Archive | April, 2011

Chris Campanaro is No Starving Artist

11 Apr

Chris “Cecil” Campanaro is an artist, but as a bassist in three bands, including Terraplane Sun, and a successful film and TV composing career, he definitely does not file himself under the starving artist label. “I enjoy it,” he says of what he does and the amount that he does it. Campanaro says of the balancing act, “It’s been a challenge, but it’s been good.”

Starting out, playing shows was the only vision Campanaro had. He didn’t even realize or see that there was a whole other side of the business as far as composing and writing and the ability to make a living while still doing what he loved, “It was all about play, play, play when I thought about being a musician as a kid.” While he loves playing and performing, he says, at the same time, “I wanna be able to eat.”  So at around the age of 21 or 22, he began composing, and it was a career path he fell into.

While rooted in San Diego, California, he made a solo record of what he labels, “weird, abstract sounds – recording microwaves.” A friend of a friend got a hold of his record, he relocated to Venice, California, which he was looking to do anyway, and composing snowballed for him from there. He didn’t know much about that aspect of the industry, at the time, and was very fortunate when people took the time to teach him and expose him to that industry and give him lots of opportunities to grow and show off what he could do.

That included the album, American River, which he co-composed, arranged and produced and went on to gain a Grammy nomination in the New Age category, “Which is funny because if you know me you think, ‘what the hell is he doing in there?’” Campanaro laughs. He was 23 and thought, “What am I even doing here? It was a trip.” He didn’t win the award, but the old adage of it being an honor just to be nominated rings true for Campanaro, “We got robbed!” he jokes, “No, we definitely won. Shit, I won. That was one to show the parents, for sure.”

In addition to composing, Campanaro is always playing in one band…or two or three. He’s in several bands at the moment, including Taxi and playing with Matt Ellis from time to time, but Terraplane Sun is taking up most of his focus these days. The band has been out on the road recently, which included a month long residency at Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan club. “It’s been really great. The Cosmo is a really cool spot.”

The club, which opened last November, is located near the Hard Rock Café. The Cosmopolitan, however, is less concerned with filling their venue to capacity just to fill it and more concerned with putting on shows that make people feel creative, to keep up with music in the current times. “It was a good scene, good exposure, good reaction,” Campanaro says.

Terraplane Sun formed a few years ago after Campanaro and singer Ben Rothbard kept crossing each other’s paths on the LA music scene. They played together a couple of times before realizing they should play together on a more consistent basis and formed a band. After a number of lineup changes, the Terraplane Sun that exists today and has been playing together for a little over a year, consists of Rothbard and Campanaro, guitarist Johnny Zambetti, Scotty Passaglia on drums and Gabe Feenberg on keys. Campanaro says, “There’s a good energy with these five guys.”

Influences as individual band members are all across the board. “The other guys are more old school, like deep, gritty blues and old folk, whereas I’m more into punk and Motown.” As a band, Campanaro thinks their sound probably comes more from the folk and blues place, but says Terraplane Sun is a crossbreed of everything into one.  

The bluesy influence is definitely easy to spot with a nice mix of rock and folk blended in. Their remake of Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love” is great, and they fit in nicely with the current musical climate alongside bands like Cold War Kids, the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant. At the same time, though, they stand apart from all the others by doing things the way they want to when they want to do it.

Terraplane Sun has finished their second record, and now, the focus is on playing and even more recording to keep themselves out there for people to hear. The goal is just to keep on their own schedule and their own path, “We’re doing our own thing as a band, we’re on our own trip. None of us are overthinking it.”

Campanaro’s instrument of choice is the bass but plays everything else “poorly,” says he. “I can get what I need to hear out of what I play.” He used to play solo, but not so much anymore. His other band, Taxi, is a three piece featuring two bass players and a drummer, “All my thoughts are thrown out there with that band, and it’s so fun for me to do that. It gets to go in whatever direction it’s gonna go in. And I get to scream and sing, which is great.” For now, though, composing and Terraplance Sun are the priority, “It’s been a good trip so far.”

