Valley411 interviews singer-songwriter Rob Barron-Gushel of the Super Lucky Catz...
Delaney Boling - Oct 26, 2010
The Rob Barron-Gushel Interview...
Every once and awhile, I’m allowed to get out from behind the desk and go check out our local music scene, and this last weekend I had the pleasure of experiencing the Super Lucky Catz live at this year’s Falltini. They weren’t the only musical act in attendance, but the style of music they bring is original, soulful and upbeat. They proved to be a crowd favorite with their set so I made it a point of chasing down the lead singer to get an interview…
Here’s the quick ‘about the band’ in case you’ve never heard them, or of them before…
The four-man band of Super Lucky Catz is made up of singer-songwriter Rob Barron-Gushel, guitarist Brandon Yoshida, bassist Shadow Garcia and on the drums is Quetzal (Q2). To describe their sound would be to imagine a hybrid cross between the blues and funk with the anthem-like qualities you’d find from some really good gospel music. In only one word – original.
Lead-singer Rob’s vocals are reminiscent of the late Marvin Gaye, but with a forceful quality that’s on par with seventies-era Stevie Wonder. His voice is a good mix of soul and rock, yet he’s able to put power into the song without coming across as sounding forced.
Vocals aren’t the only great thing about the bands sound though. Each individual of the quartet has the ability to compliment the sound of the entire band without stealing the show or coming across as sounding submissive. They are a well-oiled machine…
I sat down with Rob a few days after the show to talk about his band, his sound and his perspectives on the Fresno music scene, so without further ado…
411: So, how did you guys come together as a band?
Rob: Brandon and I were high school friends, and I was in his Dad’s cover band so that’s how we knew each other. We both came from single parent situations, so we really had a lot in common and we started practicing together. Brandon was originally on drums, and I was on keys, so we had this acoustical soul thing going on that just progressed, and then later, when Q2 and Shadow came on, that’s really when the band came to life.
411: So did you know from the start you guys would compliment each other so musically?
Rob: Not from the start, but we all seemed to have developed musically at the same time.
411: Would you say your songs are a creative collaboration, or are there pieces that belong to one member more than the others?
Rob: Actually, I’m the song-writer. Lyrically, everything’s mine, but the band brings the sounds to make the songs. Without the music, the words would just be poetry. Without the band, I’d just be reciting poetry.
411: Your songs seem to be positive both in sound and in lyrics, yet you’re still able to focus on everyday situations in your songwriting. You still relate well with your audience even with your positive vibe. What made you choose your style?
Rob: Well, I’d have to say that my positive style comes from the fact that we’re connected spiritually with something bigger than ourselves. I feel like it’s our obligation to keep honest in the spirit, and choosing to write more positive lyrics stems from that. Brandon and I from the start have been adamant about not writing negative songs. It’s all about keeping things positive.
411: Yeah, it’s definitely a refreshing change, and one your fans really relate to. You seem to have a good group of loyal fans…
[At this point in the interview, I mention a female high school friend who booked the SLC for her wedding.]
Rob: Yeah… almost all our fans are female. I’d say that probably 85% of our fan-base is female. I’d say that probably 85% of our fan-base is made up of either older females or girls under 16. We see a lot of the same faces at our venues, and we see the guys too but they’re usually the husbands. I guess we just have that sound that appeals to the female demographic. We’ll take it though…
411: I could see where your sound appeals to girls. You guys also seem to have a real blues funk hybrid thing going on. Are there any musicians who’ve influenced your music? If so, who?
Rob: Me personally? In my vocals, I’d have to say Stevie Wonder and Dave Matthews. Both singers are also song-writers, and they have that bluesy sound to their voice. Locally though? I’d have to say people like Tre Tosh… maybe Patrick Contreras too. A lot of the Fresno music scene has that blues sound to it. It might have to do with the fact that people like Jon Mayer and Dave Matthews tour here…Fresno’s also influenced by the hip-hop scene too. Artists like Diego (Redd), Fashawn - Fresno just has a ton of great talent coming out of here, and I think that’s part to do with the blues feel of the place. LA has more pop music – we’ve got more blues.
411: Musically, would you say you and the other Catz have the same styles?
