Faith, trust and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the foundation of golfdads, the San Luis Obispo-based funk rock band with influences ranging from jazz to reggae to rap.
On paper the members of golfdads are quite different. Journalism senior Casey Sublette is a former Cal Poly football player. Brad Johnson and music junior Brian Mendez both have experience working at KCPR. Music seniors Drake Freeman and Justin Liu both play for the Cal Poly Jazz Band — and thus contribute to golfdads’ heavy jazz influences. Zachary Ragozzino has a computer science background and has worked with big tech companies.
But despite their differences, what unites the band is their ability to communicate musically.
“Everyone in the group is very musically inclined, very talented and has a level of musicality where they could play professionally,” Freeman said. “That’s something that’s hard to come by. It’s really nice to be able to communicate it on a higher level musically because we all know so much.”
Freeman likened the band’s ability to communicate to that of twins.
“[Twins] don’t have to say anything, they can just look at each other and know,” Freeman said. “We have just all listened to the same kind of music growing up and all just been in the same environment, where we can just look at each other and change a song in the middle for fun.”
Though influenced by many different bands and genres, golfdads realized a unifying factor for the band was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Liu’s first drum song, Johnson’s first band’s setlist and one of Freeman’s first-ever albums learned were discography of the Southern California-based rock band.
“How I learned to sing was [the Red Hot] Chili Peppers actually,” Johnson said. “I used to work at In-N-Out, and I’d have to take orders outside. And when it’d get really, really slow at night I would literally be singing in the drive-thru by myself practicing every day.”
An infusion of rock, funk, punk rock and psychedelic rock to jazz, golfdads do not limit themselves to one genre.
Their self-titled EP, out on Spotify and Apple Music, is the product of two recording sessions over one weekend. The EP showcases four songs that seamlessly infuse jazz and punk.
“It shouldn’t sound as good as it does,” Sublette said. “We recorded that in my garage studio back home and mixed it ourselves. We recorded it ourselves and my dad helped produce it with us. So now that we understand the process, we’re working on our second EP. We were really excited about the quality of it because we know so much more about the process.”
After meeting in the residence halls their freshman year, Sublette and former saxophone player Kyle Nixon found lead singer Johnson through an ad on Facebook. Soon after, Freeman and Liu from the Cal Poly Jazz Band were recruited as lead guitarist and drummer.
“We were playing for the very first time and it was very cohesive,” Freeman said. “We started working on songs immediately, and instantly from there it kind of worked.”
This six-man band consists of musicians with all different backgrounds and experiences brought to the table. Because of this, during the creative process, there is often opportunity for conflict. However, for golfdads, it feels different.
“We all get along,” Freeman said. “I’ve been in so many groups where there’s tension and it just makes it difficult. Being a creative entity leads to a lot of problems, but everyone in the group is on the same wavelength.”
Like their diverse backgrounds, the creative process for golfdads’ music is ever-evolving. Sometimes they will start with a guitar riff or an idea of a bass line. Other times, band members will present lyrics or old demos.
“We all kind of write based off of what that person presents, and so all of it is collectively put together,” Freeman said.
The band is currently working on their second EP, practicing two to three times a week and adding variety and range to their setlist. A few of their newer songs are more pop-based, while some add in an element of funk to go along with their saxophone-heavy sound.
As for what’s next, it is still early on, but golfdads have high hopes for the future. Each member of the band is dedicated to making their Guitar Hero fantasy a tangible reality.
“I’ve been with a lot of people that are like, ‘Let’s start a band,’ but nobody sticks to it, and nobody actually wants to do all the work,” Johnson said. “These guys are just way different than other bands I’ve been in. They actually write a ton of material and actually really want to be successful.”
The golfdads can be seen in action March 7, 11 a.m. to noon, in the University Union Plaza.