10 Bay Area Artists You Should Listen To (Right Now!)

The Bay Area is currently exploding with new and interesting musical talent. We put together a list of 10 of our favorites: some you may have heard of, some you probably haven’t!

Vudajé

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Photo Credit: Michael Rubio (@auxchordpapi)

Led by San Jose music veteran Mitchell Luján and a cast of accomplished musicians, Vudajé (a play on déjà vu) have nailed down a smooth and clean R&B sound in the 4-song EP, recorded primarily by Luján. It’s one of the best-produced albums to come out of San José in quite some time. Never ones to sleep on success, Vudajé has followed it up with two stellar singles, a power-pop throwback “Roleplay” and a sinewy, sultry number, “Nosedive.” Already in 2018, the band has been tearing it up in their hometown and beyond, with recent shows at Local Color in SJ and The Depot in SF, not to mention winning the Southwest Airlines – Coca Cola co-sponsored Eats & Beats contest! We were lucky enough to host Vudajé for our very first every Come Up show back in February, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. 

Boy Scouts

Taylor Vick 2018

Photo Credit: Rachel McCord Creative (@rachelmccordcreative)

Boy Scouts is the performing moniker for SF-based singer-songwriter Taylor Vick, who has crafted beautiful and haunting bedroom-folk for the last several years. Vick’s first official boy scouts release was “Homeroom Breakfast” (see link above) in 2016. Having broken down traditional folk song structures and eschewed rhythm section in favor of vocal harmonies and samples, her songs are immediately captivating in their uniqueness. A follow-up 7-song release entitled “Hobby Limit” appeared in September 2017, and most recently a batch of 4 re-worked older songs, “Mood Rings.” Vick has a special talent for taking mundane subject matter: parks, fountains, her plants, etc. and injecting them with a palpable beauty. She will be an exciting artist to watch as boy scouts (now with a full live band) continues to pick up steam. See her at Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club on August 9th. 

The Seshen

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Photo Credit: Afropunk (@afropunk)

It’s almost impossible to call The Seshen up-and-coming at this point, but if you aren’t familiar with this powerhouse six-piece, you owe yourself the education. Led by singer/lyricist Lalin St. Juste and bassist/producer Akiyoshi Ehara, The Seshen carries on the bay area music tradition of building a sound that defies genre by fusing elements of R&B and synth-pop, among others. We got our first introduction to The Seshen at last summer’s San Jose Jazz Summerfest, with their rousing performance at Café Stritch. The group’s popularity has exploded since, having supported acts such as Thundercat, tUnE-yArDs, and Petite Noir, on their way to a headlining date at The Independent on September 1st. Buy a ticket, don’t look back.

Jay Som

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Photo Credit: The Bay Bridged (@thebaybridged)

Walnut Creek-born Melina Duterte picked up her performing moniker, Jay Som, from the same Wu-Tang Name Generator that bestowed “Childish Gambino” on Donald Glover. While their music is considerably different, Jay Som and Gambino share one thing in common: they are busy as hell. Since first turning heads with 2016’s Turn Into (Polyvinly) the band has been on the road A LOT, playing major festivals (including this year’s Panorama in NYC) and supporting everyone from The National to Mitski. Jay Som’s 2017 release, Everybody Works (Polyvinyl), was one of the best of 2017. Period. Spanning intensely intimate (see “(BedHead)”) to youthfully bombastic, (“Everybody Works”), it’s a modern indie masterpiece. We at The Come Up were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Jay Som back in February. The proof was there: Jay Som is on their way to big things!

The Saxophones

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Photo Credit: The Saxophones Bandcamp

Emerging from relative obscurity, this Oakland-based husband/wife duo (Alexi Erenkov and Alison Alderdice) put out a 3-song EP in early 2017, each song a dark slow-burn beauty, particularly the standout “If You’re On The Water” which explores a personal tragedy from Erenkov’s own life. It’s quite remarkable for a group to make such an impression in today’s age by crafting ballads. The duo quickly followed up on their first release with a series of singles, leading to their debut LP Songs of the Saxophones, a gorgeous and timeless collection, flush with woodwinds and Erenkov’s softly heartbreaking vocals front and center. The Saxophones play Peach House Presents’ Daydream Festival in Sacramento August 5th.

EaSWay

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Photo Credit: EaSWay Twitter (@EaSWay)

Born in San Francisco, Easweh Harrison has been making music for an impressively long time considering he’s still only 23. After moving to Los Angeles to attend USC and grow his music career, Easweh became more involved in visual arts, crafting a distinctive style through digital painting and design. According to his self-written Spotify bio, EaSWay’s art, be it musical or visual, “attempts to spark constructive dialogue about about things that go on in the world that may not be discussed in such public spaces.” EaSWay is a socially-engaged emcee, displaying a fully-formed vision on 2017’s The Panther in the Room. In the very opening lines of “Blue Skies”, EaSWay proclaims, “this is a story about a boy, about a quest, for respect and nothing less.” EaSWay certainly has our respect, and our attention.

Dick Stusso

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Photo Credit: Harldy Art Records (@hardlyartrecords)

Who would’ve guessed that such a swaggering, hot-blooded Americana sound would come out of Oakland? Even after his solid debut, “Nashville Dreams/Sings the Blues” on Vacant Stare Records, Stusso hadn’t received much notoriety outside of the Bay. But that is already starting to change, thanks in large part to his powerful and surprisingly moving LP, “In Heaven,” released this time around by Hardly Art Records. The album traipses over the darkened territory of disillusionment, and settling into adulthood, but maintains a half-drunken smirk the whole way through. As a songwriter and storyteller, Stusso now stands next to Sonny Smith as a fixture in the Bay Area scene, and is sauntering into a grander spotlight – catch him at Outside Lands 2018!

