|Garrett Wolfe, Chris Cain, Thomas Robles, Hugo "Juice" Sanchez, Kameron Hollis and DeAngelo "Deezy" Sherman of GClub|
At Public School 213
612 Flower St., Los Angeles (Downtown) 213-622-4500
“What is great about us is that we all come from different backgrounds and listen to all types of music. So when we come together, it’s a little confused, but the confusion brings something right,” says GClub rapper/vocalist Chris Cain. “There’s beauty in the chaos.”
It’s not easy to meld the influences of individual members into a cohesive band sound, especially when there are seven distinct voices to be a heard, which is the case with Inland Empire’s GClub (short for Gentlemen’s Club).
“If each of our members were to form his own separate band, he would be the musical director of that band. We have a lot of leaders, but they’re leaders who can also follow,” Chris continues. “We just have to listen to each other. The fact is, we’re fighting for a purpose, so we will fight against each other a little bit, but we always come to our senses.”
I meet up with the entire crew except for vocalist Hunter Mora to find out more about what makes GClub tick on a hot afternoon at popular gastropub Public School 213. Downtown has special meaning for the band since their first official show in Los Angeles proper was at Mrs. Fish.
All of the decor at PS 213 is modeled after items you would find in a classroom, from chalk-written specials on blackboards and wood “desk” chairs to a row of books and globe atop a Midcentury Modern sideboard. Their menus are made to look like black-and-white composition books and Scantron forms, while their napkins resemble notebook paper.
PS 213 is a fitting location for our interview since the musicians of GClub – Chris, bassist Hugo “Juice” Sanchez, keyboardist DeAngelo “Deezy” Sherman, trumpeter Thomas Robles, guitarist Garrett Wolfe and drummer Kameron Hollis – are really a regular group of guys at heart who love to put one another on blast, eat, drink and laugh together.
Just take the following exchange about how the band came together in late 2014 for example.
Chris: At the time, I was in another band, and we performed for KIIS FM Breakout Star [moans and whispers from both sides of me: ‘Oh, here we go!’]. Deezy and Kam performed with another artist, and they got beat out by my band. I already knew about Deezy because the producer that I was working with had a friendly rivalry with him. I saw Kam drumming and thought, ‘This dude is good.’ Then [to Kam] I saw you at RCC, do you remember that?
Chris: ’You played at Breakout Star. We beat you out, so of course you remember me!’ That’s what I said to him [laughs]. I got his number because I was doing my own solo music and would call him to get musicians.
Kam: He called me to rescue him.
Chris: It wasn’t a rescue! I would give him my music, and he just blessed it, took it to another level.
“Hunter and Wolf approached me to join their band. Then I brought in Kam, who brought in Deezy and Juice,” Chris continues. “We perform like a supergroup because we took the best that I had and what they had. Then Thomas came in and became the cherry on top that makes us more special. Playing with a live band makes you feel like there’s an army behind you, like nothing can stop you.”
Even though they all grew up around the Inland Empire, each member has a unique background story. Thomas even more so, since GClub was formed before he joined.
“I chose the trumpet because I like being on the front line as a performer. My mother had a ballet folklórico dance group growing up, and my sister and I were her star dancers. Because I love that Latin flair, I want to bring the Latin culture’s vibration to pop music,” he shares. “I’ve been playing trumpet since fifth grade. I was definitely a band kid all the way through school, but I dropped it right after high school. When I was 21 or 22, an old friend hit me up to get a small group together to open up for Gentlemen’s Club. I was already their biggest fan, so when Chris and Hunter saw me playing trumpet with the other group and asked if I would play on a song, I said yes and went to a couple of rehearsals. I remember taking pictures, my hands were shaking. It was a big deal to me.”
Garrett grew up listening to rock, Queen and AC/DC, with his dad in Orange County. He started as a drummer in elementary school, playing in the school band, marching band and jazz band all the way through high school. During freshman year, he picked up a guitar for the first time.
|Deezy, Juice, Hunter, Kam, Thomas, Chris and Garrett|
“Like every good story, a girl came into my life. I was a quiet, shy kid madly in love with this cheerleader. She came up to me and asked if I could teach her to play the guitar. I said, ‘Yeah!’ I learned to play a song on my brother’s guitar and showed her, but it all blew up in my face. Hopefully she’ll come back to me any day now,” he jokes. “I eventually met Hunter while we were both music majors at Cal Poly Pomona and had a language arts class together. He saw me doing some Music Theory homework, and we started talking. One day we jammed, and then we became close friends. We had a band where we played Maroon 5-type of music. Hunter got me into the whole R&B, pop-rock scene, and Chris got me into the hip-hop scene a little, so it was a new experience.”
