Anaheim is a strange place. It's primarily known has the home of a wildly successful, if aging, theme park (Disneyland) and a far less popular park built next door based on the California adventure - which likely never existed in the form it's presented. The knock against L.A. was "there is no there, there." For Anaheim "there's no there - period." Not even the major league baseball team is sure where it's at. First, they saw themselves as a centrally located regional team (California Angels), and then someone in marketing realized that the majority of fans were local so they changed their name (Anaheim Angels). Finally, they settled for being a L.A. suburb (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).
Even though Anaheim is in Southern California, Orange County, it doesn't seem to have much in common with SoCal lifestyle. Sure, the sun shines and beyond the haze the ocean is out there somewhere but the place gives off an aura that's closer to Phoenix than Manhattan Beach. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just not expected.
Anaheim residents are under the illusion that they are living the good life. They are far enough from L.A. to enjoy a reasonably tranquil existence but still have countless freeways to take them to any part of the rat race they desire. It's a place where talented kids are encouraged, nourished and given a chance to grow beyond expectations - or not. Take Jessica Reynoza. Growing up in Anaheim she was a classically trained musician and painter - perhaps on a track to become a "serious" artist. But she deviated from that course. Under the tutelage of singer/guitarist Richie James Follin, Reynoza learned to play bass. Willwoz formed in '02. Follin and Reynoza burned through a succession of drummers before meeting Alex Norwicki at a party. They went through much the same process for a second guitarist before adding David Lowe.
Steady gigging and indie releases, including one for a German label, led to contributing a song ("Something") to the Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind soundtrack. The film's director Michael Gondry worked his magic on the Willowz video for "I Wonder." Though not used in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, "I Wonder" still landed on the soundtrack album.
Guitarist Dan Bush was added and the group recorded their Punk oriented album "Talking In Circles" in Reynoza's brother's garage.
"Chautauqua," (also the name of an adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), landed in '07.
Back in the studio with Paul Kostabi and Stuart Sikes, the team that produced "Chautauqua," Willowz recorded their '09 set "Everyone." That might have been the end of the story if it weren't for "Repetition," a track from "Everyone." Five years later, the song was used to power a national commercial for Mountain Dew's Kickstart Black Cherry and Limeade. It was the perfect accompaniment for countless rockets blasting off leaving fiery trails.
2005 Talk In Circles
"Talk In Circles" shows the virtues of lean, energetic guitar Rock with a lot of thrills and next to no fluff. Clearly from the White Stripes school, the Willowz blend Punk and Hard Rock to create gems like "Shreik."
The 20 track CD has a number of excellent songs including "Ulcer Soul," the quirky yet appealing "Unveil," "Linear Communication" and "We Live On Your Street."
There are two sides to the Willowz' on "Chautauqua." One is swaggering Rock and the other is a seemingly more thoughtful acoustic mode. While the former is preferable, the latter ain't so bad either.
The Willowz spin is to take Garage Rock and blend it with a hazy late-60s, west coast anything-goes mind set. "Beware," "Nobody," with a taste of Lenny Kravitz, and the power pop "Siren Song" jump right out. On the other side, "Jubilee" features "front porch" style slide guitar/acoustic Delta Blues while the synth ballad "Evil Son" is potent.
Follin's expressive vocals, with their "about to break" quality, are engaging as he injects twists to avoid predictability. He can also sound reminiscent of Robert Plant ("Big Knob") then channel Neil Young ("Yesterdays Lost") on the next track.