Blackcraft Turned a Heavy Metal T-Shirt Operation into Big Business

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Chris Laughter
In the summer of 2012, sepulchral Orange-based clothing company Blackcraft Cult was just an idea, an itch burrowing through the brains of co-founders Bobby Schubenski and Jim Somers. Less than two years later, their designs appear on celebrities and musicians ranging from Slayer to Kesha, their revenues and online followers number in the millions, and the company seems to be on the cusp of total world domination.

"With Blackcraft, [our message] for kids is 'believe in yourself, and create your own future,' and that if Jim and I could meet this vision we had, then anybody can do it," Schubenski says. "We want to show kids that it's OK to be different, and to go against the norm. Be different, and stand out, get off of that rat wheel that everyone says they're on."

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Feral Kizzy Are Fierce Fe-Lions on Stage and in the Studio

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Luka Fisher
Kizzy Kirk, the rambunctious front woman of the Long Beach garage-rock outfit Feral Kizzy, unleashes an air raid of F-bombs when talking about her band's recent momentum. She sounds like a Teamster, but in a joyful, excited way. There's a ton of great fucking shit happening in the world of Feral Kizzy right now.

First and foremost, the band are in the midst of putting the finishing touches on their self-titled debut LP. They've enlisted Jonny Bell of Crystal Antlers for the mastering, and the first couple of tracks are just about done. Kirk's happy to give us a sneak peek of the first two singles, provided we don't leak the material.

The first track, "Community Service," is a throwback to '80s rock noir; Kirk says it sounds as though it belongs on the Lost Boys soundtrack. There's a definite Nick Cave/The XX vibe happening here--lots of subdued intensity, with Kirk's raw soprano channeling Runaways-era Cherie Currie.

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Daniel Mihai is a House Head DJ Who Cuts Hair

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You would expect the wild crowds of college kids from Cal State Fullerton to take over just about every bar its downtown district has to offer. But on Saturday nights at the Continental Room, Fullerton's oldest drinking establishment (built in 1925) hosts Electric Saturdays, to a crowd Edward Daniel Mihai describes as "OG house heads." Basically it's a mix of young twentysomethings who like to party and the 40-year-olds looking for the best old fashioned in town. The music format has been the same for the past four years--down tempo grooves of deep and tech house early in the night, with a gradual shift to Beatport's banging, big room beats du jour. Every weekend, the tiny crescent moon-shaped dance floor is filled to capacity. With no cover charge and stiff drinks, it's no wonder the line outside is sometimes up to an hour long.

The dim lights and classic Frank Sinatra era red d├ęcor transforms the dated club into a kind of speakeasy for savvy dance music lovers. "You wouldn't expect that in a spot in Fullerton," says Mihai, the resident DJ for the past four years. With little to no promotion, he has managed to create an EDM sanctuary for far longer than you've been hearing Avicii on the radio. He has given many local OC DJs their chance to man the decks to warm up the crowd and as of late has been holding it down with his turntable co-pilot Menikmati. "We just vibe and work together well," Mihai says. Previous guest sets include DJ Irene, Charles Feelgood, Static Revenger and even an impromptu show by Skrillex.


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Chicano Batman Love the Challenge of "Latin Psych Soul"

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Jessica Augustine
Chicano Batman
When new, exceptionally talented bands without a previously categorized sound come out, writers all over from Pitchfork to regional publications tend to throw any label at them that will stick, from "coldwave" to "afro-indie." The taxonomy behind music is something journalists and writers spend countless hours hammering away at, but when a band like southern California's Chicano Batman arises, Rialto-raised guitarist Carlos Arevalo has inadvertently discovered the best way to describe his group's relentlessly eclectic sound: a Venn diagram.

"If there was a Venn diagram with Latin and psychedelic soul, that middle ground is where we'd exist," he says.

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EMMY Takes Shots (Many Shots) at Pop Stardom

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Courtesy of EMMY
In the middle of 2012, Emily Simonian was at a crossroads. Though she had released her first EP, Pale Green, the year before, she was already unhappy with the direction her career was headed. Her delicate, jazzy piano-laden songs were technically proficient and appealed to her personal tastes, but they were missing the extra element that would nab a wider audience. She took a year off to write and reboot, and now the Yorba Linda-born, Huntington Beach-based singer/songwriter is ready to unleash her brand of spunky pop music to the masses.

