CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

During normal times, backyard shows throughout the Coachella Valley are packed with younger people enjoying hidden musical gems—such as the band Koka.

Koka is a four-piece consisting of Edith Aldaz on vocals, Sebastian Camacho on bass, Ricardo “Ricky” Saavedra on drums, and Ubaldo “Uba” Norzagaray on guitar and synthesizer. The band’s indie-pop music is rather unique, mixing vibes from Clairo, Soccer Mommy, and Crumb into their own sound.

Koka just released a new single, “Did You Fall Asleep Yet.” It’s a three-minute dance-along that features a pulsating, Blondie-esque beat and vocals. I recently spoke with the band members about Koka’s genesis.

“During my senior year of high school, my plan was to just go to college and live a boring life,” Camacho said. “It wasn’t until my English teacher, Mr. Jonathan Adler at La Quinta High School, had a conversation with the class about doing what you love. That was really the point when I decided to take Koka seriously. It wasn’t even Koka at this point; it was just a friendship between me and Edith, who was, at the time, just a girl I knew who could sing. We met Uba through some mutual friends, and some months later, he posted that he got a guitar. I invited him to come write some music with us.

“We started searching for a drummer for our live shows about a month after we released our first song, and that’s when we met Ricky. Originally, Edith was singing and playing drums, which I thought was cool as fuck and unique. After a while, she preferred getting someone with more experience, so we were super-lucky to find Ricky—and more importantly, get along with him.”

The first song the band released was “Tissue,” a lo-fi, slow-tempo groove track. It wasn’t until the song was finished that the members of Koka began to view themselves as a band.

“We were just writing music for us,” said Camacho. “Once we finished and decided to release our first song, we all agreed to start doing more band-related stuff. Uba had the idea to do a photo shoot, so once we released the song, there’d be a photo of us to go along with it.”

Added Norzagaray: “We were focused on releasing good music before we began to think of a name. After we finished ‘Tissue,’ we all brainstormed names, and Koka was one of the ones I wrote down. We wanted something that sounded catchy and was easy.”

Added Camacho: “Some of the other names we thought of were ‘Cheque,’ but we thought that most of our Spanish speaking listeners would pronounce it ‘che-kay,’ so we didn’t go with that. There was also a time when Edith was obsessed with apples, and there was a type called ‘Gala’ that I thought was cool, but we eventually went with Koka. We wanted to make sure we had a name that we all agreed on.”

“Tissue” found success on SoundCloud, and is currently sitting at nearly 12,000 streams.

“We really had no plan in the beginning, and not much of an idea of what we were doing,” Norzagaray said. “We just uploaded it to SoundCloud and shared it on Twitter and Instagram. The initial success it had made us freak out, as we got 1,000 listeners in a week! We immediately got to work on releasing another song.”

The band followed up with two more tracks, “An Inside Stay” and “Baby’s Breath.” “Baby’s Breath” has 43,000 streams on SoundCloud, and 12,000 on Spotify. The quality of the band’s recordings has improved with each release.

“Our idea of mixing and mastering was panning tracks and changing audio levels,” Camacho said. “There are a lot of issues with them, but I actually like them. They were perfect for the time being, and those are the songs that created our audience. Our newest two songs are produced by Brian Harrington, and if you listen back to our original tracks in comparison to our newer songs, you’ll hear a huge difference in quality.”

As for those two newest songs, “With Time” came in April, and “Did You Fall Asleep Yet” was released Aug. 1.

“The idea is to work toward a full-length album soon, but as of right now, our main focus is creating good music,” Norzagaray said.

Aldaz added: “We have a lot of different ideas recorded right now, and we have three songs, plus a cover, that we are currently working on completing.”

A recurring theme with local bands is an increase in productivity during the pandemic—and Koka’s latest two releases are their first since 2018. The band has made a point to get together, as safely as possible, during the pandemic.

“We try to meet up at least twice a week, but sometimes, schedules conflict,” Aldaz said.

Added Saavedra: “It’s been super-hard to continue meeting during this time. We are doing our best, though, and are doing all that we can to continue to meet.”

