The Come Up’s Best of the Scene 2019

Written by Isaiah Wilson & Riley McShane

2019 was a huge year for the local scene, with a strong slate of releases from newcomers and stalwarts alike. We’ve narrowed it down to 10 of our favorites, in no particular order. This list does not capture all of the great music that came out of San Jose this year, which makes us incredibly excited for what is to come in 2020!

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Peach Tree Rascals – Plus, Summa, Mariposa, and Mango

The immensely talented south bay collective only released one song at a time this year, but each one felt like an event. Starting with February’s sweet & mellow “Plus”, the group churned out 3 of the year’s most memorable singles between July and October. The strongest of the batch is Mariposa, a propulsive end-of-summer anthem about letting one’s true colors shine through insecurities. The accompanying music video is a goregeous demonstration of the growth of PTR’s visual brand. 

The group garnered some attention from Ones to Watch, NME, and other outlets this year, signaling the next phase of their meteoric rise in 2020.

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Knowmadic – Departure

Perhaps no figure in the scene was as deserving of some time off this year than SJ’s most prolific beatmaker. After 7 releases in 2018, this year was somewhat quieter for Knowmadic, but the 3 we got were nothing short of phenomenal. Not wasting any time with January’s unforgettable single “Faces”, he followed with the lush 5-track Drifting in the spring and Depature at the close of summer. Collectively, Knowmadic’s output this year is some of the best in the beatmaker’s young career, and reinforced his position as one of the city’s most singular and important artistic visionaries.

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Ian Santillano – 1856

One of the most long-awaited projects on this list, 1856 was as confident and emotionally resonant a debut as we could have hoped for from the multi-hyphenate known as Ian Santillano. Compact and sonically rich, 1856 shows off Santillano’s musical chops and inventive production style on tracks such as “Luv” and “Do You” but also opened an avenue for the artist to discuss the difficulty of losing his father at a young age. It was the balance between authentic vulnerability and outright fun that made this project so memorable.  

The release show for 1856 at the Art Boutiki remains one of the Come Up’s favorite memories of the year. Santillano, along with his band The Housewarmers have quickly become one of the must-see live acts in the city. We only hope they don’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

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Planttvibes – Nip it in the Bud

We did already discuss this project at length earlier in the year, but our love for Planttvibes’ (aka Julia Bozzo’s) debut album has not changed. Upon repeated listenings, the quiet, lovelorn beauty of Nip it in the Bud becomes surprisingly expansive; the engine of the album’s distinct sound powered by the timeless timbre of Bozzo’s voice. 

Lucky for us, Planttvibes was not done for the year after Nip it in the Bud. Her single “I Like” released in late June, is a dreamy and impeccably-constructed continuation of what made her debut album work. It also sees the artist opening up considerably, standing on the power of being true to herself.

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Swells & The Lünatics – Moonstruck

This is a special one for us. Back in October 2018, the Come Up reached out to a talented local artist, Austin Avila, about putting a show together for his project “SWELLS”. He did us one better and assembled a band of supremely talented local musicians and the show remains one of our favorites. Fast forward almost 1 year, and that same band set out to make a record. 

Moonstruck arrived at the height of summer, and it was well worth the wait. Impeccably produced and wonderfully original, it signaled the arrival of a powerful force in the San Jose scene. Immediately capitalizing on their release, the boys of Swells & The Lünatics went on to headline our first-ever South by South Bay festival in August and open for Shannon in the Clams in the fall. We have it on good authority that the group is taking a well-earned break while each of its supremely talented members (Austin Avila, Ryan Wall, Mitchell Licata, Kristian Buenconsejo, and Henry Stein) focus on their individual projects. But we’re not worried. They’re a Band, in the truest sense of the word. And we can’t wait to see what’s next.

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William Corduroy- Wilson

After a stream of infectious singles including “Mustard” and “Neutral” Stockton-based William Corduroy proved he can form his various sounds into a cohesive project.Primarily produced and written by Corduroy himself, this project is a groove that perfectly blends the retro pop of Prince with neo-jazz, and more contemporary soul and indie pop. This work is a sonic kaleidoscope that manages to feel fresh and exciting with every listen.

