May 9th, 2012, 8:52 am · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
For long-running Orange County ska act Suburban Legends, music has truly been a labor of love, which is why the title of the group’s latest release, Day Job, is all the more appropriate. Formed in 1998 in Huntington Beach, the Legends have gone through numerous personnel changes and experienced a few tragedies. Yet, through it all, they’ve stuck around, continued to tour the globe and put out six studio albums.
Day Job is the first full-length effort from the band since 2008’s Let’s Be Friends and Slay the Dragon Together. It officially came out April 3 but was commemorated with a sold-out record-release show last week at Chain Reaction in Anaheim.
For vocalist Vincent Walker and drummer Derek Lee Rock, the small all-ages venue seemed like the perfect place to party since it’s essentially where Suburban Legends got their start. Both players agreed during a recent phone interview that it felt very nostalgic – like they’ve come “full circle” – to celebrate so intimately with loyal hometown fans, many of whom stuck around to chat and snap photos with the band.
The sextet is currently trying to put together a spring European tour following the success of their overseas stint with Bowling for Soup last fall, yet Walker and Rock admit that gigs don’t always pay the rent. Suburban Legends remains the band’s favorite day job, but they’re all forced to find other work to make ends meet.
“We’re like slaves to our day jobs,” Walker says with a laugh. “If we could, we would make music all day, all of the time. But we have to come home and do other jobs – like work at Starbucks or Jamba Juice – just to make our rent.”
Walker, one of those who works at Starbucks, says there are times when he’s recognized by fans while pouring their coffee and chatting them up about everyday things – like cheese.
“People have weird conversations,” he notes, “and this one had to do with cheese, and I interjected like, ‘Oh I have something to say about cheese.’ And she stopped and looked at me and said, ‘I know you. You’re from Suburban Legends.’ Then the whole dynamic of the conversation changes and she says ‘I have pictures to prove it.’
“We play so many shows at Downtown Disney, we’ve been doing that for a couple years now, so some of our fan base is in their mid-to-late-20s and they have families, and sometimes it’s like a blast from the past for them. It’s pretty wild.”
Rock adds that fans who find them working in the “real world” often inquire why they’re taking on seemingly menial work. “Realistically, we’re independent,” he points out. “We’re not a mainstream band.”
“I think the way the music industry is today and the way things are run – it’s so different now,” Walker says. “You don’t have that massive bank like a label to support you, so it’s a very different dynamic all the way around. It’s even more of a struggle than it was even just five to 10 years ago.”
The band – including guitarist Brian Klemm, trumpet player Aaron Bertram, trombone player Brian Robertson and bassist Brad Polidori – has been hard at work since issuing Day Job. They pressed physical copies of the album and have been doing special promotions for it, like sending out “warehouse treasures,” giving away trinkets and memorabilia straight from their practice space.
For years, Suburban Legends have had strong ties with Disney, whether securing summer-long residencies in the heart of Downtown Disney or playing multiple sets per day at the Tomorrowland Terrace inside Disneyland. The band has numerous related covers in its repertoire and decided to include two of them – “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” from The Lion King and “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid – on its latest album.
Performing in front of park guests has garnered Suburban Legends countless fans from all over the world. They’re exceedingly grateful for that opportunity, but they admit that regularly playing the park has perks – like the rides.
“I love Star Tours,” Rock says of his favorite park destination.
“It would have to be a combination of Pirates of the Caribbean and watching Captain EO 20 times,” Walker says of his go-to spots.
Indeed, when things get tough and big decisions need to be made, Rock and Walker agree that the band turns into Michael Jackson’s singing and dancing space-age character from the 3D flick. They often find themselves asking: “What would Captain EO do?”
Photo by Jodie Cunninghan. Veteran O.C. ska act Suburban Legends is (top, left to right) Derek Rock, Brian Klemm and Vincent Walker and (bottom, left to right) Brian Robertson, Aaron Bertram and Brian Polidori.
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