Rob: Absolutely not. I’m more into soul while Shadow’s more into jazz and pop. Quetzal’s into progressive rock… more alternative. Stuff like Dream Theater. He’s into pushing the musical envelope. Brandon’s more into the singer-songwriter stuff. Artists like Dave Matthews and that sort of thing…
411: Speaking of local musicians, it seems like Fresno’s pretty tough on the music scene here. It seems like more venues are closed down than opened, and it seems like a lot of local musicians don’t get the respect they deserve. How has this affected the SLC?
Rob: Oh it’s definitely affected us lifestyle-wise. It’s hard for a musician in Fresno to make any money, so you end up with everyone going to LA or the City (San Francisco) to get paying shows. In places like LA, you’ve got a lot of great music venues that get a lot of people through the door, but in this town, everyone’s afraid to go out because they’ll get a DUI. I was recently at CandlestickPark, and all these people who’d been drinking all day were driving right through traffic cops who were simply directing traffic. In Fresno, you’ve got the police setting up DUI stings right outside the club’s door trying to ticket people. What would happen if they tried doing that at CandlestickPark? They’d lose all that revenue. Drinking and driving’s definitely wrong, but the police here need to lighten up a bit. People don’t want to drive anywhere to see live music because chances are they’ll end up getting a DUI. Also, people here won’t balk at paying $2,000 for a photographer at a wedding, but they won’t spend a few hundred bucks for live music. They’d rather hire a deejay, but the ironic thing is that the deejay usually ends up costing more than a good band.
411: It seems like the new city ordinance regarding live music is hurting a lot of musicians too. A lot of restaurants aren’t able to hire live music unless they apply for an expensive permit. Has that affected the SLC?
Rob: Of course. I was walking down the street in San Francisco seeing all the bagel shops and coffee houses on one block, and I was thinking to myself, these could all be gigs. In Fresno, the smaller venues don’t want to pay you unless you can guarantee a crowd, so those types of places you see in bigger cities are the type of places I wish they had more of here. Also, in places like LA, you have the Whiskey. That’s a large venue that’s not impossible to get into, and you’ve got an audience. Here, the large venues are too expensive to book. You have places like the Tower (Theater), but even if you played the place, you’re not guaranteed to make any money. It’s just harder here than it is in larger cities.
411: It seems like a lot of people want to stay north of Shaw here too.
Rob: That too. You’ve got places like Full Circle (Brewing) downtown that people are scared to go to simply because of the neighborhood. I love the place, but it’s deep downtown… too deep for a lot of people.
411: What would you tell someone wanting to start a new music venue?
Rob: It seems like a lot of clubs here would rather have a deejay than hire a band. Every place has “club nights.” Check into one of the local bands instead, but do your homework. Don’t expect the band to pack the house without some sort of promotion. They’ll promote the heck out of recorded music or live remotes, but when it comes to bands, they expect you to pack the house without any sort of promotion.
411: Who would you say are your local musical influences?
Rob: I’d use the word “friends” instead of influences… 40 Watt Hype, Evascale. A lot of people, really.
411: Aside from the SLC, are there any up and comers Fresno should be on the lookout for?
Rob: You’ve got to check out Merlinda Espinosa. She’s a singer-songwriter with a very soulful voice. She sings at Starline on Thursdays and she’s just got this voice… very classy. I’m trying to think of who she reminds me of. She has a mariachi background so she’s got this really great almost-bluegrass sound… kind of like Patsy Kline. She just has this great falsetto.
411: Are there any big plans in the future for SLC Fresno should know about?
Rob: We’re working on our new album right now. It’s going to be a little more upbeat than our last album, and 80% of the album is new songs. We’re redoing two of our old songs, “Luna” and “Fight no More.” The album has a little bit more of a ‘pop’ feel to it. Also, we’re working on a publishing deal to get our stuff on MTV. Once we finish the album, we’re going to have our songs available on Rhapsody, Amazon and iTunes.
411: Where can Fresno get your music right now?
Rob: At any of our shows. You can also keep up with us on our website (www.slcband.com) or find us on facebook.
411: Any shout-outs you’d like to give?
Rob: All the fans who support us and all the venues that have us.