In a local music scene crowded with rock, bluegrass and folk, the mighty San Kazakgascar stands out. Like an oasis in the middle of a barren desert, San Kazakgascar quenches your thirst for Middle Eastern psychedelia.
San Kazakgascar will perform at the second Davis Music Festival Revisited, along with Yellow Jacket Motel and Art Lessing and the Flower Vato. The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday at the International Bistro, 213 E St. in Davis. Tickets are $5 at the door. This show is open to all ages.
According to the band’s bio, San Kazakgascar is “a beautiful country with beautiful people. Its origins are a blend of Byzantine/Eurasian civilizations and 18th century colonialism. After much turmoil in the 20th century, the people of Kazakgascar feel they’re getting a fresh start with the end of the third World War.”
“We kind of stole the idea of a pretend nation from the ‘80s band Savage Republic,” front man Jed Brewer said in a recent interview. “They had some Middle Eastern influences but had a more punk and industrial sound.”
San Kazakgascar mixes Middle Eastern sounds with psychedelic rock and art rock vocals.
“At this point it’s difficult to come up with an original band name, so we used a made-up word,” Brewer explained. “The idea of having a fake country, you can play around with what it supposedly is. It served as a foundation for the music and lyrics.”
The band consists of Jed Brewer (guitar and vocals), John Cypher (violin), Greg Hain (bass and vocals), Paul Takushi (percussion) and Mike Woo (clarinet, vocals).
“We’re mostly a Sacramento band but our drummer lives in Davis, and we all went to UCD at one point or another,” Brewer said. “This is Mike’s first rock band. He was in the Cal Aggie Band. The rest of us have been in bands for decades.
“Three of us had another band called Cardena Straits, which was more of a psychedelic, Americana sound. After doing three albums, we felt it had run its course.”
Brewer had the idea for San Kazakgascar kicking around for a while before he gave it a go in 2007.
“The whole idea was to do something that would excite us. None of us are trained in world music per se,” he said.
The band recently released the “Drought Times” EP, which it recorded last summer at bassist Greg Hain’s house. Listen to the full EP at sanskazakgascarsolo.bandcamp.com.
The infectious opener “The Switchbacks are Crumbling” brings to mind mystic journeymen on camel back. “Crispy Lords” is another ear worm that burrows in your skull as Brewer sings “turning into drones.”
“It’s about people turning into robots and doing what you want them to,” he said.
Surprisingly, the sitar sound in the music is not a sitar at all. “It’s a guitar made by Dan from Art Lessing,” Brewer said. “It’s made from a gourd. He set up the strings with a wooden bridge so it gets that droney, sustained sound. He built a variation of that for himself, and then built me one. I used it on the new songs.”
What can the Davis audience expect?
“We’ll play new and older songs,” Brewer said. “Most of the songs from the EP we’ve been playing live for a year or two. We spread it around. Some of our songs sound good recorded but aren’t as exciting live, so we stick to the ones that excite.”
Because of their day jobs, the band does not get to tour much.
“Mike and I are teachers,” Brewer said. “We’ve done a few out-of-town shows, as far south as L.A and north of Washington. We play the Bay Area once in a while, but for the most part we play the Davis/Sacramento area.”
The band plans on keeping the sounds of San Kazakgascar alive for years to come.
“We’re all in our 40s and above, and we all have careers, but this is our outlet,” Brewer said. “We’re all music scene lifers. We’ve all played in bands for years and want to keep doing it.”
— Reach Landon Christensen at [email protected]