The Pack Represents

Dude, your band’s from where? Ah, yes, the local music coverage angle that never quits: debate over claimed/perceived/insufficient geographic affiliation. San Diego CityBeat scribe Todd Kroviak weighed in last Wednesday (3/31) with a column entitled “Homegrown: Stop whining about bands leaving San Diego and catching a buzz — just be happy for them,” suggesting that locals not “be pissed if they fail to mention their humble beginnings in sunny San Diego.”

Kroviak cites Wavves, the Soft Pack, Crocodiles, and Dum Dum Girls as having recently risen “to varying levels of notoriety and, if not cutting ties with the city, at least recognizing that venturing outside of the local scene is good for their careers. And if people don’t think these bands are giving proper recognition to their roots, it’s because they’re too busy recording, touring, and, in the case of the Soft Pack, playing The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Yet, front man Matt Lamkin of the Los Angeles–based Soft Pack wasn’t too preoccupied to think fast onstage and tell Dave a little SD-boosting white lie before the band kicked into “Answer to Yourself” on The Late Show’s February 12 broadcast.

“Look at how good that looks,” began Letterman at his desk, noting their debut album’s cover, the band photographed on a sun-dappled beach. “Where is that, California someplace? Zuma? Point Dume? Trancas?”

“San Diego,” Lamkin is heard saying off camera.

“San Diego?” says the host, impressed. “Yeah, doesn’t that look sweet,” he continues before returning to his stock musical guest intro: “Our next guests are a talented rock-and-roll band from California.…”

After the performance, the host strolls over, thanks each member, announces the group name again, and looks over to Lamkin, asking him for a where-from confirmation: “San Diego, is that right?” Lamkin gives him the “OK” gesture; Letterman points back in acknowledgment.

“That’s Venice Beach,” confessed Lamkin about the album cover photo’s setting last Tuesday after a Soft Pack show in Philadelphia (SD’s Beaters opening). “Yeah, I said ‘San Diego’ [on Letterman] just to give the hometown some props, that’s all.”

Lamkin noted that although the band is indeed based in L.A. (he moved for a film-editing job), they are careful how they phrase it “because, moving there and saying you’re ‘an L.A. band’ — those bands that really are from L.A. might go, ‘whoa…’ ” He chuckled about Dee Dee (aka Kristin Gundred of SD’s defunct Grand Ole Party) from the allegedly L.A.-based Dum Dum Girls living with her husband Brandon Welchez (of the Crocodiles) in Hillcrest. “Opposite of us: we live in L.A., say we’re from San Diego; she actually lives in San Diego and says her band is from L.A.”

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The list of local performers who seek success by moving near L.A. is long – from Ratt and Stone Temple Pilots through Stolen, Delta Spirit, Anya Marina, the Soft Pack, and more.

But, once in awhile, it works the other way --

“We had so many bad experiences in L.A.” says Tyler Monks, whose band JuneNine has been enjoying U.K. airplay on BBC, Vox, and Kerrang Radio. “Stolen cars, homicides, alcoholic producers, one and a half-hour commutes, roommates with poor hygiene…I decided I was done with L.A. and moved to San Diego, to enjoy a lifestyle free of traffic, parking tickets, and pollution.”

“L.A. is intoxicating,” says Monks, “and the buzz of the music biz is undeniable, but you really have to spend time in L.A. to network. That’s the one thing San Diego lacks; well-connected industry people. San Diegans have a healthier lifestyle, though.”

Dave Madden’s path to Ocean Beach wasn’t paved until after spending 25 years with L.A. Doors tribute band Wild Child.

“I lived in Los Feliz, across the street from Griffith Park,” says Madden. “Madonna and Gwen Stefani had houses up the hill from me, and I would frequently run into and shoot the sh-t with Beck on my walks through Silver Lake.”

So why quit the successful band he co-founded and move to OB? “If you’re already disposed to having an addictive personality, it will eventually catch up to you,” he says. “After two stints in rehab, I found myself in the hospital…I had complete organ failure, fell into a two-week coma, was diagnosed with double pneumonia, and I flatlined three times. To this day, my doctors have no clue why I didn’t die.”

Here in SD, Madden fronts That '70s Rock Show. “It’s a theatrical production using lasers, strobes, blacklights, fog machines, and everything you’d expect to see at 1970s concert,” he says. “It’s a lot less stressful, with a lot less temptations, than touring the world with ‘Jim Morrison.’”

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