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To sing or play an instrument takes talent, but to be a songwriter? That takes passion. Brad Owens (vocals/guitar) from Summer Wilshire explains his not-so-precise mechanism for the art of writing songs. "It all just starts with an acoustic guitar. I play until I get something I like, and it builds from there. I've been writing songs for so long; it's a big part of my life." Influences? "I'm influenced by whatever I'm listening to at the time." And what is Owens listening to now? "My major influences are Radiohead, especially OK Computer, Wilco and Mute Math. Mute Math is out of New Orleans; they're one of my favorite bands."
Owens has come acting as spokesperson for his band. Together less than a year, but friends long before that, Summer Wilshire also consists of Jared Slaybaugh (keys/backup vocals), Mark Reinhardt (lead guitar), Luke St. Hilaire (bass) and David Hughes (drums). Owens relates how everything accidentally fell into place.
"We were all at dinner one day and noticed our waitress' name tag said 'Summer Wilshire,' and we just thought that was a great name for a band. That's it." We both start laughing. "I later became friends with her little sister, and it was really awkward." Hey, it is a good name for a band—no, really, it is.
Summer Wilshire's album, March of the Sleepers, came about in an equally haphazard way. "We entered this contest for Starbucks employees," explains Owens, who works for the coffeehouse chain. "The winner would be on a compilation CD." You know, those middle-age-friendly, easy-listening CDs they hawk right next to the gum. So they threw together a six-track disc of songs Owens had written over the years and entered. Unfortunately, they didn't read the fine print, which stated employees had to work there for a year, which Owens hadn't. Damn those technicalities. Too bad for Starbucks: the album is actually better than the generic drivel that usually makes the cut.
On March of the Sleepers, "Robber" stars a dusty, western-twang guitar riff that would be perfect for driving through the desert. It meets somewhere between country and rock, giving it a fresh but gritty quality. "Old New Song," meanwhile, has a completely different feel: a little spacey, a little sleepy and ravishingly melodic. This song's the cool, shady counterpart to the hot, raspy "Robber."
So now Summer Wilshire has this great album, but what to do with it? Try to book shows. "Soon enough, venues were coming to us and asking us to play," Owens enthuses. Venues like the new all-ages The Vault in Laguna Hills, which he claims is his favorite place to perform. "So many places were pay-to-play; there was a real need for a venue that wasn't just out to get money. The Vault is a great place, and it's about to get huge."
The same could be said of Summer Wilshire.