Jesse Carzello's musical career has been a more haphazard adventure than most.
Though he recently celebrated the completion of a full-length album for his bedroom recordings-turned-experimental pop project, bobby blunders (yes, all lowercase), Carzello might be Long Beach's most unexpected bandleader.
For years, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist was a hired gun, playing with everyone from D.C. punk bands to his current steady gig as the pedal-wielding guitarist for the Long Beach collective Free Moral Agents.
But after inheriting an 8-track that was destined for the trash more than five years ago, the roots of Carzello's first original work began to form. “Right around the time I got the 8-track, I started to hear little poems,” he says. “Most of them weren't songs, but instead little vignettes or little chants or something easy . . . I've always been a side man, so it wasn't initially my idea to take it live. I didn't even know if I could lead a band.”
Carzello began recording his lo-fi nuggets on the 8-track in the hopes of letting them serve as models for full songs in the future. As he began to get more involved with the time-intensive and solitary side of writing and arranging his own tunes, however, he noticed a change–a maturity–in their tone.
“That's when I realized this isn't a microcosm of what it's going to be; this is what it's going to be,” Carzello says.
He was armed with more than 50 of these guitar-and-rhythm-driven songs by the time he struck a deal with J.P. Bendzinski of Wild Pack of Canaries, a professionally trained audio engineer.
Although an actual album was never the intention for Carzello's side-project sounds, when Bendzinski asked to sublet his apartment while Free Moral Agents went on tour, Carzello realized he had an opportunity to do more with the gritty vignettes he'd been sitting on.
Recorded in fits over the course of two years, with nearly 40 musicians playing everything from drums to cello to trumpet, bobby blunders' first album, Best Neighborhood Band, was finally completed a few weeks ago.
“I think he thought we'd make this little lo-fi record,” said Carzello of Bendzinski, whose work can be heard on many of Long Beach's more recent rock releases. “When he agreed to do it, I don't think he foresaw a big record that was going to take that long to do.”
Of the final cut's 10 songs, seven are direct descendants of Carzello's lo-fi bedroom recordings and the rest claim deep roots in that period. But if those were all just considered models, then the album made them life-sized.
Owing to Carzello's expansive musical tastes–which range from Talking Heads and Prince to War and Sun Ra–the songs on Best Neighborhood Band are denser, more groove-heavy, and filled with orchestral textures and free jazz guitar solos. Some are covered in sound tweaks and pedal-work–a carryover from his m.o. with Free Moral Agents–but the basics of the songs remain simple pop, albeit with a Long Beach post-genre tinge.
Live, the bobby blunders band is a totally different experience than either the album or Carzello's early solo recordings. With two soulful singers, Tiffany Davy and Ahmad Butler; a funky bassist, Jeff Lewis; a lead guitarist, Michael J. Salter; and a rotation of animalistic drummers (no one permanent has signed up), Carzello is able to return to his position as the rhythm-guitar side man.
Though Free Moral Agents is still Carzello's main priority, there will inevitably be more bobby blunders songs and many more bobby blunders shows, both in Long Beach and Orange County. The album is too freshly completed to have an official street date, but when it is released, it will be the cathartic culmination of nearly half a decade of Carzello's musical endeavors.
“This is my opening statement,” he says. “This is what I'm all about.”
Bobby Blunders performs with Free Moral Agents, Ryat and DJ Nobody at Alex's Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Fri., 9 p.m. 21+. For more info on bobby blunders, visit www.facebook.com/bobbyblunders.
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Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.