On its surface Redondo Beach is another too too idyllic beachfront suburb of Los Angeles. It’s easy to assume that everything that is live and vital is going on somewhere else. However, underneath the countless seascape paintings, and around the corner from the Beach Boy cover bands, there exists a community of artists on a par with any larger city.
I was grateful for an introduction to the world of live Beach Cities music with the gentlemen of Wooden Robot.
There are some bands that make your ears ring. There are some that lull you as you nod disinterestedly, asleep on your feet. Then there are some that make your neck hurt in the best way for the week afterward. Every time you raise your head to check your rear view, you are reminded in no uncertain terms that you rocked out. You rocked out hard, and there was nothing you could do about it.
My neck is still killing me from the evening I spent at , listening to Redondo’s own, Wooden Robot.
The band has been around in one form or another between one and three years, depending on which member of the band you ask. (There have been numerous lineup changes.) Its sound hovers somewhere between classic rock and riff rock, with notable strains of punk and jazz thrown in. While so many burgeoning bands trace crude outlines of their influences, Wooden Robot’s sound is intoxicatingly original.
“We want to make music that makes it impossible to stand still," vocalist Erik Jepsen joked. "We just want one body part moving.”
The band is made up of Erik Jepsen on vocals, Jeff Martin playing the bass, Kyle Milner on rhythm guitar, Steve Banbury on lead guitar and Dante DiRusso on drums. The members of Wooden Robot originally hail from the Midwest, but they have found a home in the music community of Redondo Beach for the last two years.
Of course making music has its challenges wherever the band is based. When I asked where they rehearse, smiles broke across the faces of the band and they looked toward Steve.
“We rehearse at my place—we have some electronic drums setup, and my neighbors on both sides are deaf, so it works out alright,” he said.
Wooden Robot is one of many bands coming up in the Beach Cities, where Kilkenny’s and a slew of other venues host live music.
“We’ve played the Hollywood clubs, like the Cat Club and The Whiskey, but people tend to come out a lot more in Redondo,” said Jepsen, when asked about the advantages of playing locally.
There was no doubt that Wooden Robot has a fond following on the Redondo Beach Pier. As they stepped on stage, somewhere around midnight, the crowd showed no sign of heading for the parking lot.
As Wooden Robot began, with their song Low, it looked like Jepsen got his wish: Everyone was moving, including me. They played for about an hour, the audience demanding one more song. At one point, Jeff Martin’s bass broke, but another one was kindly provided by the previous band Aloha Radio. They finished the set with their song Dragonslayer. (Yeah, that’s what it’s called. One word: Dragonslayer.) And it was apparent that the audience could gone for another hour.
As band members broke down its equipment and instruments, they took some time to chat with their family, friends, and fans. They hiked their things out to their cars while someone watched so that they didn’t get stolen.
That’s when rhythm guitar player Kyle Milner turned to me and complained about commercial bands today. "They’re too pretty," he said. "Old ugly bands wail. Pretty bands suck.”
Though I’m not qualified to tell if they’re an ugly band or a pretty band, I can tell you without a doubt, that they wail. Find them, see them, your neck will hurt in the best way.