Lance Riebsomer is one of the Coachella Valley’s most active singer-songwriters, probably best known for his old band, Foxy Cleopatra.
More than a year ago, Riebsomer took part of Foxy Cleopatra’s sound and morphed it into a new band called Black Water Gospel, which includes other notable locals such as David Morales (Eevaan Tre and the Show and Foxy Cleopatra), Matt Claborn, Alex Maestas (Robotic Humans) and Dan Dillinger (Bridger, and the Sweat Act).
Black Water Gospel will be throwing an EP release party on Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Big Rock Pub in Indio. The Flusters and Brightener will also be performing.
During a recent interview in Palm Desert over lunch, Riebsomer explained the link between Foxy Cleopatra and Black Water Gospel.
“Black Water Gospel plays some Foxy Cleopatra songs,” Riebsomer said. “Foxy Cleopatra was kind of like a collaboration until my mindset solidified. I kind of wanted to go in my own direction. (Foxy Cleopatra) was something that naturally just disbanded. David (Morales) played bass in Foxy Cleopatra, and now he plays guitar in Black Water Gospel.”
Speaking of Morales: Although he is quite humble, some in the local music scene consider him to be a genius.
“Anybody around town would say that about David. Anybody who is a musician would also say that about David. He plays every instrument; he can flawlessly do any kind of music; he can pick up on any song; and he does a lot of solo stuff around town for extra money,” Riebsomer said. “For me, his talent is like a security blanket. I’ve told him, ‘We can do this, because you’re going to make everything sound really good.’ He’s kind of like George Harrison: He may not have written the songs, but he makes them a lot better. The songs that he does write are good, too. He’s also a kind human being and one of my best friends.
“What’s frustrating is he’s always booked. I’ll be like, ‘C’mon, let’s play this!’ and he’ll say, ‘I’m already booked.’ He probably plays six nights a week, and he really grinds.”
Riebsomer explained how they picked up Matt Claborn; he had been in a post-hardcore band that once played the Vans Warped Tour.
“Dan (Dillinger) left for Austria over the summer after he went through a hard time with his mom passing away and the Sweat Act broke up,” Riebsomer said. “We were still wanting to keep some momentum going while he was gone, so we asked our friend Matt—whom Alex, David and I have known since we were teenagers—to fill in on bass for the few gigs that we had while Dan was in Austria. We had a friend make a music video for us, too. It was funny, because we ended up doing a bunch of stuff while Dan was gone.
“When Dan gets back, he asked us, ‘Am I still in your band?’ and we were like ‘Yeah!’ We decided Matt was a good fit personality-wise, and the record we have recorded has a lot of guitar work in it, so I thought adding Matt as the third guitarist would give me the freedom to be more of a frontman and play less guitar. … It’s the same thing as the Foo Fighters: They have three guitarists, and it works well for them.”
Riebsomer explained what people can expect to be on the EP.
“Everybody knows ‘Alone’ and ‘Downtown,’” he said. “(And there’s) ‘Cleaning Up the Mess,’ which we don’t play very often, but it’s the last song on the EP. It’s kind of this Verve-like ballad. All these songs, I wrote when I moved back to the desert four years ago about somebody who completely broke me. I was trying to figure out the best way to cope with it and trying to not sound emo about it, (but instead write) something eloquent about how I felt, while keeping the rock ’n’ roll aspect of it.”
Riebsomer explained what’s important to him when he writes a song.
“I think first and foremost, it has to be believable,” he said. “There’s a perfect equation of having a song that makes people go, ‘Oh, that’s cool; I’d listen to it again.’ I think that in this time in modern music, making it believable is lost, and trying to pump out something that’s going to make money and pleasant to hear is more important.”
I asked Riebsomer about his favorite desert songwriters.
“I would say as far as songwriting goes and structure of the songs that I relate to, Will Sturgeon of Brightener (is a favorite), especially for his age,” he said. “Some of the songs off of his album Hummingbird caught me in the moment. He’s a fantastic songwriter. That’s why I asked Brightener to play this show. The style of Brightener is what I would describe as “innocent.” (The members of) Brightener aren’t as rock as other people, but I love Will’s music. He’s done more than a lot of musicians out here have done. He’s played Coachella; he’s played really big gigs in Los Angeles; and he’s had his music played on MTV, but he doesn’t really talk about that, and he’s so humble about it.”
Originally, the band thought about doing an EP-release show at The Hood Bar and Pizza, but the members decided to take it to the Big Rock Pub instead.
“We wanted to do something different,” he said. “We played the Big Rock Pub before, and we had a good experience. They’ve given David and me work on Sunday mornings, too. I was there recently, and they had some rock band that was playing ’90s nostalgia kind of stuff, but the sound was really good.”
Black Water Gospel will perform with The Flusters and Brightener at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 18, at Big Rock Pub, 79940 Westward Ho Drive, in Indio. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/BlackWaterGospel.