Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An almost one-hit wonder

Here's one from the Daily Titan's Back Pages (see pages 3&4):
Disarray searching for niche

Consider the old desert island dilemma: one desolate island and - just three albums of your choice.

Depending upon circumstances and tastes, the choice possibly would include popular favorites like the Police or U2, or maybe a pop sound like Prince.

It would be hard to imagine ever choosing a local band like Disarray.

But on second look and listen, a group like Disarray would only seem natural.

The band's sound crosses over from hard rock to pop to rock n' roll with even a taste of funk. The wide array of styles would be perfect, considering the forced lack of selection.

There is only one problem: the band would have to find its own way to the island, because the members have yet to release an album.

Disarray has been together for five years, playing the local club circuit and creating a loyal following. It might just be a matter of time, however, before the quintet, which will headline June 10 at the Roxy, gets that elusive break.

"What we are doing, we feel, is ahead of what is happening right now," said guitarist Dan Warren. "Right now they are having a problem catagorizing us. That's business.

"We are certainly a crossover band. We can be played on KROQ, KLOS, KMPC, and even KIIS with some of our tunes.

"That pleases us that we are diverse. We've opened for just about every style that exists."

Disarray opened for such acts as Dramarama (at a CSUF show). The Unforgiven and Fishbone. Lately, they have been headlining, while a demo tape has received airplay on KLOS-FM and many college stations. It's the same way most bands get their start.

"It all comes down to someone in the industry taking a chance," said vocalist Phil Flores. 'That's what happened to U2. No one would have thought a band like U2 would make it to be the No. 1 band in the world.

"The music business is all money. It's all lawyers. It's a drag.

"We know we're going to get signed sooner or later. But it's going to be a long road when we first get in there because we are going to have to fight a lot as far as creativity goes and as far as what we want and what the label wants."

With more than 30 original songs, Disarray has enough material to put out at least one album. The band also has experience in the studio after recording the demo tape.

Disarray also has a quality sound, based on strong lead electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums and keyboards — a sound that might one day bring commercial success.

"Private Paradise- probably their best song - would be well-suited" for play "on KROQ-FM, KllS-FM, or even KYMS-FM. "Fire", more of a rock-based tune, has already been played on KLOS-FM. "Walk That Talk" moves more toward funk than rock.

No matter what style of music the band is playing, Disarray always seems to get across its message.

"There is no order to this world. We are a product of it and all of our songs deal with life in general," Flores said.

The band says they like to preach peace.

"So many Los Angeles-based bands preach gloom and doom," Warren said. "They are obsessed with death. We are obsessed with life."

"We are not in array with everything else that is out there. We are in disarray."
I have recalled a time around the late 1980s (I'd been guessing 1989, but apparently it really was 1988) when the song "Private Paradise" could be hear on just about any radio station I happened to tune in on my way to school or work. One of the things I had liked about that song was that it really didn't quite fit into any particular rock category - it had a sort of "classic rock" vibe, but in an "alternative rock" (a label that was already badly outdated by the late 1980s) sort of way (which explains why both KLOS and KROQ were picking it up at the time). The hook was sufficiently catchy, the instrumentation kept one's attention, the lyrics were perhaps not the most profound in the world but were better than much of what was out there. It was basically a nice laid back party song.

That was pretty much where it ended for Disarray (not to be confused with a more recent metal band that uses the same name). Their 15 minutes was up, and they'd been long forgotten when I first encountered guitarist Dan Warren performing on the coffee house circuit in the early 1990s. At that point, Dan was playing in a folk-rock duo called War n' Cocoa, and part of their act included an acoustic version of "Private Paradise". I recall asking Dan about that song - mostly just trying to figure out if that was the tune I'd been hearing on the radio a few years earlier, and if he'd been involved with the band who performed it. Of course my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I got the lowdown on his days with Disarray. The band managed to gain some minor notoriety in the western half of the US, but never quite landed a recording deal.

Dan Warren was viewing musical performing as a hobby by the time I got to know him (as a member of a folk-rock duo called War n' Cocoa). He had a day job, mortgage, wife and kids, and the usual trappings of middle class existence, and seemed content with the cards life had dealt him. He simply was one of a number of reasonably talented singer/songwriters who probably deserved some commercial success, but was not quite in the right place at the right time. Dan's post-Disarray material for War n' Cocoa was consistently excellent, and the guy had quite a vocal range.

Somewhere I think my wife still has an old demo tape of War n' Cocoa that reprises "Private Paradise" - that version has a "recorded in the garage" feel to it, that although not quite as smooth as the old radio version still evokes pleasant memories. War n' Cocoa developed a bit of a local following during their run in the early to mid 1990s (their gigs almost always packed whatever venue they played in Orange County and Chino), before life simply got in the way - well, that and the fact that the coffee house scene was starting to die out by then. My wife and I moved to the midwest, and eventually lost touch with War n' Cocoa. For a while they had a mailing list going to keep friends and fans updated on gigs and demo tapes before they called it a day.

Sidebar: At some point perhaps I'll write a bit more about that coffee house scene during the early 1990s. It was a scene that a girlfriend (and now wife) introduced me to in 1992, and for which I have tons of good memories. In terms of music, there was quite a bit of talent to be found on any given night. The atmosphere of these places was what I really dug. At the time, most coffee houses in So.Cal. were mom & pop operations (this was before Starbucks and Seattle's Best drove out or bought out nearly every independent coffee house still in existence). These places were built for their patrons to relax, to hang out, to socialize. They added some much-needed character to the strip malls that dominated so much of the region. For a while, one of the more successful venues was located in Brea (Regency) - it was in a good, highly visible spot, had plenty patio space for those wanting to enjoy the coffee outdoors (which in So.Cal. you can do most of the year), offered up a damn good cup of coffee, and weren't overpriced. My wife's memory of the various venues on the coffee house circuit is a bit better than my own, so I'll have to quiz her I suspect to get the details straight. But I digress. These venues offered one viable outlet for the under-21 set to hear live music. Not surprisingly, depending on the performer on a given night, one could find quite a mix of people in the audience ranging from the teens to middle age (usually those jonesing for a Cat Stevens cover or two) to the elderly. Good times. Good times.

No comments:

Post a Comment