“You play 300 shows in nightclubs at 11pm, then you play two or three shows in the daytime outside. It is a novel experience,” singer Gregory DiMartino said.
“At night in a club you just try to be as badass as you can. But when its 2pm and everybody is outside in short pants having a good time, you just try to maximize the fun,” he explained. “Rather than trying to make people in the crowd think you are cool, you put all that aside. You dance around in the sunshine. You bring the rock and you bring the good vibes.”
Tino Drima is one of 10 acts set to play the music festival at Potrero del Sol Park on June 17. The lineup includes garage rock band Thee Oh Sees, punk rockers the Coathangers, folk-soul singer Sean Hayes, and rapper DUCKWRTH.
“The raw power of Thee Oh Sees blows my mind every time. It is great to see Jay Som and Never Young playing this year — everything they’ve been doing lately has been out of the park,” DiMartino said. “It’s nice to see a spread of local legends and rising local powerhouses all on the same bill. We feel honored to be among them and to add to the noise.”
Tino Drima will bring its unique sound to the festival, playing a genre of music the band has forged called “psych doo-wop hell croon.” It has been described as an amalgam of “Then, now, and what will be.”
“It is our original take on using the very relatable, familiar feel of doo-wop and that era of pop music whilst infusing in it an air of darkness through lyrics, and obviously vocals, just to give it undertones of mystery and oddity and strangeness and shadow,” DiMartino said.
The inspiration for Tino Drima’s music and the group’s formation is rooted in DiMartino’s fondness for legendary music icons of the 1950s and 1960s.
“I started getting into Roy Orbison, just loving the songwriting and the power of his voice,” DiMartino said. “Then I went on a road trip and the only thing I brought with me music-wise was an Elvis box set. I listened to that the whole time I was cruising through the desert and it was all landing so well in my heart. I thought it would be wonderful to attempt to recreate that mood.”
These nostalgic singers-turned-actors and their kitschy movies from an era gone by even inspired the band’s name.
“The original idea of the band was to create a character similar to singer-celebrities like Elvis and Orbison who had done trillions of movies despite not being able to act,” DiMartino said. “This old notion of lunchbox fame is very interesting to me, so I wanted to make a character. To come up with the name I switched the letters around in my last name, DiMartino, and came up with Tino Drima.”
As for lyrics, that’s where the band breaks from the quaint notions of the past to address issues of today.
“Lyrically, we want to tell a modern tale within a form that, for a listener who was not paying much attention, would imagine that it is a safe, ordinary, old-sounding song but on a deeper listen would come to understand some darker, stranger aspects of the human condition are attempted to be said,” DiMartino revealed.
Tino Drima is a seamless patchwork of six friends and musicians who are in their 20s. Over the years and in various combinations, they were roommates, schoolmates, and bandmates in a string of other Bay Area bands. Singer and guitarist DiMartino was in a band called O with drummer Rob Mills when he came up with the idea of doo-wopping Tino Drima. “Originally it was just him and I. The idea was to do it all very lo-fi and have a more garage feel about it,” DiMartino said.
Seeing a need for more harmonies, he asked friend and singer Ryann Gonsalves to fill the role. As it became clear that the project was no longer a duo, the next move was to get a bass player. DiMartino asked Mackenzie Bunch, guitar player in the French Cassettes, to play bass in this new band. “Mack is so talented that I thought he would be able to handle it with no problem,” he said.
Then came Grayson Converse who plays keys and has a band called Spooky Mansion. “Grayson was Rob’s roommate the whole time we were in college. He is a wonderful jazz piano player so I asked him to hop on keys to fill out some of the sound,” DiMartino said.
The five played shows for a couple years until Scott Huerta, also in French Cassettes, came on board. “I decided I wanted to just sing and have a lead singer, frontman-type vibe for the live shows so I asked Scott to join and play my guitar parts,” he said.
“O and the French Cassettes would play a lot so we all just became friends,” he recounted. “We would go to the same barbecues, hang out at the same parties, and had mutual friends all living together so it was all pretty close and in the family.”
Tino Drima released its first EP called Smoking in July 2016. A highlight on the EP is “I Wanna Be Your Mantra,” which came to DiMartino in a dream. The band is working on a debut full-length LP to be released in the fall. Hopefully fans will hear a preview of the anticipated album at Phono del Sol.
“We are going to bring heat for sure,” DiMartino said of their upcoming performance. “We are going to keep the music upbeat and loud.”
Phono del Sol 2017: Thee Oh Sees, the Coathangers, Jay Som, Tino Drima and more
Potrero del Sol Park
June 17, 2017