Red Giant burning bright
Newcomers quickly evolve into big stars in Chico’s rock universe
“We don’t actually play music, we just drink beer,” cracked Red Giant bassist Adrian Hammons as he and the rest of the band’s members gathered over cold ones on a recent summer evening.
“La Fin du Monde plays behind a curtain,” followed guitarist Sesar Sanchez, referencing one of Chico’s other all-instrumental crews.
But the band isn’t all jokes and beer swilling. In fact, Red Giant, which includes second guitarist Kirk Williams and drummer Casey Schmidt, might be one of the hardest working bands in Chico since forming about a year ago.
Sanchez is no doubt the leader—the guy who gives the other members the initial riffs around which to construct elaborate and sometimes grandiose compositions that give equal nods to rock, metal and jazz. Sanchez is also the relentless promoter, and the one who brought together this motley crew of musicians, whose backgrounds are as diverse as the music they play.
In fact, it’s the individual personalities that help make Red Giant’s vocals-free excursions interesting. Schmidt is a technical drummer who loves Coltrane. Williams provides Cookie Monster growls and lightening-fast riffs to local metal giant Armed for Apocalypse (and formerly for Blood of Cain). And until recently Hammons has been laying down country bass lines on the upright for Aubrey Debauchery and the Puke Boots.
It’s actually the 27-year-old Sanchez who is the least experienced of the bunch, having only previously supplied acoustic accompaniment for singer-songwriter Regi vs. the Guitar.
“I felt that about a year and a half ago I learned to play well enough to dupe my friends to join a band,” he said.
And in a short period of time, Red Giant has become … well, huge—partly due to Sanchez’s knack for networking, but also because the band has fit snugly on diverse bills with local indie rockers The Shimmies, instrumental brethren La Fin du Monde and Oakland prog-metal band Judgment Day.
The members don’t want to be labeled, as Sanchez put it, as “pretentious” or “math rock.” With the dexterous Williams and Schmidt, Red Giant could easily slip into a nasty habit of showing off its chops—but Sanchez has been able to harness his band mates’ abilities a bit in order to make the songs more digestible.
Essentially, these guys can play with anybody.
“We just want to play music with as many cool bands and cool people [as possible] before we’re done,” said the affable Sanchez, who sports a beard that matches the length of his short hair.
The band just released its debut EP, You Sir, Have Falsified the Future, and the release show that followed had people pouring out of the doors of Café Coda.
The album was mixed and mastered by former Number One Gun guitarist and current Surrogate front man Chris Keene. Songs like “Wren” and “Hella Postapocalyptic” illustrate the band’s ability to construct multiple parts with gradual builds and even (gasp!) hooks.
The CD-release show also doubled as a benefit for Café Coda, which has become Red Giant’s home away from home. The move to help the local venue is part of the commitment the members of Red Giant have made to nurturing the local music scene.
All of this in just over a year. And while it’s no doubt a group effort, drummer Schmidt is quick to point to the band’s fearless leader.
“We are all Red Giant,” he said. “But Sesar is Red Giant.”