From the washed-out funk anthem “Damnage” to the slow synth-ladened ballad, “Virgin Boi” featuring a rap verse from Solyscott, Wilson is eclectic but not scattered. Every choice feels intentional.

William Corduroy and his band brought down the house at our SanJoChella show and continued to impress the San Jose scene at his own feature during July’s Waxxx Wednesday. We cannot emphasize this enough: listen to Wilson.

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Casey Cope- Dancing

Casey Cope’s Dancing is an act of rebellion. In a landscape of Bay Area hip-hop that can be overly-reliant on contrived production or overdone subject matter, Casey is a breath of fresh air. It is the reason why Cope is one of our favorite live acts, having been featured at our first Sound José show at Garden At The Flea in May.

The album cover itself depicts a jovial Casey in a suit against a magenta background, which perfectly captures the feel of the album. It is a carefree, bubbly project from a carefree artist who still arrives best dressed. With help from producer and partner-in-crime Big Soda, Casey Cope injects the project with his signature clever metaphors and references. Despite Casey’s typical cheekiness, the album feels serious in its fun. Cope is authentic in his upbringing, his sexuality, and the sound he has crafted. This album feels more like an affirmation of self than anything. Casey Cope raps ferociously in a project that feels effortless.

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Mild Monk- Radio Summer

On his Soundcloud, Mild Monk graced us with a few lofi hip-hop beats that are just as immersive and giddy as his other singles this year. These tracks are easygoing instrumentals that embody the grace and execution of a Miyazaki film. Monk creates his own universes with sound and his ventures into beatmaking are another universe we are happy to exist in.

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Dante Escher- Loomer

Loomer is the debut solo project from Dante Escher of the alt-rap collective Barefoot Gen who had an impressive 2019 full of interesting releases. Much like the artist Mauritius Cornelis Escher, Loomer feels like a methodical and surrealist creation that pulls you in.

Dante bravely ventures into the fringe sounds of modern hip hop, layering them over the framework of a pop song. Tracks will have auto-tune harmonies over production that feels like Death Grips then switch the beat into a jazzy sample.

Songs like “Nimbus” take the insane samples and auto tune and allows them to collapse into each other while “Clementine” is a palette cleanser, stripping the sound to mostly guitar, with vocals that build into a truly beautiful piece. If Escher’s release is any indication, Barefoot Gen is an incubator of serious musical talent.

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KIEDA BORDEAUX- Now Keep In Mind That I’m an Artist Vol 2.  

San José transplant Kieda Bordeaux has had a busy year releasing several projects, but Now Keep In Mind That I’m an Artist Vol 2. stands above. Named for an Erykah Badu quote Now Keep In Mind Vol 2. is a soulful piece of black artistry from an individuals comfortable in her talents and willing to stretch into new sounds. Each track has memorable sample-heavy production that is accompanied with Kieda’s mastery of cadence and flow. The production, voice pitched raps, the clever bars, is reminiscent of a TDE project. This project is fun, thoughtful, and challenges the listener to sit in the passenger seat as Kieda takes you for a ride in her work.

Kieda Bordeaux performed tracks from this project and others at our Halloween show this year.  It was her first performance in California and needless to say, she felt the love. Bordeaux is an artist to look out for in 2020. Her releases of 2019 should serve as a challenge to the local rap community to elevate their game.


 

We invite you to listen for yourself! Check out our playlist featuring our favorite local artists below:

 

Why diversity — especially gender diversity — in your local scene matters

Hi all!

We did a piece on the importance of diversity in the DIY music scene. It was featured by none other than The Bay Bridged! We are truly excited and grateful to be featured on a site that does so much to support the music scene in the Bay Area! Follow the link to give it a read!

We believe diversity isn’t just a good thing to aim for, it is necessary to the lifeblood of the DIY scene.

