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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Matt King

You may know the band as Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, OCS or one of several other names that have changed along with the lineup over the last two-plus decades.

However, one thing has remained constant: founding-member John Dwyer’s blistering guitar and crunchy vocals. Oh Sees, as we’ll call the band today, puts on one of the best live shows around—meaning that the group’s Friday, Aug. 9, show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is not to be missed … that is, if you can get tickets, because it is currently listed as sold out via the venue.

During a recent phone interview, I asked Dwyer—who said proceeds from the show would be donated to an as-yet-undetermined local charity—whether he thought the band’s name was important to its success.

“No. In fact, if anything, now we just change the name to irritate reviewers and journalists, because they took such umbrage to it being moved around a couple of times,” he said. “I started my own label (Castle Face Records) so I could do whatever the fuck I want, because with personnel and tone changes, we’d change the name around a lot. I’d talk to PR people, and they’d ask, ‘How are people going to know it’s the same band?’ I say that if somebody’s enough of an idiot to not know that this is the same band, then I don’t want them watching our band. That being said, our fans are smart enough to follow the lead. I don’t know if it’s been a detriment or not, but honestly, I don’t really care. It’s such a nonstory to me that it became a point of humor for us to slightly change the name to irk Pitchfork.”

OCS was at first Dwyer’s solo project, started while he was in other bands with names such as Pink and Brown, Zeigenbock Kopf and Coachwhips. I was curious whether it was hard to turn his solo project into a full band.

“The very first (OCS) record is really long, almost three LPs into one record, and most of it is just improvisational noise stuff,” Dwyer said. “It wasn’t hard at all to change it into something else, because it was always this amorphous, shifting, protean thing. I don’t know why I kept the name—that would be a better question, because nobody knew who the hell OCS was anyway, but it just sort of fell into place.

“It started when I brought in a guy named Patrick Mullins. He started playing drums for me. … Then he just started writing with me, and that planted the seed that it could be a full band. Twenty years later, it is what it is now, but we just got stuck with the name. People ask me what the name means, and I have no fucking idea. … I grew to like it. It took me 20 years to get there, though.”

Since 2003, Dwyer’s band has released a whopping 22 albums.

“It’s all I do. I don’t have a job anymore, because this is my job, but I really enjoy it,” Dwyer said. “I’m very lucky to have made this happen. We have slowed down, though. People always throw around the word ‘prolific.’ It’s almost a detrimental tag—prolific, as in these guys put out a ton of garbage.

“The thing is that everybody works at different rates. For a long time, though, with more drug consumption, we were working a lot more. Now that I’ve gotten older, we spend a little more time, and there’s more of a cooperative element to the songwriting process. It’s takes a little longer, because I’m not alone writing. I prefer it this way, because it’s more fun, and it makes it more diverse.”

Dwyer said he rarely encounters writer’s block; instead, he distances himself from projects when he begins to struggle. He cited a solo project under yet another name, Damaged Bug, as an example.

“I’ve been working on a new Damaged Bug record for about two years now, which is pretty unusual for me, but it’s not so much writer’s block,” he said. “I’ve written 30 to 40 songs, but they’re just not done, so I’ve taken a break and switched gears onto a different project. It’s important to take breaks. Our band takes breaks from each other for vacations or for other side projects, and then we come back.”

Dwyer said he’s constantly on the lookout for bands to add to Castle Face Records.

“I always try to watch every band I play with,” he said. “Before I had the label, I always watched for bands to play with, write with or just meet. I have the easy job at the label. There’s a guy named Matt Jones who’s my partner at the label, a 50-50 kind of deal, and he does a lot of the heavy lifting with the bureaucracy of it—all the bullshit that I don’t want to deal with. I have the job of going around the world, playing shows and meeting bands. People send me shit all time, and we go through demos. I listen to everything people send us.”

One of the bigger names on the label is Ty Segall, who just performed at Coachella.

“Me and Ty are very good friends, but I don’t see any collaborations happening in the future,” Dwyer said. “If anything, I would provoke him to play further out into black space. … That dude is on his own trip—heavily. I do love his collaboration with Tim Presley, though.”

Oh Sees will perform with Earth Girl Helen Brown and DYNASTY HANDBAG at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $30-$35, but are currently listed as sold out. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Captain Ghost, a four-piece alternative-rock band, is a growing presence in the Coachella Valley music scene thanks to the group’s powerful anthems and ballads—plus its political and perhaps even conspiratorial lyrics.

