When Anaheim was bad she was very very bad. (Think “The Block at Disney” and The Mighty Ducks) and… when Anaheim was good she was very very good… think “No Doubt” , good Udon, cheap mexican food (The “B” on the window as you enter means: “BEST.)” The Cold War Kids, The Mighty Ducks in ’03 and ’07… and THE WILLOZ!! Anaheim, a sometimes Fickle and brazenly pompous beauty, has redeemed herself by allowing the germination of this willowy band of musical choristers.
The Willowz were once called “Just out of high school long-hairs” with a “Billy Corrigan on helium” for a lead singer. Now everyone’s eating their words.
Punk, soul, blues, an electric hybrid. Isn’t that what making music is all about? Bit o’ pixies, bit o’ sonic love, go ahead pull up a chair and listen. Have a pen and paper nearby, you’ll have to make a list of the influences that you can hear and yet listen hard and close because they are so well blended, twisted, molded, melded and lit up with a blow torch that you’ll have trouble really naming them. Again. That’s the way it should be. At once familiar and yet not, what goes into the willowz is original and made in the perfection of it’s own collective raw personality. A sonic, yet organic, tree like sound. Yes the Willowz are like trees. Branches wild and strong and able to span in any direction. 2007 ‘s release “Chataqua” proved that they band could comb new limbs and encourage growth in new directions. Witness “Evil Son” …met a man with an evil stare said I’m the wicked one and quite aware, I lost my nerve, I said don’t despiar…My evil son time to prepare.” The song traverses melodic soulsey balladry and progresses to a Wolfmother free-for-all in a matter a few stanzas. Complete with a gong and a slide of the entire neck of a gretsch or the like and some bells, These Willowz aren’t afraid to make a rattle in the garden. The rattle in this song isn’t entirely the stuff of seasoned auteurs, but the seeds are sewn.
From the bedroom and into the bedlam, Willoz made the trek in 2002 with Richie James Follin and Jessica Reynoza leading and grew their sound. Perfecting the best and losing the rest, this band is an organic petrie dish project that has been obviously carefully nurtured.
“Willowz” came to Jessica in a dream when a tree told her that the word “Willow” would being her musical enlightenment. I’ve had dreams where a word was prominent but they told me things like, “Ride your horse to the front of Vons and then fold it into the baloney package, take the stairs in the pagoda go to the top and attend school given by headmaster Angela Merkel sporting a small whip made from whale bone. But I digress.
Good news can travel fast even if all your friends don’t listen to NPR. Later in blustery ’02 The Willowz released a 7” on the infamous Posh Boy records with Robbie Fields producing. Traipsing back to the arms of that “mean girl Anaheim” that somber fair weathered friend who pushed them around at the lockers and ignored them in the hallways, The Willowz then began playing kick-ass shows to ever growing crowds. Simultaneously moving and in and around Los Angeles, in 2004, Dionysus records soon released their first record “The Willowz. In a pungent and yet sweet turn of events the OC Weekly named “The Willowz’s” record as one of the top 10 albums of the year! v
They had snagged Paul Kostabi as their producer and the record was done in a few days. There’s nothing like raw unknowingness to lend a disjointed and yet energetic spell of desire to the sound of a record. The Jackson Pollack method of laying music like paint worked well. Wild abandon tempered with some direction to the splatter of the sound. Okay some say J.P. planned every stray swath of paint but he applied but I do not agree. There’s joy, surprise and improvisation even in the most wild, fractured and wonderful art.
Soon after touring greater North America, and Europe the Willowz music was featured in the cinematic and odd “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Soon nominated for a grammy, Willowz were surprised when the Eternal Sunshine filmmaker Gondry had a dream about the Willowz song “I Wonder” and flew them out to NYC to make a video for them. Soon touring with the likes of the Weirdos, NY Dolls, the Dirtbombs, the Greenhornes, Wolfmother, the Ponys, Tom Vek, Ted Leo, YGM, OK GO, the Gossip, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Dwarves, Burning Brides, John Cale and many others, The Willowz had come full circle and seemed to be the musical version of someone’s Tibetan dream set in Yarlung South Central Tibet was coming true. But noone was selected as the Rimpoche just yet.
In February 2005 the Willowz re-released their self titled album on Sympathy For the Record Industry and titled the album “Are Coming” (with a four more songs on it). The follow up “Talk in Circles” was released June 2005 (also recorded in a garage by Paul Kostabi, this time as a four piece and with a little more focus on making an album) on the Long Beach, CA label Sympathy for the Record Industry by way of record mogul Long Gone John. “Talk in Circles” received extraordinary reviews, including “46th Best Album of the Year” by Rolling Stone and was also featured in another one of Gondry’s films, “The Science of Sleep”.
The Willowz were nominated by LA Weekly as one of the tope bands of 2005. More singles followed “Talk in Circles” on such labels as Contaminated, Acid Bird, and Sympathy. The second album was followed by a DVD, “See In Squares”, released on Sympathy. “See In Squares” contained 27 unique videos, all by different directors, and additional live concert footage at a catholic school summer camp in Oklahoma, several of these videos have gone on to win national and international awards.
For the third album “Chautauqua”, to be released on Steve Aoki’s Los Angeles label Dim Mak, the Willowz headed to the eastern countryside and set up a studio, this time in a basement, with Paul Kostabi producing again. They recruited Aric Bohn on guitar and Tony Mann back on the drums. “Chautauqua” provides the energy and rawness of the first albums with a thicker rock sound more focused on songwriting. They came out in ’09 and are in heavy rotation in a round L.A. with Steve Aoki lending support. Do not miss the chimerous impression that is “The Willowz.”
Note: The new music section will be written by Garet Whipple and has yet to be cleverly named! But keep a watch for Garet’s new column! Music spans from new pop to dance, trance and rock. Garet knows the scene and writes with reverie. Stay tuned.