On top of working on more music, the band has started creating a playlist for Spotify listeners. You can find the first one here.

“Each of us will pick five songs we like for that month, and we’ll put them all in a playlist called Koka Radio,” Camacho said.

While the band remains productive, the members of Koka are missing the tight-knit backyard shows that they used to pack with fans.

“People are still throwing shows, but they aren’t approved, and it’s really dumb for them to be doing that right now,” Camacho said. “We are going have to wait awhile until we can have approved shows again.”

For more information, visit soundcloud.com/koka10 or www.instagram.com/koka.wav.

Backyard shows—put on by teens, for teens—have been taking place for decades in the Coachella Valley. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions have silenced the backyard show scene for now—but that doesn’t mean local youth have let their creative voices be silenced.

Take, for example, the Coachella Valley Youth Music Fest, a two-day livestream charity showcase of nearly 20 local acts. From 3 to 5 p.m., Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, tune in to twitch.tv/4nthonyn to watch performances by Koka, Israel’s Arcade, Screams on Silent and others—including a live set from yours truly. Donations made during the event will go to Yemen Crisis Relief, Al Otro Lado, Campaign Zero, COVID-19 Relief, SNaP4Freedom and the NAACP.

“I got the idea for it about three weeks ago; it was literally a shower thought,” said Anthony Noriega, 17, creator of the Coachella Valley Youth Music Fest, during a recent phone interview. “I saw that the Stonewall Inn did a livestream charity fundraiser, so I wanted to create something along those same lines. This thing will be more festival-oriented, though, as some artists will have longer sets, and people will be performing at different times. The same day I got the idea, I contacted everyone.”

Noriega was able to lock in the 19-band lineup in a matter of days.

“I’m a pretty reserved person, but I have a few friends from school that do music, so I was just going to try to ask them,” Noriega said. “I was hoping that I could get some more well-known acts in the desert, like Israel’s Arcade and Koka, and luckily, they agreed right away. I just went out and contacted as many people as possible, because I’d rather have to whittle down sets than try to ask artists to play more songs. I wasn’t sure if a lot of people would even agree to performing.”

The restrictions due to the coronavirus have caused artists all over the world to come up with new ideas for performances. Livestreams in various forms have appeared everywhere, and Noriega is taking in various influences.

“My friend Kiara Thomas is going to be hosting with me, and we’re going to run some test live streams and make sure everything will run smoothly,” Noriega said. “I also have a musician friend from New York named KISOS. He does a livestream every Sunday called Queer-antine, and gives a platform for LGBT artists. I also drew inspiration from him in creating a collective-of-artists livestream. He also helped me out and gave me some advice.”

When Noriega announced the festival and the beneficiary charities, he faced some backlash.

“It’s weird to feel like you chose the wrong charity—when it’s a charity,” Noriega said. “There are foundations that do good things, and it sucks to feel like one is better or worse than the other. I wanted to dwindle down the amount of charities so that when I split up the money, there’s a good money amount going to each charity.

“When I announced the event, there were a handful of musicians who were interested (but not included in the lineup), and I wish I could’ve added them to the set. If I get enough interest among other people, I might try to do a second show and have different charities. It would be so great to wrangle up as much money as possible—because I don’t have a job, so I am not able to donate. I wanted to be able to contribute on a bigger scale and help wrangle up everybody’s few bucks that they have. I feel like this event will really bring people together, and make it feel like we’re all making a difference.”

Some self-doubt came into play when it was time for Noriega to reach out to local acts.

“When I contacted all the performers, I was fully ready for all of them to say no,” he said. “This could’ve been a pop-up idea that just fizzled out. I used my Instagram account that had more followers to message the artists, because people are always getting spam messages on Instagram. If I do this again, I feel like I will have some credibility and be able to have this event under my belt.

“It’s also just my own social fears: I don’t really talk to too many people outside of my small friend group. To be able to put myself out there to a bunch of people I’ve never met before made me worry about what the outcome would be.”

Leading up to the event, social fears aren’t the only thing holding Noriega back.