Spellling

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Photo Credit: Spellling Bandcamp

Arguably one of the lesser-known artists on this list, Spellling (aka Oakland-based Chrystia Cabral) describes her sound as “Freak Faith Folk” and it could not be more accurate. We have a hard time describing Spellling without simply saying that they are different. Cabral’s first full-length release, Pantheon of Me, was written, performed and produced in her Berkeley apartment, and landed at #4 on Bandcamp’s top albums of 2017. Interestingly enough, Pantheon of Me reminds us of the #1 album from that list, Moses Sumney’s insta-classic Aromanticism. Not to box Cabral and Sumney together, as they each have plenty of distinguishing characteristics, but the music of both artists strikes directly to the listener’s soul thanks to their otherworldly voices and production. Legendary indie label Sacred Bones has noticed Cabral’s undeniable talents, and recently released her 7” Hard to Please b/w My Other Voice. We predict Spellling will soon be in the national music conversation, and we will be all the better for it.

Pardoner

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Photo Credit: Bandcamp Daily

It wouldn’t be a Bay Area music list without the local post-punk band of the moment. And for our money, that is Pardoner. Formed shortly after a hardcore band called “Moms” burned out in 2014, the San Francisco four-piece have forged a remarkable messy-but-it-works sound bolstered by their natural chemistry and a certain jagged sense of humor. Pardoner had been at it for a couple years, playing shows out and around the Bay when they captured the attention of Father/Daughter Records, who released 2017’s Uncontrollable Salvation, cementing Pardoner as a real-deal Bay Area band and garnering them some national attention. See them play alongside Oakland DIY vets Club Night, and Vancouver, BC rockers Jo Passed at Oakland.Secret, September 6th.  

Knowmadic

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Photo Credit: Knowmadic Bandcamp

Prolific San Jose-based beatmaker Knowmadic rounds out our list, having quietly amassed himself quite the online following (his song “Fade” just cracked 8 million streams on Spotify.) A master of the lush lofi sound, Knowmadic has been uber-busy in 2018, with five releases only halfway through the year. This includes Spring Loops, which was produced entirely in one day, and Hydrangea EP, put out earlier this month. We can’t stop listening to the latter, a brilliantly crafted piece of work. We know that Knowmadic is not going to be slowing down anytime soon, so while we’re waiting for the next track or tape to come out, feel free to dive into his already impressive library.

 


Think we missed anybody? Of course we did, but that’s because there’s so much music in the Bay. Please feel free to share your favorite local artist with us via email (sanjosecomeup@gmail.com) or DM (@sjcomeup)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Summer Releases from the SJ Scene

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This has been an amazing Summer of musical releases- from both household names to local acts playing around The Bay. Due to global warming a decent part of my Summer has been indoors listening to local songs from some of my favorite acts until the murderous yellow star of our solar systems takes it’s rest on the horizon on our side of the equator to terrorize China. And seeing how I listen to a lot of local music, here is my current Summer playlist of music coming from SJ.

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Lena Nelson

Track: Fireworks

Release: Fourth of July

As much as I enjoy the more breathy, inventive style of singing brought on by the age of social media artists, there is something refreshing about hearing a track from a strong vocalist who is not perched behind their production or lofi engineering. The first single from Lena Nelson’s Fourth of July is entitled, “Fireworks”. It is a strong r&b number with a smooth jazzy keys over a fast-paced track all produced by Nebulous.

As on the nose as a track entitled, “Fireworks” released on the 4th of July is, Nelson has delivered a very solid R&B performance, which is included on this list only shortly after my first listen. It mirrors a Kehlani song in terms of the final product; its confident, sexy, and easy on the ears. It seems that she performs with a neo soul band, so I’m curious what her other tracks will sound like. It will be exciting to see what direction Nelson decides to venture into.

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Jay Summer

Track: Mania

Release Date: July

I couldn’t have a piece on SJ’s summer of music without the aptly named Jay Summer, the sleeping giant of the San Jose music scene. He has expertly crafted a string of releases starting with February’s excellent, “Clutch Burning” and now, the pulsing fever-dream of “Mania.” Summer’s sound exhibits strong influence from artists such as Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, and Rex Orange County. His songs have a freshly-painted quality that matches his dreamy West-Coast-Livin’ aesthetic, but he also carries some surprisingly weighty social criticism in his sharp lyrics, often musing on the predicament of growing up a small-town New England kid, finding himself in the shiny excess of Silicon Valley.

His first few releases uses motifs of cars and has a cynical take on modern consumerism over summery instrumentals that radiate Channel Orange vibes. Like his influences, he has great vocal range that goes well with his inventive production choices- it is refreshing in a landscape of dreary anti-pop. His r&b takes a more indie rock feel, chords ring through his songs and he uses vocal pitching to deceive the listeners.

The Come Up has enjoyed his releases, even using one of them for our last video bump for a show.

His newest single Mania is probably his most promising release- and I think he knows it. A droning vocal plays throughout that sounds like Thom Yorke’s end to “Daydreaming”. It seems that he is tapping into a abstract sound with his r&b, edging into Jame’s Blake quirky-engineering territory. Mania feels like a down spiral- a song of decadent brand-laden lifestyle, combined with religious allusions to lands of milk and honey and praises to the most high. It seems Jay Summer has found his sound just in time for July.

I’m not sure of the end result of these releases- whether he is going to drop a full ep, album or visual component- but we’re enjoying this series of songs.

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Kylah Symone

Track: How does that sound

Release: July

Kylah Symone is probably one of the most promising rappers in the city, even standing out among her peers of SJ Hip-Hop collective, TankShit. She has proven it over the past years under her former alias KB Howard. Her flow is dope, her writing and handling of any instrumental is impressive. She varies from classical hip-hop, emotionally heartbroken tracks, to tracks “How does that sound” which is less about the lyrics and more so showing her ability to flow on a beat.

