Rent Party Blues


I’ve been feeling uninspired to write lately mostly because of personal crap that clogs the pipes and gets the mind all sorts of discombobulated and wondering why the hell we do what we do and why we even do what we do to even do it at all. I guess you could say I’ve been feeling blue… or that I have the blues. I actually don’t mind it. The blues has always felt like an emotional reset button even when our “complications” get the best of us.

Three years ago, I walked in to Seven Bar & Kitchen (unbeknownst to me that it would become my home away from home for a spell) lulled by the sweet sounds of guitars that made my head cock to the side the way my dog does when he’s seems to really want to comprehend what I’m saying to him. The sound spoke to me… it moved me… it was tight, it was nostalgic, it was emotional, it was raw, and it was bluesy. Rent Party Blues was playing and they had the crowd under their spell.

I’ve followed the band, composed of David Rojas, Kris Ehrman, Sebastian Martinez, and Vicente Zavala, ever since and they never disappoint. I really think Duke Ellington would shake these guy’s hands if he heard them play (he wrote the song Rent Party Blues). But it’s T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Albert King, Muddy Waters, and all the OG blues men who would let these young guns buy them a drink and be in awe of their soulful playing.

To emotionally touch people with music is not an easy thing to do. To be a young band playing a dying genre of music (damn, that hurt to write… ok maybe a better word would be dwindling) and be able to touch the listener’s heart and soul is even more difficult. You can’t fake it. Rent Party Blues band couldn’t fake it if they tried (Sebastian’s body English is a testament to that… he definitely testifies to the blues gods as he plays).

Last week I heard Rent Party Blues play at Wine Therapy, an incredibly fun and cool place on State Street hosting live music at least three times a week, and they owned the place, the same way they always do wherever they perform.

Where are you originally from?

David: Santa Barbara born and raised… Cottage hospital. Been here all my life.

Kris: Born in Kokomo Indiana, was only there for about three months, but grew up in Seattle till I was about 24.

Sebastian: Carpinteria (me: local boy), yeah, born and raised. Lived in Pismo for a little bit but yeah, local.

Vicente: Born in Ventura, raised in Oxnard. Lived in the area my whole life. 28 years.

What were your musical influences growing up?

B: I come from a musical family. My mom, Olivia Rojas was in a band called Guayari and played South American folk and jazz. I grew up listening to world music, I remember listening to my mom’s tapes driving around in her brown Volvo as a kid. There was nothing really contemporary…hahaha!… she took me straight to the source! My sound was more like Buena Vista Social Club, Afro Cuban AllStars, Ruben Blades (me: WTF! For real? Don’t Think I’ve ever had a Panamanian salsero in a list of influences…nice!), yeah man, it was a hodgepodge of things.

K: Earliest influence was Kiss. I think it was the shock value, the outfits and make up. There was also this kid in my neighborhood, he was in 6th grade and I was in 1st grade, and he pulled up in a cool mongoose bike with a Kiss shirt on and he turned me on into all that music. I call it uncle rock… Hendrix, Zeppelin, etc. But at one point I asked myself who are these guy’s influences? What is delta blues? Then I got into world music because I had to trace back the African diaspora.

S: Junior year I started getting into electric and started playing jazz. That really opened up a whole world to me and I found out about Jaco Pastorious (me: (surprised face emoji) and that took about four or five years of my life listening to that guy. My music teacher, Mr. Charles Ortega, gave me Jaco but then I got into YouTube and started playing everything I could.

V: I got into music because of my mom. I grew up listening to Motown. Then I got into Rock… Zeppelin and such. But I heard a lot of other genres and got into Latin Rock… Zoe, Heroes del Silencio, Pastilla, Soda Estereo, stuff like that (Me: those bands are no joke! I love me some Persiana Americana).

When did you start playing music?

B: I was 18 when I picked up a Bronco bass. I was shy about playing an instrument before that. Then I went to piano and guitar.

K: I played piano when I was 4 or something like that. But I got my first guitar from Sears on Christmas in first grade. But I learned drums first from that crazy kid with the cool bike in the neighborhood.

S: Started playing in high school. Started playing upright base in orchestra class (me: no shit? Fretless?! No Fender Bassmaster or something like that?) yeah man, straight up fretless (me: (more surprised face emoji).

V: I got into drums because I heard a little song on the radio that caught my attention. Later on I learned it was Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana). So yeah, David Grohl got me into playing. Then I bought a drum set. Played in the garage, took lessons, went to city college.

Where do you see the band in five years?

D: I see it where the members want it to be. I would say at least a few vinyl releases and the west cast tour would be done and working on an east coast tour. I’d like to tour Europe, that’s my main dream.

K: I like where we’re at, David and I are educators and I always saw us as connecting the old school with the new school here in Santa Barbara which is a pretty squeaky clean place but there are also dive bars.

S: I think the whole band is gonna be doing great things. (Me: Lobero, Granada?) Yeah man, I think we can do that all this year!

V: Gigging more. There’s potential man. Touring the US.

Do you prefer a motorcycle or a car?

D: I’d have to say car (hesitates)… mostly because I have to carry gear (me: so it’s the practicality of it?), yeah… but really I would say motorcycle. My dad had one and I’ve always had an attachment to bikes.

K: Oh, car. Yeah. Lotta safety in that thing.

S: Cars. I just want a Pontiac Firebird before I die… hahahahaha!

V: Car. Safety man. Motorcycles irritate me because you always have to look out for them (big smile).

I’ve been feeling more like Strong Persuader by Robert Cray, or Angel Eyes by Jeff Healey Band, but mostly like Old Love by Eric Clapton… I guess I revert back to the time when I was first influenced by the blues and how they manhandled my teenager emotions like kids playing cat’s cradle with string… those were some rough ass times.

Today I read about trends of going to a primal therapy class and releasing all our pent up emotions by screaming. I’m sure it works for some people, but I have to shake my head and think of T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, etc, and all the soul searching music they created which has the same effect. Listen to their music… I mean REALLY let yourself go with their music and you’ll be wanting your momma tucking you into bed and reading Good Night Moon as you drift into a healing sleep. Or just catch Rent Party Blues at their next gig and let your feelings vibe with the emotional roller coaster that is the blues.

Thank you, Rent Party Blues, for all the energy, electricity and love you give every time you play.


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