“I actually tested positive for the coronavirus recently,” Noriega said. “I’m on my better days now, but I’ve been feeling body aches and extreme headaches.

“I’m performing in as well as co-hosting the event, so I’m going to try my best to make it as entertaining as possible. I also hope this will be a good showcase of local talent, and that people will watch. I’m not announcing the times for each band, so hopefully people will stay for the whole show to create a balanced event.”

Published in Previews

If you’ve been to one of the backyard shows that take place behind the scenes in our valley, you may have come across Koka. In the likely event that you have not … the band’s unique brand of indie music has garnered the group tens of thousands of streams on SoundCloud, and Koka has made every show a packed-house sing-along. At the microphone is Edith Aldaz, whose great voice and catchy melodies have taken the band to the next level. Here are her answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first-ever concert I went to was a One Direction concert my freshman year. After that, I stopped going to those types of concerts, and started going to more shows/festivals with multiple random artists.

What was the first album you owned?

One of the first albums I bought physically was Vampire Weekend’s Contra.

What bands are you listening to right now?

SIN 34, Willie Bobo, Astrud Gilberto and Sharon Van Etten.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Hobo Johnson. No explanation. Just Hobo Johnson.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I’d like to see Tame Impala, The Strokes and Astrud Gilberto. The Strokes, because they are my first favorite band, ever since middle school. I found out about Astrud a few months before leaving to college in Pasadena, and I still haven’t been able to put her music down. Usually, I go through phases with artists and stop listening to them after a couple of months, but not with Astrud. Tame Impala doesn’t really need an explanation.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Singing in an “operatic” voice. I love seeing how high and clear I can hit notes. I definitely annoy my parents when doing this randomly around the house.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Smell in Los Angeles. I feel like I have some sort of connection with that venue and the people who go there. When I lived in Pasadena, I would go every other weekend to make friends, and I did! It is so easy there: There’s a whole community of kids who come together to share something that they love and forget anything that was bothering them before. Everyone is so kind there. If someone falls in the pit, everyone stops and reaches out to help them. Everyone knows everyone there, and they love bringing in new people.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I don't think you understand! There's nowhere left to turn. The walls keep breaking. Time is like a leaf in the wind. Either it's time well spent, or time I've wasted,” “Telescope,” Cage the Elephant.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The most recent artist that has affected me is Astrud Gilberto. She’s affected me vocally, because I love the little melodies that she is able to come up with. Because of Astrud, I found other artists that I love like Stan Getz, Luiz Bonfá and João Gilberto.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would probably just say hi to Astrud Gilberto.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“India” by Luiz Bonfá.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

One of my favorite albums of all time is Portamento by The Drums.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Enchanted Mirror” by Luiz Bonfá. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

We’re under an emergency shelter-at-home order in California, with a lot of businesses closed down—meaning many people are now without a steady income, including the Coachella Valley’s hard-working, talented musicians.

Many of us also now have a lot of time on our hands … so why not use that time to get to know the local music scene better—while supporting these musicians in the process?

Also, remember that music can be a healer of wounds! For me, music can turn a terrible day into a great day—so I hope that this list can bring you joy in this uncertain time.

Because of all this, I’ve compiled a “Coachella Valley Quarantine” playlist of some of my favorite songs by valley bands. By streaming their songs on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or any other service, you will also assist them financially … not much, but every little bit helps!

Click here for the Spotify version of the playlist.

Click here for the YouTube version.

“Last Day,” Captain Ghost

I started the playlist off with this one, because the only way to transition into the apocalypse is with roars and sick guitar riffs. This song is as heavy as it is funky—dare I say, with perhaps a hint of ska? The screamed-out chorus lines of “set forth your hands / like it’s the last day on Earth” make this song a perfect soundtrack for the end times. You can read more about Captain Ghost in the interview I did with them last year at CVIndependent.com; facebook.com/CaptainGhostBand.

“Coachella Gold,” Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

After being announced as part of the 2020 Coachella lineup, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls’ profile in the music scene became bigger than ever. Alas, the postponement of the festival means the world will have to wait to experience in person the greatness we’ve seen evolving over the past few years. “Coachella Gold” makes you proud to live here—and a sense of community is definitely something we all need during this time. Learn more about Giselle here; facebook.com/GiselleWooandTheNightOwls.

