Keep it low-pressure with 50-Watt Heavy
The Sacramento band defies genres with chillness
The members of 50-Watt Heavy are laid-back dudes. Sure, they gig around town frequently, but they don’t really concern themselves with things like taking press photos, designing websites or even putting much effort into self-promotion.
“I just want to play guitar and write songs,” says singer-guitarist Joseph Kojima Gray. “Putting on my boots and walking to town and trying to get everyone to notice us—it’s not second-nature to me.”
A quick rundown of 50-Watt Heavy’s lineup speaks to its lax band policy. There could be anywhere between four and six people on stage at any given show, depending on who can make it and who can’t.
The original four-piece was Gray, Brian Guido (drums), Christopher Cassels (bass) and Jay Shaner (guitar) in 2010. Eric Affonso (keyboards) joined in 2011, and Josh Lacey (guitar) joined in 2015. Combined, these guys create a sound somewhere between rock ’n’ roll and Americana. Gorgeous country harmonies, roots melodies and rock ’n’ roll energy meld quite naturally with other elements of punk, metal and pop. These influences stem from their past local bands, such as the Regulars, Forever Goldrush, the Regards and Grub Dog & the Amazing Sweethearts.
Cassels remembers when 50-Watt Heavy first got nominated for a Sammie. His son asked, “What category?”
“He was laughing at me because it wasn’t apparent. The idea that we fit a category was funny,” Cassels says.
This low-pressure attitude helped the group develop its sound and speaks to how its members approach the entire songwriting process. Gray writes most of the music at first, but he sees the group effort as the most important aspect of how the songs ultimately come together.
“If I have a certain way of playing something, I’ll mention it, but I won’t expect them to play it exactly how I wrote it. They have their own personalities. That’s the 50-Watt Heavy sound,” Gray says. “I was in a band in the early 2000s, and I would always have a bug up my ass if someone didn’t play a part as I explained it to them. Obviously, I had to grow out of that.”
Of course, none of this talk of general chillness cancels out the fact that everyone in 50-Watt Heavy works really hard on the songs themselves. Even their recordings have been oddly meticulous. It took them over a year to record their first album. They already have a follow-up, but they haven’t had the time or money to mix and master it right. They don’t want a half-ass recording. Unfortunately for them, they plan to fund the album by selling T-shirts, which they aren’t very good at doing.
The music is what matters, anyway.
“We’re at that age now where it’s like, you’re not dreaming of being a rock star or dreaming of being popular. You’re playing music because you have to play music,” Gray says. “If I stopped playing music, I would be the most miserable person on Earth. I’d probably be that guy that’s taking off his shirt in the street: ’I have no hair, nobody likes me and I can’t talk to ladies.’”