Two dudes, one big sound
Cities You Wish You Were From aims for success by touring and creating music to please most ears
Elijah Jenkins, the guitarist and singer for Sacramento’s Cities You Wish You Were From, has a few ideas of what his band name could mean.
“Manifest the sort of person you want to be, not the person you actually are,” Jenkins says, then adds: “Maybe it’s more of a dig at people who don’t embrace where the fuck they’re from.”
The name comes from one of their lyrics: “Don’t you wish you were like the trees in the cities that you wish you were from.” Jenkins and drummer Tyler Downie were getting ready for their first show last December and went with this phrase.
Downie wasn’t sure what to think. “When he first said the name, I thought, ’That’s too long of a name.’ After we said it a couple of times, it kind of stuck.”
It stuck for other people, too. In under a year, the group has released one EP, played close to 30 shows along the West Coast and had a sold-out EP release show at the Hideaway on July 29. They hope to release new music next spring.
That first show was in Jenkins’ living room, and they managed to bring out 40 people. They rocked with a moody blues sound and riffs that veered off into eerie guitar-noodlings.
A month later, the group played its first public show at Old Ironsides. Word spread around town thanks to the popularity of Jenkins’ other band, Eli and the Sound Cult, who are currently on hiatus.
People loved those early shows last year, and have continued to show support. The band members feel a little surprised. Cities is quite different than Eli and the Sound Cult. Cities’ blues-rock sound is nothing like Eli’s eclectic, anything-goes ethos.
“Eli was weird on purpose. This band isn’t anything on purpose. It’s just good music,” Jenkins says. “It’s pretty standard rock ’n’ roll: Palatable and aggressive.”
They have also been really smart about building an audience. Experience will do that. A big point in their favor is not overplaying Sacramento: Their third show was out of town. The upcoming show at Fox & Goose will be the band’s fifth at home.
“We’re a working band and intend to stay that way. And the work for a rock band is on the road,” Jenkins says. “If you play more than 10 times a year, even your friends are going to stop coming.”
The group’s musical dynamics have earrned them audiences in San Francisco and Portland, but also off-the-grid in Clovis, where they say they had a surprisingly good reception in July.
Though the band plays straightforward rock, there is a wow-factor to such a full sound with just two members. Jenkins has Little Thunder pickups that allow him to separate bass and guitar signals. One pickup sends sound to his guitar amp, and another sends low-end sounds to his bass rig without sounding murky. It actually sounds like a bassist is following along with Jenkins’ guitar playing.
“Being a fan of bands like Local H and Black Keys and White Stripes, and all these other two-pieces, I always thought, Oh, the only thing that’s missing is the low end,” Jenkins says. “People, 9 times out of 10, have no idea how we make the sound that we make.”
That’s really as complex as it gets. The group plays with clean and distorted channels and loud and quiet parts, but doesn’t really experiment beyond that.
“When people are doing intellectual masturbation, you’re like, ’OK, we get it, you’re smart,’” Jenkins says. “I just wanted something that kids would like, my mom would like and the dirtbags I grew up with would like. In that sense, it’s probably the poppiest band I’ve ever been in.”