CVIndependent

Tue12102019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

It’s become a fantastic tradition for local bands to perform at Coachella, and this year, three local groups got their moment in the spotlight—or, rather, moments in the Gobi Tent.

Kayves, a Tachevah finalist, played on Friday. The Yip Yops, which played a set to a packed house at The Hood Bar and Pizza with the Flusters in between the two Coachella weekends, performed on Saturday. And Ocho Ojos, a psychedelic cumbia band hailing from the East Valley, played on Sunday.

There are numerous benefits for a local band to play at Coachella. Some members of the local bands who have played Coachella in the past have told me about the ability to engage with the bigger names and get advice, or be put in touch with producers or people who they should work with. The exposure alone can help newer bands.

To some Kayves members, this year actually marked a return to Coachella. Nick Hernandez (vocals, guitar) is the former front man of CIVX, a 2014 selection, while Danny Gonzalez (guitar) played at the festival in 2015 with Alchemy. After their Weekend 2 performance on Friday, Hernandez, guitarist Oscar Rico and drummer Adrian Romero stopped by the press tent.

“It still felt like the first time,” Hernandez said about Kayves’ 2017 Coachella shows. “It’s a big stage, and we’re used to playing smaller venues. The thing that was better this time around is that we got to play it twice. … When we played the whole set live (on Weekend 1), we knew about the adjustments we were going to do for the second weekend. That’s why the second weekend was better.”‘

Unlike CIVX in 2014, Kayves has songs on some streaming services—and the band definitely saw a Coachella bump.

“We got 100 more followers in a day or two,” Romero said.

Still, Kayves only has self-recorded material out—something Rico said the band plans to change soon.

“We’re going to go back into the studio and do everything properly and go from there,” he said.

Given Kayves includes members from both the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, the Coachella gigs meant some early mornings for the band.

“It’s really hard for us to get together, Romero said. “Today, we had to practice at 5 in the morning, because we came from Los Angeles, and it’s been a long day.”‘


For the Yip Yops, a Coachella appearance seemed long overdue. After the band’s Saturday performance in the Gobi Tent, the members said they felt as if they weren’t a “young band playing Coachella” or the “local band playing Coachella,” but simply a band playing Coachella.

“We don’t feel this is the last time we’ll be playing Coachella,” keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield said.

Yip Yops front man Ison Van Winkle said playing at Coachella has always been a goal for the band.

“Especially living here, it makes it that much more substantial,” he said. “But it’s not a peak, and it’s not the end. We’re not just going to break up after this.

Bassist Jacob Gutierrez told me the Coachella appearances have given the band chances to network behind the scenes. In fact, during Weekend 1, Van Winkle’s father, Tony, sent me a text message saying the band was hobnobbing with musicians such as the members of Local Natives and Father John Misty.

“We had a lot of things in the works, but this really helps to solidify us as musicians, and it gives us a platform to reach out to as many people as possible,” Gutierrez said. “It’s going to open a lot of doors for us.”

Brossfield agreed.

“During these two weekends, we’re not just partying it up,” Brossfield said. “We’re taking ourselves seriously, and we’re on the job. This is a huge platform to use to launch yourself with.”


Ocho Ojos is a new band—one that had not yet really made my radar screen before Coachella. On Sunday, when they stopped by the press tent, guitarist Cesar Flores and keyboardist Danny Torres told me the history of their band.

“We’ve been around since October 2016,” Flores said. “We formed when I was asked to play this cumbia dance party. One of my friends was organizing the event and asked me if I could play. I agreed, and at that time through social media—I wanted to have a jam at my house—I asked if anyone was willing to jam, and Danny hit me up. He was very good at communicating, so we clicked right away. It was easy to get together and write music.”

Torres said he and Flores didn’t set out to start a band right away.

“We have good chemistry,” Torres said. “It very natural, and it wasn’t like we set out to start a band. We continued to play together and liked what was coming out.”

They didn’t think that a Coachella appearance would happen so soon.

“We envisioned it at one point,” Flores said. “We thought that maybe it would happen if we wrote and really worked hard. We knew that Coachella has had local bands for opening slots, and we didn’t think it would happen this quickly. We were excited and super happy.”

The style of music Ocho Ojos plays is not heard a lot in the valley. Torres said they feel that’s a good thing—because it helps them stand out.