Source: Why diversity — especially gender diversity — in your local scene matters

Making Your Own Come Up: A Guide to Putting on DIY Shows

 

Summer is officially here, which means people all over the Bay Area are looking for ways to  enjoy themselves. Checking out a local music or comedy show is a great way to spend this special season. It is interesting living in San José at a time when so many creatives are putting on shows and events with the intent of helping the local scene thrive. And with people visiting or coming back for Summer break, your show can leave a lasting impression on an individual or the community. 

If you are reading this, you are probably hoping to put a somewhat professional show together. Putting on any show is tricky and an audience can tell the difference between a low-effort show and something truly unique that had some thought, sweat, and love behind it. With about 40 shows under our belts in less than 2 years, we figured we could provide some advice on how to put on your own DIY shows that probably won’t suck. 

1. Set A Date

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First thing is you want to have a small team of people, preferably people with experience in throwing parties, experience in art and design, who have a strong social network, and have good tastes in music. Then set up a date. You want to give yourself at least six weeks to plan out your first show and at least a month to announce it online and to friends. You want to pick a date that doesn’t compete with other events that will eclipse your show (graduations, bigger artists in town, local festivals, or that guy that everyone knows’ birthday party). 

We also recommend having no more than three to four acts for your first show and giving yourself a half hour between sets to space out your show, especially if your show will have bands. In short, your show should be scheduled to be about 4 hours with the expectation that it will run a half hour longer. Stacking too many artists will fatigue your audience and while it can get more people to show up, it makes logistics, set up, and timing a pain in the ass. If you want a super stacked show, have a strong team and some good acts line up. 

 

2. Find A Venue

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And of course, you have to choose a venue. Bars, warehouses, retail spaces, and breweries are open for a music show because it will bring people in on a slower day. A lot of retail spaces or bars have access to music equipment or they have the capital to invest in one. But using someone’s business as a venue means more restrictions on musical content and you have to run a tighter ship with set times in order to please the owners. A shop is more likely to say yes to you putting on a show in their brick-and-mortar if you will put on an event that will bring in a crowd on a slower night of the week. Unfortunately, most slow nights for a business do not land on the weekend, so choose wisely. 

Using a house as a venue tends to mean a looser structure. You don’t have to worry about a band being too hardcore or vulgar, you can charge tickets easier, and the show can progress into a party. That being said, people have to live in the house once your show is over. Just make sure that everyone involved with your show knows how to respect the space, no matter where it is. We know some fellas who were evicted after putting on a show that got out of hand. Just be smart and cautious. 

FY6A1107A photo from a basement show at the 363 House. It’s always a good idea to find a house with people who are invested in putting on events for the community.

3. Book Your Acts

What is a music show without music? Whether it is a rap show, indie rock, blues, EDM, bedroom pop, or Norwegian death metal, you want to have a lineup that excites people and gets them to dance or awkwardly nod their head off-rhythm. The Come Up tests the waters with the genres we will have on the lineup, but overall we will make sure the bands all have some common threads. Whether the acts are all jazz inspired, have indie rock feels, or even sets the same mood, you want to make sure that the crowd doesn’t get turned off by a complete change in musical style. 

There is a 70% chance that if you are reading this, you are a musician or in a band, and you will be part of the lineup. And nothing is wrong with that. But it is important to pick bands that are good, that are fairly reliable, and that will also have an investment in your show. We recommend going to local shows and meeting with bands after their sets or just browsing through Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Spotify to find some good local acts. It is always good to carry extra cables, amps, and equipment in case a band forgets something important. And it is always good to send out an email, dm, or text with all of the show details to every group performing and hold them to that load in and sound check time. If you have some money to pay them, this makes this process easier. 

AND HAVE THE NUMBER OF AT LEAST ONE ARTIST FROM EACH ACT IN CASE THERE IS AN EMERGENCY.

Make sure that you promote the show and band and be a good host wherever you have the show. Remember there is no show without these musicians taking the time out to put on a fun show, so be appreciative and accommodating. Who knows, they may make it big and say good things about you in Pitchfork. 

