The rock-ter scale
Prieta sets things a-rumbling
A lingering scent of stale beer and the ghostly vibe of rawk-shows-past emanates from the dark room. The pace picks up as the canned music on the sound system fades away, and the band on stage starts to play. A few souls start popping earplugs into place as the indie-rock crowd—stovepipe pants and scarves, girls with long, straight hair and bangs, guys with scruffy beards and cadet hats—shuffles forward, heads nodding in time with the beat, a veritable sign of approval. Many even go so far as to actually move their entire bodies to the music. As the room continues to fill and the crowd begins to groove, something feels slightly amiss, off-kilter even.
That’s because the band, Prieta, is not only rocking, but rocking hard. Hard enough to inspire headbanging and devil horns—if that weren’t so un-hip for such a crowd. Indeed, the band would fit just as comfortably on a bill with the powerful attack of Kai Kln or Hot Pistol as they would with the intricate prog-rock of Bridges or the quirky indie-pop of Bright Light Fever. The sound is equal parts early proto-punk and classic hard rock. Oh yes, this is rockin’ stuff.
The band they are often compared to, Soundgarden, definitely comes to mind, but not in a clone-y sort of way. Prieta never strays past that ineffable line that separates a band reminiscent of a previous group and one that sounds like a knockoff, a wannabe.
That they have a crossover appeal for different crowds is evident at this show. But why does an indie-rock crowd stand so transfixed as Prieta drops their loud and fast tunes?
“My guess is that although we do take ourselves seriously, we’re just sort of ‘drop your guard and get into it,’” says guitarist Mat Woods. “Maybe there’s something about our approach that’s a little disarming.”
“Yeah, we’re not standoffish,” agrees singer Alex Ayers. “I could understand if we played an indie show, and we were all dressed up in Pantera shirts with long, black hair how that might put some people off. But we’re just regular, we all like a lot of the same stuff [an indie crowd] would like.”
Prieta indeed looks like a bunch of regular guys, shunning the black, metal-band tees in favor of mother-of-pearl button-downs. The band moved here from the kingdom of regularness, Stockton, not too long ago. Woods, along with drummer Brian Breneman and bassist Ian Maclachlan, had been looking at moving to Sacramento and, fortuitously, Ayers already lived here.
“When we were growing up in Stockton, the thought was always we gotta get to Sacramento!” says Breneman. “We wanted to get Jerry Perry’s attention, the Blue Lamp, Old I, the Boardwalk. We were really lucky to get to know [Sacramento-turned-Seattle band] Bridges, who put us on a bill with them for our first show at Old I.”
Yes, Prieta is excited just to be here. In turn, the local music scene seems to be embracing what the band has to offer.
“To come here and get the kind of shows we’ve gotten and get into Alive & Kicking or SN&R and all the support from various people, it’s just been a little hard to believe it’s happening,” Woods says.
So, what exactly is a Prieta? A car? A side dish served with tapas? Like many another band, Prieta spent months trying to find a good name, tossing around hundreds of suggestions. Finally, they decided to lop the “Loma” off the mountain’s name and call themselves simply Prieta, since they thought that sounded better. Turns out that in Spanish, prieta means either “tight” or “dark.” Although the band’s music does contain bits of darkness, the tight adjective is probably even more apropos. It’s a tightly woven yet balls-out sound, but the band still feels that they’re in the process of defining it.
“We’re still trying to find out who Prieta is,” Ayers says. “And that’s cool, because underneath the rock ’n’ roll flag, there’s a lot of room to move.”
The band now has completed a four-song EP, which is available at their shows. They would like to do some West Coast touring and will continue to work at it while enjoying the moment. And as the indie crowd at this show has discovered, like the ’89 earthquake, Prieta’s music will get you shakin’ all over.