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The members of Sederra couldn't sit idly by. Not when it was in their hometown, and not when it was someone they were familiar with. The Fullerton-based punk-rock quintet may not be a household name, but around town, people know who they are, and they were going to use their modicum of notoriety to stand up for what they believed in: tolerance, equal rights and safety for everyone.
When local homeless man Kelly Thomas was brutally killed in July by members of the Fullerton Police Department—the same people charged with protecting the public—the band members felt a calling to do something to turn the negative into a positive.
"We are not a political band, but we were furious with what happened," says bass player Eric Bootow, whose father and grandfather were police officers. "We used to see Kelly Thomas all the time around Fullerton, and when we saw the photos [after the beating], it was like, 'Holy shit!' . . . We were outraged."
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Bootow and company organized the Kelly Thomas Memorial Concert and Canned Food Drive on Sept. 17 on the very streets where Thomas was bludgeoned. The more than 1,000 attendees ran the gamut from local hipsters and music fans to grandparents and toddlers. The music—performed by a slew of locals acts over the course of the day—was good, but the main draw was doing something to support the homeless and the memory of Thomas.
"We filled an entire U-Haul with canned food, blankets and clothing," Bootow says. "It was an amazing turnout, and hopefully, events like this can make a difference."
The band plan to organize similar events on a yearly basis, but for now, the focus has shifted toward supporting their soon-to-be-released new album. Self-tracked and recorded in Woodland Hills, the set of punk-, rock- and metal-infused numbers promises to be Sederra's most diverse.
"We really mixed it up this time—there's even a ballad," guitarist Mike Doherty says. "We all write together, so I think all the influences from each of us somehow made their way on there."
They plan to self-release the as-yet-unnamed effort on their own, but the band are looking for a distribution deal.
Touring as much as possible in support of the record is the optimum plan, but these economic times don't make it easy for an independent band to hit the road. "Most of us have day jobs, so we have to work out our schedules, and with the price of gas, it gets difficult," Bootow says. "We want to tour and play everywhere we can, but it's a challenge."
That said, Sederra hope to get back to Alaska, a place they toured in 2009 and where they were well-received. The group even became a mainstay on local Anchorage radio station FM 94.7 "The End."
"We really had a great time over there and hope to get back," Bootow says. "That kind of exposure in new places is what touring can do for you."
This column appeared in print as "The 'Kelly's Army' Band."