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By Mike Seeley
There's a scene near the end of This Is Spinal Tap! when the credits start rolling: keyboardist Viv Savage espouses his personal philosophy slowly and deliberately, with bug-eyes and a twisted half-smile—"Have a good time . . . all the time." That pretty much sums up the fun-loving essence of the Originalites.
If you've happened to be in a live music setting around South County in the past four years, odds are you've seen this band. They gig hard, playing upward of 20 shows per month. They play anywhere they can set up—friends' bedrooms, retail locations—and lately, they've been holding down a residency at Gallagher's in Huntington Beach while filling up their calendar by playing little clubs in close proximity to the PCH.
That's how it goes for a working band. The members of the Fountain Valley foursome are all in their early 20s and have made the band their chosen career path, while loving every second of it. They fill their downtime surfing and skating. Three of them—bassist Timothy Frankeny, drummer Peter Fontes and guitarist Daniel Tello—started jamming after graduating from Fountain Valley High School in 2008, and they met sax player Mike Belk shortly thereafter. They've been hitting it hard ever since, with one exception:
300 Pacific Coast Highway, Ste. 113
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Category: Music Venues
Region: Huntington Beach
"We really want to book the main stage at the damn U.S. Open of Surfing," Belk exclaims. "There are other places, but that is the one that eats at our souls because our massive efforts are constantly shut down."
Their music is as carefree as their surfrider lifestyle, a familiar mix of punk, ska and reggae, indicative of the stuff that was coming out of the OC beach scene 20 years ago and never really went away. "Sublime is very important to our sound," Belk says. "Their music proved to us that, in life, as a musician, you should blend different genres together into ultra-tasty song smoothies."
Don't get the wrong impression here; this band isn't the next baby Sublime to come down the pike—they're not as grimey. Their sound is smoother, perhaps a band such as Rebelution would be a more apt comparison. Lyrically, they're much more positive—writing mostly about catching waves (see: "Neptune's Highway") and rhyme-y love notes (see: "Dub Love"). Because they're constantly playing shows, the band work hard to keep things fresh for their fans.
"Some nights will be more of a reggae night, some will be more punk, some will be more ska, some nights we will play more covers, some we will play more originals, but all nights will be dance nights," Belk says. "Regardless of the night we play, our fans are loyal to the fuckin' marrow. They surf and skate with us, which is epic and keeps all of the shows fresh."
They're currently tracking and mixing their debut LP, The Originalites Vol. 1, at 17th Street Studios (where else?) with Lewis Richards (who else?) and expect to have things wrapped up before they hit the road for a six-week tour Sept. 13. Richards, an ex-Marine with virtuoso chops he honed in a USMC jazz ensemble and a recording/producing history with Skunk Records' Miguel Happoldt, was inspirational for Belk and the gang, to say the least.
"If you can't play to a metronome or up to par with his standards, [Richards] will kick you out of the session and tell you to come back when you are ready," Belk says. "He is a Mr. Myagi of recording, with a sometimes brash, but always brutally honest yet homoerotic attitude—also a lovely sense of humor. We would be nothing without him."
With all the work they put into their band, they'll definitely amount to something. Though their brand of song smoothies might not be quite as fun or "ultra-tasty."
This column appeared in print as "Sublime Intervention."