Is is its own brand of jam band

The Present Tense: Camp Out: Three members of Is lived in tents in the band’s early days. Uriah Wilkens

While listening to the 15 minute, 25-second jam “If You’re Having Trouble” by the Santa Cruz-based band, Is, you get the feeling that something Phishy is happening. It’s probably because the quartet’s keyboard-driven jam tune recalls a certain Vermont four-piece.

Even though there is a section of the song—where the group is jamming—that sounds like a malfunctioning laser gun, the band appears to be talented enough to possibly transcend their influences. Instead of having nonsensical lyrics about Golgi apparatus or Gamehenge, “If You’re Having Trouble” is about a camping trip on the Lost Coast. In addition, other tunes like the meditative “Reflection” little in common with Is’ other jam-band brethren.

The seeds of Is were sown in New Paltz, New York by a band named Indian Summer. In June of 1999, three core members of the group decided to relocate to Santa Cruz. According to keyboardist/vocalist Pieter Van Leeuwen, the move was not an easy one. “We lived in tents behind someone’s house for a while,” he says. “There were rough times.”

After a few years where the band was having difficulty establishing themselves, the group decided to change its name to Is. Last year, Van Leeuwen believes the band finally came into its own with the addition of drummer Andrew Tuckman. Now, they are gearing up for a string of shows at Santa Cruz venues, like The Catalyst’s Atrium, and 120 Union, and our very own Viva Monterey.  

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When asked how many original songs the group currently has, Van Leeuwen has to pause for a moment and do some heavy calculating in his head. “Wow,” he says. “We have a lot of songs. We have songs some of the guys (in the band) don’t even know we have.”

Eventually, he settles on 50 originals. Though the group just purchased a digital recording unit, Van Leeuwen says there are no immediate plans for a studio album. “The essence is the live music,” he says.

Is plays Viva’s, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey, Thursday at 9pm. 646-1415.

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