“Beat Up Your Mom (Sides One and Two),” Sleazy Cortez

In these times of mass hysteria and paranoia, you really could use a good laugh. Sleazy Cortez’s comedy stoner-punk jams are a perfect 20-second hand wash to take your worries away. You don’t even have to worry about too many lyrics, because the only words to this song are: “Beat up your mom.” Side One’s fast punk transitions beautifully into Side Two’s slow-burning blues groove for an epic 3 1/2-minute track. Learn more about Sleazy Cortez here; sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

“Alone,” Black Water Gospel

“This is how it feels to be alone,” sings Lance Riebsomer in the chorus of this song. The desperation in his voice echoes many people’s uncertainties in this time of isolation—yet this song has one of those guitar solos will help you feel amazing. It’s hard to describe, so just listen. I challenge you to not bob your head at least once throughout the entire track; it may be impossible. Read more about Black Water Gospel here; facebook.com/BlackWaterGospel.

“Back on Track,” Brightener

Whenever I listen to Brightener, I can’t help but smile. Will Sturgeon has a voice that just makes you happy, and any track from his band will lift your spirit. It’s no wonder the band has played many top-notch gigs in Los Angeles, not to mention Coachella in 2016. “Back on Track” is one of Sturgeon’s funkier songs, and will make your stay-cation a lot dancier. Learn more about Brightener here; brightener.bandcamp.com.

“Gallium,” Calico Wonderstone

Calico Wonderstone dominated the backyard music scene, but has only played a few shows at local venues, so the band’s name is unknown to many. The band dropped a five-song EP, but has not played a show since releasing it, meaning it has been severely underappreciated. “Gallium” is an indie-rock jam, and lead singer Ramses Lopez’s unique vocal style adds an edgier tone to the groove; soundcloud.com/calicowndrstne.

“Mainframe,” Fever Dog

Fever Dog has brought full effort into each of the genres the band has pursued. The group’s first two albums were heavy stoner rock, and then in 2017, Fever Dog released the Mainframe EP—three tracks of psychedelic jams. The title track sounds like something straight out of Pink Floyd, and is the perfect track to let your mind wander away from the negativity. Learn more about Fever Dog here; feverdog.bandcamp.com.

“Elevator Dance,” The Flusters

The Flusters offer a perfect mix of dreamy grooves and rockin’ choruses. Take “Elevator Dance,” for example; the verses are very Doors-esque, with lead singer Doug VanSant’s reverbed voice haunting the listener’s ear. But then, the guitar turns up for the choruses—and turns the slow groove to a full-on jump-around-and-dance vibe. Check out more about The Flusters here; theflusters.com.

“Wao Wao,” Ocho Ojos

Ocho Ojos’ catalogue features the best of the best when it comes to psychedelic cumbia. The band has played Coachella twice, and has performed at pretty much every venue in the valley—a handful of times—while sprinkling some out-of-town shows in between. The Latin rhythms shine bright on “Wao Wao,” and the 4 1/2-minute banger features synth player Danny Torres and guitarist Cesar Flores trading off solos in epic fashion; facebook.com/ochoojoscv.

“Funk Jam,” Desert Rhythm Project

This is a pretty self-explanatory track from Joshua Tree favorites Desert Rhythm Project. Funk is a healer of many things; in fact, I’ve been told there’s nothing a little groove can’t fix. Lead singer Mikey Reyes' soothing voice guides listeners through this song; it’s almost as if he’s checking in with us after every extended groove to make sure we’re OK. And this track is packed tight with groove, as it’s a six-minute song that features every essential funk instrument—horns, bass and, of course, a talk-box solo; desertrhythmproject.com.

