What a difference a year can make. Last Halloween, when a group of friends thought the best way to spend the masked affair would be to jam out some Grateful Dead tunes at a Santa Cruz house party, little could they have guessed that by the next Day of the Dead they’d be garnering notice for playing solid original tunes under the name Birdhouse. Now, with no covers in sight, the quartet balances jazz virtuosity with jam band dexterity, and the resulting patchwork morphs with each show. A conglomerate of UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College students, the guys in Birdhouse, according to drummer Jeff Wilson, formed “to play old time, good feeling rock music with a country feel, but we’re all jazz guys.” With guitarist/lead vocalist Daniel Talamantes (“He’s constantly on his typewriter all day writing,” Wilson says), lead guitarist Jeff Carter, and bassist Chris McIntyre rounding out the crew, Birdhouse lights up an ever-changing set through a knack for tight improv and technical precision. An appreciation for bluegrass and funk certainly informs the set, with Wilson favoring African rhythms and atypical syncopation as the lively undercurrent to the band’s rock meanderings, while Carter’s stinging pedal steel guitar is scene-stealing.
“If you’re taking a lot of different styles the end product can be kind of cheesy, and we’re trying to do that without that happening,” Wilson says. “We try to create the music in the moment so that it’s supportive of emotional wavering. The last thing you want to do is become stagnant.” Armed with a debut, self-titled EP, Birdhouse plays at The Crepe Place on Friday, Nov. 19, and will be joined by Grand Lake and Matador. Maintaining a nod to sounds of the past while laying down spacious seven-minute and 11-minute numbers with fresh appeal, Wilson says Birdhouse is all about eschewing trends. “Music for a long time has been about what’s cool and what’s not cool in the moment. We’re just trying to be good people playing real music.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8/adv, $10/door. 429-6994. myspace.com/birdhouseband.