like: Bad Manners, The Specials, The English Beat, The Skatalites, Fishbone, The Slackers, and Hepcat. Along their travels they have also performed with desert based bands Machin’ and California Celts, developing a friendship which helped them find their way to our desert for this upcoming evening of ska. Being brand new to the music of Monkey, I asked founding member, Curtis Meacham to shed some light on the Monkey business that drives this band.
RL: Tell me about the earliest incarnations of Monkey?
KM: Monkey was started in 1996, when I decided that the Bay Area needed a traditional-style Ska band. At that time, there were so many Punk-Ska bands and funk rock, that we needed something different. We started out playing the standards (Skatalites, Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker, etc), and quickly grew our own repertoire of original Ska tunes.
RL: Tell me about the other members of Monkey?
KM: Monkey consists of friends we have made along the way. Fellow musicians that enjoy keeping the Ska torch lit, as well as having fun entertaining audiences all over the world. The band is 18 years old, and most of the guys have been members for 10 or more of those years.
RL: What has been the most difficult thing about keeping a committed lineup of musicians together and keeping Monkey alive?
KM: Realizing the need for space and growth. Musicians are born to play, but sometimes playing interferes with personal space and life goals. In many cases, we’ve had members take sabbaticals to go off to school, move away or even start their own families. Given enough space, sometimes they come back and we continue ever forward.
RL: You have 4 full length records. Tell me about the latest Japanese compilation release “Monkeyska” and your interest in Japan?
KM: Japan has always been a fascinating place and I would love to tour there. Our releases are in the market (and hopefully), will generate a big enough buzz to bring us to their country for an international tour, as we have already done in Europe, Canada and Mexico.
RL: Over 25 compilation CD’s include the music of Monkey. How did you become involved in so many compilation projects?
KM: Honestly, the fans! Some of our biggest fans and friends have become part of the music industry. We get contacted frequently by people saying “Hey, I’ve been catching Monkey shows for years, and now I am starting a label.” We love to see where people go and who they remember in this business!
RL: Film and TV seem to have been a big part of Monkey’s history. What is it like creating a soundtrack for film or TV as opposed to creating a song for a record?
KM: Well, I actually like writing for other projects. Writing songs and lyrics can be hard, when you are invested in the process. The constant struggle of creating a song and making it sound important, but not self-indulgent… it can wear you down at times. Writing for others assignments is much easier because it removes the fear and the flow is much quicker.
RL: You have a very intense show schedule….over 200 per year. How do you keep up the pace and what are the highs and lows of playing that rigorously?
KM: Well, we love playing music and we continue to accept shows that will propel us forward. Sometimes, this means having a vigorous schedule and not having a personal life. As a musician that is in love with touring, the easy life is easily overlooked for the experience and performance.
RL: What is the live Monkey show all about?
KM: FUN! FUN! FUN! We live and breathe music and we want to share that with the audience.
CALIFORNIA CELTS “A One of a Kind Experience”
The Celts offer up a highly charged theatrical parade of old world instrumentation that pays homage to traditional Scotch-Irish music. The instrumentation ranges from bagpipes and harp to banjo and trombone. They take the old world sounds of Celtic music and color it with Ska, Reggae, Bluegrass, Mexicano, and Rock to create their very own unique sound. They are a one of a kind group of minstrels known for creating a raucous and stirring up an audience with outrageous live shows. Their set typically begins when they enter into the venue, instruments in hand, and dressed in traditional kilts in a sort of Irish-Ska parade. Founding member, Chris Poland is an educated and savvy multi-instrumentalist who answers to his own voice.
Join Machin’ Militia in their first official production at Schmidy’s Tavern on Friday, April 4th for an evening of original ska. All 3 bands bring something unique to the table and we have an opportunity to welcome our musical brothers from San Jose, Monkey, and show them how seriously we take our music in the desert! We don’t monkey around!
For event details visit the Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/events/700765543306973/
Find the bands on Facebook at:
Read the digital edition of this feature on my blog, Robin Linn’s Desert Rhythms at: rminjtree.blogspot.com/