“Sand Dune,” FrankEatsTheFloor

Shameless self-promotion: This is my band, and a song I wrote—of which I’m particularly proud. I used our desert landscape to represent how lonely you can feel in a situation of unreciprocated love. I wrote it when I felt lonely; I was sitting inside all day staring at the sand dunes, but now that I have to stay inside, I truly understand how lonely it can be living in a sandy jungle. The bassline is prominent, primarily because I wrote the song around the riff—but also because it sounds cool. Learn more about us here; facebook.com/FrankEatsTheFloor.

“Tied Up,” Instigator

We’re all tied up at home, so why not throw on this aptly named metal tune from local rockers Instigator? The intro riff has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it; about 40 seconds into the song, the headbanging begins in full effect. Leader Mark Wadlund just posted on Facebook: “‘Coronavirus’ is a great name for a song on a heavy-metal concept album about disease,” so maybe something good will come out of this situation. Read more about Instigator here; facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

“Isolated,” Israel’s Arcade

Speaking of aptly named songs, this indie-rock track from Israel’s Arcade is the perfect song for your isolation blues. “Don’t come find me … let me rot,” sings Israel Pinedo over a melancholy instrumental—featuring some sweet saxophone backup. The standout part of this track is the lead guitar, as its back-and-forth rhythm, while extremely catchy, elicits a true sense of loneliness. Learn more about them here; instagram.com/israelsarcade.

“Strange,” Ormus

Ormus’ first album was a collection of hard-hitting metal-punk tracks, complete with frontman Martin Posada’s death growls. But “Strange” sounds like something straight from the ’70s, with Posada and bass-player Serene Noell sharing vocal duties on a rock track that’s very Black Sabbath-esque. However, Ormus’ signature sound comes back in the middle of a song, for a minute-long metal-punk death-growl interlude; facebook.com/ormusband.

“Bad Conscience Blues,” Plastic Ruby

Plastic Ruby’s unique “Desert Jangle” sound slows down a bit on “Bad Conscience Blues.” Lead singer John Marek’s reverb-caked voice sings over a slow-burning psychedelic-blues track that is as groovy as it is bluesy. The three-minute-long jam would not be complete without the organ solo, however—as everybody knows that you can't have psychedelic jams without an organ. Learn more about the band here; plasticruby.com.

“King Street,” Pescaterritory

“King Street” is one of those songs that makes you feel cool. The pounding rock beat of the song may just lead you to strut around your isolation chamber. Halfway through the song, guitarist Jason Zembo steals the show with what may be one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. The best way to beat the virus is with rock ’n’ roll! Read more about the band here; facebook.com/pescaterritory.

“Ppl Like U,” Throw the Goat

The first release from Throw the Goat after a recent lineup change proves that the same ol’ Goat is still there. It’s a punk outcry against hypocrites and the current state of the world—a perfect song for letting out your rage. The band is setting up for a full album about the political nonsense, appropriately titled Vote Goat 2020. Read more about the group here; facebook.com/throwthegoat. (Photo below by Keleigh Black)

“The Death of a Gentleman,” YIP YOPS

The Yip Yops’ recent lineup departures left the group as a two-piece—but the boys are determined to not change the sound that much. “The Death of a Gentleman” is an ’80s-style synth-rock gem that sounds so much like Depeche Mode. It’s groovy; it’s danceable; it even has somber moments. A lot of ground is covered in three minutes, and will cover many of the moods you are feeling during this time. Read more about them here; yipyops.com.

“Baby’s Breath,” Koka

Another notable band in the backyard-show scene in the valley is Koka, an indie-rock group with soothing melodies that offer a bedroom-pop vibe. Their sounds have brought them Internet attention, with “Baby’s Breath” nabbing more than 37,000 listens on Soundcloud alone. Lead singer Edith Aldaz’s vocal lines are catchy; singing the oohs of this song’s chorus will definitely help alleviate some stress; instagram.com/koka.wav.

“I Wanna Be Over You,” The Hive Minds

The last song on this playlist ends things on a high note. A happy instrumental is met by lead singer Derek Jordan Gregg reminiscing about the good times: “Remember the way that I fell when I held you, December.” Gregg wants to go back to “feeling himself”—don’t we all? This song is cheery and proves that music can be a source of joy, even in times like these; www.facebook.com/thehiveminds.