Killjoy pandemic prompts band to resurface under new name

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Courtesy photo It took a while for Solar Barges to find ways to rehearse with face coverings on in addition to playing in large spaces and maintaining social distance.

JoYKiLL, an alternative band that began playing together in 2017 is launching live in January as Solar Barges. The band, Willian (Jordan) DeHaas, aka stage name Joykill (vocals, guitar, composition), Anthony Cutietta (guitar), Andrea Degneau (violin and multi-instrumentalist), Dustin Norberg (percussion), and replacing Mike Doherty, John Mattos (bass, sound) is playing its first live show at Queen Bee’s Art & Cultural Center in North Park on Jan. 21.

Solar Barges

Two of the original members left during the pandemic, but when the group originated, four out of five of them had one thing in common. They all met as teenagers growing up in El Cajon, became friends, and found their mutual love for music and playing in bands, eventually banding together in 2017. But just as JoYKiLL was getting noticed in the San Diego music scene, the pandemic hit, and all music venues shut down, and all their local gigs were cancelled.

Cutietta said it took them about a month until Solar Barges found a way to rehearse with masks, social distancing, a large space, open doors, so the band kept moving forward.

“We worked on existing and new material in hopes to get some shows,” said Cutietta. “We got a couple of shows during the pandemic. We waited to launch the new name Solar Barges earlier this fall.”

Cutietta said that they have played shows at smaller venues, but that the band wants to play at traditional venues like Soda Bar, The Casbah, The Whistle Stop.

“There are certain bars that we want to play at because that is where people are coming to hear our kind of music, and that is how you start becoming a part of the scene,” Cutietta said. “This initial show at Queen Bee’s is going to be that. We are excited about that, and we are currently wrapping up two new singles which we will play live for the first time live. We have not set an official release date, but we are launching as Solar Barges with these two new singles and our initial material.”

Cutietta said that is a struggle to characterize Solar Barges’ music and called it a “moving target.” He said the process from rehearsals, to recording, then performing live evolve, like the early jam bands.

“To try and describe the genre, is it alternative? Yeah. Is it rock music? Definitely. It is full of our influences from Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Tom Waits, Nadine Shah, so many different styles and genres,” he said. “So, it is all kind of in there. Most people that see us would classify it as rock music, but we are not progressive, we are not brash, but more introspective and spacy rock music.”

Cutietta said their story began in 1994 when he met DeHaas in his German class at El Cajon Valley High School. They were the only two with long hair, and Cutietta managed to sit next to DeHaas, talked, and found out that he played guitar. Cutietta did not.

“I would go to Jordan’s house every morning at 6 a.m., wake him up, and play his guitar,” he said. “He was already playing in bands at 15 and 16 in El Cajon at the Soul Kitchen. We used to go there to see shows together. Later, we performed together at the coffee shop next door, and before you knew it, we were all playing in different bands.”

DeHaas said he met Cutietta in junior high, but they did not start playing music until the beginning of high school.

“We became friends and because he lived so close to me, and he wanted to play guitar, we had common ground there,” he said. “I had a pretty open house. My parents wanted me to experience the whole high school musician thing, so I had a separate house. He’d come in, I would go back to sleep, and he would play my guitar until we had to go to school.”

DeHaas said this was normal for him, people came to his house, Anthony would come over, they became friends and began playing in and out of bands together.

“We basically grew up together with guitars in our hands,” he said. “It was what we were all about. I think I gave him his first guitar. At the time to me, it did not mean much, but I think it meant a lot to him.”

At 16, DeHaas was playing in a band Racecar. His parents, who were into the karaoke scene, had him setting up and picking up equipment for them. When he bailed on them one evening to play at a sold out gig at The Casbah, he said his father changed his free thinking, with it ending with DeHaas moving out on his own.

“When you are 16 or 17 years old, the best thing in the world is playing to a packed Casbah show and I was not going to give that up,” he said. “That is very alluring for a 17-year-old kid.”