4. Create a Good Flier

 

 

 

 

With this step also comes the step of creating a name for your show. You can call the show whatever you like, but it’s always a good rule to never take your show title too seriously. You want something catchy and that rolls off the tongue. It’s never a bad idea to throw a pop culture reference or callout to a show  (see SanJoChella)

Once you get that taken care of, create an eye-catching flier. We recommend having one nice image that matches vibe of the show, up to two fonts max should be on the flier, and the text should not fill the page. 

Above are some great examples of eye catching fliers with clear information about the event. Once that flier is done, put them in the local cafes and hangout spots, make a Facebook event, and share it on your social media.

 

5. Set a Vibe

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So you have the date, the venue, the bands, the flier, and you are now promoting your show. Now you have to figure out what kind of atmosphere you want to create for your attendees. What is the stage going to look like? Does the venue look sketchy? What kind of lighting will you use? Will you have someone hosting the show? Is this show about getting hype or is it chill and intimate? Are you going to have party favors? Will there be Glow sticks? Beer? Weed? Pizza? All of these questions are about establishing a tone of the show. 

Setting a vibe is about making sure people feel comfortable and have a good time at your events. It also means ensuring your space is safe and inclusive to all. Besides just being a good thing to strive for, diverse groups bring in more people, which allows you access to more artists and show organizers. 

This all ties into creating a message behind your show (is it just a fun show, a party, or part of a bigger movement?). Remember when promoting the hell out of your show to try to articulate what the overall theme or atmosphere of the show will be. Posting on Instagram, Snapchat, and your Facebook event page is a good way to create hype alone.

And make sure you have a good time, but remember your first priority is sticking to your schedule, making sure everything sounds good, and your performers and audience are enjoying themselves. DIY shows are a lot of fun with the right people, proper plans, creative minds, and good attitude. Below is a video of one of our backyard shows last year, remember to take photos and document the great work you do. Have a fun Summer Everyone!

 

Planttvibes Wows with the Floral Sounds of “Nip it in the Bud”

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Julia Bozzo refers to her recording setup as “janky,” but the term seems to be applied lovingly. Equipped only with the Garageband App on her iPad and the built in microphone of her earbuds, Bozzo records songs as “Planttvibes” within the four walls of her bedroom. She is one of many young musicians taking the simple resources available to them, and defining the genre/aesthetic known as bedroom pop.

The term has picked up a certain connotation within the music world. Some would claim that “bedroom pop” props up shoddy production work on the basis of authenticity and vulnerability. I’m inclined to disagree. The genre has grown to its considerable place in music culture thanks to easily-accessible recording and publishing tools, but the best of the genre is defined by the depth of feeling some artists are able to elicit from their listeners. People respond to something that sounds as if it was made, not flawlessly, but intentionally, and with love.

Planttvibes is elevated above the crowded bedroom pop landscape thanks to Bozzo’s talents as a songwriter. Even in her earlier work, such as 2018’s A Summer in My Dreams EP, she demonstrates a level of poeticism and emotional honesty few would expect from an artist who is just now graduating from high school.

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The idea for Planttvibes’ latest work, the 8-song Nip it in the Bud, “came about gradually,” according to the artist, “[but] from the start, I knew I wanted something natural and ‘floral’ sounding.” Bozzo also set out to evolve from the “soft ukulele girl” sounds that formed her earlier releases, which meant more digital keyboards, lopped samples, “and a bit of guitar, which I suck at.” Humility aside, Nip it in the Bud does have a distinctly rougher edge than the serene, somewhat nostalgic Summer in My Dreams. The new album also features a collaboration with Coltan Fuller on the track “The Sight of You.” Fuller, a young guitar player from Canada and frequent collaborator, brought to Planttvibes’ project, “an awesome new sound which I had been looking for, but couldn’t create myself.”