Classically trained on the piano, Simonian's influences range from classic jazz music to soul and R&B. When you look at the petite musician, you wouldn't expect to hear a voice with such a vibrant knowledge and understanding of how to fuse these genres, yet that's what she does.

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Ted Z and the Wranglers Are Ready to Ride

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Lindsey Duffek
If there's such a thing as a high-functioning rock band, Ted Z and the Wranglers are it. Since getting serious as a band a couple of years ago, they've been on a creative tear, with a debut LP released last year, an EP in January and another EP dropping this month. "I still have more songs," says Ted Zakka, the group's front man and primary songwriter. "I'm actually starting another full-length. I figure the more music I get to people, the better, instead of just waiting."

And these aren't one-take, raw-and-rowdy fuzz/punk recordings. The Wranglers root themselves in the realm of cowboy Americana, a sound more akin to Nashville than SoCal, and they employ the genre's requisite high level of musicianship, with band members flexing their chops, reminiscent of the famous Nashville A-Team session crew that backed Elvis, Dylan, Patsy Kline--basically everyone who had a country hit in the '50s, '60s and '70s.


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Hooray For Our Side Skank By With a Little Help From Their Friends

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New bands are constantly popping up with social media platforms like Bandcamp and Facebook as a way to market their image and music. For many it doesn't go far except for a couple demos, EPs and DIY shows. Other bands, particularly in the Orange Country ska scene, however, have the upper hand to potentially thrive in a niche of the competitive music scene.

Hooray for Our Side, who nicked their moniker off of Jeff Bridges' lines in TRON, were fortunate enough to have been involved in the OC ska scene long before they formed their band to reap the scene's benefits.


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Why Nardcore Band Ill Repute Deserve a Documentary

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Wiki Commons
"Oxnard! Oxnard! Nardcore!"

These simple lyrics from the song simply titled "Oxnard" are a familiar battle cry to a niche community in the SoCal hardcore scene. The beginnings of Nardcore--a volatile, pit-swirling blitzkrieg of bands out of Ventura County--hit widespread consciousness in the early '80s. Bands such as Aggression, Dr. Know and False Confession were responsible for spearheading a new scene of West Coast bands that captured the attention of the general punk rock public. Stan Mueller, a local documentary filmmaker and founder of the production company True Underground Network, holds up another band as being among the best: Ill Repute.

The group of rough-and-tumble Navy brats out of Port Hueneme were important emissaries for a sound that Mueller has been obsessed with since the first angry chords of their 45-second opus "Fuck With My Head."

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The Thingz Are Carnival Freakz

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Kirk Dominguez
Long Beach garage power trio the Thingz are fronted by the husband-wife team of Mike (guitar/vocals) and Kim (bass/vocals) Morrison, DIY rock-scene veterans with a somewhat-adorable backstory: They met at a show at Our House in Costa Mesa in the mid-'90s, then started dating a couple of years later. A short time after that, they formed the Thingz, then got married and settled down in LBC.

"Mike was living in San Diego, and I had no idea because I would see him at [Long Beach] shows almost every weekend," Kim recalls from when they met. Now, the Morrisons teach fourth and fifth grade by day, spending what seems like every minute they're not in the classroom doing some sort of music project.

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Raindog Has the Bark of a Beat Poet

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Raindog's salt-and-pepper hair is tucked under the bill of a purple Three Olives Vodka baseball cap that shades a thin pair of glasses and a wiry billy goat beard. His husky, well-more-than-6-foot frame is shrouded in a pea-green hoodie. When he's not putting around town in a rusted-out '84 Olds Cutlass Supreme, he hunches a bit as he limps with the aid of a jagged oak walking stick. And his gruff, low-key demeanor hardly seems like that of the rock-star wordsmith he is.

"I'm lucky if I get 30 good poems all year," he quips over a pulled-pork sandwich at a restaurant in downtown Long Beach. "They're all good, though--hardly any crap in them."

The poet, who publishes as RD Armstrong ("Raindog" is a nickname taken from a Tom Waits song), has been a known force on the Long Beach/LA poetry scene since the '90s. He has put out 18 chapbooks and 10 poetry anthologies and has appeared in more than 300 poetry magazines, anthologies, blogs and e-zines. He also operates the Lummox Press, a small press based in Long Beach that published the Lummox Journal for 11 years and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. As a publisher and a poet, Armstrong's style harkens back to the days of Charles Bukowski, of whom he's a huge fan. However, his writing touches on issues of love in a compassionate way that makes him a bit different from his idol.

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