Fresh back from seeing Huntington Beach's own Avenged Sevenfold and Brandon Saller play in the area last week, I was more than ready to dedicate a column to more local music news. Yes, this place is called Surf City, but let us not forget that this is also one of the most formidable music breeding grounds in the United States.
This week, we start with a look at the Fallen Stars, winners of multiple OC Music Awards and winners of the SoCal Music Live Awards' Best Electric Band and Best Acoustic Band honors. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Bobbo Byrnes, lead vocalist and bassist Tracy Byrnes, Gary O'Yeah on drums and Geoff Geib on the B3 and piano, the band recently released "Heart Like Mine" — its third studio album (which is available for purchase at iTunes, CD Baby and the band's website, http://www.thefallenstars.com.
As the band describes it, the collection features "Sixteen tracks of Americana rock n' roll in the mold of Bruce Springsteen, the Pretenders, Wilco and Whiskeytown."
And, I would add, the music is authentic, rootsy and beautifully constructed; it's familiar and fresh all at once.
"Heart Like Mine" also includes contributions from a handful of talented musicians, including Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters, the Wallflowers) on Hammond B3, Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown) on violin and Danny Ott (Chris Gaffney, Dave Alvin) on guitar and lap steel.
Recently, they spoke to us about their new album, among other things.
Before releasing "Heart Like Mine," Bobbo said, "[A]nd as we started fine-tuning the album, I knew we were onto something." Can you elaborate on this?
Bobbo: It was sounding better than everything else we had ever done before. We kept writing and playing and ended up with 25 to 30 songs. From there, we cut it down to 18 songs, and finally settled with 16 songs. We liked all of it, and it was really difficult to cut down.
Gary: Compared to the albums in the past, this had a very unique sound.
Geoff: When playing and arranging, we immediately recognized it. We really hit our stride. The energy that was produced during live shows was brought into the rehearsal studio, and it was a step above everything we had done before.
The band and the music both seem to have a very genuine feel. Is creating songs that provide a connection a crucial part of the Fallen Stars' music?
Bobbo: Absolutely. There's no way to fake stuff. We actually just did a cover of "Last Friday Night," and that's a very modern song, but when you listen to what the song is saying, it has an incredible feel. A lot of songs are like that when you pay attention to what is being said.
Has living in Southern California/Huntington Beach shaped the band's music in any way?
Gary: Everyone is California wants the same thing, so it either motivates you to do better or motivates you to quit.
Is there an audience that is significantly attracted to your music?
Tracy: People who like classic rock usually like our music, because we're like new classic rock. Or people who enjoy folk rock like us. We travel a lot cross-country, and it's great road trip music for the highway. It's very American-inspired. Also, a lot of musicians seem to enjoy our music, like singer-songwriters who know their stuff, and that's something I think we should be proud of.
The band is an eclectic group. How do you think this has molded the songs and genre of music in representing the Fallen Stars?
Bobbo: It definitely shapes the songs. I will write a song, and someone will come up with an idea that will take it in a different direction than what I was thinking. All by yourself, you're just one brain, but together with multiple brains, it's much richer.
What are your future plans for the band?
Tracy: We would love to broaden the base outside of the Southern California area so others can be exposed to our music.
A musical slice of Orange
In other local news, singer, songwriter, guitarist and Huntington Beach native Johnny Zapp has a fantastic new single out called "Orange County." As he told me, "I wrote it about living the dream, growing up in Orange County, surfing, skating, riding beach cruisers, eating at the Sugar Shack, etc. It is already starting to get some radio in L.A. and Orange County via Indie 103.1, as well as a few other markets."
Johnny's music has been heard on broadcasts of the PGA Tour, "Pimp My Ride" and Rush TV. Please check his site out (johnnyzapp.com) and help support the song. This is another very talented local rocker who is working hard to make great music, and I know he would appreciate your support.
'Sledgehammer' goes surfing
Also, one other local note: I recently interviewed the great musical artist Peter Gabriel (formerly of Genesis). I often wondered if it was true, way back in the day (about 1980), if he, after playing the Golden Bear, went for an evening ocean dip after his show. I'd heard the rumors over the years.
"Oh, absolutely," Gabriel chuckled wistfully in his soft-spoken British accent. "A lovely venue in a lovely town. Me and the whole band actually, just out the back door and down to the beach, right after we played. A magnificent evening. I'll never forget it. What a perfect location for a club that was."
Lastly, as you may know, when opportunities allow, I like to let this column create some opportunities for student journalists, and this week, I'd like to acknowledge the work of high school senior Morgan Day, whose terrific efforts helped produce the interview with Fallen Stars. Good job, Morgan.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.