By Rita Robinson | LB Indy
Imagine gathering together eight of your favorite local musicians, each with big talent and often a big personality (some strong and brooding, some strong and loud), most of whom you’ve known a good part of your life, and creating a new band?
First, you’ve got to have some bucks to bankroll the thing. Then you’ve got to get them together in one place at one time, regularly. That’s just what Laguna Beach resident Clay Berryhill did.
Not only did Berryhill gather the players together to actually play together, he’s producing a CD, an EP and a documentary film about the making of the band and who’s in it, all while the band is practicing for their first act, opening next week for The Beach Boys concert organized by radio station KX 93.5.
At a rehearsal this past Monday, Berryhill was sitting on a sofa, holding his guitar in his lap and tapping it to the music, all original tunes by each of the songwriting members, including two by Berryhill. He was smiling like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. “See, the Traveling Wilburys,” he whispered.
Only this band is not composed of already-famous musicians like the Wilburys and is called 133, after the winding road leading to Laguna Beach. Berryhill’s vision is to bring the national spotlight to local talent where it lives.
“I really feel like I owe it to these guys,” he said. “They’ve come down a long, long road. For me, making this album and this movie could mean a turn-around investment and something even more for these guys.”
The seven guys and a gal who make up the band are legendary local musicians solidly rooted in their hometown, some who have aleady earned big-time credits from a combined lifetime of about three centuries.
With the concert, the CD and a future documentary in the works that Berryhill has already approached PBS about, “They might finally get their due,” he said.
“The thing about the band,” said band member and music director Steve Wood, “is everybody’s in it to order the universe the way they believe it should be. It’s really not money. If we were interested in money, we would have moved to Nashville or L.A. We chose to have a life and it involves music but we don’t choose to make our music the way to climb out of our lives, be successful, make a bunch of money and have our lives change.”
Wood, like the rest of the band, has made some impressive marks in the music world. He was music director for Kenny Loggins for 10 years and writes scores for the MacGillivray-Freeman IMAX films, working with Paul McCartney, Sting, the Dave Matthews Band, among others. He and his wife Beth, the gal in the band, are founding members of the ‘70s band Honk, which produced the soundtrack to the seminal 1972 MacGillivray film, “Five Summer Stories.”
After eight months of working together, 133 has been stepping it up lately to polish their performance for the Beach Boys concert; fingers, feet and jaws are flying. Each singer-songwriter wrote two songs for an upcoming 12-song CD with a six-song EP to sell at the concert.
At first, most band members thought the idea was dicey.
“I thought it was a stupid idea,” said guitarist Jason Feddy. “I thought, ‘I’ve got too big an ego on my own, and then you put everybody else together, nightmare. But everybody’s allowed everybody else’s creativity to flourish. It’s been a real eye-opener to me. Send us all out to the Middle East, and we can figure that out, no problem.”
Poul Pedersen, rhythm guitarist and singer-songwriter for the Missiles of October, wasn’t sure the band would gel, either. “I thought, ‘What are we going to write about?’ I’ve never written anything with anybody. Once we got together, I think everybody left their egos in the car.” As lead guitarist Bob Hawkins, who’s worked with nearly everybody in the group, put it, the “ego system” was disconnected.
Pederson said the project is making him grow. “We were given an assignment to write upbeat, positive music, which there’s nothing wrong with, but my music tends to be a little on the dark side. So it was a nice challenge for me. There’s a lot of laughing.”
Maturity, said Wood, has its advantages. “One of those advantages,” he said, “is embracing what is and not spending a lot of time worrying about what isn’t. That’s really the key to any production, encouraging people to be themselves and not to worry about what they’re not. If you’re growing, you become more natural. I think it’s easy to stop growing and to shut down. That tends to be the tendency because it’s work to keep changing.”
Berryhill sold a wireless phone company in 2012, before the idea of the band was even broached. He would only say that the offer came from “one of the largest wireless companies in the U.S.” He built a professional recording studio in his Bluebird Canyon home and invited his musician friends to see it. “When I finally got them all together, that’s when the idea started.”
Berryhill is bankrolling the project and paying the musicians. He started a new company, 133 Filmusic Group, and a record label with the same name. He’s also one of 20 sponsors paying for the Beach Boys to perform Saturday, Sept. 27, in the Irvine Bowl at the Festival of Arts. The event will benefit several local nonprofits, including the organizer, local radio station KX93.5.
The other players in 133 are former Foo Fighters’ drummer Drew Hester, bass-guitarist Alan Deremo, ukelele-player and guitarist Nick Hernandez. They all sing, are solo artists or play in bands or both; some teach privately and are veterans of big-name rock gigs.
Diversity also has its advantages, added Wood: “Even though there’s a difference in the styles of the music, there’s a sonic similarity and a spirit, and we play together in a way that ties them together. It’s a sort of spirit that reflects this place.”
133 will practice for the public this Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Marine Room around 6 p.m.