Dreamawake’s production on the track is great as always. A booming bass plays over a bombastic trap beat. “I had to work on my worth” Symone raps over the production, her flow fast paced and hungry. The song feels like a triumphant return to form and the SJ rap commnity is hype about it. It seems like Symone is reinventing her style under this new name. I’m excited to see if this solid start leads to new releases of the same style, or if Symone decides to surprise us…again.

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Young Tsukune

Track: Weed and Shorty

Release: July

Young Tsukune played for The Come Up 3 show and he enthralled our entire audience that night. Seeing his incredibly soft voice come from such a quiet and timid person reminded me of watching my first Spooky Black video. His music tends to be bubbly and fun, even when it centers around heartbreak and headaches. This track serves as a balance of his handling of cadence and flow and demonstrates how his voice can make a crowd melt.

Because artists love being compared to contemporaries, I would say Tsukune combines the new age trap pop sound of Lil Yatchy or Uzi, with lofi beats and cloud pop vocals similar to Shiloh Dynasty. Because he has been performing for a long time as a rapper, Tsukune has a better grasp of his breath and delivery, giving him one of the most unique sounds in San Jose. This puts him ahead of the curve of a new genre of rap associated with less- how to say- production-dependent acts. While producer, Dream awake and Young Tsukune are a match made in heaven, his androgynous voice blends well with this guitar laden lofi track.

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Mitchell

Track: Every Devil’s Got His Angel

Release: July

Riley introduced us to Mitchell over the weekend. Hailing from San Jose, Mitchell’s demo releases a garage rock sound that coalesces blues with the modern garage rock sound. It has the feel of a new-age lofi rock, but if you were to strip the psychedelic effects and production. San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County have a kinship of this sound molded from acts like Sic Alps, Ty Segall, and The Oh Sees. Mitchell takes these garage rock sounds and adds a more bluesy feel to tracks. It feels a bit cinematic because he lets the instrumentals fill the song versus layering them with pedals and vocal effects.

For demos, these feel like fully realized songs, especially “Devil Feels Like An Angel”. It bounces to slow burn and hits a chorus that reminds the listener of Mitchell’s more pop sensibilities.  I have a feeling Mitchell and others will help grow the garage rock sound to the SJ music scene. And eventually they will be performing at shows that will attract all sorts of fans- aging hipsters who drink quadruple IPAs and 15 years old who wear cuffed mom jeans and smoke Marlboro Reds.

Artist: Matinee Global

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Track: Adna Kaw

Released: June

Adna Kaw feels like a colossal project, it could be the various genre blending, it could be the pacing, or the credits on the song. A bit of recent trend for reasons I don’t know, but people are into having large teams of people to create projects. This is important for reasons I will cover in my next piece. But Adna Kaw -Which is Wakanda backwards- is a well versed ride that goes into dark alt-hip hop production to a slower alternative rock break. The execution seems a bit forced at points, but the racially tense vibes over percussion that have an African trap feel make up for the change switch ups that occur.

It feels like Matinee Global plans on making waves in San Jose- possibly by the end of Summer time. We will see what comes of this.

Like our list? Good, go follow the links and support these SJ artists. Hate our list? Well what are you doing here then?

Do you feel like your friend or loved has been wrongly robbed from their spot on the playlist? Submit your work, so we can give it a listen. Riley is writing a list of some of his favorite bands, so be on the lookout for that. Until then, keep your ear local.

And be sure to see our show August 4th at Uproar Brewing.

Of Self and Faith: A Talk with Dima and The Good Company

 

written by Isaiah Wilson

photography by Leopoldo Macaya 

Memorial Park has sort of an abandoned vibe to it. A beautiful park, spacious and covered with arid canals and pools without a pool. Once again for an interview, I am pleasantly in the midst of a full band setting up to perform when I was expecting just a photo shoot and conversation. It’s the opposite of Eastern Western’s performance- which was in a confined space between racks of kitchenware and tools. We interviewed and shot Dima and The Good Company in the center of a park, on what appears to be a stage with exposed outlets pushed off into the foliage and wood chips. The band mates are ordering pizza before they decide to perform, debating on what to order. They felt like the only source of life in an arid park.

It’s a unique space for a musical performances and has a charm to it even for the windy, unloving evening we decided to shoot and interview. I had to assume someone in the band had some type of warm connection to the park. Vocalist Dima tells me that drummer Shawn and keyboardist Matei use to post up and jam out playing jazz music for fun.  Pursuing her studies as a Psychics major, Dima mentioned how she would spend breaks hanging at the park on the hill. “I was just spend my time just reflecting,” she says, “asking ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’” Apprehensive about what she wanted to do, she took a break from school and doubled down on her pursuit of music. Through connecting with drummer Shawn Tran, Dima began performing shows with a group of fellow talented, young musicians named The Good Company.

 

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Dima and the Good Company are a local r&b/jazz band based in San Jose. She performs vocals with guitarist Thomas, drummer Shawn, bassist Matteo, and keyboardist Matei. Dima is the oldest, turning 20 today, and the rest of the band is 19 with the exception of Matteo, who is 17. They are heavily influenced by r&b and soul, which seems to be a synthesis of lo-fi, contemporary jazz, and r&b. A kind of youthful re imagining of modern jazz and hip hop rooted instrumentals that is akin to BADBADNOTGOOD or Robert Glasper’s project, combined with vocals from an artist whose domain consists of new wave r&b.

Dima’s solo work has a lo-fi nature to it that crashes uniquely into The Good Company’s own playing, forged from years of playing together. There is no fat to be trimmed, every member of the quartet offer there own important compontent; Notably Thomas as the guitarist adds an almost psychedelic touch to the solid jazz sound. He notes that he doesn’t have one of his pedals on him, which he seemed a bit bummed about. Though they are in the beginning phase of crafting their signature sound as a group as a full band, there seems to a be a connection once they perform together.

