|Origin||Santa Cruz, California, USA
Seattle, Washington, USA (now)
God of Shamisen
Estradasphere is an experimental band that originated in Santa Cruz, California during the late 1990s. The band, which now calls Seattle home, consists of 6 multi-instrumentalists from a variety of musical backgrounds trained in disciplines ranging from classical music and jazz to heavy metal.
Guitarist Jason Schimmel and bassist Tim Smolens met in 7th grade at Miraleste High School. In 1997, their band Don Salsa recorded its first album, Koolaid Moustache in Jonestown. In 1998, Jason and Tim moved to Santa Cruz, California. Jason attended UC Santa Cruz, along with Timb Harris, John Whooley, and David Murray. At that time, John, Tim, Jason, Dave and friend, Jason Concepcion played downtown among the street performers of Santa Cruz. Jason Concepcion left the band to focus on his other project Netwerk:Electric. In December 1998, Timb Harris joined the band. The band continued to play the streets and at local coffee shops.
On January 7, 2000, Estradasphere held its first concert at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. This was a pivotal show for the group, and the band began to play clubs exclusively. Estradasphere's popularity in Santa Cruz birthed a circus environment where audience members began actively participating in the shows and fans were encouraged to wear costumes. Frequent sideshow acts included juggler and balloon maker David Poznanter, book reader George Smith III, fire-dancers Isaac Rappaport and Jessica Bottomley of Phoenix Rising, so-called "death metal cheerleaders" wearing corpse paint, a "satanic swordsman" Erin Wood, stilt-walkers and more. Perhaps most notable of the sideshow performers was someone with the stage name "Mono-Man" who wore a cape, painted his bare chest with a large M, and proceeded to attempt to kiss people in the audience while pretending to have the disease of the same name (mono). He can be heard ranting on the last moments of the band's first album, It's Understood. Poco Marshall booked many more shows at the legendary Palookaville, as he was the venue talent buyer at the time. Later that year, the band released its first album, It's Understood, on Trey Spruance's label Mimicry Records. The band went on its first North American tour, opening for Secret Chiefs 3.
In 2001, Estradasphere released The Silent Elk of Yesterday, which included new studio tracks and live performances. The band went on its second North American tour with the band Tub Ring, and released its second album, Buck Fever, in the spring of 2002. Later that year, drummer Dave Murray left the band. In 2003, the band released its third album Quadropus. Because the band did not have a full-time drummer, several guest drummers appeared on the album, including Dave Murray and John Merriman of Cephalic Carnage. In the spring of 2004, the band released a DVD of live concert footage titled, Passion for Life. It contained a full-length DVD as well as a CD that included live and recorded material. The cover featured an oil painting by Santa Cruz artist Michael Joseph Welsh, entitled Humans as seen by God last week through a Tootsiescope. In 2004, founding member and saxophonist John Whooley left the band. Tsugaru Shamisen player Kevin Kmetz and keyboardist Adam Stacey joined Estradasphere to replace him. They played their first show together as a new band with guest drummer Theo Mordey at the 2004 SXSW Festival. Later that year, Lee Smith moved from Atlanta, Georgia to join Estradasphere as the band's permanent drummer. In 2005, Estradasphere released These Are the Days, a documentary of the band's first national tour. This DVD highlighted the original line-up and circus side-shows, marking the end of an era and ushering in the present age of Estradasphere. In 2006, the band signed to New York label The End Records and released their most conceptually grounded album to date, Palace of Mirrors, an instrumental song-cycle with a psychedelic narrative structure. In 2007 Estradasphere signed with Silverleaf Booking Agency, who booked them on a Northwest US tour with The End Records label mates Stolen Babies, and completed a full US tour that April. In November 2007, members of Estradasphere started touring with Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, as well as helping to produce her debut solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer.
Estradasphere have been influenced by many different artists from many different subgenres, such as jazz, funk, techno, classical music, pop, heavy metal, New Age, Latin, Balkan, Greek and gypsy. They are influenced by artists such as The Beach Boys and Secret Chiefs 3, and have been compared to Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa and John Zorn. Similar to Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3, the band mixes several genres in its songs. The band is a self-proclaimed inventor of bizarre genres such as "Bulgarian Surf", "Romanian Gypsy-Metal", and "Spaghetti Eastern" and sound like "Psychedelic-Sci-fi", "Gypsy-Metal-Jazz" and "Epic-Cinema-Thon", according to its MySpace.
A large part of Estradasphere's early success stemmed not only from their musically technical virtuosity, but their organic stage shows. In addition to the added ambiance of the band's sideshow performers, live sets would consist of frequent 'jams', re-arrangements of original material, and cover songs ranging from video game themes such as Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda and Contra (arcade game) to television show theme songs such as Beverly Hills, 90210, Duck Tales, Gummi Bears, and CHiPs; since the name of the band was related to CHiPs star Eric Estrada. Estradasphere shows also were known to feature more traditional cover songs from styles as diverse as jazz, heavy metal, pop, and hip hop.
On tour, the band would often play smaller free shows using primarily acoustic instruments. Venues for such shows could be as obscure as on a public beach or live on the air of college radio stations such as KSDT, where they can be seen giving an interview to KSDT DJ Pete Bejarano on their DVD Passion for Life.
According to www.estradasphere.com:
|It's Understood (LP)||June 26, 2000||Mimicry|
|These are the Days (VHS)||2000|
|The Silent Elk of Yesterday (EP)||September 18, 2001||Mimicry|
|Buck Fever (LP)||2001||Mimicry|
|Quadropus (LP)||October 28, 2003||Mimicry|
|Passion for Life (LP/DVD)||March 9, 2004||Mimicry|
|These are the Days (DVD Reissue)||October 3, 2005|
|Palace of Mirrors (LP)||September 19, 2006||The End|
|Palace of Mirrors - Live (DVD)||2007||The End|
|The Pegasus Vault EP (EP)||February, 2008||Lobefood|