Brothers in arms
Sacramento’s PointDexter survives time and line-up changes to find its sound
For Kevin Kinsella, PointDexter is all about evolution.
He founded the Sacramento alt-rock band in 2007. Several years, a couple of albums and about 15 band members later, PointDexter is gearing up to release a new EP with a polished sound on Saturday, February 20.
Rocket Surgery is a decent dive from PointDexter’s debut album NeoAnomoly, which was full of bubblegum pop songs. Kinsella admits it was pretty formulaic. But over time, Kinsella learned to channel his knack for catchy hooks with technicality: unusual time signatures, complicated riffs, jazz-influenced chord progressions.
And now, the group is solid, going on three years without any lineup changes: Kinsella (vocals/keys/saxophone), Jarom Horner (bass), Brian Wood (guitar) and Paul Bates (drums).
“We’re like brothers in arms,” Kinsella says. “Our battle is getting our message out.”
That’s not to say PointDexter is a concept band with a unified message. Every track carries a different theme, a different vibe, a different subgenre.
Rocket Surgery is the first album that Kinsella wrote with Horner, but their method was typical PointDexter. They started each song by figuring out who they wanted to emulate, then applying lyrics and ideas that fit the sound. For this five-song EP, PointDexter channeled Foster the People, the Neighborhood, Foo Fighters, Florence + the Machine, Muse and RX Bandits. With help from Sean Stack at Fat Cat Recording Studio—and many weekends of Kinsella and Horner tinkering with songs over pizza—Rocket Surgery took about two years to complete.
The resulting evolution of PointDexter offers hints of pop-punk, heavy rock and emo, all punctuated by Kinsella’s trusty saxophone.
“We want to let the sax shine and bring back what has gotten lost in rock bands in the past few decades,” he says. “I think we’ve proven you can shred with sax.”
Kinsella has also proven that it’s possible to maintain a cohesive artistic identity despite so many changes over a period of time much longer than most Sacramento bands last.
“I think it’s good to show a band has evolved and become bigger than itself,” he says. “Most people will join a band and drop a band and start a band with a new name. You accumulate art, you accumulate songs. There’s no reason not to stay with your brand that you’ve built.”
Kinsella points to Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of his biggest influences. The band’s two original members have stuck with the Chili Peppers’ brand for decades despite going through a dozen guitarists and drummers.
“I think that’s the difference between a successful and unsuccessful band,” Kinsella says. “You don’t give up—you don’t give up on your vision. It’s just like anything else.”
Already, Kinsella is busy planning the rest of PointDexter’s 2016. There will be a tour expanding the band’s college circuit, plus two more singles and progress toward another EP. Kinsella is very careful about producing a steady stream of material for the band’s fans—perhaps it’s the secret to PointDexter’s unusually steady place in Sacramento’s always-evolving music scene.