Sound Check: 10 Bay Area Musicians Making Major Noise

As you gear up for 2012, it’s time to update more than just your fitness regimens. Adding some new tunage to your ever-expanding music arsenal is a perfect way to start the year off fresh (and fuel those grueling workouts). Whether it’s the latest under-the-radar jam or our newest on-stage style crush, here at R29 we’re dedicated music fans and love sharing our finds (like these must-hit Bay Area live music venues!). So, clearly we’re thrilled to bring you a crop of 10 Bay Area artists whose beats we can’t resist. From songbird Chloe Makes Music to indie rocker Chris Owens of Girls (Hedi Slimane is a fan) — these local folks are doing more than their part to heat up the S.F. sound scene. Now, who's ready to jam?
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Chloe Roth from Chloe Makes Music

Describe your sense of style.
"My dream answer is Annie Hall meets Lady Gaga. The oversized trousers, muted palette, and floppy hat are my Annie Hall elements, but from the ankles down it's as Gaga as I can get away with. These obscenely gigantic brocade Jeffrey Campbell platforms are my favorite purchase of the year. I will be spending the next few weeks practicing playing guitar and walking around in them at the same time."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
"Gravel & Gold. The clothing and jewelry they carry represent the best in handcrafted, high-quality, and the union of old and new. Plus, they recently came out with their own line of amazing shirts and dresses. My favorite vintage shop is Painted Bird because their selection is impeccably curated and surprisingly affordable."

Does your personal style differ from your on-stage style?
"On a daily basis I can be found wearing a ‘70s llama-print poncho with denim bellbottoms and moccasins, or an oversized '80s sweater with shiny leggings, or some '90s mom pants and a midriff tee. My stage style is just a little fancier because I'll use any excuse to dress up. I try not to repeat stage outfits. Thankfully, I've got a solid vintage collection and a mom who's willing to let me borrow from hers on occasion."

What’s your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"It takes a while for all six of us to pack up our instruments (and clothes, in my case), so my bandmates and I can usually be found at the venue where we just performed — until they kick us out. Café Du Nord and the Great American Music Hall are not only my favorite stages but they have the friendliest staffs, who will fraternize 'till the wee hours."

Who are your musical style icons?
"Stevie Nicks, not for her witchy corsets and fringy shawls (though on her they're perfection) but for her attention to detail. I went to see her last month at the Fillmore with photographer Molly DeCoudreaux and she had three costume changes, including three different chainmail-bedazzled gloves. Plus, her microphone and tambourine were laden with chains and scarves."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Mike Deni, Brian Ostreicher, and Nathan Blaz from Geographer

Describe your sense of style.
Mike: "A cross between ‘70s Graham Nash and Bruce Springsteen."
Brian: "Where form meets function. I'm a jeans and t-shirt type of guy, with the occasional snap shirt."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
Mike: "If I'm buying something for a lady, Sea Pony Couture. I hear from all my friends that I would love Unionmade. It's been described to me as 'the best men's clothing store in the country.' But shopping generally frightens me, so I've been putting it off."
Brian: "Robotspeak."

Do you have a favorite "go-to" item of late?
Mike: "My friend was biking in the Oakland Hills one day and chanced upon a skull of some weasel-like creature. Being the type of man he is (Josey Baker of Josey Baker Bread), he yanked its canines out and made me a necklace out of it. By which I mean, he drilled a hole in it and gave it to me on a piece of string. But I wear that every day."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
Mike: "It doesn't really differ. It might be ever-so-slightly riskier. It's fun to be able to get away with things — or at least believe that you can. Worrying over your clothes can come from a place of emptiness unless you have fun with it."

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
Brian: "The Brown Jug in the Tenderloin. It’s near our rehearsal space, which makes it convenient."
Mike: "I think the best one was in Fort Stockton, Kentucky. It was attached to the venue, and after the show (we were on tour with Stars) we all went up and watched our manager do karaoke and drank whiskey with pickle juice chasers. Usually I like to go to sleep, but that was fun."

Who are your musical style icons?
Brian: "I'd like to someday be as classy as Roy Orbison."

What are your favorite music venues in the Bay?
Mike: "Great American Music Hall, Rickshaw Stop, and the Independent. Actually, speaking of fashion, one of the bouncers at the Rickshaw had on this really loud colorful shirt, and I said, 'Hey man, I like your shirt,' and he told me he would buy one for me (only a dollar), and I should come by the next day and pick it up! Isn't that amazing? I forgot. I hope he left it behind the bar or something."
Brian: "The Fillmore, Rickshaw Stop, and Great American Music Hall."

What is your all-time treasured item?
Mike: "A cobalt blue collared shirt my sister gave me."

Any cheap find you care to share with our readers?
Mike: "Go through your clothes from when you were 11. I heard the ‘90s are back."
Brian: "Buffalo Exchange has great second-hand clothes, and many times you can find a pretty good deal there."