Any discussion of Plattvibes would be remiss without taking a moment to highlight Bozzo’s voice. It is at once disarming and bewitching; moody one minute and soaring the next. On “I Wonder” her voices dances across the sparse production, wrapped in its own harmonic garments and interjected with slight, spoken asides that gives the impression of Planttvibes figuring the track out as it went along. And the all-too-brief but unforgettable “Maybe” is a nostalgia-filled stunner. Bozzo’s voice floats by, as if on a cloud above a brilliantly sunny day, while underneath there is a sharp thematic tug of longing.

“You don’t have to have to say yes to me if you don’t want to. I won’t take it hard, it’s happened to me before. You don’t have to say yes to me if you don’t want to. I’d understand, it’s not that big a deal to me.” 

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As the album closes with the eponymous “Nip it in the Bud”, Planttvibes strides out into the pleasant sounds of uncertainty. She’s conflicted about a feeling:

“It’s new to me, I can’t decide whether to nip it in the bud or let it grow.”

The song and album end with just three words, a very representative “I don’t know.” One thing, however is certain. If Nip it in the Bud is any indication, Planttvibes still has plenty of room to grow.

As for the future, Bozzo does not have the next musical project in mind. But she is always creating, as a visual artist and a dancer, because “Art, in every form, is a huge part of my life and what I’m most passionate about.” It stands to reason she may be a bit preoccupied by the transitional moment of starting college to dream up a new album, but Bozzo plans to keep at it. She is excited for the artistic endeavors to come, and noted that with a recording studio on campus, she may be able to upgrade from her “janky” setup.

Listen to Nip in in the Bud by Planttvibes via this link.

Socorra Shares Personal and Powerful Video for “Believe”

 

Local legend and friend of the Come Up Socorra released her newest single, “Believe” on February 8th. It’s an incredible song, and a powerful personal statement of optimism. We’re excited to be sharing the music video, which takes a documentary-style look at Socorra and her band in the studio, opening for Blues Traveller at Music in the Park, and performing at previous SoFA Street Fairs.

Socorra is one of the hardest working musicians in the San José scene, and the “Believe” beautifully encapsulates her tireless efforts. We’re so excited to see Socorra’s work paying off for her – check out the video above and see her opening for Fantastic Negrito on Saturday, March 9th. 

It All Started Here: 1 Year of The Come Up

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written by Riley McShane

The Come Up began, as you might expect, at a table outside Cafe Stritch. On Wednesday, October 18th 2017.

I didn’t know Isaiah Wilson that well, but I liked him. We met up and he told me about his idea for a show.

Just one show.

The thought sparked some excited chatter between us, and someone leaned over from the neighboring table. Without so much as introducing himself, he chimed, “what you guys are talking about…I like this. How are we gonna make this happen?”

We.

Leopoldo Macaya was in, without a note of hesitation.

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Above: the photo Leo took for his contact info in my phone, so that I, “could remember what he looked like.” Oct. 18, 2017.

I look back on that night, and it’s hard to describe it without a word like fateful, which feels grandiose. But if not for that moment of sheer coincidence, this whole thing may never have happened.

Certainly not the way it did.

We parted ways that night with a loose framework for our show, under the working title “Orange Sauce Fest.” And you’ll have to forgive us for that one, we were younger then.

Isaiah and I reconvened the following month to pitch an evolved version of the idea at Pitch Please?!, an event sponsored by Exhibition District at Local Color in Downtown San Jose. The purveyors of the best idea, as chosen by a panel of judges, would receive $1,000 to help make it a reality. Our pitch boiled down to a central mission: building a platform for artists in San José to perform, and to be seen.

IMG_0431Notes from the original pitch.

Pitch Please?! became the first of several instances in which a person, organization or business within the greater San Jose community heard the idea of The Come Up, and decided to take a chance on it.

With that $1,000 we had tangible evidence of someone else believing in the idea, and that was all the motivation we needed to turn our scrappy dream into something real.

At Uproar Brewing, The Come Up found its true and original homeland. Against a red-brick backdrop, and with a borrowed sound system we made our debut on Friday February 2nd, 2018. Four musicians, 3 comedians, and 2 bright-eyed, nervous hosts (myself and Isaiah).