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This was my second time getting to see the collective perform. I was fascinated by the mix of musical styling that all converged when they played at  a backyard show “Still Here”- a collaboration between Snaughty San Jose and Word is Bond. Sometimes a group of musicians have intangible underpinnings that make them work. They stood out as a band, even among the more seasoned local talent that day like Jawstruck and Barely Funktional.

Something is impelling about the band, they just seem to have a intagible bond with or without their instruments. As Leo photographed them, he mentioned how funny they are all and good natured. It could be a combination of their youth and the relationships they developed whilst creating their sound. Despite their raw talent, no one in the group takes themselves too seriously. Mateo and Matei bring up how Shawn got hurt during the Jawstruck’s performance at the Still Here show. “I got smacked in the face,” drummer Shawn Tran tells me. Shawn got cracked in the head against a rock during the show. He seems to attract misfortunes like that. When they were performing, Shawn fell off his chair in the midst of drumming. He fits the role of the energy and comedic relief of a drummer, but he seemed to turn it off and be pretty stoic when discussing music.

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Shawn comes off as the adhesive of The Good Company. He has known Dima the longest and seems to be the link that brought the band about. As both a classically trained drummer and hip hop producer, he seems to be the bridge between his old musical colleague’s jazz and Dima’s lofi influences. During the interview, he came by a bit later to close up at the coffee shop he works at. Shawn seemed the most excited to start performing, probably as means of release. But he was the most open about discussing the local scene. Shawn shares the sentiment of a need to create collectives and building more foundation on the bedrock of seemingly endless local talent. “There is no cohesion,” Shawn tells me solemnly. His call for cohesion, probably explains why he comes off as savvy about the scene. He continues by giving shout-outs to all of the local organizations and collectives that nurture young creatives such as MACLA, LITD, and other groups.

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Each of them have a sense of maturity, as if they’re lucid of their youth and potential. This trait seems explain their willingness to create movement in empty locales, such as Memorial Park. Whether it’s unique covers, jazz-inspired renditions of Dima’s solo work, or the decision to randomly show up at a park and put on a full performance for a photographer and writer. They seem to be persistent to uplift the Bay Area music scene and the fellow local musicians by keeping at DIY. Dima has a bit of a qualm of people who drone on about boring San Jose is without contributing to make things happen, “People wait to be entertained” Dima says. It is a sentiment she recognizes, telling me she is just now learning about San Jose and the Bay area music scene. Now she performs with good company and even writes about local acts. Part of her arc about her perceptions of San Jose and the music scene seems to align with her own identity.

Dima’s brand of lofi indie r&b that gives the intimate feeling of live performances from a bedroom, especially tracks like “voicemail”. I want to use ‘brand’ loosely. Dima seems to have a disregard for ideas of branding. She less concerned about a grandiose end goal of fame or acclaim, and more so about her development of her voice and delivery. Her energies seem to be preoccupied with the infinite possibilities of the human voice.

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She would record her music using actual voicemails on Motorola touch phone. Sometimes when you just create music despite the circumstances and lack of resources, those lack of resources become as essential to the composition as. Contemporary acts like Teen Suicide, Steve Lacy, Cyberbully Mom, Castlebeat, and even acts closer to home like Mild Monk and Riley McShane implement that DIY aesthetic in their music as opposed to using it as a crutch. Dima utilizes that and it creates a strange synthesis between unpolished production for a genre of music that usually is dependent on strong production and engineering.

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But she isn’t a stranger to duality. Born in Jordan, she comes from a Muslim upbringing, both her parents practice Islam, her Filipino mother converted. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was an infant, giving her the weakest connection to her Jordanian side of the family. She talks about how she a bright kid, talented writer, which explains the pleasure she seems to get from communicating and exchanging ideas. She is talkative, sometimes getting lost in her own trade of thought. It makes sense she would spend her free time alone in a park thinking.

This kind of passion of communication, developed her interest in mathematics and music. Dima subtly implies both are byproducts of her Muslim upbringing. “I have a love for math and music because you know, they’re universal languages.” Dima says. Communication is also a thematic element that is in her musical lyrics. As a daughter of a immigrant, she struggled with connecting with her family. “Being the most American out of all them…I had like an accent when I spoke Arabic.” she says.

“It was just kind of hard going back home every single time, so I used music to impress them. Show something about myself where I didn’t have to communicate it.” When she explained it, it sounded more like a communicative crutch for her more than a creative outlet. She felt there was a limit to how her family on her father’s side viewed music, which inadvertently effected her view.

“They [her family] don’t think there’s anything in the arts,” Dima said. This is to say her family did not see a future in her pursuing a stable career as an artist, not the arts itself. This is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed among some of my closest friends who come from immigrant backgrounds. She talked about an expectation of pursuing medicine of mathematics, something practical. Dima seemed to understand this and recognize the mentality of pursuing a path that leads to the most opportunity.

Beyond a cultural and language gap, there is certainty a divide between immigrant parents’ pursuit of economic stability and growth and their children searching for self-actualization. Songs such as “sick and tired” allude to these issue.

As a student, she would be the first to recite from the Koran because it was the equivalent of singing. She described Arabic as having a “flow” to it, almost melodic. And such examples are apparent in the Koran itself. “If you ever heard somebody recite out the Koran, it sounds they are singing.” She further explained the distinction, one that is based of ego. “It’s not looked at as music, because it’s an expression of faith and not an expression of yourself.”

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Her perception of music evolved when she visited her mom’s side of the family in The Philippines, “I saw the love for music there,” Dima said, “There a rich culture and they’re super supportive. It was a really great balance because I didn’t have the greatest support in Jordan with music. I got exposed [to music] by my uncle who was super good at playing guitar, when I was like 9.”

