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kBRANDOW’s New West Coast Sound

Submitted by on August 22, 2009 – 9:08 AMNo Comment
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kBRANDOW, a new emerging San Francisco sound, has been around for a few years, but has been constantly evolving, trying to find its identity. The brainchild of Damion Gallegos, it is bending and blending a variety of genres and currently reflects the wide range of influences from its newest members.

Signed to Island Records in 1992, Gallegos became the vocalist for Fungo Mungo, a punk/funk/metal band that thumbed its nose at the industry, but eventually was screwed by it. The five-piece band toured with Primus, Fishbone, No Doubt, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

kBRANDOW3In 1996, Fungo Mungo disbanded and Gallegos’ mother died in a car crash. Gallegos began writing new material and started a solo career, singing against Erik Smyth’s guitar. Smyth eventually moved on to other things, but introduced Gallegos to Jeff Ardziejewski (known today as Jeff RJF’ski), a San Francisco drum prodigy, who had played with a number of jazz groups, RKL (Rich Kids on LSD), and the British rock group Beaten By Them.

Gallegos named this project after his mother, Katherine L. Brandow. kBRANDOW recorded one studio album, a self-titled CD, in 2006 that runs the gamut from pop anthems to hip-hop to rock to metal.

The songs that Gallegos wrote for this CD say a lot about living, while also having some fun. “No Regrets” deals with living a life of meaning, giving back, with no regrets. The song “Nutshell” combines a tender love song with appreciation of living in the moment.

And Gallegos continues to poke fun at the industry with “Punk Rock Belt.” It’s a song that isn’t punk or even metal but has a hip-hop flavor.

Though these songs are backed by great drumming from Jeff RJF’ski, there is a full band sound, and that comes from Gallegos who plays all of the instruments on this disc. There is some tasty guitar work here.

Today, kBRANDOW has fleshed out that full band sound with very capable players. Gallegos is still the principal singer and songwriter and plays guitar, piano, and harmonica. In 2008, Erik Smyth joined the band, adding his talented chops on lead and rhythm guitars, layering some tasty  backup vocals. Jeff RJF’ski, of course, plays drums, percussion, and sings backup, too.  Kai Eckhardt, a Berkelee School of Music graduate and now much-sought-after instructor , does background vocals and plays bass. He toured the world with the John Mclaughlin Trio in the late 1980s and jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham in the 90s. He currently plays bass with Garaj Mahal.

A fellow Garaj Mahal bandmate, keyboardist Eric Levy, also joined kBRANDOW. While touring with Garaj Mahal the last eight years, Levy also has supported Quincy Jones, Chaka Kahn, Phil Collins, Steve Kimock, Karl Denson, and String Cheese Incident, among others. He’s currently mixing his first solo album. “With kBRANDOW, the greatest attribute I can hope to offer is to show up with is an open mind,” he says. “Damion Gallegos is the primary songwriter, so I’m always striving to see his visions through…. So, to come with any preconceived notions of exactly how I’d like to play would block my ideal role in the ensemble. This band has been a very positive experience. I get an adrenaline rush of pure rock when we play, and I know that there’s untapped potential as well for pushing our musical boundaries.”

In addition to the self-titled CD,  kBRANDOW has recorded  four singles, three of which are tinkered covers of an INXS song, a Bob Marley tune, and the Modern English hit, “Melt With You.”  The band also released two iTunes Exclusive Sessions with Gordon Brislawn, one in 2007 and another this year, comprised of 3 or 4 songs each.

kBRANDOW is a bold experiment. Gallegos has proven he can write songs with some depth and some wit. And, these seasoned players are capable of generating a lot of interesting layers. I am sure as these players continue to bring their eclectic musical genres into this musical melting pot, the brew will only get better.