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Jeff Perez of acoustic-rock band Northern had guitar and was willing to travel.
I'm not familiar with your cell phone's area code.
Yeah, I'm from Bakersfield. I grew up in Bakersfield and lived there for about 20 years. Then we started Northern, and I was driving back and forth for three months to do practices. Then I moved down to Huntington Beach, and I've lived there for two years.
Bakersfield to Orange County is a pretty big commute for band practice.
Yeah. I was driving a little beat-up Toyota pickup truck. I didn't want to put too many miles on it, so I would take the bus every once in a while, the Greyhound. It's a two-and-a-half hour trip, and on the Greyhound, it took me six hours one day. It sucked. The first time I did it, I missed my bus and I ended up stuck at the bus station. All these weird people started getting on it. The one normal-looking guy starts walking toward me and sat next to me. But he smelled. He had a thick, thick odor—the one guy I thought would be normal. So I wound up riding for two hours with my head pressed up against the window inhaling from the little crack of air that came in from the bottom. It wasn't a good experience.
The rest of the band must have thought you were pretty dedicated to make that commute.
Yeah. This has been my dream for as long as I can remember. My dad would play music and I would sing along in the car. I'd sing along to Dire Straits, "I want my MTV." In first grade, I started my first band because I had a crush on a girl. She played the tambourine and I sang. It wasn't until my sophomore year in high school that I was in an actual band. It was a pop-punk/rock/Creed-style band. It was everybody's first band. It was that band. Our drummer wore elevated shoes with animal prints on them. All of us were thinking we were cooler than we were. From there, I was a band whore. I was bouncing around from band to band when I was living in Bakersfield. I knew this was what I wanted to do, but I couldn't find the right people to do it with. After my sixth or seventh band, I gave up and I was doing a solo thing. The guys in my band were in a band called Vela before. I opened up for them in Bakersfield. It caught their attention. A few months later, I got a call and they wanted to do something with me. Then I started driving down to Huntington Beach every weekend. I had to get out of my environment and I had to grow as a person.
How different have you found Orange County and Bakersfield either musically or personally?
The thing with Orange County was, I didn't have a lot to base things off of. I didn't watch The O.C. or any of those shows. I didn't know anything about Orange County until I started coming here. And I was very sheltered in high school in Bakersfield. I didn't do the party thing. I was a drama nerd. I was in the theater for most of my high school years. What I've seen is that people anywhere you go are the same. You're going to find stuck-up people in Bakersfield. You're going to find stuck-up people in Orange County. There are traits you're going to find anywhere you go. Musically I was also very sheltered. I didn't listen to anything but my own music living in Bakersfield. I loved music, but I didn't like listening to other people's music. I don't want to sound egotistical, but I made music that I wanted to hear. Maybe there was an arrogance in it. [Moving out here] really opened my ears.
Did your theater background in high school help playing live onstage?
I took pretty naturally to the stage. I've never really been nervous in front of people. Ever since I was little, I was a big ham. I'd always be the one jumping in front of the camera and waving his hands. It took me a long time to get the "be yourself" thing transitioning from theater to playing music. It's so much easier to hide behind a character. There's that moment where it clicks and you realize, "It wasn't so bad just being me." That's one of the most important things I've got out of the last few years.