The Southern Cali duo Mapache has been on the road for a long time. “This tour has been one for the books,” says singer-songwriter/guitarist Sam Blasucci. “We’ve done some hard traveling.”
Blasucci and bandmate/bestie, singer-songwriter/guitarist Clay Finch, caught up with the Weekly as they headed to Chico the day after a gig in Portland with like-minded SoCal buddies and psych-rock group the Allah-Las. Blasucci and Finch are amped up about their full-length, self-titled debut, which was set to be released the following day.
“We are stoked out of our minds,” Finch says with a Jeff Spicoli drawl. “We got mixed in with a really rad group of people who helped out.”
Mapache scored Dan Horne, whose engineering and production credits include Beachwood Sparks, Cass McCombs and The Chapin Sisters among others, to produce and lend his pedal steel and bass guitar to a few songs.
“We wanted to take a stripped-down approach [to recording],” Blasucci says.
Adds Finch: “A lot of the stuff we grew up on, old bluegrass, is harmonies and guitar, so we wanted to pay respect to that.”
“Mountain Song” opens the record with a pleasant acoustic abruptness that penetrates with a bright, retro melody. Blasucci and Finch unleash unpredictably sweet harmonies and a blend of interchangeable rhythm and lead guitar riffs that co-exist within a California-country narrative, part Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, part acoustic guitar whiz Keller Williams. Mapache’s acoustic mastery never treads mundane waters. The duo’s mariachi serenade “Aquellos Ojos Verdes” is sung completely in Spanish.
The record bookend, “Nellie,” is a soft-spoken rancher’s delight that could double as an old-time bluegrass ballad. Either way, it’s a winner along with the 10 additional tunes – and these guys are barely 21. After a year of touring, word has been spreading, and Mapache’s made fans out of Neal Casal, Jonathan Richman and Chris Robinson, who invited the duo to sit in with him during a few summer shows.
“[Robinson] is one of those guys who’s into hanging out and talking music,” Finch says. “It was a special time.”
Blasucci and Finch look forward to what will be another special time: Mapache’s Record Release show Thursday, Oct. 19, at Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, a spot they’ve been itching to play for years; it’ll be extra special since there hasn’t been live music at HML’s Big Sur “mothership” for six months.
Following Big Sur’s difficult winter, HML opened another version of itself, the Lab, in Carmel’s Barnyard May 28.
“The gallery brought Big Sur to town,” HML Director Magnus Toren announced just after it opened. “Books, live music, movies, talks – everything you’ve come to love about the library, but can’t enjoy due to the whims of Mother Nature. A new location advances the library’s mission of promoting the arts during a time when we could all use more of it. Henry would agree – and we hope you do too!”
The Barnyard spot has delivered a steady variety of live music, from Modern Lovers’ Jonathan Richman to Stuart “Sweet T” Thornton’s local rock benefit for homeless advocacy group Spero Collaborative, on top of readings, lectures, avant garde shows and poetry.
While HML Big Sur readies to reopen, HML at the Barnyard continues Friday with Los Angeles-based duo Loch & Key.
The husband/wife outfit, Sean Hoffman and Leyla Akdogan Hoffman, accompanied by Kip Boardman, are also releasing a new record. Slow Fade, hitting the streets Oct. 27, comes nearly seven years after their debut, Jupiter’s Guide for Submariners.
It isn’t easy for this eclectic power couple to find the time to make an album together when half the duo, Leyla, who’s a visual artist, is also a full-time attorney with her own practice. “When I went to law school, it was important to keep making art and music,” she says. “It took a lot longer, but when I’m not working, I’m creating. They balance each other out in a way that’s nice.”
Sean, meanwhile, makes commercial music, produces and works as a freelance professional musician. “I can get stuck down other paths and sometimes have trouble changing gears,” he says.
Penned by Leyla, “Madonna Inn” is a dreamy homage to the San Luis Obispo landmark realized through the singer-songwriter’s breathy, perpetual pillow talk vocals. “It’s part roadside attraction, part contractor’s dream, and it’s also a magical area,” Sean says. “[The Madonna Inn] really is a treasure.”
Sean says most of Slow Fade is inspired by California visits. “It is a wild state and it gives you a lot to write about,” he says.
“Barstow” takes you directly to the center of the low desert town, population 22,639. Leyla opens the tune unaccompanied – her voice is a solitary instrument reminiscent of the a capella opening of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” Percussion enters “Barstow” with the sizzle of blazing mid-afternoon asphalt, uncompromised by shade.
“There’s a lot of sense of place in our songs,” Sean says. As there is with Henry Miller Library, wherever it may be.