“I started playing the saxophone when I was 11 years of age because I thought it might get me girls, and I ended up really loving it,” says Jonny Tarr. Originally from Cardiff, Wales, Tarr attended Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts to get his music degree before embarking on a career as a touring and recording musician. He’s spent most of his adult life making electronic soul music in many formats, whether singing his own material with a selection of instruments (guitar, synth, sax, flute, vocals, loop station, samples), leading a full band, or even blowing sax over a DJ. “I was one of the first people in Europe to play saxophone with house music DJs and found that I was mostly interested in music that made people dance. This is the music I wanted to create. With the realization that the saxophone is not really a songwriting tool, I taught myself guitar and piano and I used my understanding of music theory to help me form bands and a unique solo show where I can pretty much incorporate all of my skills at once. I now consider myself a singer/songwriter first and foremost.” The 2020 San Diego Music Award nominee for Best Pop just recorded a fully live album with his Jonny Tarr Quintet, Live at Studio West. “During lockdown, we have properly mixed and mastered it,” says Tarr.
Dave Lombardo’s Dead Cross features the co-founding drummer of Slayer paired with locals Gabe Serbian (the Locust, Retox, Cattle Decapitation) on vocals, Justin Pearson (the Locust, Retox, Head Wound City) on bass, and featuring Mike Crain (Retox, Festival of Dead Deer) on guitar. The group came together during session booked by Lombardo with Pearson and Crain, shortly after Lombardo’s band Philm had split. Their December 2015 live debut at the Casbah was followed by a period where Faith No More/Mr. Bungle frontman Mike Patton was recruited to be their lead singer. Since the 2017 release of their self-titled debut, they’ve become staples of the festival circuit, appearing at Download Paris festival and Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival, as well as similar outdoor events at Novarock, Graspop, Roskilde, and Dour. While the concert circuit rebuilds to account for the pandemic, the band has released a cover of Black Flag’s “Rise Above” that they say was “created in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and staunchly opposing police brutality and systemic racism. As such, the track opens with a recording of a Los Angeles resident voicing his displeasure with the LAPD during a public comment period from a regularly scheduled L.A. police commission meeting.” The video was filmed by Lombardo with the Lonely Rager and Becky DiGiglio.
Classic rock lovers Electric Mud features New York City brothers Marc and Matty Hansen, who relocated to San Diego for a turn in the U.S. Navy. They were soon joined by guitarist Colton Cori and the Hansen’s cousin, Matt Sorena, who moved out from the east coast where he was finishing up his degree in music therapy. Their album Dangerous Promises was released in 2017, and they’ve gone on to become favorites on the North County club scene, particularly in Solana Beach. They have a new Live at the Belly Up album (part of the venue’s new concert archive series), as well as a new full-length of their own recorded during lockdown, Communication. Its lead single is now available online: “Should’ve Cried.” The release of their third studio album was celebrated by communicating with fans via two performances at a closed circuit release party on June 13, livestreamed from the Belly Up stage while the venue was otherwise closed to the public.
Howard Blank's Outsiders
In an unlikely surprise play from deep in the pop culture outfield, long-gone 1960s white soul hitmakers Howard Blank’s Outsiders have signed a record deal with local Pacific Records and announced plans for a new album. Founded in Cleveland Ohio, the Outsiders are best known for “Time Won’t Let Me,” which reached number five on the Billboard charts in April 1966 and was later covered by both Iggy Pop (on his Party album) and Texas-based all-girl rock band the Heart Beats. They also had minor hits such as “Girl in Love,” but have otherwise been mostly forgotten outside of garage band aficionados. The new album features Blank (the original Outsiders drummer, though he’d left the band by the time of their biggest hit) with San Diegans like singer Lori Wilson and bassist Matt Simpson, as well as latter-day Mamas and the Papas singer Laurie Beebe Lewis, Brooklyn singer Eli Holland, guitarist Mel Vernon, keyboardist Yasha Susoeff, and sax player Jim Bruno. The release will include two previous Outsiders hits, “Time Won’t Let Me” and “Respectable,” a cover of Climax’s “Precious and Few,” and new tracks “True Love,” “Fly Me Away,” and “Everyone Has Gone.”
The 1982 Trees album Sleep Convention, the result of an MCA Records deal initiated by Runaways mastermind Kim Fowley, has just been reissued with a dozen bonus tracks. Trees began as a one-man band consisting of keyboardist Dane Conover (perhaps best known from the Puppies with Richard Filaccio and Nino Del Pesco), who later teamed up with Marty Elridge to flesh out the sound. Sleep Convention, produced by Earle Mankey, earned positive reviews at the time, but remained obscure until the age of the internet. Thanks to prolific sharing, the album became somewhat of an online cult sensation and early viral hit, earning hundreds of thousands of streams and inspiring Conover to begin producing new solo music, as well as revisiting his Trees project. In summer 2007, Conover began uploading Trees videos to YouTube, including tracks that had never been publicly screened. Conover also wrote the Beat Farmers concert staple and regional radio hit “Happy Boy.” In related news, Conover’s Puppies partner Richard Filaccio recently performed Conover’s song “Devil on a String” for day 23 of his pandemic home performance series Covideo-19. “His original was ethereal and dreamy, and I took it in a swampy, bluesy direction,” says Filaccio.