What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.

The Innocent Bystanders began in 2013 as a cover band that dreamed about playing events at the school where they worked. The band members had all been in bands and written and recorded songs over the years. But their lives all went in other directions. To their surprise, the band gelled and started playing clubs around San Diego County. By 2016, they started pulling out old songs for venues that preferred original music. The response was pretty good. So, the studio was the next step. This group of songs became the band’s first release, Attractive Nuisance, in late 2017.

Provide us with some info about your latest release…

For the past 18 months, The Innocent Bystanders have been working on a full length album called Book of Life. They finished principal recording in February, and the album should be out this year. So far, they’ve released three singles. No Place to Go, Rainy Sunday Morning, and most recently Call of the Wild.

Call of the Wild is a brand new song inspired by the Jack London novel The Call of the Wild as well as every K-9-human love story you’ve ever heard. Oh yeah, there was a bumper sticker too with a woman walking a dog that said “Who Rescued Who.” The music was influenced by Southside Johnny and Asbury Jukes early records and there’s a definite homage to Neil Young in the bridge.

We had a lot of help with this one. In addition to our line-up (Berenson – drums; Nieberg – vox/acoustic guitar; LaFave – sax; Samporna – bass; Semeraro – 12 string Surf Caster; and Kath Rogers on backup vox) we were lucky to get Ben Moore our producer/engineer to play his vintage Hammond B3 and Ted Stern to play the fiddle parts. These two guys are pros like we wish we were. Last but not least, we played on a bill at The Merrow in mid-town San Diego with this girl, Lillian LeFranc. We made her play last because none of the bands wanted to go on at 11PM. We didn’t know that she was just a solo act with an acoustic guitar. It didn’t matter. She rocked it. Blew us all away, including the one magical “oooh, oooh” vocal thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind. When we were recording Call of the Wild I found her again and asked if she’d do “something like that” on the bridge. That’s literally all the instruction she had. I think it came out, well, you be the judge.

Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?

The Innocent Bystanders are influenced by all the great Stax Records stuff from the mid-to-late 60s. The E-Street Band and the Jukes as they were in the mid-70s, the great Northern Soul artists, and a little 90s ska too. People say we sound a little bit country; a little roots rock. I guess we do, but I don’t feel like we were influenced by the country so much.

In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?

The Innocent Bystanders are authentic. Their songs come out of their lives. The lyrics come from special places, often painful places, hopefully triumphant places, ultimately. These are NOT songs someone wrote in a day. The music is organic. We don’t try to sound current. I guess our sound is Old School. But we’re not trying to sound that way either. We all grew up loving guitars, electric organs, acoustic pianos, horns, violins, harmonicas and fiddles. And we want to make the kind of music that we always loved. For us, it was soul, R&B, and rock & roll. But we’re not any of those genres, much as we might want to be. People call us Folk Rock, Alt Country, Roots Rock. We’ll take it. We’re not trying to be popular. We’re trying to make music we’re proud of.

Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…

Born to Run; Pirates; Let it Bleed

Pulp Fiction, On the Road (not the movie), The Catcher in the Rye

Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?

Semeraro likes practice best! This is a really tough one. We’ve been the type of band that likes to have fun together. You can do that anywhere. Nothings better, though, than a good live performance with an audience that enjoyed it. You don’t get that immediate satisfaction in the studio.

Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?

We once played a gig where our PA and one guitar amp died. We ended up playing the set with the bass and vocals through the remaining guitar amp. An acoustic guitar; two saxophones; and the drums.

Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?

Call of the Wild is right up there with songs about dogs! Not a lot of songs can hit that sweet spot. We have a couple of songs on our first EP that use harmony sax lines. That’s pretty unique for rock/country type records. And we’re doing that again on a couple of the songs on the new album, though not the ones that have been released so far. Their called Dawning of the Day and Lost Things if you want to watch out for them.

Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?

When shelter in place is over, We’d like to get back to playing music in bars again. It would be fun to get to play a festival. We’ve never done that. And, of course, finish our album and hope people like it.

Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…

How about just the answer. Because when the part you just made up fits in just right and everyone’s blending together and it just sounds amazing, and you did it. If there’s anything better, we haven’t found it.

Curated by: Christos Doukakis

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