Jon McLaughlin is a child of the eighties--literally and musically. On his second Island Def Jam release, 2008's OK Now, the 26-year-old singer/songwriter revels in the elements that defined that decade's pop, from buoyant, hooky vocal melodies and motoric grooves to classic synth flavors.
Talk about a great gig: As bandleader and musical director for NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly, singer/songwriter/keyboardist Joe Firstman jams nightly with a house band consisting of some of LA's finest musicians before an audience of millions.
"Just because you can write music that sounds like a film score, it doesn't make you a film composer," observes multi-instrumentalist Michael Stevens. "Obviously you have to know a lot about orchestration and sequencing, because most people want to hear a temporary cue before you go to record an orchestra. But the most important ability is probably people skills. Being able to work with groups of people as a team. That, and being able to start over and do something else if the director doesn't like it!"
Drummer Adam Topol has been on some remarkable musical journeys, including a recent world tour with Jack Johnson, with whom he's played since the late 1990s. But he's as musically adventurous as he is well traveled: As a solo artist, collaborator, and sideman, Topol has explored an atlas-full of world music styles, with an emphasis on Cuban and Jamaican grooves.
In the past year, singer/songwriter Lucy Schwartz has released a solo album and placed several songs in major film and television productions, including the opening song for a recent remake of The Women. She's won an international songwriting contest, received airplay on trendsetting Santa Monica radio station KCRW, and performed at some of LA's best-known clubs.
The first time you encounter Don Alder's playing, you may be uncertain whether you're hearing a single acoustic guitarist or a small army of Alders. The Canadian virtuoso tackles many parts at once, blending traditional fingerstyle work with extended techniques such as slapped harmonics, fretting over the neck, and mimicking a drum kit by beating the soundboard.
Augustana doesn't do "slick."
"We try to make the show feel like we're all just hanging out in our living room," says frontman/pianist/guitarist Dan Layus. "If the guitar's a little out of tune, it's no big deal. I guess I'm really influenced by that Bob Dylan and the Band sound. Their mistakes are classic, and you really can't imagine the recordings any other way."