“Every morning when we were there, he’d just whip out the guitar and we would just do a bunch of karoke songs,” she tells me. “I fell in love with doing that everyday.” Dima talked about how she would sneak in her brother’s room and to play his guitar, after he found a liking to guitar after his trip to The Philippines. “I didn’t not even know what the fuck I was doing. I just wanted to play it…it’s like a kid in a candy store. I was thought music was cool I wanted to do it so bad”

She admits that her musical influences in her upbringing were not especially unique. She grew up loving Beyonce, Paramore, and a lot of radio alternative rock. As she got a bit older, Lorde also played a role in her confidence in her own voice and The Love Club EP seemed to invoke her confidence in pursuing music beyond a bedroom hobby. “I really didn’t like my voice because it was different,” she says. Describing that Lorde inspired her to hone in on her unique vocal styles rather than suppress them. “She doesn’t have the greatest voice,” Dima says as she mimics Lorde’s droning delivery and starts laughing.

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To continue my point of her duality, Dima’s music has a contrast of being self-aggrandizing to spiraling to self-depreciation. In her more pop styling tracks like “Poppin” or “Let’s Ride” there’s the recently prominent genre of braggadocio style to r&b one that is more honest candor of being a young woman. When she showed her friend “Let’s Ride” a good pop style song, she asked Dima whether or not she would actually right something real. It’s a self-awareness to her own youth, growing pains, and her enjoyment in figuring out identity, something that can be echoed in a lot of contemporary acts.

In the same breath, she releases tracks like “Sick and Tired” sort of delve into the darker subjects of isolation and depression. She describes a sense of loneliness, what seemed like deep seated issues combined with the angst of becoming a young adult and attempting to nurture a state of peace and comfort. And even tracks like “Crazy” explores topics of her insecurities and relationships manifesting into anxious, intrusive thoughts in her head.

That state of peace seems to come from the therapeutic process of creating music. Her writing process is playing lofi instrumentals and writing lyrics over them, akin to what a lot of hip hop artists do. Dima definitely cascades a line between just singing and rapping in some of her more pop-laden tracks. She writes songs in short bursts, about a half hour. A point hits for her when she feels like the lyrics become muddled in overthinking. I had an impression that she is attempting to write more instinctual and the ‘overthinking’ and imagery of feeling stuck is letting her own anxieties and insecurities impede her music.

“I just wasn’t in the greatest mindset,” Dima describes her head space roughly a year ago “I never really had an outlet to express myself until I turned to music. Because it was something I didn’t want to take seriously.”

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She released her first track on Soundcloud hesitantly, knowing it would be a commitment from then on out. At this point, Dima did not share her musical content with too many people. Her esteem seems to be sort of the center of her internal conflict that reflects in her music. Throughout the interviews she downplays her own talent, not for self-pity, but more so because she is lucid of her potential and her promise. Also because like her music, her concern is about the introspective and personal progression, not so much the audience. She tells me that The Good Company comes from the idiom that you are only as good as the company you surround yourself with. It seems she put herself in a sink or swim scenario with her band, so that she can continue this commitment.

Any good band has a solid camaraderie. It could be the fact that these artists’   When I get to talk with them, they’re all eating pizza and messing around with their respective instruments.  They have all known each other since high school, with their bassist Matteo being the youngest, a 17 year old recent high school graduate. Each of them are talented musicians, all preoccupying themselves with different bands and projects.

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“We were jamming intermittently throughout high school. Then we linked up with Dima through the drummer [Shawn].” Matteo says. He notes Bootsy Collins and Thundercat as his influences, along with classical jazz. Matteo has an earnestness about him, a combination of honest candor and youthful appreciate for music. As a fellow bass guitarist, I noticed how much he grooved during live performances.  He will be joining band mate Matei at prestigious Oberlin college after the summer.

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It is interesting to see a fully formed band with such understanding and respect for classical and contemporary music. Thomas mentions his love for Andy Jones and Oscar Peterson. He and the rest of The Good Company praise the work of Woo Park, Hiatus Kaiyote, Christian Scott, Robert Glasper, which makes much more sense. Matteo has the hopes of finding a larger scale circle of musicians once he leaves for college “It was the community of people that are very support, very high-functioning, very supportive.” Matteo says. It may have been because he was the youngest, but he had an earnest nature about him. While the band performed I noticed how intently he would bob his head to the bass groove. As a fellow bass player, I identified with his love for just performing with people of equal interest in music. And I sensed that with the rest of the group; their diligent practice and passion shows.

Matei described his college experience so far as being somewhat isolated, but within a circle of fellow artists. It came off as almost nomadic. “Kind of a utopia, kind of a kung-fu temple,” Matei adds “Ridiculous talent everywhere you look…People just working together in non competitive environment.”

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Matei has the desire to return to The Bay after school and build the same art environment that is cultivating his talents at Oberlin, possibly in San Jose. It seems each member of the band are searching for creating a world  or musicians and artists to have a sense of autonomy and cooperation. While The Come Up is more about a platform, Dima and The Good Company seem like they are in search for a deeper community.

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There is a juxtaposition between Dima and her good company. Shawn recently got accepted into USC’s School of Music and Matteo and Matei will be pursuing music at Oberlin’s prestigious college. There was an implication Dima secondary education would be in the realm of STEM while most of the Good Company all spent their time in school pursuing music and doing pretty damn well considering. But it seems they find solace in their desires to create. And Good Company seem to really have developed kinship with other musicians and vocalists in other projects like Zero Creek, making a small scene of younger artists.

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The Good Company is performing covers, and recreations Dima’s song for a live setting (and possibly recording some of her future studio work), whose production varies pretty greatly on her tracks. And the access to talent like Good Company has only expanded Dima’s options with what she could perform and write. She opened up about her thoughts of singing in Arabic in some her songs. Her phone is filled with tons of unreleased demos and lyrics, “When I saw all I do is make music, I mean all I do is make music” she says.