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Above: Pictures from the debut. February 2nd, 2018.

The first show was a quiet, albeit significant success. It burgeoned into a monthly showcase of some of the best performers in the area, with the messy-yet-magnetic energy of something new, slowly figuring itself out. Uproar gave us the best start we could have asked for, and helped give The Come Up a visibility that allowed us to tackle new projects: a new performance series at SoFA Market, and the job of curating a stage at SoFA Street Fair. 

Meanwhile, we started to focus more on our visual identity. Guided by Leo’s talents with visual storytelling and incredible eye for capturing live performance, The Come Up began producing high-quality visual content on a regular basis, and cultivating a distinct brand.

 

Above: Some early work from Leo, our Creative Director.

During the first wisps of summer, Leo brought up the idea of a backyard show-slash-barbeque. Being the resident skeptic of the group, I resisted slightly. Anyone who has been in San José long enough knows the complications of trying to do anything as spontaneous and fun as a backyard concert. Oh, just wait til SJPD rolls up. Oh, just wait for those noise complaints, etc.

Fortunately, Isaiah subverted my doubts and introduced us to the good folks at 363.

Cue: someone taking a chance on us.

IMG_2101Above: building the scene at 363.

We had our backyard, but it needed work. Over the first two weeks of July, along with the residents of the house and a group of phenomenal collaborators, we completed the DIY music-scene equivalent of an Amish barn raising. A stage and deck were built. Lights were hung. The whole place was cleared out and prepped for a show.

The night prior, as Isaiah, Leo and I attempted to cook an unfathomable amount of Smart-and-Final ground turkey for tacos, a feeling of dread crept over me.

Are people really gonna show up to this thing?

They did.

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Above: Scenes from the Backyard. Captured by Leopoldo Macaya

The shows at 363 vaulted us into the next stage of The Come Up. Presented with an essentially blank canvas, and together with a community of brilliant and dedicated artists eagerly holding brushes, we painted a gritty and gorgeous portrait of what we’re about, and what is great about San José. We were able to create something simple and powerful: a place to hang out and enjoy music. To meet interesting and like-minded people. For me, 363 is a place to feel just a hint of childlike freedom, the infinite possibility that comes with playing in the backyard. 

FY6A7954.jpgAbove: Joy Hackett and Brandon Walters at the “SJW: San José Winnin” Show. Photo by Leopoldo Macaya.

Coming down the home stretch of 2018, we finally got a chance to catch our breath; to appreciate all that had happened and strategize for the months ahead. And most importantly, to take time and be self-critical. We realized our primary area for growth was inclusivity. Not only in being considerate of who we choose to present on stage, but also how we make ourselves more of an open platform. We, the founding members, have never striven for exclusivity. The Come Up is our baby, and we are overprotective parents. We still need to improve this regard, and it is a process we are very much looking forward to.

FY6A5293.jpgAbove: Kamiko performing at “Sound Scaping” at the San Jose Museum of Art

The start of 2019 has been electric. Sound Scaping, a partnership with SJMADE at the San Jose Museum of Art, was a success beyond what we could have hoped for. A deeply humbling milestone. And only this past week, The Younger Lovers gave an unforgettable performance at Cafe Stritch, right where it all started.

FY6A7789Brontez Purnell of The Younger Lovers. Photo by Leopoldo Macaya.

The founders of The Come Up are forever indebted to those who took a chance on us. This idea was born of a very complex love for San José, and the desire for a way to express it. It’s not always an easy city to pursue your passion in. But the brilliant creative-entrepreneurs who work at it, who see the potential instead of the obstacle, who hold up the light and help others find the way, are a miracle. We’re honored to be a part of this extraordinary time in our city.

There’s more work to be done. We are still on the come up, after all. 

FY6A8188.jpgLeft to right: Leopoldo “Jon Jon” Macaya, Isaiah Wilson, and Riley McShane. Co-Founders of The Come Up.