“Our style, psychedelic cumbia, it is really what set us apart from the beginning,” he said. “As soon as we came into the music scene, playing backyard shows and venues here in the valley—and our scene is mostly rock and punk bands—I guess we’re very different in comparison.

Thanks to Coachella, people in the rest of the Coachella Valley music world—and beyond—now know about Ocho Ojos.

“It definitely put us on a platform and got us a whole lot more exposure,” Flores said. “We’re going to get more serious and publish some of our music, so we can solidify the sound we have. We’re definitely going to work on new material as well.”

The members of the Yip Yops spent much of last summer holed up in their Palm Desert practice space, writing new material and honing their skills.

Turns out all of that work paid off: This summer, the Yip Yops have spent much of their time recording with producer Ronnie King at his studio, Chateau Relaxo, in Thermal—thanks to a recently signed a record contract.

I arrived at Chateau Relaxo on a recent Saturday afternoon just as Mari Brossfield (right), the newest Yip Yop, was getting ready to record her vocals for a song called “Straw Dogs.” Through a handful of takes, her vocals kept sounding better and better. Alvin Taylor, producer and a local drummer who has performed with Elton John, Eric Burdon and Sly and the Family Stone, was also present, and tutored Brossfield on where her vocals fell flat a couple of times.

The Yip Yops have certainly come a long way. The band earned a slot at the Coachella-affiliated Tachevah Block Party in 2014, before spending much of last summer in their practice space. After the Yip Yops re-emerged, the group won the Battle of the Bands at the Date Festival back in February.

Then came the biggest accomplishment of all: In May, the Yip Yops signed with Hood and Associates, a talent-management group and record label headed up by Randy Hood and hip-hop artist Ditch.

Soon after, the band made up of four local teens was recording with Ronnie King, a man who has worked with Mariah Carey, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Rancid, Pennywise and many others.

At this rate, who knows where the Yip Yops will be next summer?

Ison Van Winkle, the band’s guitarist and front man, said recording sessions have been going well.

“There haven’t really been any challenges so far,” Van Winkle said. “I think it’s gone pretty smooth, because for the most part, we’re playing the music we’ve been playing for a while now. We have kind of a clear vision as to how the songs should sound before we come in.”

However, Van Winkle said the experience of recording in a studio has led to some tough lessons.

“You can practice it one way in the studio, and it sounds phenomenal, and then recording in the studio, everything is magnified times 10. You have to change and maneuver around it,” he said.

Drummer Ross Murakami agreed.

“We’ve learned from some mistakes early on,” he said. “But I wouldn’t really say they’re mistakes, just ways to do things better. When we come back to the studio, there will be a different approach, especially for my drumming. I’ll do some programming and have a personalized click going that will make my recording a lot smoother.”

Ronnie King has been a good fit for the band. His studio in Thermal is also a perfect location for the band members, because it means they don’t need to make the trek to Los Angeles to record.

“He was the first person that the label brought to us, and we heard a lot of great things about him,” Van Winkle said. “We met up with him, and things just sort of clicked. We didn’t really see the need to find anybody else. It’s nice to have someone this good, this close.”

King’s studio in Thermal is on a date farm. There’s a swimming pool, a tennis court and a basketball court.

“If you get really stressed out, and you’re over-thinking things, you can just step outside,” said Jacob Gutierrez, the band’s bassist. “The name that Ronnie has given it fits perfectly: Chateau Relaxo.”

Murakami agreed. “You’ve got a tennis court; you have a pool—and there’s a cute little wiener dog to play with.”

King said it’s been rewarding to work with the Yip Yops.

“This project is interesting for me, because I grew up here in Indio; I was born and raised in Indio,” King said. “I left the desert 20 years ago. Ever since I came back, I’ve been really into the local music scene. It’s something that’s starting to gravitate, and it’s even starting to gravitate toward the studio here.

“It’s kind of a weird thing, because I heard about the Yip Yops … through Alvin Taylor. I’ve known this guy for years who works at their label, and he called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign this band, the Yip Yops, to a deal, and they live in the Coachella Valley, and I know you have a studio out there.’ After I went and saw them, I said, ‘This is going to work!’ It’s not a crapshoot, and it’s not just a band off the street looking for a miracle. We have big executives and big financing behind this thing, and there’s nothing left to the imagination—it’s a business deal. … Their dream gets to come true, so it’s been a fantastic time working with them.”


This wildly successful year for the Yip Yops has also included a big change: The three-piece group became a four-piece, thanks to the addition guitarist/keyboardist Mari Brossfield.

