I have been searching for more bands & musicians to interview here at AGT and to my surprise, I managed to come across a pretty awesome and unique sounding band that hails from Santa Ana, CA.
Operation Mockingbird is their name and the band consists of 5 members. The Janell (Vocals), Chandler Grace (Lead Guitar), Kyle Thomas Spelman (Bass Guitar), Jesse West (Drums), and Alayna (Synths/Keys). They seem to have a great chemistry together as a band and truly love what they do. Read along now and I hope you enjoy this interview.
(Since each member of the band offered their input, questions are answered by the following)
CG = Chandler Grace
JW = Jesse West
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AK = Alayna K.
KTS = Kyle Thomas Spelman
JG = Jesse G.
Luny: – Please tell everyone the name of your band and where you are located.
OPMB– We are Operation Mockingbird (Or OPMB for short) from Santa Ana, CA
Luny: – How did the band get started? Can you give us a brief history of the creation and why?
CG– I started this initially with a drummer from my last band, Lincoln Six Echo, not really sure what kind of music we were going to be doing at the time. This was initially going to be just something to fill the time between shows but it rapidly turned into a fully realized band. Initially The Janell was on synths and I was on bass. As we started writing, it was leaning toward a “darker” sound, if you will, but it wasn’t until Janell and I decided to continue as a duo that OPMB moved into what you hear today. Janell took over on vocals and I moved from bass to guitar. We had both always envisioned this as a five piece band and slowly started adding members until we got the lineup we have now; The Janell on vocals, Jesse West on drums, Alayna K on synths, Kyle Thomas Spelman on bass and me, Chandler Grace, on guitar.
Janell Cross (Vocals)
Luny: – What other projects or bands have your members been in and what was that like?
JW– I played in a rock band in Seattle named Emeralds. We had two tracks on the Decline of the Pacific North West 2007 compilation. I am also a proud drop out of Cornish College where I majored in guitar.
AK– I have done some solo singer/songwriter work. I have also played some coffee shops around LA and open mics around Georgia.
KTS– I have done some solo recording as Desolatus, which is Latin for “desolate”. It is electronic based music in the vein of Depeche Mode, but I haven’t put it out into the world. Yet.
CG– As I mentioned I was in the band Lincoln Six Echo just before OPMB. For the last 15 years or so I have bounced around the area playing bass in a few rock bands but what we are doing now was something I had been trying to start for much of that time. In the early 90s I played synths in the band The Midnight Dreary and I also did a brief solo project called Theatre of Scars where I played synths, bass and lead vocals
JG– This is the first time that I have ever been in a band, even though I have been around bands and musicians for most of my life. I have written poetry since my teens. I quickly learned, however, that writing poetry and writing lyrics are two different things. I do pull from old poems sometimes to make them fit into lyrics.
Chandler Grace (Lead Guitar)
Luny: – I see the bands influences list is pretty extensive. I imagine it must be easy to come up with new songs or ideas based upon such a list?
CG– It is getting pretty easy, actually. It helps having more people to collaborate with now too. Lately it seems like I can come up with the spark of an idea and everyone else feeds off of that. I don’t feel that we are pulling necessarily from influences other than the certain tones of our instruments.
KTS– I find myself pulling from some of my bass influences like Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order) or Will Heggie and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins)
CG– Most of my influences are rooted in classic deathrock like Christian Death or Virgin Prunes. For me, it is the overall feeling that you experience while listening to music, and much of what I write blossoms from there.
JW– I pull more from math than a drummer specifically. It is the challenge of making a beat fit rhythmically into the music that the rest of the band comes up with.
AK– I go more off of feel than anything, pulling from the lyrical content and the dreaminess of the music, and then finding the perfect synth accompaniment to complement those feelings.
JG– I grew up on mainstream 70s FM radio, so I count some of the music I first heard as a child among my lyrical influences. Songs like Pink Floyd’s “Time”, Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” have really vivid and poetic lyrics dealing with what can be considered depressing topics such as mortality, addiction, and loneliness. As a teenager, I dove right into bands like Bauhaus, The Cure, and Sisters of Mercy, who all took their lyrics to a whole other level.
Alyna K. (Synth/Keys)
Luny: – I see you have an upcoming tour planned, Escape The Orange Curtain. What are some other bands you’ll be sharing a stage with, and are there any new songs you’ll be treating your fans with?
CG– This will be our first time out of the Southern California area. We will be touring with DeepDrain and will be playing with The Exorcists and The Bellicose Minds in Portland, OR as well as Plasticstatic and Post Rapture Party in Seattle, WA.
JG – “Fading Out” is a brand new song that is pretty well complete. We are still writing “Just Children” and are working to get it ready in time for the tour.
