They picked my favorite city to feature first. There are so many more artists from Oakland that would be worth looking into, but this collection takes me back to my favorite summer.
Favorite track: Warm Up ft. Karl Denson.
Brilliant concept. I believe the heartbeat of any city is what's happening in its music scene. This is as essential as grabbing your Lonely Planet when you go for a visit, it's time to explore...
Favorite track: Sometime Tomorrow.
Featuring 11 exclusive/unreleased tracks from some of our favorite bands out of Oakland, CA.
For the launch of the Bandcamp City Guides, we are pleased to shine a light on a city that’s often made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Although long in the shadows of neighboring San Francisco, Oakland is a city embedded with a rich cultural history. It’s a place that has at times served as home to musicians of heritage and genre as varied as the brilliant jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck to seminal West Coast rapper Tupac. There’s also Sly Stone, the Pointer Sisters, Souls of Mischief, Rogue Wave and Del the Funky Homosapien, but that’s almost missing the point. For several years now, we’ve had our sights on Oakland and what we’ve continually observed is a rising tide of musicians as diverse and masterly as this magical metropolis’ musical forebears.
In spite of decades of infamy spurred on by a reputation for violent crime and perilous civic strife, Oakland has pedaled back from the brink to become one of America’s rising capitals for the creative spirit. Never before has the city seen the level of artistic, culinary and musical talent that has in recent years come to define its diverse districts. Apart from being one of the most ethnically varied cities in America, Oakland is considered home to more working artists per capita than any other city in the country.
This spirit has made it a natural home to the musicians whose songs fill the tracks of this very special release. At the heart of Oakland’s burgeoning music scene is a penchant for experimentation and an uncharacteristically collaborative musical community. Further, there exists within Oakland an artistic and cultural infrastructure that has helped attract talent for decades. Oakland’s California College of the Arts continues to draw gifted artists, designers and writers to the area. And the Oakland Museum of California is home to a collection of nearly two million art objects and historical artifacts and is housed within a landmark midcentury structure designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Kevin Roche.
From tiny café stages to the grand marquees, Oakland has been blessed with an outsized number of respected venues. After lying mostly dormant for nearly fifty years, the Fox Theatre reopened in 2009 and now plays host to the city’s headline acts. Then there’s Leo’s and the New Parish, which host some of the best intimate shows and draw a cross-section of Oakland society. And our best sources for local intelligence – the bands featured on this very album – give additional high praise to Awaken, Yoshi’s, Café Van Kleef, Studio Grand, the Hatch and The Legionnaire Saloon.
Analog-oriented listeners gravitate towards record stores like 1-2-3-4 Go! and Stranded Records in Temescal, as well as VAMP in Uptown. Albums are recorded in professional studios like Skyline and New, Improved Recording, though there’s an abundance of home recording that suits Oakland’s DIY culture. There’s also Zoo Labs, part musical think-tank, part business accelerator that offers highly respected residences mixing studio time with strategic business advising for musicians.
First up on the album is Bells Atlas, whose “Sugar for the Queen” carries a whiff of East African soul. The approach is global, and the band bridges the gap between R&B, indie and Afrosoul with rich vocal harmonies, hazy guitars, and roving arrangement.
*Geneva of Bells Atlas’ on her favorite live venues: “The New Parish – it’s got a great vibe and draws a lively, diverse crowd. And how can you top the Fox Theater? Such a beautiful, historic, pro venue.”
Astronauts, etc. drapes his melancholic vocals over a pacey love song of sorts in “Sometime Tomorrow.” In addition to touring with Toro y Moi, Astronauts, etc.’s first LP will be released this summer on Hit City Records.
*Anthony of Astronuats, etc. on his favorite record shop: “It’s hard to beat 1-2-3-4 Go! in Temescal.”
Despite his Boston roots, hip-hop MC Raashan Ahmad is an Oakland transplant who recently teamed up with flautist Karl Denson on “Warm Up.” Drawn from a project with fellow Crown City Rocker, Headnodic, this track demonstrates Ahmad’s dexterity and soul jazz tendencies.
*Raashan on his favorite Oakland landmark: “Grand Lake Theatre looks beautiful, especially lit up at night, and whoever owns it always puts political statements on the marquee.”
The softened folk sensibility of Waterstrider’s “Arrive and Leave” is made modern by synth-driven build-ups and trailing indie guitars, though it’s Nate Salman’s hauntingly tender-toned harmonies that complete this track.
*Waterstrider’s Nate Salman on his ideal day in the city: “Hiking the hills, biking around Lake Merritt, having philosophical conversations in Mountain View Cemetery, then heading to the New Parish.”
Sugar Candy Mountain is the five-piece, Tropicalia-infused outfit made up of two Bay Area natives and several talented imports from Wisconsin, Sacramento and Rhode Island. The sound is sun-drenched and surreal and has earned Sugar Candy Mountain a weekly residency at San Francisco’s Amnesia.
*Sugar Candy Mountain’s Mike Fortes on his favorite venue to play in Oakland: “We had our vinyl release show recently at Leo’s – good sound, friendly crowd and an interesting layout.”
Sun Hop Fat takes its name from an Oakland grocer so it’s fitting their contribution be titled “Yum Yum.” Irony aside, Sun Hop Fat’s style is Ethiopian, heavily endowed with a moody Arab flair, replete with wailing horn section and hard hitting drums.