“Last summer, I wasn’t even a full-fledged member of the band,” Brossfield said. “I didn’t even know I’d be recording with them. I met Addison (Ison) through our guitar teacher, and I was singing, and Addison was also playing, and he heard my voice and asked me to try singing this song called ‘Sugar.’ It just kind of took off from there—and here we are.”

The other members refer to her as the missing piece of the puzzle.

“Before, it was just kind of a guitar, bass and drums kind of thing,” Van Winkle said. “But then when we brought in Mari, we were able to add a whole new element of keyboards, which is a huge part of the band. Then a female vocal on top of that—it takes it up another notch. She really helps shape the band.”

There’s a fascinating story as to how the Yip Yops encountered Hood and Associates—involving a chance encounter with CEO Randy Hood.

“Jacob and I were leaving Coachella in 2014. We were in the car getting out of the parking lot, and this guy knocks on my car window,” Murakami said. “He’s like, ‘Want to make $100 and give me a ride to my hotel? We drive him to the Hyatt. In the car, we’re showing him our ‘Oduya’ music video, not thinking anything about him or who he is. We were just trying to spread the name, and we’re showing him the music video on a phone, and he immediately came up with some ideas with what he’d want to do with this. He called us three or four months later, and he wanted to schedule a meeting.”

Gutierrez said he still has problems believing this chance encounter happened. “The funny thing is we met this guy driving out of Coachella. We completely forgot about this guy, and all of a sudden, we get this call about meeting up with his manager, because they want to put us on their record label. It’s mind-boggling how that happened.”

But … did Murakami get the $100?

“I did!” he said with a laugh.


After Randy Hood spoke to Ison Van Winkle’s ever-supportive father, Tony Van Winkle, Tony was eventually put in touch with hip-hop artist Ditch, who also works for the label.

“He had some things he was doing, and he was trying to find a way to fit the band into it,” Tony Van Winkle said. “It was a couple of TV pilots and things like that, and trying to see how to incorporate the band, and then after several conversations, it sort of went cold.

“Then back in October, I got a text from him saying, ‘A manager friend of mine is going to be reaching out to you.’ I got a phone call from Ditch, and he said, ‘Hey, we put something together to meet the band.’ He said, ‘If you can bring your equipment, we’d like to rent a studio and hear you play live.’ (The band) did a 45-minute set with Ditch, and the comment I think I remember from Ditch is, ‘I hear 20 bands when I hear you guys perform, and you don’t sound like any of them.’

“Eventually, that led to a proposal, which led to a contract.”

Ditch explained what Hood and Associates does, and what attracted him to the Yip Yops.

“It’s basically everything under one roof,” Ditch said about Hood and Associates. “It’s a modern-day label: distribution, production, artist development, PR and marketing. We spent a lot of time looking for talent and auditions. We’ve gone through every online band you can think of, and we even tried some of them out live. We didn’t find anything. There was nothing innovative and nothing really current; it’s a copy of a copy. We didn’t find anything interesting enough to invest a large amount of money into.

That is, until that chance encounter happened between Randy Hood and his young Coachella drivers.

“(Hood) showed me this music video of these kids he met at Coachella, and they’re in a garage, and there are garbage bags all over the wall. He’s like, ‘Go check them out live,’” Ditch said. “I came out and checked them out at their rehearsal house a few times, and I said, ‘You know what? These guys really have some potential here.’ They were different; their energy was different; their attitude was different; and they all worked well together. It took from January until May to us for them to actually sign them.”

Hood and Associates is deeply invested in the Yip Yops and has goals in mind for the group.

“Randy’s goal and my goal is to get a hit song,” Ditch said, “whatever we have to fuse together to make a hit record—because in this day and age, it’s extremely hard to do that. We’d also like to get the band to work with Skrillex, and we’re heavily in talks with him and his team, and (we want to work) with him or Diplo to get a song to bring us into that festival market. There are some other collaborations we’d like to do, and we’re in the position of where we hope we can do that for them.”

Alvin Taylor said the band’s potential is off the charts.

“I see a real hunger, thirst and desire for them to be the best that they can be,” Taylor said. “I like the quality they have as young people who are very innovative, creative and open-minded. They’re one of the best bands in America I’ve ever seen or heard. Believe me, I’ve heard and listened to a lot of bands. I’m not bragging, but I have 57 gold records and 28 platinum records to my credit, and to be able to take the experience I’ve had working with those groups and bring it to working with these guys—it’s amazing to see how they’re like sponges, and they soak up everything.