Freshman year in high school also holds significance for Chris.
“I’m Puerto Rican, so my mom would always have on salsa music or R&B, Mariah Carey. When I was a freshman in high school, my brother’s friend told me, ‘You have a voice for music, you should use it.’ He wrote a whole verse for me to practice and see how I did. I rehearsed and rehearsed and finally got it down. I was so excited, I kept calling him and he wasn’t home (This was when house phones were all we had.), so I wrote my own verse, and when he called me back I spit my rap to him, and he said, ‘Wow, that’s better than what I wrote.’ That’s when I started doing my own lyrics,” recalls Chris. “I was writing straight hip hop about gun shots. One line went, ‘I got the 45 on my hip, call me a senior citizen.’ I thought I was the most gangsta person, then I woke up one day thinking, ‘I’ve never seen a gun in my life. What do I know about? Women.’ I started writing about relationships, going more into hip-hop pop and R&B, loving choruses and hooks that made people remember stuff.”
Meanwhile Deezy, Kameron and Juice were planting their musical roots in church.
“Gospel and a lot of old R&B is where this derived from for me. My mom really loved Luther Vandross; it was kind of uncomfortable at times,” laughs Deezy. “Then I branched off and started listening to everything from rock to pop. That NSYNC and Backstreet Boys era was fun. My grandmother played the piano and taught me, but I was more interested in the drums. My grandmother passed, and I still played drums until my church needed somebody to play keys ASAP. I stepped in and started playing. So let Kam know if he tries something silly, I can take over on drums!”
“I would love to see that,” replies Kam.
“Similar to Deezy, my foundation is a lot of gospel since my father is a pastor and my grandfather was a reverend. I sang and played drums at my grandfather’s church, and those were the building blocks to where I’m at now. It’s funny, my parents thought I was going to be a keyboard player because my uncle was before he passed. They used to sit me right next to him on the piano bench, and I would just stare. But drums were always it. Around the time I was conceived, my parents toured and sang in a community gospel choir. In rehearsal I would be kicking my mom in the womb to the beat. As a child I would always be at home in the kitchen, creating my own drum sets with pots, pans and bowls,” recalls Kam. “Growing up, my dad had crates of 45s and albums he played on his old Technics sound system. We’d wake up Saturday morning and clean the house listening to the Chi-Lites, the O’Jays, the Temptations, the Supremes or the Delfonics.”
Juice, on the other hand, grew up only listening to Christian music.
“I didn’t know Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder or anything! I actually sang before I played bass. The only reason I picked it up is because my brother was playing drums and said I should be the bass player at church. I wanted to be cool like my brother who was playing at all the church camps and services, so I said yes, and then it just got more serious over time. It wasn’t until I started driving, like my first day ever driving, that I had a gig without my brother, and this is when I started to take music seriously,” he recalls. “I remember meeting Kam at one of the last gigs I did with my brother. I never thought we would be friends after that gig because Kam was mean.”
“He still is,” chimes in Deezy with a grin.
“Kam had a solo [mimics drum noises]. I say to my brother, ‘Yo, that dude’s tight,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, he’s good,’ you know how you are when you know someone’s better than you,” Hugo laughs. “After that I was always connected to Kam. We would play and were building a relationship.”
By now there are several conversations happening around the table as drinks (Just About Bottomless Mimosas for almost everyone and a Honcho Hefe from Mother Earth Brewing Co. for Garrett) and an array of dishes arrive. There are Crispy Naked Wings, Bacon Cheddar Tots, hand-tossed pizzas and a creamy Chorizo Mac & Cheese topped with crushed sea salt & vinegar potato chips.
PS 213 is the ideal atmosphere to watch a ball game or play some shuffleboard with friends while enjoying craft beer and great food. As we dig into our food, I ask the guys if they can remember a moment when they realized music was it.
“I mainly lived with my mom, who was very overprotective, so I didn’t go to many shows except church shows. The first show I ever went to was in ninth grade, a Green Day concert. After that I just knew music was it for me,” remembers Garrett. “I loved their stage presence and the loud, obnoxious guitars; it just clicked for me. That was where I fell in love with the whole idea of a live rock concert, and I still love Green Day.”
Chris, however, went to plenty of shows.
|PS 213 menus and napkin|
“I still go to a lot of concerts. I like Microsoft Theater and Club Nokia because of how small they are and sound bounces so well. Sound doesn’t travel well at Staples Center. It’s built for sports, not live performances,’ he tells. “Some of the best have been Bruno Mars and Marc Anthony.”
“Not Tori Kelly?” Garrett teases, knowing that Chris is obsessed with her.
