When jazzmaster Charlie "Yardbird" Parker moved to California in the 1940s, he took up heroin with a drug dealer named Emery Byrd. Parker shot up and bought up until there was no more cash for the cause. And when that day came, damnit, he wrote a song for that drug dealer and traded the publishing rights for smack. Mr. Emery Byrd walked away a richer man; The Bird had a nervous breakdown a few years later.
Or at least that's the story according to Brandon Leck, guitarist for the San Diego band named after Parker's infamous dealer. While the five members of Emery Byrd may not relate to heroin addiction and play nothing close to bebop, they do know a thing or two about moving to the Golden State.
Before Emery Byrd became the first band signed to San Diego's Pineapple Recording Group, most members were classmates at Ohio State. Leck, bassist Bobby Pratt, guitarist Andy Lindsell and vocalist Matt Carastro played in a self-declared "awful" incarnation before Carastro learned to sing and everyone else learned how to play without sounding like a bar band.
In 2003 Leck, Pratt, Lindsell and Carastro picked up and moved to San Diego. It wasn't L.A., but it was close enough for four 25-year-old kids from Maumee, Ohio. At the beginning of this year, they picked up drummer Nick Roppo and they've been a growing band ever since.
"We were really bad when we were younger," remembers Pratt. "We were campy without knowing it. Now, we just try to make music with legitimate camp... the songs that have enough shiny, happy in them without making people cringe."
"Living in permanent sunshine really changes the way you play," Lindsell says. "We're just a bunch of little-town guys that came to the beach and got lost in San Diego for a few weeks and decided to stay. We're not necessarily happier than the normal person, but all this nice weather sure does make it sound like it."
Emery Byrd's self-titled debut is nothing short of "Shiny Happy People" with a nice touch of Liverpudlian bravado. The band la-la-la's their way through one melodic chorus hook after another. Pineapple Recording Group honcho and Louis XIV frontman Jason Hill produced the five-song EP, smearing his love for '60s vinyl (Beatles, Dylan, Kinks, etc.) all over the band's attractive simplicity.
"Isn't that what any recording is? Someone's interpretation of their own record collection?" shrugs Leck. "This record took forever to record but we love it because it sounds like the music we grew up with."
The five songs work magically well for a bunch of kids from Ohio who are shacking up in California to play music that sounds like it's from England. BEmery Byrd plays with Mark Lindsell at the Whistlestop, 10 p.m. on Nov. 11. 619-284-6784.