 

 

The Man Behind The Mulch: A Talk with SJ New-Comer Mitchell

written by Isaiah Wilson

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Mitchell greets me upstairs at Caffe Frascatti with two iced waters, which were much appreciated. Even though it was a cold rainy day, our interview was in the hot, stuffy upper floor of the cafe. He runs back downstairs to grab his hot tea. I recall this is where I first met Mitchell; it was an Open Mic Night at Frascatti and he was playing some acoustic tracks that sounded like a cross between Ty Segall and Bass Drum of Death unplugged. He seems very focused and in good spirits, he has been spending a lot time in the studio working on multiple projects.

When I gave a synopsis of Mitchell’s Canned Worms (Demo) EP for our Best of 2018 list, I noted that the EP sounded like a soundtrack for a night of drinking, skating, and debauchery. So there was a contrast between the conjured up alter-ego that is Mulch and the Mitchell Licata who sat across from me sipping tea and nibbling on a cookie.

Mitchell Licata, who was taken on the pseudonym Mulch, is a musician, songwriter, and graphic designer who currently resides in San Jose. While there are multiple musicians in San Jose creating r&b, hardcore punk, and hip-hop, Mitchell has been churning out garage rock projects, pushing a different sound in the South Bay. Last year, he began putting out slow, easy-going rock songs onto Soundcloud that garnered a decent amount of buzz. Mitchell preceded to drop a surprise EP, Canned Worms, a self-depreciating, aggressive, punk-rock influenced work about a young man dealing with unemployment and maybe a little bit of heartbreak.

Mitchell has touted this as his proper first release and it’s a solid punk project. Before Mulch and Canned Worms, He removed his first few demos off his Soundcloud to rework the songs and polish unintentional sharp edges.  After hearing some positive feedback from the local community, Mitchell felt he could do better as far as the mix was concerned, “There were a few things in the demo that I wasn’t pleased with,” Mitchell admits when deciding to release a studio version of his Canned Worms EP on multiple platforms. “And I feel like I could do [his songs] a little more justice as the first thing I show people.” Mitchell took Canned Worms and rerecorded it at The Cosmic Hippo, a music studio in San Francisco. He was grateful for the recording process. Not only did he receive great resources from a studio space, but he had a co-creator to help bounce ideas during the recording sessions, “It was great to get this wholesome experience of being in a space that I didn’t create myself.” Mitchell added.

Garage punk is the only justifiable name for Mitchell’s music because his first few demos were made in his garage, a makeshift studio and practice space at his house in the Washington-Guadalupe neighborhood in San Jose. “In my garage everything feels like it’s not finished,” Mitchell tells me. “Even if it’s a good mix. It’s just the nature of being in a garage.”  If I am going to remain honest, I am a sucker for unpolished music, especially if it has the rawness that Mitchell displays in his vocals. However, Mitchell has more ambitious views on his final product, “That’s only going to get you so far with limited resources. I can be resources for my friends [with his experience creating a studio project]”

Some of his friends are Swells and The Lunatics a brain child’s of SJ artist Austin Avilla’s, which is made up of  young talented such as John Lord on synths, Anthony Garcia on drums, Ryan Wall on guitar and Mitchell on bass. While Swells’ first projects seemed to be the sole creations of Austin’s, this future project appears to a comprised effort of the collected talents of the Lunatics. They also began working on a studio album in recent weeks. Swells and The Lunatics’ live performances are some of the best performances we have had for The Come Up shows, so we’re looking forward to their album.

The new mixing on Canned Worms improves the project, which was already solid in its demo form. The bass and drums are distinguishable, and the vocals are better mixed within the rest of the songs. The project’s harsh vocals, fuzzy guitar riffs, all complement the rage manifested and articulated in the project.