*Sun Hop Fat’s Randy Schwartz on his ideal breakfast/lunch/dinner: “Aunt Mary’s for breakfast, chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty’s for lunch and fried chicken for dinner at Picán.”
Drawing half the members of Sugar Candy Mountain, Ash Reiter’s sound is more stripped down than its psychedelic leaning sister band. With its jangling guitar and lush harmonies, Reiter’s “Eye on You” is classic West Coast indie pop.
*Ash Reiter on her favorite record shop: “I like Stranded, which is right in my neighborhood, Temescal. I recently saw Ethan Miller, of Howlin’ Rain, do a solo set there.”
Kid Trails presents the fuzzy, lo-fi tune “Waltzing.” They’re made up of the duo of Patrick Jeffords and Andy Woodward and, along with Anthony from Astronauts, etc., have completed the trio of musicians backing Toro Y Moi on tour.
*Kid Trails’ Patrick Jeffords on Oakland’s best coffee: “Blue Bottle has the best coffee in Oakland. The New Orleans iced coffee is magical.”
The soulful arrangement of organ and screaming horns on Guy Fox’s “I Don’t Know” typifies the sound of these East Coast transplants. Having made their Oakland debut six years ago at the famously dive-y Stork Club, Guy Fox mixes indie, funk and soul with a distinctively old-school sensibility.
*Guy Fox’s Greg Waters on his favorite local getaway: “Redwood Regional Park is up in the hills and gives a sense of total isolation, even though you’ve barely traveled 15 minutes from downtown.”
Minimal beats, jazzy samples and quick lines are the hallmarks of Bay Area native Queen’s D.Light. The undercurrent is thoroughly 1980s West Coast hip-hop, though the futuristic edge of “Queen of Zamunda” could well have come from the chasms of another universe.
*Charmaine Davis of Queen’s D.Light on her favorite record shop: “Hands down, the best record spot is Econo Jam Records on Telegraph Avenue. I go there to pick up rare gems.”
And last but not least, Asonic Garcia’s cathartic “Kami Suite (on E. 27th)” is a fitting completion to our Oakland compilation. Asonic Garcia is the alias of Bay Area native Jason Ragonton whose meditational instrumental style layers synths, percussive bells, persistent beats and late night atmospherics.
*Asonic Garcia’s Jason Ragonton on his favorite venue to play in Oakland: “There is a special place in my heart for The Legionnaire Saloon (the Oakland home to “Smart Bomb,” Ragonton’s bi-monthly art and music happening).”
released April 7, 2015
Bells Atlas – Sugar For The Queen
Written by: D. Barber, G. Harrison, S. Lawson-Ndu, D. Stuart/BMI. Guitars: D. Barber, Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone: G. Harrison, Vocals, Keyboards: Sandra Lawson-Ndu, Vocals, Bass: Doug Stuart.
Astronauts, etc. - Sometime Tomorrow
Written by: A. Ferraro. ASCAP. All instruments performed by Anthony Ferraro. astronautsetc.bandcamp.com
Raashan Ahmad - Warm Up ft. Karl Denson
Written by: R. Morris, E. Parsonage, K. Denson. Raashan Ahmad BMI/Mantragroove Music ASCAP/Baby Ace Music ASCAP. Vocals: R. Morris, Rhodes, Drum Programming: E. Parsonage, Sax, Flute: K. Denson. raashanahmad.bandcamp.com
Waterstrider - Arrive and Leave
Written by N. Salman. Vocals, Synthesizer, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Shaker, Bike Bells: N. Salman.
Sugar Candy Mountain - Being
Written by: A. Reiter, W. Halsey. ASCAP/We Speak Publishing. Vocals: W. Halsey, A. Reiter, Bass: T. Edler, Guitar: A. Reiter, W. Halsey, D. Glasebrook, Drums: W. Halsey, Keys: W. Halsey, Mixed by: J. Quever sugarcandymountain.bandcamp.com
Sun Hop Fat - Yum Yum
Written by D. Martin. Keyboard: H. Murphy, Bass: J. Toews, Guitar: D. Martin, Drums: R. Schwartz, Percussion: D. Silberstein, Tenor Saxophone: J. Greene, Tenor Saxophone and Tabla: J. Sheehan, Trombone: N. Gyorkos, Baritone Sax: C. Noonan, Trumpet: A. Ant.
Ash Reiter - Eye On You
Writen by: A. Reiter, W. Halsey. ASCAP/We Speak Publishing. Lead Vocals: A. Reiter, Backing Vocals: W. Halsey, M. Adams, Guitar: A. Reiter, M. Adams, Bass: J. Quever, Keys: J. Quever, Drums: W. Halsey, Mixed by: J. Quever.
Kid Trails - Waltzing
Written by P. Jeffords. Vocals, Guitar, Bass: P. Jeffords, Drums: A. Woodward.
Guy Fox - I Don't Know
Written by C. Moore. Vocals, Drums & Percussion: P. Granquist, Bass & Keys: C. Moore, Guitar & Synth: N. Witherbee, Saxophones: G. Waters, Trumpet: R. Eustis, Synth: J. Riotto.
Mastered by George Horn Mastering
Compiled by Andrew Jervis, Chief Curator / Bandcamp
Cover Illustration by Oliver Barrett
Liner notes by Barrett Austin, a writer at Monocle.
Vinyl Inside jacket photo ''Oakland Sunsets'' by Thomas Hawk www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/14611440523/
Design by Moni Orife