Since forming at the dawn of 2012, San Francisco’s Coo Coo Birds have taken the proverbial bull by the horns, attacking the writing and recording process while leaving little time for (non-rock & roll-related) distractions. The trio – comprised of Jonny Cat (mysterious SoCal-born and raised singer, guitarist, and sometimes drummer), Charles James Gonzalez (elder statesman, production guru, bassist, and singer who hails from Texas), and Ryan Zweng (singer, drummer, and sometimes guitarist who fuels the band’s fire with an infectious creative zeal) – released their debut full-length Don’t Bring Your Boyfriends in July, but despite that record being full of danceable psychedelic garage rock, they chose not to tour, instead returning to the studio to record not one, but two more albums.
Holing up at San Francisco’s Radical House Recording Studio – which Gonzalez operates, working with the likes of The Blank Tapes and Brand New Trash – the band continued to craft their “frenzy-inciting” sound. With a multitude of tools available in the studio (including a handful of 1964 Fender Princeton Reverbs that they’re all particularly fond of), each member contributes distinctive elements to the mix. Cat brings a little bit of old school 50s rock & roll, Gonzalez is a man of the 70s and the likes of Cheap Trick and Bowie, and Zweng injects a dose of Kinks-influenced rock. Gonzalez then turns producer and meshes these moving parts into a beautiful cacophony of engrossing psychedelic rock.
The next fruits of Coo Coo Birds’ labor will come in the form of Psychedelic Warrior, an LP to be self-released on November 15th, and that record will be followed by another full-length entitled Sultan of Cats in February 2013. With most, if not all of the tracks written and divvied up between the two records, the band is spending every available hour in the studio, perfecting each nuance and adding new layers both from within the band (Zweng busts out his trumbone chops on one track) and from guest musicians (including legendary tenor saxophonist Steve Mackay and female vocalist Rachel Hoiem).
At an August gig supporting Radio Moscow at Cafe Du Nord, the band broke out some of the new material, including the title track off Psychedelic Warrior, giving their bevy of fans a peek at what is to come. Then, on a recent Friday night, the band invited The Bay Bridged to sit in on the near-complete sessions for the next record at Radical House in order to get an early listen to a handful of tracks.
Joining Coo Coo Birds in studio that night was sax great Mackay, best known for his work on The Stooges‘ legendary 1970 album Fun House. Having met Gonzalez at Smiley’s Saloon in Bolinas, Mackay dropped by to lay down some parts for the guitar-driven Psychedelic Warrior track “Black Blue Jeans”, as well as a cover of Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs’ “Li’l Red Riding Hood” that might also make the album. He played the same instrument he used with Iggy Pop and company back in the day, sending a palpable jolt of electricity through the room with his twisted, organic work, before quietly slipping back into the dark San Francisco night.
Also in attendance at Radical House was singer Hoiem, who has played keys for Bellavista, Madelia, and The Gypsy Moonlight Band. Known to the band as “Strawberry Baby”, she was listening to the current state of the two tracks that she guested on, “Li’l Red Riding Hood” and “Marshmallow Pie”. Hoiem inspired the latter, one of countless Coo Coo Birds tracks for which members of the fairer sex played muse. She shines on “Li’l Red Riding Hood”, injecting a dose of Holly Golightly into the Coo Coo Birds’ warped sound.
Gonzalez eventually cued up “Stop My Heart”, Psychedelic Warrior‘s first single and a track that embodies all that it means to be a Coo Coo Bird. With Zweng manning the mic, the trio summons ghosts of psychedelia and punk past in an attitude-filled statement of commitment in which you can hear the singer’s sneer through the mic. It’s a furious race from start-to-finish, with Gonzalez pacing the way with a jaw-rattling bass line behind swirling guitars, crashing cymbals, speed freak drum-fills, and a just a little tinge of crazy.
Listen to “Stop My Heart” below, premiering exclusively on The Bay Bridged.
Coo Coo Birds’ surge of songwriting and recording is seemingly relentless – three albums in one year is a monumental task. But, it isn’t without endgame. Band members confess a desire to drop the D.I.Y. thing in time for their fourth record and find the label that best suits them. Which label they envision releasing the follow-up to Sultan of Cats, no one cares to let on; for know, it’s time to focus on the music.
Below is video of Zweng nailing the vocal track to “Stop My Heart” at Radical House earlier in the summer, the expected tracklisting for Psychedelic Warrior, and info on upcoming Coo Coo Birds shows, including their Psychedelic Warrior release show on November 15th at Bottom of the Hill.
Although Coo Coo Birds’ next confirmed gig is November 15th at Bottom of the Hill supporting the aforementioned The Blank Tapes and Brand New Trash, they’re in the process of booking a handful of Fall tour dates under the moniker the “Psychedelic School Bus Tour”. They’ll go through LA, San Diego, and even Tijuana, among other cities and are looking for two documentary filmmakers to provide a record of the experience.
Anticipated Psychedelic Warrior tracks:
“Stop My Heart”
“Black Blue Jeans”
“Now She’s Dead”
“Since You’re Gone”
plus potentially “Li’l Red Riding Hood” (Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs cover)
The Blank Tapes, Brand New Trash, Coo Coo Birds
(Record Release Party for Brand New Trash and Coo Coo Birds)
Bottom of the Hill
November 15, 2012