Orange Pop: Jeramiah Red keeps it traditional
In late 2008, five guys who would soon take their name from a beer at BJ's -- vocalist Wes Dickson, drummer Matt Pleskacz, percussionist and harmonica player Travis Ruiz, bassist Tim Miller and guitarist Ian Cullen -- decided to band together and make some noise. It wasn’t clear at first what type of noise that would be, however, since Dickson and Miller came from a punk rock background, and Pleskacz, Ruiz and Cullen had just ended things as a bluesy surf rock band.
The quintet had already known each other since high school and connected on numerous occasions playing in the local music scene with their respective acts. When Pleskacz, Ruiz and Cullen found themselves without a frontman, Dickson came to check them out.
“We all just weren’t happy with what we had been doing,” Pleskacz says in a recent phone interview. “So we had all gotten together and talked to see if we could do something we’d actually all like. Wes came out and he was into punk rock, so when he first heard us he was like, ‘Eh, not so much.’”
Nonetheless, the musically eclectic twentysomethings went back and forth on ideas and listened to tons of music to come up with a list of artists they could all agree on as influences: Led Zeppelin, the Raconteurs, a slew of blues greats like John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson. Numerous jam sessions followed, as the band began to define its gritty sound.
The guys still needed a name, and since Ruiz and Pleskacz were holding down day jobs as servers at BJ’s in Brea, they were inspired by the eatery’s handcrafted Jeramiah Red brew, which they’d often enjoy after shifts.
“We drank that, like, all of the time,” Pleskacz says. “Everyone in the band would come in and they liked it, so it kind of became the blood of our band. It’s what fueled us.”
Jeramiah Red -- then a sextet including guitarist Eric Friedman, who left the band a little over a year ago to tour with Creed -- starting practicing regularly at Ruiz’s house in Diamond Bar and booking gigs at local venues. The response to the live shows has been mostly positive, Pleskacz says, but the band has taken criticism well and has worked diligently on perfecting its music.
“I feel like we’ve done a lot even in the last year,” he says. “We’re finishing up our new EP now at ArtiSans Label in Fullerton." It's due in September, "and there are three songs on it that will be familiar to people who have come out to the shows, but we’re putting on two new tracks that we haven’t done live.”
With mixing and mastering in the works, the band only has a few gigs on the books, including a show at 10 p.m. Friday in the Hangar at the OC Fair and a free late-night show with Denny White at House of Blues Anaheim on July 28. Pleskacz says the band can’t wait to release the EP and get back into the groove of performing live regularly, eventually outside of California.
“I love the feeling you get from playing a live show,” he says. “There’s nothing else like it. It’s the highest high you can imagine. You’re putting everything out on the table, like it or not. But lately people have been liking it, so it works. It’s an unreal feeling.”
See Jeramiah Red: Friday in the Hangar at the OC Fair (100 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa) and July 28, with Denny White, as part of Local Brews Local Grooves at House of Blues Anaheim (1530 S. Disneyland Drive).
Photo by Austin Ruiz.
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