When listening to her music for research I picked up on her songs covering love- and anything but love- sometimes refer to women. When she performed a song live she mentioned it was a song about her sexuality. Identifying as bi-sexual, she struggles revealing this truth about of herself to her parents. She is more nervous revealing this to her father, assuming her mom probably has figured it out already.  “Moms know,” she laughs. “I wanted to show it [her upcoming album] to them as a way to come out”. This aspect of her life adds layers to what inspires her lyrics.

I only got four years until they get fed up with me…I’m disappointing them and everything they believe. I’m suffocating in a house I’m supposed to find peace” she says in the song “Sick and Tired”

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Even in moments of true frustration, she still continues to be her true self in her music. What’s refreshing with acts like Sza, Kali Uchis, Cardi B, and Kehlani’s, all of which she quotes as contemporary influences, is that it offers a need for musical narratives of young woman of color who deal with issues of mental health, sexuality, and carrying generations of social issues that have either appropriated or cast aside. Dima is humble, but it seems she adapted a musical persona where she is unapologetic about her identity as a queer WOC who can be haughty and insecure in the same track. And ironically, while the subjects she delves into our at the center of social discussion, her music is as introspective as it gets.

 

After the interview, I was hesitant to discuss her sexuality on the off-off chance that more than three people actual visit The Come Up website and this reaches to her parents. She mentions she is actually nervous of her parents reading this or delving into her music, but also thought it was more important I tell the story I believe was the most crucial about her. She messages me “There’s a lot of influence that goes towards my art and not mentioning all of that seemed incomplete to me low key.” Dima is concerned about honest, complete creation above anything else. At this point of her life, it seems that what she prioritizes in creativity and in her interactions with people.

Her creative playground has grown with her collaborations with The Good Company as well as the connections she has made performing and knowing local acts. They are playing plenty of shows and garnering word of mouth, both as separate entities and collectively. “I’m getting there with them,” Dima says, referring to how close she feels with them. For Dima, music is beyond just an outlet and a means of creation. It is her means of language. She mentions the friendships she’s built and the talks she can have with fellow creatives. She mentions how she influences and inspired by her contemporaries like Young Tsukune, a talented young local musician and Come Up alumn, as a source of local inspiration as well dreamawake and Ritty Bo.

“I have a lot to learn and that’s something I’m proud of. I look for new opportunities for me to grow.” Dima was raised with the belief that music was somewhat of an expression of ego and religion was a expression of faith. As a young adult, it seems her music and her lyrics is an expression of faith in herself. The band are all figuring it out, but they’re in each other’s company.

 

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Come Up Episode IV: A New Hope Recap

A shoutout to everyone who supported the show and made another unforgettable night with The Come Up IV: A New Hope.

Our opener  IPA (an acronym for band members Ian, Pablo, and Angelo) provided smooth hip hop inspired jazz music as well as great inventive improvisation. They created amazing renditions of hip hop and music that brought the crowd together.

After introductions and IPA’s performance, Co-hosts Riley and Isaiah discovered that the fish-netted lamp leg- a precious centerpiece to The Come Up stage- was missing! It turns out it was stolen by our neighbors and show rivals from Tournamentertainment, who host their own show the same time we do across the street. (They also donate to the National Association of Baby Seal Clubbing*). Isaiah ran across the street, lightsaber in hand, to face the culprits of this crime.

 

In the meantime, Riley continued on with the show, giving away lightsabers to those in the crowd who proved themselves worthy by answering lightsaber trivia.

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Cohost of Tournamentertainment and alt-right blogger* Adira Sharkey showed up with our precious leg lamp in hand that her show stole from our stage. Riley, believing the hatchet was buried, foolishly handed her a lightsaber. While Riley turned his attention to the crowd, like a good host, Adira literally stabbed him in the back. Adira slayed Riley in front of the younglings in the crowd. She then preceded to rant about her inferior show across the street.

We continued on with Ryan Sudhakaran, who had a hilarious bit that ranged from Americans appropriating cuisine, role playing with his girlfriend, and the modern dating scene for Indians.

 

Alan Frenz took the stage soon after to dominate with an amazing entertaining hip hop performance. It was the first rap group to come to the stage, replacing a DJ with a full band with guitars, keyboards, bass, guitar, and Al acting as the lead vocalist. The crowd and The Come Up crew loved the performance by the band.

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San Jose powerhouse Socorra gave a pure rock and roll performance with her immense vocals and equally impressive guitars. Socorra has been a supporter of The Come Up and she is part of a lot of great work in San Jose, including the SJ Songrwriters, which provides a space for songwriters to share their work.

IPA returned to stage with Come Up with Riley McShane to perform together, making the band Rye IPA (get it?). And after Riley exited the stage, IPA played us off into the warm Spring night.

It was a night with great beer provided by Uproar Brewing, warm weather, Star Wars music, lightsabers, more kids than usual, and great creatives both on and off stage. Thank you for Uproar Brewing, Exhibition District, and the artists for making such a great night. We will see you on May 17th, as well as the rest of the summer. Let’s keep making it happen.

*Some of the fact regarding that horrible show across the street have not yet been confirmed, but the statements are back by reputable people who definitely are not just Isaiah and Riley.

The Come Up 3

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I just wanted to thank everyone who was part of The Come Up 3. This had to be our favorite show so far. It is insane that we have already had three shows and we will be having another one in less than two weeks. Thank you to the amazing audience who came out to support us (on a rainy day, no less) our amazing performers, our hilarious comedians, and of course everyone at Uproar Brewing.

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Shannon Murphy discussed dating Engineers and the Adventures in Babysitting. Her stand up was incredible and you should check her out.

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The community came out in full force and supported the artists and the show. I loved seeing the diverse faces, a lot were young aspiring artists who are making their voices heard through their art.

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Dav, Active Poet, rapping over insane Bay Area style production. He even performed an unreleased banger for the crowd. Give him a listen.

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Dear Liry playing wonderful, witty music. She is a pure delight and you should have her music in her life. 

