Home spun

Home spun

Face the face
Not every band in Ventura County fits neatly into the time-honored mold of the feel-good, the singer-songwriter or the punk rocker. Although it may take digging that rivals the exhumation of King Tut, finding bands that break that mold is a rewarding process. Royal Faces, founded in the waning days of 2009, sprang from two bands that folded in on one another: Uphill Battle and I Was a Lover Delorean Was a Dealer. Guitarist Casey Shropshire, percussionist/vocalist Christopher Bykowski, sax/keyboardist Dario Salvazza and bassist Chase Willis mix post-rock and jazz with post-modern touches and unusual instrumentation. Machetes, for instance. Keening and barreling onward like a grittier, more abstract Arcade Fire, Royal Faces inhabits the same sonic space as Liars, Nick Cave or Echo and the Bunnymen. The effect is a certain uniqueness on which one cannot completely put one’s finger. The sound produced by Royal Faces is one in which the dynamic is such that every instrument can be listened to and enjoyed on its own merits, either individually or together. The sum of the parts is, in this case greater than the whole. All great bands have this quality. Van Halen, Joy Division, Alcatraz — they all have it; and Royal Faces is currently in the process of touching greatness with its exotic, otherworldly arrangements of pop music as delivered by rants and crowd pleasing.

Chop chop
Bykowski’s machetes, used as percussion instruments alongside three saw blades, combine balls-out spectacle with the clear sonic quality of a bell when the metal is struck. He also uses a gas can, and plays percussion standing up — all with his hands, all while singing at the same time. The band also plans to add violin or accordion, flying in the face of Rock Band logic that says everyone wants to play guitar — imagine a world so small. You might think that the overall sound produced by a machete-oriented drum-kit is one of intangibility. Machetes are relatively thin pieces of metal, and yet Bykowski strikes them with such urgency that they make you stand up and take notice, beyond the fact that they are actually machetes.

Kings of the scene
Bykowski laments the fact that the scene for Royal Faces’ music in Ventura is almost nil. Reception to its first live action at Sans Souci this past summer was positive. “It’s just a matter of getting a venue started where people can expect what kind of music to be there every day of the week,” he rightly explains. With visions of the famed Hacienda in Manchester, England or New York City’s Mudd Club in mind, Royal Faces forges ahead. “The two best venues that have ever existed in Ventura in my 10 years here are gone: Nicholby’s and The Livery. I would say Billy O’s is the best place now, and it could be very awesome with a little makeover and a stage. For us, it’s the bands we share the stage with. If we’re playing music with bands that play good music, then that’s all that matters.” Crafting a unique, individual sound in a desolate cultural wasteland is a double-edged machete: if you do it, where do you play it? And if you play it, will that do it? This presents an interesting proposition: can one unusual, fascinating band ignite a cultural revolution in a scene that, for decades, has thrived on the safe the accessible, and the nice?   


Home spun

Home spun

Old enough to rock
It’s not uncommon to see a group of high school-aged teenagers form a band. The result is usually short-lived, and fairly amateur for obvious reasons, but there are always a few talented exceptions.  Pre-high school rock bands, though, are almost unheard of. When most kids their age should just be discovering the joys of rock and roll, most likely through the video game Guitar Hero, the four members of Skick are becoming actual guitar heroes themselves.  

The family that plays together

Like most extremely young bands, Skick is composed primarily of members from one family, the Vissers. When R.J. Visser and his wife moved to America from the Netherlands 16 years ago to start a family, they were both adamant that their children would be just as educated in music as they would in English or Math. Taking piano lessons at an early age, lead guitarist and vocalist 14-year-old Ruby, 12-year-old drummer Trevor, and 10-year-old guitarist, Julian were eventually enrolled into a music program aimed at teaching children multiple instruments and songwriting at an early age. It was there that they met Westlake’s 12-year-old bassist Emily McCrite. After all becoming fast friends and finding their chosen instruments, Skick, Dutch slang for “having fun,” was born.

Skick alive!
There is a buzz building around Skick, and it’s undoubtedly due to its live performances. Decked out in some form of orange, a color of celebration in Dutch culture, Skick take the stage looking as though it’ll be pretending to play along to a recorded track. But almost instantly when the audience realizes the band is actually playing the instruments, the disbelief turns into pure enjoyment. The sight of a kid barely as tall as his guitar belting out the intro to Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” is downright inspiring. What’s scary in terms of potential is that, although these kids have a handful of covers, they’ve now begun writing and performing originals.

Fathers know best
One can’t help wondering how a band so young can be on top of so much, whether it’s booking, writing or even getting to shows via something other a bicycle. Truth be told, the Vissers’ father R.J. and Emily’s father, Mark, handle the heavy lifting literally and figuratively. R.J. handles the booking and promotional aspect of things while Mark, an accomplished musician in his own right, handles the musical direction, helping the band form riffs and ideas into finished songs. This isn’t some over-the-top, controlling dual Joe Jackson situation. Skick’s parents are friendly and supportive, adamant that their kids have a good time. But they’ve also instilled a solid work ethic, making sure the band regularly practices and plays shows of all sizes. Letting the kids learn early on that, much like sports, being in a band requires a massive amount of work.

While dad-ager, R.J. insists that the goal one day is to make the band “as big as can be,” he also insists the band members grow naturally as people and musicians, finishing public school and still enjoying growing up. With that said, there will be no record deal hunting just yet, and things will continue to stay in the family, but their latest original song makes it clear what the musicians themselves want. “Don’t Waste My Time” is a blistering ode to not doing homework, proving that the talented kids of Skick are, thankfully, still  just kids.

To check out Skick online visit www.facebook.com/skickrocks. They’ll be appearing at Simi Valley Days Battle of the Bands on Sept. 18.









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