By Esther Sanchez
With a sound that defies labels, CV Music Awards nominees, The Sweat Act, have officially landed & hit the ground running. This high-energy group of twenty-something’s have created a sound that combines balls to the wall rock riffs with a skillful peppering of funk that could very well compel you to kick off your shoes & dance. Nominated in the “Best New Band” category, this band certainly is new. Just a few months ago, in November of 2014, they had their smashing debut at Schmidy’s Tavern. In the short time since, they have given performances at The Hood & The IPAC that have rocked the crowds & left them thirsty for more.
I caught their St. Patty’s Day performance at Schmidy’s Tavern and was quickly impressed by their positive, even humorous attitudes, eclectic style and the obvious skill that each member contributes to their unique sound. They were scheduled as the last band to perform for a packed house of restless, weary patrons who just began trickling out after a long night of celebrating; a scenario that can be challenging to any band. Seconds into their first song, I witnessed several people who were heading for the door, stop in their tracks and turn around to listen intently. The Sweat Act had convinced them to stick around.
Despite their status as a brand new band, the buzz around this diverse trio was immediate and their fan base is growing by the minute. Dan Wheat (bass\vox) is also a member of local favorites, Bridger, who have won multiple CV Music Awards in the past and are nominated again this year. Additionally, Wheat has earned his second nomination in the category for, ”Best Bass Player.”
Clearly, no stranger to popularity amongst valley music lovers, Wheat was not expecting The Sweat Act to make waves so soon. Wheat: “This sort of exploded out of nowhere! We had no idea things would evolve for us so quickly. It’s overwhelming, but awesome.” Although the band itself is still very much in its infanthood, none of these guys are new to the desert music scene. On the contrary, they could be considered veterans of modern, desert rock.
Between the 3 of them, they have been members of nearly 20 separate bands over the years. Chris Long (Vox, guitar) & Wheat, who have spent the bulk of their lives in the Coachella Valley, are two-thirds of desert music scene favorites & 2014 CV Music Awards nominees, Boycott Radio. Late in 2014, Boycott Radio was reluctantly forced to take an indefinite hiatus due to their drummer, Sonny McEachran, relocating out of the area. In the midst of so many changes, Long discovered the unexpected talent of drummer, Troy Whiteford, who was already a co-worker and friend of his.
It was actually Whiteford’s wife Caleb, who suggested that the guys get together and jam. Whiteford: “I hadn’t played drums for over 2 years and my wife kept encouraging me to get back into it. She would tell me, ‘You are a drummer! You should be drumming!’ She knows what feeds my soul. None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for her.” Whiteford, who is a self-taught musician, spent hours “banging on pots & pans” until he finally got his first drum set at age 9. Born in L.A, his family moved to Palm Desert during his middle school years. “Nobody else in my family is particularly musical at all, but I always wanted to play drums and they were pretty supportive. When I was about 9 I had a relative who worked for Epitath Records and he would bring me recent recordings of bands he had worked with, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. Bands like Offspring & Reel Big Fish definitely made an impact on me and fueled my desire to play music.”
It wasn’t until Long & Whiteford finally got together for that seminal jam-session that the seed of a new band would begin to grow. Long:”Honestly, I had no expectations whatsoever. I had no idea if Troy was a good drummer at all, so, when he started playing I was kind of surprised at first. Then, I started throwing little tests at him to see how good he really was. There wasn’t anything I threw at him that he couldn’t do. That’s when I realized I had to get Dan to come over and jam with us.” But, soliciting Wheat, who had previously decided he was already far too over committed with various musical projects, family life and a day job, to even consider the idea of starting a new band, was going to take some convincing.
You might say that Wheat was a born musician. The product of a father who played blue’s trumpet and a mother who was a singer and played the autoharp, Wheat was born in Fallbrook, Ca. and moved to the desert when he was in elementary school. “At first, I really wanted to be a drummer. When I got a little older I set my mind on the bass and began begging my parents to buy me one every time I had the chance. It got to the point where, when Christmas was coming I told them that I didn’t want anything but a bass. Finally, when I was 16, they gave in and I got my bass. At that point I basically went into my room, shut the door and went to work. “Wheat, who is well-known in the desert as a gifted bass-player is completely self-taught and readily admits, “I don’t read music and I am terrible with technical, music-terminology. Just play the song and I will join in and do my job.” Humble words from an acclaimed musician.
Wheat: “Chris kept asking me to come jam with him and this guy and it took awhiIe, but I finally showed up to make him happy, thinking that’s all it would be: A jam-session. To my surprise, Troy knew what he was doing on those drums. And just like Chris had done, I started testing him, throwing out tricky songs to see if he could keep up. He passed every test. By the end of that night, we knew we had something special.”
Unlike Wheat, Long wasn’t necessarily suppressing the idea of starting a new project. “I had all these songs written in my head, ready to go. Some were just lyrics, others were just instrumentals.” Long, who was born in Whittier and moved to the Coachella Valley at age 6 has been serious about music as long as he can remember. Raised to appreciate music, his father was a professional drummer, and when he was 7, his parents signed him up for a guitar class.
“I remember when I was 8 and I performed a guitar solo at a recital. It was a classical piece called, ‘Wilson’s Wilde’. Looking back, that was a pretty tough piece for a little kid. I don’t think I could pull it off now if I tried. In the middle of the song I made a mistake and accidentally blurted out, “Sorry!” directly into the microphone. Of course that made all of the parents in the audience laugh. When that happened I freaked out and ran off the stage crying.”
That story comes as a surprise to anyone who has witnessed this frontman command a stage. In addition to his rock-solid guitar skills, Long possesses a powerful, impressive vocal range that easily flows between belty baritones and smooth falsettos. “I did sing in school choirs but I was never given any solos. I really just started singing when I decided I wanted to front a band.”
When I asked the guys how they felt about their CV Music Awards nomination they looked at one another and smiled.
Wheat: “Unexpected. That would be the best word to describe this entire rollercoaster ride that we are on right now. It was totally unexpected and we are extremely grateful.”
The Sweat Act is currently recording their debut album that is set to be released in May, 2015. You can stay updated on their new album, upcoming performance dates and more by following them on social media.