CG– We also have a couple covers that we are thinking about busting out, which is something we have never really done.
Jesse West (Drums)
Luny: – What have been some of the biggest issues the band has had to deal with currently and what does the future look like for the band?
CG– Drummers and scheduling have always been our biggest hurdles. In our two and a half year history we have been fortunate to play with several drummers but life always seems to happen and they are unable to stay in the band. I think my biggest fear is that we have Spinal Tap syndrome. We hope that Jesse doesn’t spontaneously combust because, aside from how that would really suck for him, we love playing with him.
Scheduling rehearsals and shows can be a challenge as well. We are all rather spread out geographically, with some of us in LA and San Diego counties, and then meeting up to rehearse in Orange County.
AK– Both Chandler and I struggle the day after rehearsals. We usually end up rehearsing well in to the middle of the night and we both have early morning day jobs.
Luny: – If given the chance to share a stage with 1 band, who would it be and why?
AK- I would love to play with any iconic band like The Cure, for example.
CG– We have been fortunate to play with a lot of bands that I truly respect already. I can honestly say that if we could play with Clan of Xymox it would be a dream come true because they have always been one of my most favorite bands and they are still making music. Bellweather Syndicate, William Faith and Lady Sarah’s band from Chicago, IL would be another band for me. They are working on a new album now and I have so much respect for them.
JW– I would really like to share a stage with Mephisto Waltz and Soft Kill, two of my favorite bands.
KTS– I would love to play with Peter Hook and the Light.
CG– I think that we are slightly afraid that if we ever did play with Peter Hook, Kyle would die from sheer joy. At least he’d go out happy though.
JG – I would love to share a stage with The Dead Weather. Their performances have an incredible visceral energy, ebbing and flowing through a dynamic range that can teeter on the edge of chaos, but is still solidly held together.
Kyle Thomas Spelman (Bass Guitar)
Luny: – Do you see yourself changing your music to suit fan needs or trying to influence a different type of fan? If so, please explain.
JG– I think the second you try and make your art to appeal to someone else, it’s not your art anymore. It’s not honest. We consciously work to become better musicians and expand the scope of what we can do, which will change our music over time. But it won’t be because we are trying to be anything other than what we are.
KTS– People seem to have so much art in their beings that they need to just get out. It’s a hard line though when you want to try and please everyone but…[trails off]. New Order and The Cure are great examples of how they start one way and evolve into something much different.
Luny: – Who are some brands/manufacturers/labels the band loves to embrace and promote?
CG– I’d have to tip my hat to Roland/Boss. From my pedals and amp, to one of our synths. OPMB would not sound the same without them.
KTS– Definitely Yamaha.
AK– Oh yes, definitely Yamaha. That is the keyboard I use for my personal projects.
JG– Supporting local and touring bands is a big part of both of my and Chandler’s lives. More personally, the dark art community is a second family to me.
CG– Dance clubs as well. Both Janell and I try to get out dancing every chance we get. Some of the local clubs like Release The Bats and many of LADEAD’s clubs have been almost like a second home to us
Luny: – Finally, is there anyone you’d like to thank or any websites you’d like to mention to our readers they visit?
JG– Morticia Graves with vampirefreaks.com is a boss and has been extremely supportive not only of us, but the dark music and art communities as a whole. I really can’t thank her enough for all of the hard work she puts into interviewing, promoting, and supporting all of us.
I’d also like to thank Jeremy Schott and Jeremy Cross at The Dark Art Emporiumin Long Beach, CA. They have given us outsider and dark artists a place we can show our art that would never be shown in a mainstream art gallery. http://www.darkartemporium.com
KTS– All of the venues that open their stages to us, and all of our followers on social media. Also, my mom Mary for her supportive attitude. She bought me my first instruments and encouraged me to play music as well as all of the musical and artistic influence she gave me growing up.
JW– My wife Yuenmei who is so supportive of my rehearsing both at home and with the full band.
AK– My boyfriend Steven for supporting me in my musical pursuits.
CG– We certainly need to thank Cliff & Ivy who embraced our music from the beginning, playing us on their weekly radio shows House of Extreme Darkness on wfku.org and Extreme Darkness on wickedspinsradio.org.
Randy Ulrich who tirelessly supports local artists and runs the OC Burrito Project (https://www.ocburritoproject.org) which feeds the homeless in Orange County, CA with the sale of burritos and ice cream at local shows.
And a huge thanks to club DJ’s, like Reverend23 and NyxLorry with The Batcave SLC, who not only play our music, but are willing to spin other new goth bands at their clubs instead of only the tried and true bands from the 80s. It is efforts like these that keep this genre as a whole growing and alive.
If you’d like to learn more about Operation Mockingbird, you can discover them at:
Their official homepage: http://www.opmbofficial.com/