The Santa Barbara Independent has its very own Clark Kent in Ryan Mandell, who you may have seen moonlighting as a music journalist at the Funzone and SOhO. During free hours, however, Mandell is a music maker of his own as lead singer of Pookie, which headlines Thursday, July 9, at SOhO with Stacks and Givers & Takers. The headlining gig sees the band stepping out of its Isla Vista beginnings onto a bigger world stage, one with more responsibilities and fewer spontaneous practices and gigs. But the post-grad life hasn’t dampened the fierce drive of Pookie, a band growing professionally and unextinguished energetically.
Pookie started as a high school friendship between guitarist Chris Miehls and drummer Nick Fields, who battled the San Fernando Valley heat spells with equally fiery garage jams. “Those are the defining moments of our band,” Fields said of the band’s sweaty and loud garage-room origins. Though the two cycled through multiple lineups in their eight years playing together, they didn’t become Pookie until joined by fellow Valley man, bassist Zach Stafford, and Mandell, who took on vocal duties this year under an auspicious Aquarian new moon.
Their sound goes between aggressive rock — Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” is a mosh-along set-closer — and the Californian skate-park mysticism and positivity of bands like Incubus. “There’s no two of our originals that sound alike,” said Miehls. One standout is the song “Blowin’ It,” inspired by a particularly bad day for Stafford upon which he blew out his amp multiple times and injured himself while surfing. It’s a song to vent about and ease up on frustrations, about self-forgiveness when you only seem to be screwing up.
Now, frustrations are a little bigger in scope, with work crowding schedules, old fans graduating, and promoters demanding a higher level of industry professionalism. But the band is meeting the challenges of their new chapter, growing exponentially with each show. “We’re just trying to play, play, and play. Each gig forces us to do it right,” Mandell said.
Pookie headlines Thursday, July 9, at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). For information, call (805) 962-7776 or see sohosb.com.