It can take a lot of hustle before a band starts to get noticed. Writing good songs and playing your instruments well helps, of course, but you need more than chops before your audience starts to grow. Booking and playing consistent live shows, putting up flyers, having a good social media presence, building up word of mouth and recording a demo and eventually an album— there’s a lot of elbow grease involved in getting a band off the ground. And there aren’t any easy shortcuts.
But sometimes a little luck can go a long way. Back in June of last year, long-running weekly UK music magazine NME got ahold of The Gloomies’ debut single “LSD,” months before it was even officially released, and named them Buzz Band of the Week. Not bad for a band that had only existed for a couple months.
Singer and guitarist Andrew Craig found the idea of an internationally known publication featuring his fledgling band a little hard to believe.
“When I was told about the NME thing, I thought it was a joke,” he says on a rain-soaked Tuesday morning at Better Buzz in Encinitas. “They were like ‘you’re gonna be NME Band of the Week,’ not thinking anything of it. I get an email from NME saying ‘we need a band photo,’ and we didn’t even have a photo. We had 20 followers on Facebook. I didn’t think it was real. I’ve been in so many bands, and how quickly that happened, that didn’t seem real.”
The end result was a spike in attention for The Gloomies, and not just from fans at home. “For a while, our followers were a lot of people from other countries,” Craig says, noting NME’s international reach.
Listening to “LSD,” which was released as a seven-inch single in November via Thrill Me Records, it’s easy to understand the British mag’s early enthusiasm for the band.
The Gloomies, in the middle of a month-long Monday-night residency at Soda Bar, have a warm, lightly psychedelic sound that blends contemporary indie rock with a vintage, surf-inspired vibe. “LSD,” itself, is an upbeat rock number that’s simple in its melody, but carries layers of guitar effects, synthesizer and vocal harmonies. Its flipside, “Groves,” is a more melancholy mid-tempo track that juxtaposes a reverb-heavy three-note piano hook and a finger picked, acoustic guitar melody that could have been plucked straight from a ’60s-era vinyl collection.
The Gloomies aren’t a throwback band by any means, but rather, one that’s looking ahead while acknowledging a bygone era in its rearview mirror. Craig says a lot of his favorite bands are those of decades past, and cites soundtracks to Wes Anderson movies as compilations that encapsulate the kind of vibe that he looks for in music.
“I gravitate toward music that feels like it’s from a different time,” he says. “That nostalgic feeling, like everything’s gonna be OK—it’s a good feeling.
“I want to feel something when I hear somebody singing,” he adds. “I think that’s what everybody kind of wants. You want to relate to a band.”
Despite the early buzz and relative newness of the band, The Gloomies are far from Craig’s first musical venture. Before moving back to San Diego last year after four years of living in New York City (and five years in Los Angeles before that), he was in the bands Guards and Sacco, the latter of which also featured Gloomies drummer Chris Trombley. Trombley ended up introducing Craig to bassist Blake Martz and keyboardist Grant Martz, who also play in Idyll Wild, and when Sacco came to an end and Craig moved back to San Diego, he ended up living on the floor of a converted storage shed studio at the Martzes’ house, where he finished The Gloomies’ first recordings.
The Gloomies play Jan. 18 and 25 at Soda Bar
The mutual friendship between all four members of The Gloomies was important to Craig, both because his contacts in California were limited after several years on the East Coast and because he values camaraderie in a musical project.
“I’ve been away from San Diego so long that I don’t know a ton of musicians,” he says. “I went to see a couple [Idyll Wild] shows, and was like, ‘These guys are good, they have good energy.’ And they’re good people—I like to be in bands with my friends. I want it to be a group effort as much as possible.”
With just less than a year under their belts, The Gloomies have been pretty busy and only seem to be continuing that trend, with a new EP being released at the end of the month. But despite not having any particular agenda as the band took shape, Craig says that as it grows and builds momentum, there’s really only one concrete intention that he has. When people hear or watch The Gloomies, he says, he wants them to have a good time.
“The shows that I go to that are my favorite are the ones where people are going crazy,” he says. “Everyone likes having fun, even if they think they don’t. If you’re playing and people start dancing, even the people that don’t like dancing, when it starts, they’re having fun.”