By Jen Lothspeich | Tunes About Town
Local alt-folk-rock band will perform Beer X Festival at Waterfront Park
As many times as I’ve imagined myself in the lead role of Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical rock odyssey film, “Almost Famous,” it’s doubtful I’ll ever get flown out by Rolling Stone magazine to interview a band on tour.
But I still get to explore some compelling subjects here in San Diego — sometimes under interesting circumstances.
North County alt-folk-rock band Trouble in the Wind has long been a favorite of mine, with powerful live performances and a growing discography that is consistently captivating.
But I’m far from being their only cheerleader as they’ve garnered spots on large festival lineups, won a 2016 San Diego Music Award for “Best Americana Album” and were featured as a “Local Break” artist on local radio station 91X — all in the past year alone.
To catch up with the band while they were on a recent California tour, I opted to email them some questions.
It should’ve come as no surprise when the creative group of fun-loving musicians imagined an innovative way to respond. While they were on the road, drummer — and sometimes vocalist — Larry Doran recorded their answers via videos of himself and his band mates in hotel rooms, on the beach, and hanging out before gigs.
What could have lacked or fallen flat in prepared email responses was abundant in these videos. The vibrant personalities of the individual members shown through as they each described their experiences as a band up to this point and their plans for the future.
Their replies ranged from introspective musings to off-the-cuff banter. And as the picture of the band of brothers that comprise Trouble in the Wind settled into focus, the reasons they’ve been in high demand lately became evident. As unpretentious as they come, these guys aren’t taking all the credit for their recent successes.
“We’ve been fortunate to have the support of Lou Niles at 91X and Chad [Waldorf] at the [Solana Beach venue] Belly Up; those guys have been really helpful in getting us some really cool shows that have exposed us to bigger audiences,” Doran said.
The main reason these industry professionals book the band regularly is their well executed folk-rock and alt-country songs. They’ve produced a steady stream of music with several records over the past few years — including their latest award-winning full-length album. Plus, there’s a certain raw passion about the group’s live performances that make them a particularly entertaining act to see in person.
Like most endearing singers, Trouble in the Wind’s front man, songwriter Robby Gira, expresses his words in a range of emotional deliveries. On the group’s softer ballads, such as “No Good,” Gira achingly croons, while on more anthemic rock numbers, his voice gets punched up with fervor and intensity.
One shining example of this comes on a track from 2016’s “Lefty” album, “The Good Stuff,” which is nearly impossible to listen to without sing-shouting along.
So it’s much deserved that these passionate performances will be exposed to those aforementioned bigger audiences in the coming months as they play two big summer festivals in town.
On Aug. 12, the guys will play 91X’s Beer X festival at Waterfront Park, located at the San Diego County Administration Building on Pacific Highway along the North Embarcadero. The midsummer shindig will have the band sharing the stage with big-name artists like Iration, Magic! and Chicano Batman, along with another local act Splavender.
Why so much love from the quintessential San Diego rock radio station?
“Because we’re a kickass band,” Gira quipped.
All joking aside, the importance of this attention isn’t lost on them.
“[We’re] very honored,” said multi-instrumentalist Kyle Merritt. “There’s a lot of good local bands in San Diego; a lot of them are our friends: The Paragraphs, Dead Feather Moon, Taken by Canadians, Inspired and the Sleep; and we’re just lucky to be chosen by our community and to be recognized.”
The accolades don’t stop there.
Trouble in the Wind has been featured in many “best of” lists on NBC 7’s entertainment website, SoundDiego.com, and they were recently featured on CBS 8’s morning newscast, performing in their rehearsal attic.
And Beer X won’t be their only big festival of the summer — the band is also playing the three-day Kaaboo “mixperience” festival in September at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
While music journalism has come a long way from tape recorders and hand-written notes, the key to writing about musicians — or perhaps any subject — is becoming completely immersed in the art itself and then sussing out what makes those artists unique.
While observing these musicians as they described their dedication to each other and their musical endeavors, it became obvious that the group is set apart (among other reasons) because they aren’t clamoring for accolades or posturing to get attention — rather, they’re busy securing a name for themselves as one of the best bands in a lively local music scene on the strength of their music alone.
So how does a band with this kind of momentum keep things going?
“It gives us a sense of purpose to be working on new things and when people pay attention to that, that pleases us but it’s not the goal,” said guitarist and piano player Keith Haman. “The goal is to be busy with our music.”
Trouble in the Wind is indeed staying active on that front: They followed “Lefty” with last month’s “Pineapple Moon” EP; have two more records already in the works; and plan to shoot multiple music videos for the singles that come from their next full-length release.
Their recent four-date mini California tour was also a sign of things to come.
“[We’re going to] get on the road more,” Gira said. “Get out of our comfort zone in a sense.”
Unlike the band at the center of that Cameron Crowe movie, the men of Trouble in the Wind aren’t discussing their status as “the next big thing” or clashing over supersized egos, instead it all comes down to enjoying what they do.
“We really just focus on writing songs and staying true to what we love to do, which is to hang out together, make music and play shows for people that enjoy our music,” Doran said. “It’s really what motivates us. It’s a quality of life we’re looking for as musicians. Not so much striving for success as it is trying to find happiness with what we do.”
—Jen Lothspeich is a wine-drinking, cat-cuddling native San Diegan who dreams of writing a best-selling true crime novel. Find her on Twitter at @Jen_Evel.