“The lyrics are great; the music is great; and the musicianship is at a high, mastering skill. I’m excited to be working with them.”

Stay tuned.

Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald

The Yip Yops won a coveted slot at the Coachella-related Tachevah block party back in April.

And then, the three teens seemingly disappeared, save a few shows here and there. Turns out they’ve had quite a summer vacation.

The band recently invited me to frontman Addison Van Winkle’s home in Palm Desert. The band practices in the pool house behind the Van Winkle family home—and these are the nicest digs I’ve seen any local band have for a practice space.

There’s air conditioning. There’s nice carpet, couches and top-of-the-line equipment, featuring brand names like Fender and Gibson.

The band played two new songs for me; Van Winkle’s father, Tony, played the keyboards on one of them. Van Winkle’s vocals are somewhat similar to those of late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, and the band’s sound hints at ’80s alternative—but with an experimental touch that is not typically heard in music today. Van Winkle, 15, looks as if he’s in another world as he sways along, playing his guitar and singing. Ross Murakami, 18, the group’s drummer, is a hard-hitter with impressive skills, and bassist Jacob Gutierrez, 15, gives offbeat songs even more of a personality.

Van Winkle said Murakami offered him the primary motivation for starting the band.

“On a random day, we got asked by a family friend to come over, because their band was playing,” Van Winkle said. “It just happened to be Ross’ old band. I went over there, and I was the shy guy, kind of like a turtle, sitting there and not saying anything. When we were sitting there, my dad looked over at me and said, ‘It’s incredible how hard that drummer hits!’ You couldn’t take your eyes off of it.”

Van Winkle, a La Quinta High School student (along with Gutierrez), started the Yip Yops about year later.

“It was a week after I broke up with my old band,” Murakami said. “It was weird timing.” He soon became a Yip Yop.

The band won a slot on the Tachevah stage—and the experience inspired them, they said. Gutierrez said he and Murakami zoned out and found a place where they played better.

“When you see everybody responding to what you’re doing, it makes you so much more inspired to play,” Gutierrez said. “… It was so crazy how fast the set went by.”

After Tachevah, the band members at first wanted to play more shows right away, but they instead decided to spend their summer vacation largely under the radar. They’ve practiced for at least several hours almost every day, and Van Winkle has written about 10 new songs, they said.

Where does the dedication come from? Murakami and Gutierrez both pointed to Van Winkle.

“A lot of the latest songs, I’ve been programming on my computer,” Van Winkle said. “I’m in here constantly, until 3 in the morning sometimes.”

Murakami attested to that fact. “I bet most of the time, when Jacob and I aren’t here, Addison is here working on a new song.” 

Do they ever wish they could be doing something else—like taking time off and enjoying their summer vacation?

“Sometimes, it gets a little boring,” Gutierrez said. “… It’s funny that my mom told me the other day, ‘This summer has been really entertaining.’ I’ve been at this house a lot. Throughout the week, when she’s at work, I’m at band practice. When she’s off work, she picks me up. When she goes to work, I go to work.”

Murakami, who has already graduated from high school, also works a part-time job at Hot Dog on a Stick in the Westfield Palm Desert.

“I just got promoted to ‘assistant hot-dogger,’” Murakami said with a laugh. “I’m getting a lot more hours, and even with those long hours, I’m still here more than I am at work. I don’t have school in the picture, so the time I don’t spend here is pretty much at work. This is my home away from home, I guess.”

The Yip Yops have been working on new material, but they aren’t interested in recording an album to sell independently. Instead, the band members said—without going into specifics—that they’ve been sharing material with record companies, some of whom have expressed interest.

When it comes to the dream of being career musicians, the Yip Yops have ample support from Addison’s father, Tony Van Winkle.

“When it started out, I looked at it as Addison’s hobby,” Tony Van Winkle said. “As this trio came together, and seeing the talent they have, seeing the way they work together, and the commitment that they have, it didn’t take long to realize that it was more than that. They had a very strategic conversation about where they were going and (their goal of) getting on to the final bill for Tachevah. They set a goal for themselves—and they went out there and did it.

“I’m a bit surprised that they are as committed as they are, but I realize with Addison that he has to do this. It’s something that’s in him. He wants to get it out, and he wants to do this for a living.

For more information on the Yip Yops, visit www.facebook.com/TheYipYops.