What song describes your sense of style?
Mike: "'Freedom,' by George Michael."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Chris Owens of Girls

Describe your personal style.
"I like to be comfortable. I like colors, and I really don’t like spending a lot of money on clothes. I like to try to find items at thrift stores. There was a period of time where I cut my hair really short and only wore button-downed shirts, and I really wanted to have this ‘new’ look, but it didn’t work out very well at all."

Any favorite shopping haunts in S.F.?
"Thrift Town, Goodwill, Out of the Closet. I love these places, because you’ll never be hounded by sales associates and the items are so much cheaper. I also shop at Brooks Brothers, which is the only nice place that I will shop. Because they have a boys department, the stuff fits me better and it’s cheaper."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
"No, I wear the same thing for both. I don’t really have stage clothes per se."

Do you have any musical style icons?
"Beth Gibbons of Portishead. If you watch her perform, there is one thing that she does, which is closes her eyes and gets right up on the mic, which is one thing that I really like. I feel she is the person I look the most like out of any other singer. I mean, the hair, the clothes, the attitude."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Hannah Hunt from Dominant Legs

Describe your sense of style.
"I realized recently that I'm always subconsciously (or consciously) imitating the people I thought were cool when I was 9-years-old: Cher Horowitz, Kate Moss, Paulina Porizkova, Posh Spice. So, I guess my sense of style is very 1996."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
"Mother's Daughter, which is actually an online vintage store, but it's SF-based, and No Shop on Valencia are my favorites."

Do you have a favorite "go-to" item of late?
"My white collarless shirt from Fred Segal."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
"Not really. It never feels appropriate when I wear something overtly costume-like."

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"There is a party and drag show every Tuesday at Aunt Charlie's in the Tenderloin, which never, ever disappoints. But if I don't want to run into anyone, I'll go to Tosca Cafe in North Beach. It's been around since the early 1900s, and City Lights is right across the street."

Who are your musical style icons?
"I've always thought Francoise Hardy looked casual and cool, never trying too hard. I also like France Gall and Vanessa Paradis, so maybe I just like French ladies, in general! And I don't know if this last one counts, but I think I can practically speak for my generation when I say that Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone in the Aerosmith music videos were my original style icons."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Shaun Durkan, Abe Pedroza, and Kevin Johnson of Weekend

What are you favorite Bay Area shopping haunts?
"Thrift Town in El Sobrante and San Leandro. These are some of the only thrift stores in the Bay Area that aren't picked through. Slash denim in Berkeley rules, too. Carla the owner is a denim wizard."

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"Honestly, after we're done tearing down equipment and packing up, it’s after closing time."

Who are your musical icons?
"Royal Trux, definitely."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Rocky Rivera

Describe your sense of style.
"I'd say it's utilitarian chic: casual but tailored, classic with modern touches and one-of-a-kind embellishments. I also love indigenous textiles from the American Southwest, Southeast Asia, Peru, and around the world."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
"My favorite vintage shop is Isso in Hayes Valley. Marie Biscarra, who owns the shop, finds local items and vendors and has an incredible sense of taste. Plus they carry Ladybird S.F. accessories, which I also love. A lot of my good guy friends work at BLVCK SCVLE, an S.F.-based men's line has really taken off lately."

Do you have a favorite "go-to" item of late?
"My Rocky Heart unisex tank by Pnoy Apparel gets major rotation in my wardrobe because it has the perfect relaxed fit and still looks fresh after so many washes."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
"Definitely! I enjoy the actual transformation. I'm usually low key with natural makeup, crewneck sweaters, skinny jeans and a couple key seasonal pieces during the day. But onstage, it's all about the wow factor: lip tattoos, knuckle rings, heavy metal body chains, and glam hair and lashes. I am careful not to go overboard though, since I see that many women artists try to Gaga-it out and end up looking artificial and tacky. I wouldn't want anything to overshadow my performance."

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"Eve and John Colins are my new fave spots."

Who are your musical icons?
"Grace Jones, Sade, and Madonna."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Hannah Moriah

Describe your sense of style.
"I'd say that my style over the years has been dictated by what I find at random thrift stores. Originality is definitely a principle of mine. I'm drawn to unique pieces: hand-tooled leather, embroidery, rich patterns, interesting textiles. I aim for a balance of minimalism and opulence."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
"I live in Oakland and on my days off I love to drop by Mercy Vintage Now on Piedmont Avenue, just to marvel at their gorgeous collection and decor. I end up wanting everything! The owners have quite the eye for vintage and great attention to detail. I also love Pretty Penny on College Avenue. I always find lovely things here, and the owner is very sweet and welcoming."

Do you have a favorite "go-to" item of late?
"That would have to be my Levi’s western shirt. I simply haven’t found an outfit it doesn’t go with."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
"There isn't a vast difference between the two. However, I do like to be more sartorially expressive onstage. Performances are a great opportunity for me to wear some of the beautifully bizarre, less practical outfits that my closet is full of, like a mirrored Persian vest, flapper nightgown, or a blouse from the Victorian era. I love dressing to the nines for a show, a girl hardly finds an occasion!"