And then there’s that intriguing name. I sat down to talk with Bradley Burton (songwriter/vocals/rhythm guitar), Nick Hales (lead guitar), Mikey Hendricks (bass guitar) and Corwin Hendricks (drums).

“I took a sheet of paper and wrote down names that came to mind. I had some really good ones, but they were all taken—pretty much every one,” Burton said. “Captain Ghost was one of the first things I wrote down. I didn’t really like it at first, but when I found out there were no other bands named Captain Ghost, I thought it was kinda cool.

“Coincidentally, there is a book from the ’50s called Captain Ghost, which I’d love to read now. One of my first choices for a name was ‘The Promised Software.’”

Mikey Hendricks said the band’s power and exuberant stage presence have been helpful in growing a fan base.

“The big thing about playing live shows, especially out here in this tight-knit community, is to just make it fun,” Hendricks said. “Back in high school, I was in a band playing house shows and generator parties in the middle of the desert, and the big thing was jumping off of amps, swinging guitars around, and making it fun for all of your friends who were there every single weekend. The music doesn’t always hold itself or keep people’s attention, so you just want to make it fun for everyone and keep it interesting.”

Corwin Hendricks added: “The music just has so much energy. It’s hard to not get into it.”

The expression and passion of the music slaps you in the face from the first few verses of the band’s lead single, “Poison Skies.”

“That song pretty much wrote itself when I learned about what was going on in the environment, and the plans that all these scientists have to combat global warming,” Burton said. “Their techniques kinda frustrated me—raining all these metals down. To know that some of these metals are neurotoxins, and watching my kids go outside and play knowing this stuff is coming down just pissed me off.”

Why was “Poison Skies” chosen as the band’s first single?

“The deciding factor is I envisioned the video for it,” Mikey Hendricks said. “It’s a dual-concept video with nuclear-era World War II footage, spraying chemicals on plants—basically proof that the government has poisoned us in the past, and suggesting, ‘What makes you think they’re not doing it right now?’ We went out and shot in Sky Valley and slapped free-domain footage of civil-defense videos and duck-and-cover films on top of it.”

The political lyrics continue on second single “Raise the Flag,” while the third single, “True Blue,” is a love ballad.

“I think it’s really important for an artist to have some personal songs. A lot of the topics on songs we’ve talked about are fairly new to me,” Burton said. “I’ve been writing songs for a long time, and they started out as personal and selfish, either about me or about a girl. But as I've grown up and educated myself, they took a turn in the current direction. I don’t always want to be writing about social or political things. It’s actually been an accomplishment for me to get back into personal songwriting. ‘True Blue’ is a song about a relationship where you try to be true—but mixed with some end-times type of flair.”

Burton explained how the band came to be.

“I’m originally from Orange County. My dad and I used to come out here on the weekends to Mission Lakes to play golf and crash golf carts,” Burton said. “In 2002, my dad moved out here, and I ended up moving with him, but I still had a band in OC that I would go back and jam with on the weekends. I was never in a serious band, always just jam or garage bands. … I lived in Vegas for a few years and then moved back to Indio, still writing songs—but I had a family, so that came first. Ever since my first child was on the way, I made it a priority to be a good provider for them.

“After I got a good career, I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do—my passion is music. I went into a studio and did a few songs, then got invited by a friend to play an acoustic show at Plan B. So I went and played a few songs, then stuck around for the band after, which was Upper Class Poverty (which featured Mikey Hendricks on bass, and Corwin Hendricks on drums). I was really impressed by their rhythm section, and after seeing them play, I thought that I needed some guys like that. We hung out that night, and I hit them up on Facebook.”

Hales came on board after the original guitarist left. “I was/am very busy, but once I heard the tracks, I was in,” he said.

Busy is an understatement: Hales is currently part of eight (!) bands, while Burton has a wife and kids.

“Yeah, we only get to practice on Sunday, and I work trade jobs, Brad’s got a Monday through Friday gig, and Corwin works weekends,” Hales said.

Mikey Hendricks added: “You have to keep the money flowing in so you can keep buying strings. We’d really love for this to be full time and have it be able to support all of us. It’s not really hard for us to be doing what we’re doing right now, because we love what we’re doing. Our upcoming album and release show will hopefully spark things to go further.”