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Young Tsukune drew the crowd in with his unique crooning over, smooth lofi productions. Please support this amazing young artists.

Sunnier days and future shows are ahead and with those will be future shows. We have a show on April 19th at SoFA Market and course The Come Up 4: A New Hope will be on Star Wars Day May 4th on First Friday at Uproar.

 

We had a lot of amazing film makers and photographers show up and capture that amazing night. Keep a lookout for the video content and photography that will be our in the next few days. Please support the artists and check out their amazing work on our websites.

 

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Tyler not only had great bits on depression and San Jose bike thieves, but hosts and runs his own comedy shows called Super Stacked. You should follow his hilarious Twitter and check out his stand ups. 

Were humbled to be part of San Jose during such a transformative time in the art scenes. Let’s keep this same energy for Spring and Summer. Let’s Make It Happen

Bless Up,

The Come Up

 

The Come Up Presents: SoFA Sessions

Hey all,

If you have ever checked out one our shows, you know that The Come Up shows are  musical and comedy showcases that take place at Uproar Brewing. We really enjoy the space for it’s atmosphere, the awesome staff, and it’s location in downtown.

 

However, we had an idea of showcasing music in a more intimate space. So we collaborated with SoFA Market, which is a local food hall and event venue with a bar and smaller restaurants within it. In the back patio there is a center, which is perfect for musical performances. We decided to work with their monthly musical showcase.

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The SoFA Sessions will begin Thursday April 19th from 5pm to 8pm and feature three different unique artists, specifically curated for their musical genre. This will be the first of an ongoing series of intimate shows that I am really excited about. It is a free show that is all ages and there will also be a $3 dollar menu items as well as $3 Kamikazes and select beer from the Fountainhead Bar.

See you there!

Noise in Enclosed Spaces: A Talk With Eastern Westerner

I watch as Eastern Westerner clears away boxes of plates, chairs, racks, and miscellaneous kitchen equipment, while simultaneously setting up their instruments. I was insistent on showing up to their band practice before the interview. I expected the practice would be in the main room of SOFA, which is the second story office space of an establishment below. The main room of SOFA touts a view of First street, has couches, a spacious practice space, and stacks of records. This space was also the stage of secret shows back in the day and is ideal for our photography

But instead of lounging in spacious main room of SOFA with a view, I am cramped in between some shelves, chairs, with the fear that I will knock something fragile over if I sneeze. The band mates seem bothered, “You’re getting your private show,” the guitarist and vocalist Lucas jokes as he tunes his guitar. I was getting a genuine kick out of seeing a band play in such a strange space.

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“We’re practicing back here so we can play later,” their drummer John Carlo explains. He limits his drum kick due to how cramped the space is. Typically the band practices in the main room around 10 o clock to adhere to cutting off noise around 11. But they are starting a bit later, so they have to practice further away from the window as to avoid noise complaints.

Someone grabs a small lamp to put of the center of the band, which I use as a light source when writing. In all seriousness, it is a unique experience listening to a band perform in such an enclosed space. A young artist once said atmosphere is essential to music. There is no sign of discomfort when they begin to play; the only thing apparent is their chemistry.

Eastern Western is indie noise-rock band from San Jose. The band does not have any releases available, so a description is necessary. To be more specific, EW is a sort of post-punk band with noise rock influences that are reminiscent of Sonic Youth, Bedhead, Fugazi, and local noise rock band Duster. Their songs play out in the same vein as their precursor: Abrasive guitars that drone, minimalist drumming, and either guitarists Lucas and Aaron finish with the song with some low lyrics that work as another instrument. It is dissonant at times, which keeps you enthralled. Music that is simultaneously ambient, but works in melodic enough to demand attention.

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Lucas breaks his D string during their session, “It’s not an essential instrument,” Lucas says and he passes a cigarette over to their newest bass player Josh, who is the brother of fellow vocalist and guitarist Aaron. They proceed to do an improvised song. Once they go into the jam session, it is reminiscent of Dreamdecay; their drumming is aggressive and precise, the guitarists switch between rhythm and lead. I tell the bassist Josh that his bass playing reminds me of Interpol, I band I religiously listened to when I started learning how to play bass back in high school.

 

Without released music, you have to catch Eastern Westerner at a show to know what I am talking about. In a time where anyone can release their music on Soundcloud and Spotify, and typically do, it is refreshing to have a band focus so much on their live performances and chemistry. I’m the only present person watching and I insist the band play as long they want. Lucas uses the opportunity to offer suggestions to Josh’s playing. “I’ve been playing bass for about a month,” Josh explains, but is enthusiastic to play with the band. The chemistry and camaraderie between the artists is apparent. They are image you strive for when one of your friend suggests starting a band.

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The group formed when John Carlo and Aaron started jamming together in one of the first times they hung out with one. another. That eventually evolved into the crafting of their sound. “This is the first band that I’ve been in,” John Carlo mentions to us. He played bass in high school and has only been drumming for roughly a year. John Carlo, Aaron, and the former bassist had a BBQ, which no one showed up to because they forgot to invite people. Aaron decided to invite Lucas last minute and they jammed and the chemistry just worked out.

The band’s inception was not a mindful process. John Carlo brings how Aaron process of finding new band mates was through random trial and error.

“Aaron would be like ‘you know who would great in the band? This random ass person I haven’t spoken to in six months” John Carlo jokes. They crack some jokes about how they struggled to find a good bassist. Somehow it was only recently Aaron thought to ask his own brother. This organic process of forming the group is probably one of the main factors that contribute to their rapport. Also half of the band is related.

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“Finding a bass player was the hardest part,” Aaron explains, “you want bass to be interesting, but you want it to, you know, follow the drums.”

“Josh is one of the humblest guys I know,” Lucas adds, “And one of the best baristas in the city.” Which is true, swing by Social Policy and see for yourself.

