The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

37th Parallel Rocks the Bay Area Latitude

They tried Bread Before Crust.

Nope, not cool enough. How about Mind the Gap?

That was taken.

It turned out for the best when rising student rock band 37th Parallel, with members MVHS sophomores bassist Eric Dyer, keyboardist Philip Chang, drummer A.J. Pelayo and LAHS sophomore lead vocalist/guitarist and founder Brad Guesman, decided upon their final name, a tribute to the latitude of the Bay Area.

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The boys formed their band in 2012 as Blach Middle School buddies with a simple, shared desire.

“[The band] had this idea that we all wanted to play music with other people,” Brad said. “We didn’t really have a common goal at the time other than just playing music…[When we first formed] we just played covers for fun…and didn’t write songs. We weren’t really going for the musical expression thing, but more for the idea of playing with some other people.”

With music described as a “blend of classic rock, Memphis blues, ranging everywhere from ethereal progressive rock to more experimental, Velvet Underground type stuff with lyrics inspired heavily by the Doors,” 37th Parallel has gone from just playing for fun to performing professionally in clubs such as Club Refuge in San Marcos and the Sweetwater Club in Mill Valley.

“Eventually our goals changed from just playing covers to include being able to express ourselves musically and with writing our own songs,” Brad said. “There’s a strong level of ambition that goes with that goal too. You get to the point where you’re like, ‘Hey this sounds really cool. Let’s go show this to somebody, and if they say they like it, then maybe someone else will like it…’ But it all goes back to that starting point of wanting to play music with each other, for other people, so let [the band] share the experience we feel when we [play music] with each other and with everyone else.”

The band’s performances typically include a combination of The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin covers and original songs such as She’ll Be Mine, Lone Gone and The Road. The band performs locally at the First Fridays in downtown Los Altos and recently played for an enthusiastic student crowd at the LAHS Diversity Assembly.

The band debuted at the start of summer break 2012 in Eric’s backyard. Having invited a crowd of 40 classmates, 37th Parallel, then known as Mind the Gap, began playing a setlist of covers that had been put together and rehearsed that day.

“I had just started singing for the band that day,” Brad said. “Some of our songs didn’t have lyrics, and [the performance] was pretty rough. The funny thing was that we were playing so loud that we got the police called on us by the neighbors at around eight at night.”

Despite having the police called on them, 37th Parallel received a warm reception at that debut concert and decided to begin taking the band seriously.

“We got to high school, and it became this goal of ‘How good can we be?,’ because we aren’t very good now,” Brad said. “[The entire band] started to work heavily on its musical ability, both together and individually, since [when you solo] you only use fifty percent of what you know to express yourself, while the other fifty percent is keeping up with the [chord] changes.”

Freshman year flew by as the band navigated the overwhelming challenges of balancing band practice times and performances with the pressures of school work, after-school sports, and extracurriculars. During this time, the band decided to enter their first competition with the annual San Jose Public Library Battle of the Bands in early 2013.

As a fledgling band with a minimal fan base and amateur originals, 37th Parallel finished far from the top three winning positions but secured a gig at the club Refuge because the sound guy liked their music.

37th Parallel met their next biggest breakthrough during an October 2013 First Friday session on the streets of Los Altos.

“A guy walking around during a First Friday performance listened and came up to us,” Brad said. “His name was Anthony Cordova, and he was a representative of a music consulting firm. He really liked our sound and wanted us to come to his studio to play some stuff and we did that. This was one of the defining moments of our band’s history.”

What defined this event was neither the music nor contacting Cordova. It was the band’s realization that they had come to a crossroads about their priorities and whether or not their band was to be number one. After all, school was a must—sports practice, music lessons and classes only added to the strain.

“[I told the band], ‘Guys, if we can’t make room for this, we don’t have time to be a band,’” Brad said. “Eventually we settled with idea that we were all going to cut some extracurriculars to make time for this [consulting session]. We went and played for him, and he said, ‘You guys need to work on technical skills…What’s going to make you better is to practice relentlessly, like an animal, like an obsession. [Your band] should be an obsession.’ And it is an obsession. I find [the band] on my mind all the time when we have a recording date set. It’s just itching on my mind to be [in the studio].”

The band’s album is a work in progress; with one song finished, three in the mixing process and six waiting to be recorded, Brad believes that the album should be finished mid-next year.

“Five or six songs are about girls,” Brad said. “Some are about self determination or music itself; some stuff [is] more interpretive. Our theme for the album is to be simple, interesting but relatable… [The music will] feel like something we would play for you in a small venue and [should] personally connect with the listener.”

Their most recent competition was at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Battle of the Bands in March. Selected from a pool of 55 applicants, 37th Parallel performed at the battle on April 17 and was awarded second place.

“I feel pretty good about getting second place out of 55 bands, just because we’re so young and we have a lot ahead of us,” Brad said. “It felt good to prove to ourselves that this is something we can go up and do and just kill it. The win helped us realize that we’re not only competitive, but also that people like what we’re doing.”

Expect to see 37th Parallel’s debut album in early 2015.

“We just want people to listen to our music as soon as soon as possible,” Brad said. “We’re getting there. We’re ready to bring this next stage of material forward.”

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