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[OC Music Awards Interview] California Condors Woo With ’60s Psychedelia

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Photos by Full Moon Photography

ocmusicawardspostheader color1 [OC Music Awards Interview] California Condors Woo With 60s Psychedelia

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicked off on January 4th with seven weeks of free showcases at different venues across the county. 35 local artists will compete for the titles of Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic and a performance slot at the 2011 OC Music Awards, March 5 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!

Orange County-based band, California Condors, shares a lot with their nearly extinct namesake; California Condors’ musical colors change depending on mood, much like the bald head of their feathered totem. Evoking this spirit animal with a strong mythological bond to California, the band creates “Shaman Pop”–languid, moony Southern California psychedelia with ’60s British pop chord structures.

California Condors’ sound creates a glittery magic from the blown-off vinyl dust of yesteryear into the sacrificial fire of modern music; ancient local gods rattle the sky with appreciation for the band’s mod-tinged mysticism.

[pullquote quote="Ultimately, each person's song...the final word on how it ends up sounding is with them." credit="Reza, California Condors"]

Floating through the air like colored dust, the California Condors’ melodic, druggy instrumental buzz coats the sparkling whimsy of the lyrics with kaleidoscopic reverberation. While many bands have attempted to modernize the ’60s nugget sound without success, California Condors’ use of bleached-out, coastal indie has taken the classic pop chord to a transcendental level.

Part of this can be attributed to the unique collaborative creativity of band members Joe Allen (bass/vocals), Reza Asgari (guitar/vocals), and Kenn Shane (drums/vocals). As a group of disparate musicians, they came together in November of last year to use each other as backing members of their solo acts.

The democratic song writing process appealed to the band, which Asgari explained, “The first set that we played at the warehouse where we rehearse were Joe’s songs. And then we played a set of Kenn’s songs. And then we just decided to kind of learn one another’s songs and play them all in one set…Ultimately, each person’s song…The final word on how it ends up sounding is with them.”

[pullquote quote="For a little over a year now, we've been a 4-piece and we've had those cracks and things--a communication breakdown. We'll be performing at the show (OC Music Awards) as a 3-piece." credit="Joe, California Condors"]

While each person in California Condors is coming to the musical roundtable with different influences and skills, the band evokes the conscious-expanding later-era [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Beatles[/lastfm], the precocious swagger of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Small Faces[/lastfm], and the spaced-out charm of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Byrds[/lastfm].

“I think we’re a band where if it’s good, we like it. I mean, I love [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Radiohead[/lastfm] and I love old swing music. As long as it’s good,” said Allen.

“But more like songwriting is the driving force. We all have a little of  bit of a different taste. It kind of comes out in what Reza was saying which is, the person that wrote the song. So if someone comes up with an idea, it’s up to the person who wrote it whether they want to keep it or not.”

Allen continued:

“We’re all really huge Beatles fans and I think we’re kind of carrying on some songwriting from back in the ’60s. We kind of follow into stuff that’s appropriate for a song rather than trying to play into a genre. But our inspirations are Beatles, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Byrds[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Neil Young[/lastfm]. You know, all that kind of stuff. And I think a lot of our stuff ends up sounding kind of 70s-ish. If I was going to flatter ourselves, I’d say like[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Big Star[/lastfm].”

California Condors has also been very inspired by the Orange Country music scene. Asgari relayed a story about how another local musician taught him guitar when he was 14-years-old.

“We’ve played a lot of shows with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Kiev[/lastfm]…We’re excited to be playing with them next week. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Yellow Red Sparks[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Melanoid[/lastfm]. Johnny from Melanoid actually got me interested in playing guitar when I was 14,” Asgari elaborated. “So he was definitely a big inspiration. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Barrett Johnson [/lastfm]writes some great songs. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Pacific Hurt.[/lastfm]“

Everything seems so effortless for the California Condors, but life hasn’t been easy–especially as musicians. Allen couldn’t help feeling like the “Lisa Kudrow character from ‘Friends’” while playing acoustic coffee shop gigs, dreaming of being recognized in the same vein as Bob Dylan or Elliott Smith.

[pullquote quote="Right now, I'm looking forward to hopefully touring. I want to play Coachella, I want to play SXSW. I want to play Japan. I want to do things." credit="Joe, California Condors"]

Even the band is at odds with the future, considering their recent shave down from a 4-piece to a 3-piece.

“For a little over a year now, we’ve been a 4-piece and we’ve had those cracks and things–a communication breakdown. We’ll be performing at the show [OC Music Awards] as a 3-piece.”

“We don’t want this to be a job for someone. We don’t want this to be unpleasant for anyone. So, you know, you have good times and bad. And we’re going through a little bit of our first rough time. I think that we’re just feeling it out. We’re not making any definite decisions.”

Despite band discomfort, Allen said that drummer Kenn Shane has used these experiences as great song fodder. In the end, California Condors are still looking towards the sky and are hoping to accomplish big things together.

“We’re just hoping that the songs are good enough. We’re not really in it for the image anyway…I think everybody has an audience. If we can get this album in people’s hands that want it then we have something,” Allen explained.

“Right now, I’m looking forward to hopefully touring. I want to play Coachella, I want to play SXSW. I want to play Japan. I want to do things.”

“Growing Weed”–[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]California Condors[/lastfm]

The 2011 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 4 -February 15 with stops at:

Jan 4 – Detroit Bar
Jan 11 – The District at Tustin Legacy
Jan 18 – The Gyspy Lounge
Jan 25 – The LAB
Feb 1 – Tiki Bar
Feb 8 – The Gyspy Den of Santa Ana
Feb 15 – The Slide Bar

Five Showcase Series finalists in each live category will then move on to the Showcase Series Finals.

Feb 24 – Best Live Acoustic Finals, Fullerton Museum
Feb 25 – Best Live band Finals, The Galaxy

2011 Best Live Band winner will receive a performance slot on the four Southern Christmas Vans Warped Tour stops!

Night Two of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series features nominees for Best Live Band on Tuesday, January 18th at the The Gyspy Lounge.

ocmusicawardsnighthree1 [OC Music Awards Interview] California Condors Woo With 60s Psychedelia


Friday, January 14th-Strange Birds

Saturday, January 15th-California Condors

Sunday, January 16th-May McDonough

Monday, January 17th-  Kiev

Tuesday, January 18th-The Gromble


You have the power to send one Showcase artist to the Best Live Acoustic Finals and Best Live Band Finals.

Cast your vote and enter to win a massive prize pack from the OC Music Awards partners (To be Announced). Voting will begin on December 27 and will be open through the last Showcase on February 15. The votes will be tallied and the band with highest score will automatically move on to their Series Finals! Click here to vote


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