Songs usually stem from Aaron and Lucas creating concepts and playing off one another.  A process, that is organic and inclusive, from how they casually describe. There isn’t the kind of toxic egoism that you see in a lot of bands, “It’s hard to say,” Aaron admits when I ask about the band’s songwriting process. “It just happens.”

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Each individual member of the band has pretty common origins stories when it comes to how their passion of music developed. Names like Zeppelin, AC/DC, and The Beatles get brought up I ask them what bands inspired them to pursue music. “There is this band Duster,” Josh mentioned, “they were one of them [inspirations] go to right off the bats. Elliot Smith, Alex G. A lot of sad stuff mostly.”

Duster is not exactly an infamous band, but their significance is apparent in indie rock scene and young SJ artists. “San Jose legends,” Aaron mutters.

But in reality, Easterner Westerner sound is formed by their contemporaries. They embody the aggressive and no wave style of Dreamdecay and Sonic Youth, who are the pinnacles of the genre. And they also remind me of Darto, a band based in Seattle who are beloved by artists in SJ. They mention over bands of similar genres like Leer, Breathing Patterns, Vancouver band Dumb, and San Francisco band Deerhoof, which inspires John Carlo’s drumming.

“There use to be a festival in San Jose called Think and Die Thinking,” Aaron mentioned, “They use to put them [music festivals] on at Billy DeFrank LGBTQ community center. There would be shows every summer back.” Aaron mentions that he discovered them back in 2010 and that’s how he discovered acts like Darto and was exposed to the scene. Think and Die Thinking, a D.I.Y. punk collective that provided all ages for the community, disbanded recently decided not to put on future shows.

 

“I’ll never forget when I first heard Darto,” Josh says. He going to see some friends perform a show and Darto was doing a last minute show.“They [his friends] were like ‘stop what we’re doing, fucking Darto was about to play’” Josh tells us, “and I was like ‘Who is Darto?’”

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It is one thing to support and listen to local acts who exist in your scene. It is another thing to have them influence your musical style. That’s how communities build their unique sound.

Doing The Come Up I have to be mindful of the former collectives that create the platforms that we used to put on live shows and bring life in the scenes in SJ. The band continues on about former house shows and events that shaped their community and musical tastes of bands. They also bring up the hardcore and punk acts they see at locations like Gingerbread House.

Lucas brings up other movements happening across the Bay Area, “There is a dude named Jeffery Chung [of Unity fame] that is spearheading a queer movement in Oakland,” Lucas explains, “they organized a queer, skateboarding thing. They also run a screen printing press and it’s pretty cool.” (It is cool. Peep the New York Times article on it. ) He is not clear whether or not Eastern Westerner hopes to emulate that kind of movement. But San Jose’s music and art scene is going through an identity crisis and fellow Bay Area movements are essential aspirations at the moment.

I discussed this with Jonny Manak, of Jonny Manak and The Depressives, who told me about the scene in the 1990s. In the story where I discuss the scene, he brought up exactly how the underground hardcore and punk scenes were sustained by consistent shows.

He offered this advice, “Got a house with a basement? Throw a show! Got a gas generator and a remote area? Throw a show!…All you need is electricity and a place to do it. It doesn’t have to be an official venue to make it fun.”

This same sentiment was echoed by Eastern Westerner, which are descendants of two previous generation of SJ independent music. Their performances more about what spaces are offered to them and how to make them an experience. EW mentions that they have a strong support system of local creatives made up of performers and artists who were part of a previous generation of indie rock.

“We can thank Stephanie Cheng, for promoting shows,” Aaron says. He started going to shows happening in 2010 “We’re lucky to have The Ritz, even if it is 21+.” Staples in the community help build spaces for smaller, DIY moments and shows. Though they are infrequent, everyone in the band agrees that the scene is strong. It makes sense they feel this way; they are bred from the scene. Josh kind of glances over at his brother and this band he’s been initiated in “I’m stoked to play with you guys, because it’s a unique sound.”

Lucas mentions how music shows use to exist in studios in Mountain View, but they closed down due rising cost of Google buying out storage space. “We had really good shows there,” Lucas explains, his tone sounded a bit frustrated, “but then Google bought the warehouse next to it. The landlord couldn’t do it anymore.”

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Aaron used to work in warehousing and laments on the decline of secret shows. “One of the clients for a warehouse and holding I work for is Google. And what they store in there is miscellaneous office materials…cubicle walls, panels, it had been there for five plus years.” Essentially music shows were being effected by tech companies driving up rent costs to store their staplers.

The Bay Area, and California as a whole, lives in the post Ghost Ship era of music and art performances. Housing is somewhat affecting bands abilities to put on shows. There is a specific kind of energy that Eastern Westerner creates with their music and it’s something that cannot be captured on records. The desire for creating unique, DIY shows with amazing experimental music will keep the scene alive.

The band comes off more youthful when discussing the recent history of San Jose scenes. Maybe because they are trying to capture the spirit of music that they discovered as teenagers.

Aaron brings up the most essential post-punk, experiment noise rock band that put San Jose on the map. “All of San Jose’s musical hopes and dreams rested on Smash Mouth,” Aaron jokes, “And Smash Mouth failed us” We break into laughter. Even a band as legendary and critically acclaimed as Smash Mouth will not save the DIY scene. It will require several artists and acts like EW who inspire their contemporaries and future young aspiring artists.

One of the greatest appeals of seeing a performance of a band like Eastern Westerner, is that you can tell they are a good time making music with one another. They make good music for the sole purpose of putting shows for each other and their friends. Small shows are intimate and it creates a sense of belonging and make it worthwhile. The night with Eastern Western was filled with beer, random conversations, music, and laughs. Things that cannot truly be captured or recorded.

 

Eastern Westerner will be performing May 9th at Cafe Stritch.

 

This story was written by Isaiah Wilson.

Polaroids shot by Isaiah Wilson

The good photography was done by Leopoldo Macaya.