Garageland Rodeo is ubiquitous in Martinez – if you haven’t seen them play at The Station, then chances are you’ve seen them at the Farmers Market, or Fridays on the Main, or any number of events in the city. They have a soulful sound, thanks to the angelic singing of Jenny Starmack, with exquisite blues tinges added by guitarist Kelly Back, held down by a solid rhythm section of Charles Waltmire on drums and Pat Brady on bass. Kevin Scott Kroner adds the atmosphere on the keys, and the whole ensemble is glued together expertly by the quite capable leadership of Chris Bryant on guitar.
Bryant plays lead guitar for the band Rocking Horse, which will appear at with Felsen on Oct. 6.
GarageLand Rodeo will be appearing at the the on Oct. 22 with So What! and Zoo Station.
RoDuo is schedule for on Oct. 15.
We asked Bryant to answer some questions about his band, and here’s what he had to say.
Q: What is the meaning of Garageland Rodeo?
It's "Rock and Blues with just a hint of country and a whole lotta soul". We try and offer a unique mix of styles and genres while still keeping it identifiable as "the rodeo". We want to feel hungry and keep the passion we've had for music since we all began playing back in our garages as kids, It’s a bit rough around the edges, thus "garageland", which is a term I heard Little Steven (Steven Van Zant, guitarist with Bruce Springsteen and the host of Little Steven’s Garage on Sirius XM Satellite Radio) use years ago when he was starting up his radio show which focused on the more raw music coming from the heartland or as he called "garageland”…the rodeo part – it's a holdover from the early days – and while we've considered changing it a few times…we've always liked the way it sounded – and rodeos are events with lots things going on that can be pretty exciting so why not.… The Rodeo is more about fun and being unpredictable than "country"
Q: When did the band first come into being?
I took a year or two off after my last band, an all-original rock band called Wild For Kate, parted ways and I needed to get playing again. GarageLand Rodeo actually started back in 2003-2004 when I was looking for like-minded souls seeking to do something musical and hopefully unique, and at one point had we a bit more country tinge with a pedal steel player, though still a rock/blues oriented set list. The core members of the current version have been together for almost 6-7 years with very few changes in faces – once you’re in it's not an easy band to get out of, and usually requires serious injury or death.
Over the years the sound keeps evolving, as everyone is encouraged to bring his or her own ideas and influences to the mix. The set list is constantly changing and we often try to pick titles that may be familiar but that you may not hear other bands playing very often and for the most part we try treat them as our own with our own GarageLand Style, instead of trying to recreated what was already done.
Q: You are a very busy band. What keeps you motivated?
The love of the music and the fact that we really try to encourage everyone bring their own ideas to every song to keep things interesting. We are constantly and happily trying to find new ways to do things – often in the middle of a gig! As a result we actually have a couple versions of the band; super minimalist in the form of the Ro Duo, which is just myself and Jenny, the Naked Rodeo, which does a variety of material, some expected, some not so much in an "unplugged" or naked format with everyone, and we’ve played gigs as 4, 5, or 6 member versions depending on location and peoples schedules, which allows us the freedom to constantly rethink arrangements and instrumentation. We play because we enjoy it and when others enjoy what we are doing it makes it that much better. We like what we do and hope it shows and in turn motivates the audience to have a great time.
Q: How long have you been playing, Chris?
I've been hacking away for 35 or 36 years, and while I can get lazy now and then, every day I hear something new or meet someone who makes me want to learn more. I'm not able to spend as much time chipping away at things as I was when I started but every so often I get a wild hair and buckle down for a few hours, trying to find that vibe and groove. I suffer from and extreme case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) so I'm always adding and subtracting things to the arsenal – guitars, pedals, amps and assorted other little noisemakers
Q: Primary influences?
There are so many…the obvious ones like the Stones, Beatles, Zeppelin and all the classics from my youth (e.g. any "Classic Rock" FM radio staples from the 60's thru - well I hope it'll never end) and I really dig the early R&B, blues and old jazz stuff – really anyone who works at their instrument. I'm not a fan of synthesizers or overly slick or formulated things. I like real instruments making real sounds. I often will be influenced or inspired by anyone with a passion for what they are doing – whatever genre, I've been floored several time by people who pick up an instrument for the first time and pull some crazy sound out of it – and get that gleam in their eyes…makes me envious. The influences on the band as a whole are hugely diverse, Rock and Blues, Gospel, Country, Jazz, and Funk, R&B. Each member brings his or her own influences and heart to each song, and together it really makes something very unique and different.
Q: Advice to up and coming musicians?
Soak up everything you can and be open to exploration and not afraid to break the rules. It's great to be able to play what you hear, but it's even more rewarding to take things and find new ways to do them – create your own sounds and identity, your influences will show but your own identity should come out in your music and the more things you expose yourself to will allow you more colors to play with. When playing live or in rehearsal listen to the overall mix of the band – if all you can hear is yourself then you're probably too loud (the reverse happens but rarely). You should be able to hear what everyone is doing so you can find your place in that mix. Listen to the mix of your favorite recordings and hear how everything fits - work towards a balanced sound. If you don't have the luxury of a good sound person or producer find a friend you all trust and respect – have them listen to the band and tell you what they hear – and adjust as needed.