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"Definitely Bar Three Fifty-Five! It’s on 19th Street in Oakland. I love the swank ambiance of the space, perfect for a romantic evening. The atmosphere is really friendly, and there is always an amazing DJ. You might see me here at one of their Sunday Sundown shows."

Who are your musical style icons?
"I’d have to say Joni Mitchell, because she is so gorgeous and natural, and her style never overwhelmed the stark beauty of her songs. She is the epitome of sophistication. Also, Kate Bush. What a woman. She and her music are imaginative, original and fearless. Both of these women are so ambitious and groundbreaking. True visionaries."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Kirsten Knick and Will Ivy of Lilac

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
Kirsten: "I work at Community Thrift in the Mission, (a non-profit benefiting over 200 charities). It's great. People donate some of the best things I've ever owned there."
Will: "NO Shop."

Do you have a favorite "go-to" item of late?
Kirsten: "A leather studded choker collar, a fitted black dress, and blue polka dot slacks."
Will: "My multicolored flannel and my Van Gogh tank top is my favorite thing to wear during the day. I've been into all-black night looks lately, too, and combat boots."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
Kirsten: "I love the process of getting ready, but it's my mood that dictates an outfit."
Will: "I try not to separate them. My music is as much a part of my every day life as getting dressed in the morning, and I'm certainly not trying to be anything I'm not...just a genuine freak."

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
Kirsten: "The Lilac practice space is above an old tranny bar in the Tenderloin, called Aunt Charlie’s. If it's not there, it's in my practice space."
Will: "The Phonebooth, because you can smoke inside. House parties are always better though."

Who are your musical style icons?
Kirsten: "It's ever changing, but the classics: Nico and Brigitte Bardot."
Will: "KURT."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Nicki Bluhm

Describe your sense of style.
"Good style to me means versatility. When I’m out on the road I don’t have the luxury of bringing my entire wardrobe, so the pieces I bring have to count. Growing up riding horses, I was always getting dirty while wearing my riding clothes. I guess I’ve sort of carried that sentiment over into my adult life. Right now I am really drawn to '70s ranch wear in that Debra Winger-'Urban Cowboy' kind of way."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
"Carolina Boutique in Mill Valley, Gravel & Gold, Held Over, Dusty of California, and Other Avenues Co-Op."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
"I think my stage style is just a mildly souped-up version of my personal day-to-day style. The feel and cut of each piece is the same (lots of high-waisted jeans paired with boots), but the jeans on stage are typically a size smaller and the boots are an inch or two taller than what I would wear during the day!"

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"After a gig there is no place like home. If I've got a night off it's likely I'll stroll down to The Riptide in the Outer Sunset. It's cozy and they usually have a fire going. Plus they have Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap, my two favorite beers."

Who are your musical style icons?
"I love Linda Ronstadt’s style in the '70s, as well as Emmylou Harris. I think the '70s were a great time for music and fashion. There was the right mix of feminine sweetness and boyish ruggedness. I guess my worn in Frye Mustang boots in pink describes what I’m talking about best."

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Joey Bustos, Aaron Eisenberg, Joshua Cook, Octavio Genera, and Ryan Noble of the Soft White Sixties

Describe your sense of style.
"A well-fitting jacket and a nice pair of shoes or boots, preferably leather. Button downs. No oversized lapels. Classy and timeless. A rock 'n' roll band you could take home to mom."

What are you favorite Bay Area shops?
"H&M is always an affordable and well-fitted foundation, but we're lucky enough to live in a city with a lot of great boutiques too, like ACRE and Welcome Stranger. Some of the vintage shops in the Haight come through from time to time as well, such as Held Over or Wasteland."

Do you have a favorite "go-to" item?
"Nothing beats a good leather jacket."

Does your personal style differ from your stage style?
"It doesn't differ much. We try to not play dress up for a show, but we might be a little more casual off stage. James Brown didn't take out the trash in fitted slacks you know. Or did he?"

What's your favorite after-gig watering hole?
"If we're out of the venue before last call, Royal Cuckoo is always a good one. You get kicked out by a harmonica-playing bouncer at the end of the night."

Who are your musical icons?
"Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are a standard, and of course Otis Redding, James Brown, The Faces, Wilco, T. Rex....there's a lot!"

What are your favorite music venues in the Bay?
"Of the ones we've played, we love the Independent, Slim's, Bottom of the Hill, the Rickshaw, and Great American Music Hall. All great rooms with great sound. We haven't played Bimbo's 365 or the Fillmore yet, but we love catching shows there. Cafe Du Nord is also a favorite…and you can catch us there on January 9th!"

Do you have any cheap finds you care to share with our readers?
"Aaron found this awesome tiny denim vest, when worn without a shirt (a.k.a. correctly) it immediately transforms you into a roadie from 1974. 'Strike the deads!'"

What song describes your sense of style?
"Something that caters to a good strut, like 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking' or anything by Marc Bolan."

Photo: Courtesy of Mat Dunlap
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