The members of Burning Bettie have distinctly individual personalities and different musical backgrounds—and all of those differences have served the band well, as it’s become one of the Coachella Valley’s most popular bands.
The group is holding is third “Burning Bday Bash” on Saturday, Aug. 23, with a daytime pool party at The Curve Hotel in Palm Springs, which will include The Hive Minds, Femme A, Synthetix, Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes and others. The party will then move to Bar, also in Palm Springs, with performances by Thr3 Strykes, Spankshaft, Deadend Paradox and, of course, Burning Bettie.
During a recent interview, frontman Giorg Tierez, lead guitarist Frank Michel and drummer Josh Ballard remembered when they were trying to develop bands via Craigslist.
“Giorg had a posting that I originally responded to,” said Michel. “I saw his influences and all that, and saw that they matched up to mine. I thought, ‘All right, well, I think I can work with this.’ I had been searching for months, and I think he had been posting for a while as well. So I called him up; we talked and set up a practice—and we already had a couple of songs that day.”
Tierez had previously met Ballard, also through Craigslist.
“I had known Josh a year prior, because I had responded to one of his Craigslist ads,” Tierez said with a laugh. “He wanted to put together a comedy rock band, like Tenacious D, Adam Sandler, and that kind of rock stuff. I like that stuff, and no matter what anyone says, they’re awesome musicians. We got together one time, and it was kind of weird. He brought this keyboard-player, and I had a guitar-player. It didn’t work out, and I didn’t talk to him for a year, basically.”
Tierez and Michel reached out to Ballard and soon picked up Shawn Fisher (bass). The rest, as they say, is history.
Each of the members, led by Tierez (rhythm guitar and vocals), can play multiple instruments. Tierez mentioned that Michel’s college education at Riverside Community College was based in music.
“Frank started off as a percussionist, which is amazing, because he plays guitar like a fucking maniac—but he’s really good at drumming, too,” Tierez said.
Michel explained how he became such a gifted multi-instrumentalist.
“I went to school and studied percussion,” Michel said. “My teachers always expected a career from me in percussion in classical music, Latin music and all that stuff. I think that stuck with me as far as me being a guitar-player now, which is about keeping time on my own.”
After getting to know each other, they agreed on mutual influences such as Led Zeppelin, Sublime, Foo Fighters and Muse. When they each added in their own influences, they come up with a unique sound, with hints of desert rock.
So … what happened to Ballard’s love of comedy rock?
“I keep some of that stuff in my own writing and in a side-project kind of thing,” Ballard said. “With Burning Bettie in the present day, I don’t really do any comedy stuff and have kind of separated it. But it’s not that we don’t like to throw a few laughs together here and there.”
Recently, Tierez moved primarily to vocals when the band brought in James “Hollis” Eaton from Reno, Nev., to take over rhythm-guitar duties. Eaton’s wife and daughter still live in Reno, he said.
“Me and (Ballard) have been in a couple of different bands in the past, and we’ve been best friends for years,” Eaton said. “He shot me over a recording of music they were doing, and I thought, ‘Oh man, I love this music!’ I listened to it all the fucking time, and then they said they were looking for a guitar-player, and I said, ‘Let me try out!’ I came down; we started jamming together; and we started writing songs.”
Hollis said his family has been supportive.
“I miss Reno. My wife and my kid are up there, but they’ve come down, and I’ve gone up there a couple of times,” he said. “It’s a big commitment, but my wife and my kid have said, ‘Hey, go live your dream.’ … If there would have been some kind of bullshit going on in this band musically, she would have said, ‘No, you’re staying here!’ But she believes in the music, and she loves Burning Bettie.”
Not too long ago, Burning Bettie went to Hollywood and played a show at The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip. It was the band’s first appearance outside of the desert, and the members said it’s been their most memorable performance to date.
“You’re right across the street from the Whisky A Go Go,” Michel said. “It almost feels for the moment that you’ve made it—and then afterward, it was, ‘Eh, at least we got out of the desert heat,’” he said with a laugh.
Tierez said the Viper Room show paid instant dividends.
“I thought we did really well, and I got a lot of good feedback,” he said. “Immediately the next day, we got hit up by Whisky A Go Go to do a show there. Obviously, we did something right. We aren’t metal, punk or hardcore rock like the other bands were, but a lot of people still liked it.”
The Burning BDay Bash is held around Tierez’ birthday each year and has become a tradition. The first one was held at Tierez’s house in Indio about two months after the band formed, and the event included a pool party. The second bash was held at Schmidy’s Tavern, but this year, the band wanted to return the event to its pool-party roots.
“It started off on my birthday a month and a half after we were a band,” Tierez said about that first event. Dead End Paradox played with us, and F13, which was a reggae band. It was about 70 people at my house in Indio. It wasn’t that big of a house—and it was crazy. The music stopped, and then it turned into a pool party.”
The Burning BDay Bash will be held on Saturday, Aug. 23, at The Curve Hotel, 333 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, from noon to 7 p.m. It will then move to Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook page.