Campanaro says he never had his “a-ha” moment where he just knew he had to play music, either that or he says it hasn’t happened yet, nor does he know if it ever will. “I was terrified as a kid trying to be a musician. There’s definite unpredictability going down that road,” he says, “I wasn’t gonna back out, but it was tricky.” And when the writing opportunity opened his eyes to a whole different side of the music industry, the fortitude and luck of his career trajectory are far from lost on him, “I’ve just been grateful.”


Warpaint Rocks the TLA

4 Apr

Licking my wounds after not getting to do an interview with Warpaint, the all-fem quartet hailing from Los Angeles, California, I latched onto one reviewer’s labeling them as “hype-darlings.” It’s not hard to see why. Their original drummer was actress Shannyn Sossaman, which put them into the search engine lexicon from the onset. Their first EP, Exquisite Corpse, was released under John Frusciante’s label. He and lead singer, Emily Kokal, dated. Then, filling in on drums after Sossaman left was Josh Klinghoffer, who was also of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame (it’s been recently reported that Frusciante has formally quit the Chili Peppers…again, and Klinghoffer is his permanent replacement), and dating bassist (and Sossaman’s sis) Jenny Lee Lindberg at the time.

Get all that?

With all this name dropping and musical incest going on, it’s easy to see how Warpaint has caught media attention without releasing very much. However, saying Warpaint are hype-darlings would imply that the hype isn’t true. And that just isn’t true. Warpaint live up to the attention that’s been paid to them.

They rolled through Philadelphia this past Friday night, playing at the TLA, and the hipster crowd was out in force. Not surprising, since the ladies hail from Silverlake, California, a hipster mecca near Los Angeles. The wave of plaid and skinny jeans extended almost stage to door, which was a little surprising since Philadelphia can be so finicky when it comes to making bands feel welcome in our fair, fickle city. 

Although they’ve been put in the “psychedelic rock” classification, they cover a lot of ground on the sound spectrum. They can be ethereal and haunting, poetic and raw, but still sound playful and impish at the same time. Seeing them live, though, has proven that they can also be pretty badass rockers. Lindberg’s driving baseline coupled with Stella Mozgawa’s drumming gives them an edge not totally realized on their albums.  

And new drummer, Mozgawa seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle. After years of stops and starts and mismatched drummers, Lindberg, Kokal and guitarist, Theresa Wayman found what they were looking for in Mozgawa. There’s a cohesiveness now and a feeling that they can move forward as a united front, as if to say for the first time since they formed as an all girl band in 2004, “Here we are – this is Warpaint.”

During “Beetles,” and standing on opposite sides of the stage, Kokal and Wayman seemed a polarizing force, volleying vocal parts across the stage, an obvious bond likely the product of a friendship forged when they were kids. For an encore, “Elephants” was ridiculous. Wayman’s guitar hook at the beginning instantly had everyone on their feet.

I go back and forth about even uttering this next statement aloud, so to speak, but I’m gonna go do it – they sound like a female Radiohead. When my friend agreed, I felt a little less crazy at my somewhat bold comparison. Listening to Exquisite Corpse or The Fool, I don’t think the correlation is as easy to detect, but listening to them live really snaps it into place.

There were two opening bands, one memorable in its imitation, the other memorable for their talent. Family Band was first, and if I closed my eyes, I thought I was listening to Mazzy Star, and when I opened them, I thought I was looking at Sinead O’Connor. PVT came next and were the better of the two, by far. They were right on point with the resurgence of 80s music creeping across the airwaves.  They were a musically frenetic mash-up of The Cure meets Flock of Seagulls meets Joy Division. Yea, I went there, too.

I was already a fan prior to the TLA show, but Warpaint totally exceeded my expectations by exponential proportions Friday night, and if you haven’t given them a listen, I really recommend that you do. I’d heard an interview with Wayman once in which she said, “We want to be big in our intention and just to have it be earnest and always getting better, and always pushing ourselves to do better, to play better, to write better than the ones that came before…” Well, their live show proves that the girls of Warpaint are more than capable of topping themselves.

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