Giants finding their groove
You can take the name Under the Influence of Giants literally, Aaron Bruno says. "It's a statement in itself, and it's kind of what we're all about," the 27-year-old singer says, acknowledging that a list of the L.A. quintet's musical touchstones reads like the roster of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — with a few jazz greats thrown in.
Trouble was, in the days long before the band was signed to Island Def Jam, all those giants were clamoring to be heard. "We were kind of scatterbrained in our early approach, but as we wrote more songs we wanted to make sure we were sonically cohesive," Bruno says.
Now, he and guitarist Drew Stewart (friends since their teenage years in the Valley), along with band mates Jamin Wilcox, Dave Amezcua and Katie Logan, have found their rhythm. "Everything now is groove-based, regardless of whether it's dancy," Bruno says. "We feel like we've found a subtle power in those grooves."
UTIOG was working on harnessing that power before Island came calling. "We were proceeding as if we didn't have a deal," Bruno says, but one meeting with label chief L.A. Reid cemented the band's direction. Its debut album, made with producers Brad Smith and Christopher Thorn, should be ready for release by July.
Meanwhile, the fivesome's energetic live show, which recently graduated to larger venues such as the Avalon, returns to one of its original haunts on Monday night, when UTIOG plays the Viper Room.
Hair metal, updated
Mac Dunlop, frontman for the local quartet the Letter Openers, concedes he's a late bloomer. "I'd like to think the pan's been on the fire a while," the 32-year-old singer-guitarist says.
Only after he met guitarist Martin Ransbury, though, was Dunlop convinced to bring his songs out of his living room. Now, with band mates Jon Goldberg and Matt Peter, they have made "All the Time Right Now," a self-released album of thundering rock — call it hair metal coiffed for the new millennium.
"People always tell us we don't sound like anybody in particular," Dunlop says with a laugh, "and if I've covered my tracks that well I'm doing something right."
The Letter Openers have found kindred spirits and a small fan base among the Kiss or Kill collective of bands. On Friday, they play the Kiss or Kill promotion at the Key Club, which will feature guest performers the Adicts.
Onetime Gypsy Lounge resident Rocco DeLuca, now doing business as Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, plays some pretty nifty Dobro on his debut, "I Trust You to Kill Me" (due March 21). DeLuca, whose father was the touring guitarist for Bo Diddley, worked with producer Jude Cole on the release, which emerges on the Ironworks Music imprint owned by Cole and actor Kiefer Sutherland. DeLuca performs Tuesday at the Hotel Cafe.... What's Minibar been up to? The L.A.-via-London quartet toured with Pete Yorn in '05 and is putting the finishing touches on its third album, "Desert After Rain." Minibar joins the Shore for a show Friday at El Cid.... L.A. three-piece Shiloe plays every Tuesday this month (except March 21) at the Scene in Glendale.... The record-release party for Oscar-nominated Bird York's album "Wicked Little High" is tonight at the Hotel Cafe.... Speaking of the Hotel Cafe, the Cahuenga Boulevard venue has an "Anti-Oscar Night" on Sunday, with Marjorie Fair and Darren Rademaker from the Tyde among the performers, and Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, recently collaborators on an eclectic mix of pop covers, play Wednesday.... The digital release for Mellowdrone's "Box" is Tuesday; the L.A. quartet's Tony Berg-produced debut will be in stores April 4.... And there almost aren't enough Mondays in March to hit the requisite residencies: Seattle's the Lashes let it rip at Spaceland; local quartet Division Day, previewing its album "Beartrap Island," entertains at the Echo; and Oregon transplants the Parson Redheads bring their gleeful noise to the Silverlake Lounge.
-- Kevin Bronson
Listen to "Mama's Room" by Under the Influence of Giants at www.myspace.com/thegiants.
Download the Letter Openers' "I Won't Remember Your Name" at www.myspace.com/letteropeners.
Listen to Minibar's "Crime Scene Ribbon" at www.myspace.com/minibar.
Listen to Shiloe's "The Lady in the Attic" at www.myspace.com/shiloemusic.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times