“I don’t remember her shows because I’m on the ground fainting. No, seriously, her too,” Chris replies. “When you follow an artist’s journey and they succeed, you succeed in a sense. When she made it I was like, ‘Dang, I was around the whole time because I was following her before she even had 1,000 followers, and now it’s millions. I’m her No. 1 fan.”
Juice had his moment at one of his own church performances.
“We did a service in Rialto and they announced us as ‘This is so and so band,’ and I was like, ‘Sick we have a name!’ From then on, I just knew it. In high school I would miss so much school to play a service or gig, so music was pretty legit. Once I got out of high school it was full time, and it’s taken care of me,” he says. “When I first started playing, being next to my older brother was my biggest thing. He still plays, but he’s married and has four kids. He just wasn’t hungry for it, while I lived and breathed it. Learning how to play it was me on bass, him on drums and our sister on piano. We would always play one song, ‘Lord You Are Good,’ all the time since we knew we had it down. It wasn’t until I started playing in church with Kim and his friend that I really learned how to play gospel. There was a man named Darien who was really strict, and he helped me musically and structurally, the way that I look at music now. Every time I have a gig with him, I know I have to have everything tight because he don’t play.”
Deezy has had similar experiences of hard work leading to great rewards when it comes to playing gospel music.
“In the gospel world you really have to know your music because there’s no hiding in gospel. More than anything, it taught me to study and make sure I know exactly what I’m playing because if you don’t, it will show, especially when you get around other musicians who are A1. I had a situation playing for one music director where I geo a call last minute from Kam saying Juice dropped out at the last minute and that I had to play key bass – what?! It turns out that the MD is a stickler, and as soon as we start to play at rehearsal the next day, I can see on his face that it’s a disaster. I just had to go home and practice until 4 a.m. It paid off because the next rehearsal I was ready,” he shares. “[Playing in a church group] teaches you to understand the music that you’re playing. With gospel, there are so many changes and modulations. I wouldn’t say that it gives me an advantage over other musicians, but it kind of does because it forced me to get better from practicing and studying my music. Of course, when you’re in front of a bunch of people constantly on Sundays, you get comfortable.”
Kam agrees about there being certain advantages to having come up in the church scene.
“The good thing about the church scene is that big gospel artists come through small churches and perform. It’s different from when your idol is Beyoncé, she’s not coming through your local theaters. With gospel, it’s different, so coming up in the church, I saw a lot of major gospel artists. Outside the walls of the church, I focus on everybody that’s doing it major, especially when it comes to live performance because these last few years I’ve come to understand that my niche is doing arrangements for live sets,” informs Kam. “My philosophy has always been: When it comes to live performance, you have to do something that adds excitement because if you sound just like the record, you’re wasting people’s time and money. They could just stay home and play your CD. I try to understand the elements that it takes to create and perform a really good live show. At anybody’s concert I’m focusing on the different arrangements that they have of songs and the moments where they connect with the audience. From Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder and my favorite band, Mint Condition, to Snarky Puppy, Usher and Michael Jackson, I pay attention to small things to see how we can incorporate that into our music.”
When it comes to GClub’s creative process when writing songs, Chris and Hunter are the main songwriters, but everyone contributes something.
“My main focus is songwriting since I don’t play instruments. It usually starts with Wolfe [Garrett] or Hunter playing guitar, and we’ll kind of murmur some lyrics then come to the guys to add their flair,” explains Chris. “Then we have times when we’re arguing about how the bass should sound and create a whole track together. Those are the most frustrating ones, but they end up great. You have to take the good with the bad. I think people don’t move forward because they see the bad situation and try to pull away from it, and we say, ‘Let’s get through it!’ That’s why we’re pretty good.”
“I come to rehearsals with some crazy ideas that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. That’s the great thing about being in a band: You can collaborate, take an idea that didn’t work one way but Juice may have something to put on top of it so it works. Or if Chris has an idea that isn’t completely finished, we add to it. It’s that collaborative effort that makes everything click,” adds Kam.
“When I came to GClub, I already had my sound and was fully involved in music. I saw they had the same commitment,” says Hugo. “Chris is super passionate, and sometimes we bump heads because we think so much alike.”
“When we argue, we argue, and then it’s over,” Chris interjects.
“It’s literally all about the music,” chimes in Deezy.
“There are so many people in this band that when there are four different arguments going on, it’s impossible to throw in another one. Nothing would ever get solved,” says Garrett.
“Wolfe is not a conflict person, and that’s fine because we need that. Sometimes I look at my conflicts and think, ‘I should be more like Wolfe,’ but I’m sure he looks at some things I do and wants to do them like I do, too,” concludes Chris. “It’s good to have that balance because he’ll calm us down, and we’ll fire him up. In the end, we all want the best for the band.”