Epsilona's chance and circumstance
How the Sacramento indie rock band finds happy accidents in its music
It's a good thing Epsilona's songs didn't come out exactly as the band intended.
On the local four-piece’s debut EP, Thinkers, the second song is a swirling psychedelic pop tune held together with high-energy grooving drums. Throughout the collection of songs, the group’s dual guitar interplay sounds nuanced and layered, with the four members creating dynamics for the songs’ intensity.
That these songs tend to have a steady, driving rock feel to them, however, was an accident. While writing the EP, lead singer-guitarist Minh Le started with a different vision, but then drummer Carlos Gutierrez’s punk rock background came out and reared its ugly head.
Epsilona celebrates the record’s release Saturday, November 28, with a late-afternoon, all-ages show at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub.
“I like more upbeat music. Minh would always tell me, ’Just play softer, play half- time,’ and I would do my natural beat,” says Gutierrez now.
Whether Gutierrez could help it is unimportant. Once Le got used to the beat, he says he was glad Gutierrez played it differently.
“That’s when I realized we were a rock band,” Le says. “When I make music without Carlos, it’s much more flat—I make a lot more sleepy music, which is what I listen to.”
Epsilona first started jamming in 2013; back then it was just Le, Gutierrez and Hale, and they mostly tinkered around. Things changed last year after bassist Cory Phillips joined. His presence didn’t alter the sound much, but he did bring a business sense the group had been lacking by encouraging the others to take the band more seriously.
“We really want to get noticed, so we’re putting our best foot forward,” Phillips says.
“Cory introduced a lot of things to us that needed to be done. He kicked it in high gear as far as getting our name out there,” adds guitarist Chandler Hale.
Whether for fun or bigger aspirations, Epsilona’s music is well-crafted and polished. The first song on Thinkers is a short instrumental called “Prelude.” It’s different than the others because it’s slow, the drums are lower in the mix and the intricate psychedelic guitar work is the primary focus. In fact, it’s a window into what the band might have sounded like with a different drummer—something more in the vein of some of Le’s biggest influences such as Tame Impala or Toro y Moi.
But that’s not the only aspect of the group’s sound that evolved unintentionally. There’s Le’s dirty guitar tone, for example. The other band members agree it’s an essential, if chance aspect to their overall sound, particularly in how it mixes with Hale’s more polished guitar tone.
It happened after Le stumbled upon a $900 hollow body guitar he decided he had to have.
“It creates a totally different vibe,” Le says. “It was a big waste of money, but it was also the best thing I ever bought. It works really well with my tuning.”
That tuning, another atypical aspect of his guitar work, is in a D major 7. Everyone else plays in a standard tuning. As a result, the combination of Epsilona’s dueling tones and different tunings contributes to its majestic, lush sound.
“It seems to be more dynamic and emotional just because of the different styles we all bring, and … what we put into the music,” Le says. “The basic tone … that gets boring. I just try to throw it out and do something you haven’t heard before.”