Last year, a group of teenagers from La Quinta High School became the talk of the local music scene thanks to their unique brand of instrumental music.
The group known as Instigator participated in CV Weekly’s Battle of the Bands competition, opened for Mondo Generator at The Date Shed, and enjoyed some gigs at The Hood Bar and Pizza. Now the band has a recording—Built to Defy, produced by Throw the Goat guitarist Brian “Puke” Parnell, coming on Friday, May 25. The group will celebrate with a show at The Hood that evening.
I asked Parnell why he wanted to record Instigator.
“When Throw the Goat played with Instigator last year at The Date Shed, and we were both opening for Mondo Generator, I was really blown away by them,” said Parnell. “I was talking to the guys after the show and talking to their parents. I asked them if they had any recordings, and they didn’t. It was something I definitely wanted to do for them, because I wanted to make sure that it sounded right. I knew how to capture the sound already at that point by ear.”
When I first saw the band last year, I loved the fact it was entirely instrumental—despite criticism from the Battle of the Bands judges’ table via House of Broken Promises and Unida guitarist Arthur Seay, who didn’t like the lack of lyrics. Seay will be glad to learn the band has now begun to incorporate lyrics—and the group sounds even better.
During a recent interview with the band members in La Quinta, they said they were embracing the vocals.
“It helps to broaden the dynamic of the entire band, especially with how you have to get a message to your listeners,” said lead guitarist and vocalist Mark Wadlund.
The members’ individual lists of influences make for a strange mix when put together. For starters, all of the members agree that drummer Joe Boomer’s punk and hip-hop influences are a big part of their music.
“They ruined me,” drummer Joe Boomer said about his bandmates with a laugh. “I was on track to being a normal drummer. It was cool, though, because I never felt challenged by school band or marching band, because there’s a lack of creativity. They give you music and expect you to play it. With these guys, I didn’t know how to do what they were doing, so I latched myself onto them and started to learn.”
Rhythm guitarist Jaxson Fischer is influenced by psychedelic rock and blues.
“We’re all individually inspired by different tastes and things, and we incorporate that personally into the way we play,” said Fischer. “Joe is the only person I know who can combine death metal and hip-hop into a song through his drumming. It just works.”
Like most bands, Instigator had problems gaining credibility at first.
“I think we struggled with not being taken seriously for a while,” Boomer said. “I feel like we had to fight for any amount of respect we’ve earned. We had little issues everywhere. At the time, it felt like major setbacks. We had a security guard at a venue not let us into our own show. I think we got to the point where we have a little more respect now—or we just don’t care. We don’t need to worry about impressing people anymore.”
“I think the music speaks for itself,” Wadlund said. “You have to show people what you’ve created. That’s what it’s all about.”
Recently, Instigator played a show at West Hollywood’s legendary Whisky a Go Go—but there was a downside: The band was required to sell a certain number of tickets.
“The pay-to-play thing threw us off,” Boomer said. “Most of the tickets we sold were to friends and family. We obviously couldn’t sell them out there in Los Angeles, so all we could do is sell them to family members.”
“Or to whoever was available on a Thursday night,” added bassist Garrison Calkins with a laugh. “We kind of fed off the four other bands that played. They sneered at us a little bit, but not when we got up and played onstage.”
When it came time to record, the band members’ parents dropped them off at Parnell’s house in Idyllwild for a weekend.
“All he had for us was a couch that only one of us fought for. I brought a cot, and the rest of us slept on the ground,” Calkins said. “Being in the studio was a whole new thing for us. When you’re in there, you have all these monitors surrounding you, and you can hear every little mistake.”
Wadlund said the band’s name is also its mission.
“We literally are all about instigating a movement out here in the valley,” Wadlund said. “Obviously not by starting metal—metal started a long time ago—but we’re about instigating a movement of people. It’s a musical get-together, and it’s an entire music scene, or a huge crowd of people, or meeting new friends at an Instigator show. It just feels inspiring.”
Instigator will perform with Minor Emergency and Frank Eats the Floor at 9 p.m., Friday, May 25, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Instigator, visit www.facebook.com/instigatorofficial.