Mulch is a new moniker for Mitchell and it appears that it is a character meant to embody a more aggressive side of an otherwise chill artist. “I am a fucking slob, I need a fucking job” is the first lines on the EP and acts as the thesis of the project. Mulch feels like Mitchell in a manic frenzy- he is angry at his boss, the world, and himself- and it’s the energy you should expect over the next few songs. A notable refrain in the project describes himself as a worm “Crawling nowhere through the dirt“. Lyrics like this paint the imagery of Mitchell as one of many worms in the can, aimlessly meandering in soil trying to figure out his place.

canned worms

After some listens, you realize how well thought out the EP is. All four songs on Canned Worms were written in the span of a week, inspired by his frustrations at a sub-par job. Feeling under utilized and under appreciated, he channeled his grievances into this project. “It is a feeling of guilt and lack of self-worth” Mitchell says, describing the feeling of unemployment, now currently enjoying his career in graphic design. That nuanced anger is laced on the tracks, something that is beyond a typical tantrum song on a angst punk project. Mitchell seems to be the master of the imagery that can be heard in the lyrics, seen on the lyrics videos he released to complement the release, and on the EP cover art designed by Mitchell himself.  “I was feeling like I was crawling around that I wasn’t succeeding in the way I envisioned myself to do.” Mitchell tells him as he snacks away on a cookie. It’s hard to imagine an artist with this much focus had doubts of his self worth.

My favorite track Give/Take centers around the frustration with his employer. The song is about Mulch feeling like he was giving more than he was receiving with the relationship with his job. As suspected, Mitchell revealed the lyrics are partially inspired by romance. When it comes to the sources of the gritty record, Mitchell says the lines are blurred and up for interpretation. Discussing the song Alright, Mitchell claims  “It’s a push-and-pull where everyone wants to be in-between casual and series all time and that’s a little reflection on that [modern relationships].” Mitchell has the writing style of a story teller who can paint a picture with his musings. It will be fascinating to hear his future projects now that he is in a better place. But based on his previous demos and his overall demeanor, I dont believe he will have to rely heavily on raw rage.

Mitchell’s musical influences include The Growlers, Neil Young, Fuzz, and Ty Segall, artists known to make unique sound while still being nuanced and introspective in their songwriting. Mitchell has spent the past few years searching for a grunge, surf rock sound that mirrored his influences. This led him to explore different genres and places to draw inspiration. Honing in on that sound required Mitchell to listen to work that captured the raw emotion reflected in Canned Worms, such as Minor Threat and The Dead Kennedys. It is that punk-inspired animosity combined with Mitchell’s garage rock swagger that make Canned Worms a unique fun ride for hipsters and Punks alike.

And on a sonic level, Mitchell describes his sound on the EP as “kind of dirty and in the mud.” And it contrasts greatly from his garage rock sound that can be heard on his demos and live performances. There is a through line in Canned Worms’ narrative structure, beyond imagery and sound, that works well in a four song project. That through line is the character of Mulch himself.  Mulch’s Canned Worms is a relatable story that describes a common phase in a young person’s life; you are down on your luck, your romantic life sucks, and you have an axe to grind. Hearing the re-recording process and polishing of a short hard rock record paints a picture of the man behind the Mulch. A matured, thoughtful artist who is meticulous and intentional with his work. It’s digestible enough where it deserves multiple listens.

And this is only the start of Mitchell’s plans for this year. “I want to start establishing shows around here,” Mitchell asserts. He even has a small team to push his new EP with the hopes of securing shows, hopefully Burger Records, a Fullerton-based record label that has established a sound that has been an influence on Mitchell’s sound. “We think that community [Burger Records music community] would really accept and welcome the music… As far as other projects go, I’m already working on another EP, which I plan to release before Summer, and then hopefully a full length by the end of the year. I’m making a list and I have a lot of content I want to share with everybody.” After three years of writing and composing, Mitchell is relieved to have a project he can stand behind. Canned Worms was a genuine push for Mitchell to put something out and he seems impassioned on continuing the forward momentum.

Mitchell’s inspiration for the character Mulch provides insight on Mitchell’s likely trajectory, “The definition of Mulch is a protective layer that allows the nutrients to do there job underneath so it allows it to grow,” he says, “and that took on a different meaning because now I have something on which to build.” Mitchell feels confident that his foundation is laid out and the only move next is growth.

Canned Worms is now available on all platforms.