Mikey Hendricks elaborated on the band’s plan of attack.

“Our immediate future is releasing our full-length album on Aug. 17, which will feature Nick Hales’ mandolin debut, with a release show at The Hood that night. We’re then following that with a tour. This upcoming season, we hope to play a lot more shows and create more music for the next album.”

Hales summed up the plan: “Today, the valley. Tomorrow, the world.”

Captain Ghost will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on the band, visit captainghost.com.

The Regrettes have in youth achieved what most musicians spend their entire lives trying to achieve.

The band, which has more than 250,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, earlier this year completed a European stadium tour. Debut album Feel Your Feelings Fool! achieved critical acclaim in 2017, and follow-up How Do You Love? is scheduled for an Aug. 9 release.

The four young adults in the Los Angeles-based punk/alternative-rock band are creating the soundtrack for the lives of teenagers everywhere—and the band will be kicking off its latest U.S. tour on Friday, July 19, at all-ages Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

Frontwoman Lydia Night talked about opening for Twenty One Pilots during a European tour earlier this year.

“That was an insane experience, something that I never would predict to happen so soon, or just at all,” Night said. “Playing in front of that many people is something that you can’t really prepare for. (Opening for) a band that size, you just don’t know what’s coming at all. You just have to hop in with both feet and hope for the best, just go for it, and learn from experience with each show. … To see all of that was so exciting and inspiring.”

The Regrettes did not have a lot of time to prepare.

“The craziest thing about that tour was that we found out we were going on it six days before it started, so that was pretty fucking nuts,” Night said.

The band is starting off its tour in Pioneertown, in part because Night has a lot of personal experience at Pappy and Harriet’s.

“Pappy’s is somewhere I actually started doing open mics at, when I was 9 or 10, really young,” she said. “My dad owns a hotel out there, and Joshua Tree has been a big part of my life as a musician. I remember walking around with a tip jar at Pappy’s after doing open mics and shows on the indoor stage. Playing on the outdoor stage has always been a goal and dream of mine, so the fact that we’re playing there is so special to me and really exciting.”

Night is 18 years old; I’m a 17-year-old musician (I also got my start at Pappy and Harriet’s, coincidentally), so I was curious to hear her thoughts on the treatment of younger bands at 21-and-older shows.

“Yeah, it’s so frustrating,” she said. “It hasn’t happened in so long, since we’ve gotten bigger, but in my old band, which was a two-piece, there were a lot of shows we’d play that weren’t all-ages, and they’d be weird about us even being in the venue before playing, which just made no sense to me. We’d have to wait outside or go kill time before the show and be escorted to the stage, always with X’s on our hand.”

One of The Regrettes’ standout tracks, “Seashore,” mentions getting looked down upon because of a young age: “You’re talkin’ to me like I’m dumb / Well I’ve got news; I’ve got a lot to say / There’s nothing you can do to take that away.” Night said she’s learned how to deal with people treating her differently due to her age.

“It used to be something that was just talked about in press or media. People sometimes do, but not nearly as much now,” she said. “It’s more of other bands approaching us or people at venues approaching us. It hasn’t been in-your-face disrespectful, but there’s an underlying tone, because there are three women who are all pretty young. Sometimes people approach us like they’re more knowledgeable about our gear, or about the way a show is run, and we’re like, ‘Actually, we’ve been touring for a very long time. Thank you very much, but we know how to work our amps.’ But honestly, it doesn’t happen too often, and we’re pretty good at avoiding it and standing up for ourselves.”

Many Regrettes songs cover the emotions and insecurities teenagers face; Night said she hopes the songs serve as consolation.

“I just speak on things I know about and am experiencing,” she said. “… I’m just a very honest songwriter, and stuff that’s being talked about in our music is from a truthful place. I think it’s important as an artist to take a stand like that when writing music. … I like doing that, because it lets others know that it’s OK to be confident in those feelings and emotions, whatever they’re going through.”

The band’s three newest singles—“I Dare You,” “Pumpkin” and “Dress Up”—offer more of an alternative-rock feel, in contrast to the punk-heavy songs on Feel Your Feelings Fool! Night said to expect more of this on How Do You Love?

“It’s more of a mix of Blondie/’80s pop meets early Strokes meets Regrettes,” she said.

The Regrettes will perform with Hot Flash Heat Wave at 9 p.m., Friday July 19, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.