The members of Popsical have a hard time agreeing on anything, let alone what kind of music they play. Guitarist and vocalist Matt Leroy describes their sound as edgy, dynamic, and flashy hard rock, while vocalist and bassist Josie Wreck prefers to call it a cross between gutterglam and putacore, encompassing a mix of glitter, punk, and take-no-shit attitude. One thing they are sure of is that their differing opinions and influences make up one hell of a unique sound and style that shines on their new cassette Yodel In The Canyon, which will be released like a feral bunny this Saturday at the LGBT Center on 4th in Santa Ana.
Behind her wild mane and heavy bass lines, it’s hard to believe that a gutterglam-putacore-queen like Wreck was ever influenced by pop music. Like so many others who grew up in post Tragic Kingdom Orange County, Wreck actually had teenage Gwen-a-be dreams of kicking ass center stage cloaked in bondage pants and pink hair, before adopting a darker aesthetic influenced by grunge bands like Hole and Babes in Toyland. She cut her teeth as a solo performer and promoter at a Santa Ana dive bar, meeting Leroy and drummer Tae Kim during one of many sloppy nights spent working behind the PA system at the dingy watering hole located in a remote industrial area off the 55.
Popsical formed in 2011 after Wreck and Leroy approached each other about collaborating on heavier and more aggressive music than either were individually doing at the time – they just can’t agree on who approached whom, or how. Leroy remembers approaching Wreck to work on his edgier songs that didn’t fit in with folkier stuff he was performing, while Wreck remembers “enlisting” Leroy to play guitar on her scarier, moodier solo project. Whatever the case, the two combined forces, and hit up Kim to round out their lineup on drums. Although he doesn’t identify as a drummer, Kim agreed, channeling his inner “Steve Cropper playing drums for Ohio Players.”
“We started this band to have fun but also make some unique, aggressive music,” Leroy says. With influences every bit as divergent as each member, ranging from classic rock and funk, to ’90s alternative, to UK crust punk, to Lydia Lunch and Nick Cave, the end result is much more than just the sum of its parts. Vocally, Popsical’s co-ed stylings vacillate between good college rock and grungy cabaret, at times meeting in the middle for some Pixies-esque hooks. Musically they explore rock from every angle, incorporating the punishing lows of a 5 string bass, piano and a tasteful amount of cowbell, which come together in a way that’s equally in-your-face driving and playful. “You can have totally disparate elements and personalities that come together cohesively if the chemistry is there,” Kim says, “a good band will have you guessing and leave you pleasantly surprised. I think we fit that description fairly well.”
Popsical have earned a reputation of being one of the hardest working bands in Orange County and are one of the few local acts that can successfully play shows in differing scenes, gracing stages at a hardcore night at The Smell, The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence sparkly fundraiser, KXLU, and countless bar shows in 2016 alone. Although they practice religiously, they rarely record. Yodel In The Canyon came into fruition after friend and producer Courtney Price pushed Popsical to lay down some live tracks, which turned into a full on studio project that aimed to capture the band’s live energy by forcing members to give their best performances over multiple sessions.
Popsical’s cassette release this weekend coincides with OC Pride. To Wreck, queerness is an important part of Popsical’s direction and identity. “Yodel In The Canyon is drenched in the homosexualities,” Wreck says, noting its John Waters and Divine references, and artwork by SoCal queer artists Dorian Wood and Manny Sifuentes. “I don’t know that the music I make in this band specifically reflects my identity as a transgender Xicana, [but]I think my queerness shines on stage.” Popsical covers queer standards like “The End Of The World” by Skeeter Davis and Divine’s “Female Trouble,” and even references RuPauI’s cachphrase “Sashay Away” in one of their songs. “Matt and Tae are unapologetically straight and enjoy writing songs about chicks,” Wreck jokes, “[so]I am making a conscious effort to fuse more of my queerness into our new material.”
Popsical are three unlikely friends meeting each other where they’re at, regardless of their differences. “Audiences seem to “get” what we’re trying to do better than I would expect,” Leroy says. “I love the energy exchange and I feel like we have a special chemistry as a band and that’s hard to find.” Not wanting to appear too sentimental, Wreck attests her admiration for her band members and their music, but reminds them that ultimately, she “stick[s] around for the drink tickets.”
Popsical’s Yodel In The Canyon tape release show is Saturday June 25th at the LGBT Center On 4th, 305 e 4th Street, Santa Ana, CA, 92701. Also performing Rats In The Louvre, Slice, XoXo Little F@g, ad Clutch The Pearls. All ages, $5, 8PM.