|Ian Baca and Jamie Baca of Wake Up Lucid at Sunset Beer Company|
1498 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (Echo Park)
So many bands perform in Los Angeles every night that it's a rarity to come across a special act whose music not only makes you stop and take notice but leaves an impression that lasts well after they've played their last note on stage. After my first time watching Wake Up Lucid perform, I immediately bought a copy of Feel It, their debut full-length, and the album has been in constant rotation on my record player ever since. The trio marries classic blues and rock elements with the fuzz and aggressive energy of garage-rock to truly set themselves apart from most groups on the scene.
But a frenetic live show and unique sound aren't the only remarkable attributes of this band. Vocalist/guitarist Ryan Baca, bassist Ian Baca and drummer Jamie Baca have known each other since birth.
"Jamie and I are brothers, and Ryan is our cousin. Our dads were brothers, and they were in a band together, too," shares Ian. "We grew up in Apple Valley, Calif., and they used to play cover songs, like Neil Young and lots of '70s records, around Barstow Community College. They would always play at family gatherings where other family members would sing along. We really just grew up playing music."
Ian and Jamie accompany me on my first expedition to Sunset Beer Company, a bottle shop/tasting room/bar space in Echo Park, and I couldn't have asked for better partners on a beer hunt than the Baca brothers. Situated in the corner of a nondescript strip mall, Sunset Beer Company opened a little over a year ago and is truly a beer wonderland. From England's Wells Banana Bread Beer to selections from Central Cali's Firestone Walker Brewery's, they offer over 250 beers to purchase from their wall of refrigerators or taste in their cozy bar area. Since the $2 per bottle corkage fee is a little steep, it's best to taste whatever they have on tap then buy some bottles of different beers to take home.
We walk around the bar room that resembles someone's den with its fireplace, wooden shelves lined with books and brown leather chairs before deciding to each try something new: the Black Butte Porter from Portland, Ore.'s Deschutes Brewery for Jamie, the Stone IPA from Escondido, Calif. for Ian and the Sourdough Ale from Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing Company for me. As we settle onto a long wooden bench with our pints, the brothers inform me that Ryan won't be joining us because he's ill. Since the frontman resides in Orange County anyway, it will give me more time to pick the other two's brains about their respective L.A. neighborhoods.
"I live in Silver Lake/East Hollywood area in a commercial spot with some friends. It's a really cool spot that used to be a medical office. We're lucky because we never have anybody complain about the noise we make," says Jamie. "I live right next to the Kitchen, and their Carmelized Onion Frittata is really good with the fluffy eggs and the onions all interspersed in it."
The brothers are also fans of El Chavo, Pho Café and Red Lion. They both love playing venues like Silverlake Lounge and the Echo, but Ian actually lives on the other side of town.
"I live in Culver City, and the area is really starting to come around. I live off Washington in the Art District, and there are like 50 galleries within walking distance. The farmers market's cool in downtown Culver City, and there are some good places to eat," he says. "I like the bars, culture and art. If I get off of work early I could walk around a museum for a couple of hours., and every Saturday at least one of the galleries has an opening with wine and lots of different people. The Mandrake, a little place right on gallery row, is a pretty cool bar. Cinema Bar on Sepulveda, that's a good spot. I love dive bars. In Venice, there's Hinano Café and across the street the Whaler. I like Danny's down there on Windward, too."
The hustle and bustle of Los Angeles is a far cry from the high-desert area of Apple Valley where the Bacas grew up. Music was a constant fixture in their homes, and they all picked up instruments at an early age. Ryan began to play the guitar at 7, while Jamie started on the drums at 8.
|Ian, Ryan and Jamie (Chris Beyer)|
"It wasn't really an intentional thing," Jamie says of 'stealing' Ian's kit. "My brothers had taught me one beat, and from there I practiced it and then could add some things on. It was just something to do."
