By Julie Horner
Another glorious hot summer day under a bright blue sky, bare feet stompin’ in the cool grass of a mountain meadow. A sea of sun-browned revelers sway as a human tide among blankets colorfully unfurled. Music festival season is in full swing and on stage: The Leftovers, ‘sick’ locally grown Santa Cruz Mountains reggae.
It’s a groove that gets right into your bones. The bass thick and heavy, with steady snare, powerful skank, and the distinctly playful ‘rap rap rap rap’ of the timbale. Everyone’s moving, bobbing to the rhythm and somehow you know every little thing is gonna be alright.
Guitar player/vocalist, Sean Conner, told me, “We did the Hop N Barley Festival this year – I love day gigs – it’s a totally different vibe. We play the bars, attract the nighttime partiers. But in the day you get to jam out a little more, interact with the crowd – it’s a different feeling.”
Based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Sean said, “Some of us went to school together at SLVHS. Back then Sean played in a metal band with drummer, Travis Salangsang. Now as The Leftovers they have gigs just about every weekend, sometimes twice a week. “The music, it’s so much fun – that’s what started it for us – we didn’t even think of a band.” Then someone said, “Why aren’t you guys playing out?” So they decided to give it a shot. “We all just love playing music so much.”
“We’ve been around for about four years now,” Sean said. He and Joey Storm (guitar/vocals) are the originating members, and they recently added Travis and Andrew Zook (bass), David Churchill (keyboards/vocals), Greg Del Bene (Percussion), and Vince D’Andrea (saxophone/vocal). “Sometimes we have girls singing with us (Taylor Rae and Sydney Gorham), but this is the core.”
Sean said they started off definitely reggae-rock. “Now we’re a lot harder to describe. If I had to pick a genre, I’d say reggae, but at the shows we’re all over the place. One minute we’re playing roots reggae, next we’re doing hip hop reggae.” They’ve started calling it “mountain reggae.” It’s simply “The Leftovers sound.”
“We do about half and half, originals and covers that we rotate through. We totally collaborate on new material.” Sometimes they draw inspiration from shows they go to. He cites Raging Fire as an influence when he saw them at the Catalyst, and after seeing Boostive at Bocce’s Cellar, Sean said “We got back from that show and were just feeling it. We were supposed to be practicing and we wound up just jamming out.” They came up with a trippy instrumental with an eerie groove that they named “Frankenstein.” In the key of F, of course.
The Leftovers have played just about every music venue in Santa Cruz County including Zelda’s (one of Sean’s favorites), Moe’s Alley (always a great spot), the Crow’s Nest, Felton Trout Farm, Henfling’s, Don Quixote’s, and outdoors at Junction Park and the Santa Cruz Mountains Art, Music and Wine Festival, among others. And Joey and Sean do an acoustic guitar set every other Tuesday night at Pono Bar and Grill in Santa Cruz. “It’s sort of a residency there.”
“We’ve done well in Santa Cruz…the music is so popular…people seem to want us back.”
The shows are really well attended. “Zelda’s manager was blown away. First he was shocked, ‘Wow, you guys brought so many people!’” Sean admits, “It was so packed it was crazy…you couldn’t even walk around. You had to dance – dance where you were standing!” So the manager invited them to play regularly once a month. It’s been so packed that now the manager wants them twice a month. “Bar sales were through the roof…he was pumped, we were pumped!” People seem to be seeking the necessary nourishment of positivity…and a guaranteed great time out on the town.
With a stage show that includes their own disco ball and laser light experience, Sean says “It’s been getting better and better, there’s such good energy.”
With day jobs and a blazing performance schedule, they’re also somehow finding time to commit their sound to on-demand media. “We’re really pushing on recording.” They did a self-produced 5-song EP but they really want to get a full length professional album made. They’re working on new material with Henry Chadwick at Indigital studios in Santa Cruz. “We grew up with him so we’re already super connected – it’s really easy to work with him, he’s a super awesome guy and a talented musician in his own band. He has a lot of good ideas – it’s good to have an outside voice who’s been there and done it.”
The Leftovers radiate vibrance and positivity like a breath of fresh air. “We just love the music. If you give someone positive energy, they will give it back – it’s in our nature. That’s our goal with our music is to share the love, that’s what it’s all about.”
Get a taste of The Leftovers at the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival in Boulder Creek on September 24, and at venues throughout Santa Cruz.
The Leftovers Cali roots reggae: #feelgoodmusic
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/Theleftoversca
Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.leap2three.com
This article was originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin: http://mountainbulletin.com/?issue=august-september-2016