This Huntington Beach quintet fronted by singer/songwriter Elizabeth Messick take a breezy approach to folk-rock, with lots of ukulele and songs about sun-splashed landscapes and counting sheep after dark. Messick, a student at Cal State Long Beach, flaunts a musical taste that has matured well beyond her 20 years, tapping songwriting influences from Leonard Cohen and performing Jefferson Airplane covers, making her band of guitar-wielding multi-instrumentalists some of the OC folk scene's most exciting up-and-comers.
OC Weekly: Is your band name a tribute to Alice In Wonderland?
Golden Afternoon perform with Strange Birds and Naive Thieves at La Cave, lacaverestaurant.com. Tues., 9:30 p.m. Free. 21+.Exene's Moonlight Hootenanny with Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss at Moonlight Graham, . Sat., 7 p.m. $15 in advance; $10 with student ID; $20 at the door.
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Elizabeth Messick: Yes, it is, actually. [It was] my favorite book when I was a little girl, and I had always loved the Disney version of [the song] "All In the Golden Afternoon." About a year ago, I was sitting in a pool in Palm Springs, looking through my iPod, trying to get ideas for a band name, and nothing was really clicking. So I decided to pick up where I left off in Alice In Wonderland, and the first thing I saw was "All in the Golden Afternoon."
Hence your cover of "White Rabbit."
I just really like singing that song because it's in my exact vocal range, and I've won many karaoke contests singing it. [Laughs]
I've seen you do a pretty righteous cover of "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. How do you choose your cover material?
We did that cover for a friend's birthday. That was his favorite song at the time, and we wanted to play it for him as a birthday gift. We really like covering songs for people's birthdays because it's inexpensive and it means a lot to the birthday boy or girl.
You guys use lots of ukulele. What does that do for the overall sound of the band?
I wrote all of the songs on ukulele and piano, so I play ukulele for nostalgic reasons and because it has an awesome tone. I don't play it on all the songs, just the mellow ones.
You talk about Leonard Cohen being an influence—can you flesh out that connection?
Honestly, I don't think anyone can hear Leonard Cohen through my work. He's more of an influence to me during the early writing process. Whenever I listen to Cohen, he inspires me to write and write and write. The songs I have been writing now sound more like Leonard Cohen. They are very haunting yet soft and melodic.
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How do your songs come together?
I had been writing songs since I was 15, and I never showed anyone my work. By the time I was 17, I was in a band for three years singing backup on someone else's songs. Once that band broke up, I really missed singing live for people, so I thought it was time to break out of my writing shell. To cope with the loss of playing shows regularly, I was writing nonstop for a month straight. The words and melodies just flowed through my body. Sometimes, I even wrote melodies in my sleep, and I would record them on my iPhone and turn them into a song the next day. So basically, I start with a simple song with vocals, harmonies and ukulele/piano, and the band do the rest—they're the icing on top of the cupcakes.
This column appeared in print as "All Into the Golden Afternoon."