While Ian and Josh, the brother in between Ian and Jamie in age, listened to '80s rock group when they were little, they were heavily into hip-hop until the early '90s.
"I'm like the whole Nirvana cliche. I saw the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video and was like, 'What?!'" admits Ian with a laugh. "The only other rock album I listened to at the time was that Faith No More record [The Real Thing], but that was almost borderline rap rock. It was really progressive as far as genres go; it was real funky. After that record, I bought an electric guitar at Guitar Center for cheap and started getting into rock again."
While artists like Herbie Hancock had a huge influence on Jamie, who has also played in jazz and metal bands, his older brothers' musical tastes also helped pave his way to becoming the solid rock drummer he is in Wake Up Lucid.
"I was 4 or 5 years old, and they were listening to Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine. Those groups were a big foundation, and Tool as well, because they were so aggressive," he says. "Rage Against the Machine, for us as a rhythm section, is like the gold standard. The Beastie Boys, all the '70s records they sampled were super groove-based. All that stuff definitely made an impression on us, and it's what we used to jam on at our house."
"We would take our drums, guitar and bass, find a groove and continuously jam to that," adds Ian. "I would record it with a 4-track, then we would add some shakers and call it a day."
The Bacas found another hobby that they all enjoyed, which was also tied in with their love of music.
"All three of us were into skateboarding," says Jamie. "What I really enjoyed about skateboard culture was that it preceded a lot of Internet exposure of music culture. If you would watch a skateboard video with underground rock or hip-hop songs, you would be like, 'Whoa.' To see cool songs paired with awesome skate runs, it was the shit."
"That was the way to get exposed," interjects Ian.
"Yeah, and it was really cool to see that because it was a very non-corporate or super huge record label produced thing," concurs Jamie. "It was just two separate cultures that obviously liked each other building each other up."
The three cousins honed their musical skills in other bands before eventually uniting as Wake Up Lucid and releasing the Look Alive People EP in 2010. With that EP and its follow-up, Sugar, a year later, the band began catching the attention of the L.A. Times, Nylon Magazine and the Icarus Line's Joe Cardamone. The three-piece found an ally in Cardamone, who eventually assumed production duties on Feel It, which hit stores in August.
"Joe really challenged us to streamline the tracks," says Ian.
"It was beneficial to have someone outside [their circle of three] added to the mix," adds Jamie. "Especially Joe, because of his vast knowledge of music."
One spin of Feel It touches on a full spectrum of sound and emotions. From the pulsating grind of the title track and the lightning spark of "Fame" to the sultry purr of "Facepaint" and "Death Valley," Wake Up Lucid artfully combines an array of sonic vibrations into 11 cohesive tracks. Besides the music contained on Feel It, the album's cover art is an image that instantly grabs attention.
"I was looking through my parents' records, and I realized that as a kid everything was dictated by the cover art. I would see these albums, and they would capture my curiosity, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Axis: Bold as Love. It's true, even now. Sometimes I'll go to a record store like Vacation Vinyl, and there's a ton of stuff that you've never heard of that has such gnarly cover art that you wish you had $500 to just buy records," shares Ian. "It's just like Feel It. It has a pretty bold cover. If I saw it on the shelf, I would be like, 'Who are these guys?' and buy it. Then when people buy it at shows and pull it out, they see the record is red. I remember my parents collection had one red vinyl record by the J. Geils Band, and it was the one other time I've seen it."
It's true, the red-colored vinyl was a definite bonus when I opened my copy of the record. And it's little details like this that really set Wake Up Lucid apart, especially when it comes to minute facets that the inherent chemistry from their familial bonds produce on stage.
"For some bands it's just a job: They go on tour, but they don't talk, they write. I'm just not interested in that at all," remarks Ian. "The Beastie Boys were like brothers to each other, and it came across on stage. And with us, I think it comes across. People see that."
Feel It is currently available. For more information, visit wakeuplucid.com.