Having helped to establish the Santa Cruz Americana scene, Mylo Jenkins returns with a new approach
The members of Santa Cruz’s Mylo Jenkins played together for the first time in three years this past August at the Crepe Place, and were surprised at how well it went.
“What was trippy about it was that it felt like we hadn’t missed a beat,” says singer/guitarist Dan Kocher. “There was a certain amount of worry about not having touched the songs in so long, that they would fall flat, or that they wouldn’t have the same fire to them. But it went really well, and it was well received. People really dialed up their solos, it felt like things were right back in rhythm.”
The band’s dynamics may be the same, but what did change—for the better—while they were gone is that bluegrass, Americana and folk music have taken off locally. During their initial run, they were one of only a couple of young bands mixing traditional American folk and country with a newer indie rock edge. Now it’s a major part of Santa Cruz’s music scene.
Prior to their extended hiatus, they’d been a band for eight years. But initially it was Kocher’s project with two others backing him on his solo material. By the end they’d evolved into a seven-piece folk ensemble.
“It was kind of a slow, gradual addition of members. We’d bring someone in to do a couple songs, and their role would expand a little more,” says Kocher. “We’ve been a really loose band anyway. Everyone says it’s like a relationship. It was a friends-with-benefits kind of thing—we would switch instruments if people couldn’t make it.”
For the three-piece, Kocher wrote densely packed singer-songwriter-focused country tunes inspired by Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. The backing musicians accented what he brought, but with more members Kocher’s songwriting style shifted. Before they went on hiatus, they wrote a bunch of new, more spacious and eclectic songs, which they hope to record now that they are back together.
“These songs were more directed towards a band, rather than songs coming out of someone’s bedroom,” Kocher says. “If you liked the last stuff, you’d probably like this stuff, too.”
At the Crepe Place show, the dynamic was even more democratic than Kocher expected. In fact, they haven’t even played another show until this week, because Matt Chaney has been out of town most of that time.
“We thought maybe we’d play inbetween with him gone, but he’s such a crucial piece of the band, we all felt like we had to have him back,” Kocher says. “At the last practice, everyone said, ‘do you have anything new?’ I realized that I had been writing a lot of solo stuff that wasn’t for a band at all. I can see it where I’m bringing unfinished songs to the practice and having people chime in. That’s exciting for me, ’cause I’ve never operated in a band like that, ever.”
Kocher hopes to get into the studio in 2015. He considers the newer material to be written by the group as a whole, part of a very different dynamic within the band than what he started with.
“We have fun, and we definitely want to make good music at the same time. We’re going to reach that limit at some point where the dream of having a loosey goosey kind of relationship doesn’t work out as much,” Kocher says. “While I think we still have a friends-with-benefits kind of thing, I feel like it still is a serious thing when we get together and play. We’re kind of like every new couple, where they’ve broken up several times, and they kept getting back together until they’ve sort of settled into something. I want this to be a lasting thing.”
INFO: 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994