A few bedroom jam sessions, late-night drunken guitar strumming and hourlong GarageBand recording sessions between bong rips: What started as hazy hangouts while guitarists Wyatt Strassner and Matt Wiste and vocalist Greg Gamarra were students at Tesoro High School and continued during their college days in San Diego eventually formed into the wave of folk, pop, funk, indie and rock that are Bent Jetty in 2012. The juxtaposition of the band's limitless structural sound coincides with the idea of warped wooden beach-pier planks, or jetties, that influences the group's name.
"We wanted a name and sound that evoked imagination and provided a wide range of times to listen to our songs," Strassner says. "Our folk songs are perfect for a sunny afternoon chilling in your back yard or out in nature; our rock songs will get you amped up when you're driving, and some are random stories we created out of the ether of our consciousness."
Bent Jetty's ethereal soundscapes mobilized their first recording effort, the Honey Be Wild EP, from the humble sanctuary of a bedroom. It wasn't until after its release that another high-school friend, bassist Christian Fleck, joined the Mission Viejo group.
Finding a solid drummer proved difficult, so Bent Jetty employed programmed drum loops during songwriting jam sessions. Strassner said the workflow perspective usually progressed with Gamarra humming a melody to the selected tempo before adding Fleck's bass line and Wiste's riffs and finally chord progressions.
"We're getting better at understanding where we are going in the songs," Gammara says. "We communicate with our own language and interrupt where we want to go with each song and look at the spectrum of emotions going with it."
Bent Jetty's chunky rock side is brought to life with Stassner's Gibson Les Paul; Wiste's finger-plucking on his Fender Jaguarillo provides warmth and muted sound to the opposing attack on the plastic strings, while Gamarra's ukulele appearances on songs such as "Favorite Few" and "Expectations" round out their Southern California ambiance.
Listening to genre leaders such as Kings of Leon, As Tall as Lions, Circa Survive, Human Tribe, Fleet Foxes, and Mumford & Sons have influenced Bent Jetty's songwriting and musical motives, but it was OC's own Local Natives and Young the Giant that Bent Jetty's band members credit as a driving force.
"We went to high school with members of Local Natives, and I remember going to their shows and hearing their epic indie feel, harmonies and riffs," Strassner says. "Seeing something so close to home and where we came from makes success more obtainable in our eyes."
Last year was one of growth for the band: They graduated to studio recording for their second EP, Honest Approach, which featured the talents of session drummer Jay Smith. The young band also started booking live shows at such South County venues as Knuckleheads, the OC Tavern and Coach House.
In a few weeks, Bent Jetty will be crashing into the studio again to start the process of recording their first full-length album, for which they will select from 16 songs made tight by recent live appearances. The record will once again incorporate the grooves of Smith, as well as their latest band addition, Eric Ehlers, on drums.
Despite the challenges brought by Gamarra relocating to Tucson in August, the band predict they'll have plenty of new material by the end of the year–including their latest single, "Songbird"–and another show in Orange County around Thanksgiving.
"We're proud of our EPs, but they aren't on the level we're looking for," Gamarra says. "We know the direction we want to go with this album, and the public hasn't even seen a glimpse yet of what we have in store."
For more info on Bent Jetty, visit www.bentjetty.com.