The first thing a new listener might notice about Desmadre is its high-pitched lead rock guitar licks. But it’s the complex rhythms that make it stand out in Santa Cruz’s music scene.
Desmadre started in 2012 as a Spaghetti Western-surf rock band playing instrumentals before morphing into something a little darker and funkier. “We’re all very interested in funk and Afro-beat. We decided to be a vocal band that was into funk,” guitarist Erik Oatman says. The band, which is currently working on its first full-length album, released a three-song EP last fall with three originals that develop dark, mythic lyrical themes. The band calls its new sound “progressive funk” with some Latin and psychedelic sounds mixed in. “The music feels very upbeat and is supposed to be party music,” Oatman says. “Lyrically, it’s just things that we’re interested in.” One strong track is “Grave Robbin’”— drummer Mikey Whalen’s rhythmically complex tune inspired by a book he picked up about Santa Cruz history that got his imagination going. “There weren’t any stories about grave robbing, but it put me in that kind of mood,” Whalen says. “Deep in the Congo,” the opening track, is an upbeat song by lead guitarist Shahya Khodadadio about a wild seductress of the jungle. “Schizo Pacifico,” written by Oatman with James Brown-esque rhythms, is told with a character combination of Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart who ultimately goes off the deep end. “It has a well-intentioned animosity,” Oatman says. “It comes from a good place, and it it has a good heart, even though it gets a little bit unhinged.”
INFO: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12. Kuumbwa, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $5. 427-2227.