DeHaas said it was very abrupt. He moved from El Cajon to La Mesa. Dropped out of school and got his GED.

“It was like we were friends, and then we were not,” he said. “It was not that we were not friends, I just was not around anymore, and then Anthony was going to college.”

DeHaas said Cutietta went to college and became a “master guitarist.”

“I tell him all the time that I knew you were going to be good, but I did not know that you were going to be this good,” he said. “He devoted his life to it.”

Cutietta is currently Grossmont College’s Music Department Technician and teaches Classical Guitar I. He owns “somewhere around 20 guitars” and outside of the band, instructs, plays, performs, and teaches both on and off campus.

DeHaas said that the two “stayed in each other’s orbit” connecting here and there, but it was not until 2017, and they began collaborating immediately.

After Cutietta and DeHaas got together, looked at DeHaas’ music, they began writing and working together. They added Andrea Degneau. Cutietta said she is a consummate violinist and a multi-instrumentalist who plays violin, percussion, accordion, mandolin, and more. Cutietta said they brought on two more members who they had played with back in high school, Amos Murchison and Stephen Case. The five began preparing for shows. But life circumstances and personal goals made the band evolve in its members with Murchison and Case needing to leave the band.

DeHaas said collaborating with Cutietta after so many years was interesting, and he had to go back to school and take some music lessons. He said when it comes to the guitar, he leaves that up to Cutietta.

“I am self-taught, and I had taken vocal lessons, I did not read music and I was completely clueless,” he said. “So, I took a music fundamentals class at Grossmont College so I could be on the same page. On guitar, you just can’t beat him. He is always a step ahead of you. I consider myself more of a musician than a guitarist.”

DeHaas said it is “weird” talking about your own music, but the new singles coming out, his original sound he was looking for the first one was like Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah.” But the song evolved as they worked on it.

“It is about being trapped in someone’s orbit and not knowing how to get out,” he said.

He said the second song, “Everyone’s Best Friend” is one that the band co-wrote.

“It really did not jive with the rest of the set until we tweaked it, and then it did,” he said. “The collaboration on that was really interesting. This one is different.”

DeHaas said it might not be the bands typical sound, but that it is good, and it is a surprise.

“This one turned into something heavier,” he said. “It was written because there is a lot of backstabbing and backroom dealing in the music scene that goes on. It is a culture club. It is about people not wanting fresh blood, so you have the play the game that everybody is your best friend. It is not about how good you are. It is about how many people you can pack in and tickets that you can sell.”

DeHaas said he cannot wait to perform and on stage is where he thrives.

“That is where I feel most comfortable,” he said.

“Everything seems to go away. You do not have any problems when you go onstage”

DeHaas said it has been a “huge couple of years of ups and downs,” and he is nervous, but he is also extremely excited and wants to get back out there and perform. He said it will probably be a sold out show, they will follow COVID guidelines as much as possible in a smaller venue, and that COVID is still real. He said his father is currently recovering from COVID.

“I want everyone to feel safe at our shows,” said DeHaas.

DeHaas said they performed for Half Way Homes Sessions and people were dropping out of performances because they said they could not perform with masks on.

“My opinion on that was that you need to learn to sing better,” he said. “To me that smacks, ‘Our Children Can’t Breathe,’ which is ridiculous, and I don’t subscribe to that. We performed with masks on, and I wanted people to know that you can do it if you do it right and perhaps inspire some of the bands that were holding out. If you mask up, wash your hands and be careful, you can make this work.”

The All-Ages Band Showcase is playing at Queen Bee’s on Jan. 21 with Solar Barges, The Fazes, The Renters, Killer Krab, and Audrey and the Sound Gallery. DeHaas also plays with Killer Krab, who is in the same lineup of bands that evening.

“Everyone’s Best Friend” www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=9R7U-9bcGps.

Killjoy pandemic prompts band to resurface under new name

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