After a long, rainy winter the sun was finally out as groups of green-clad partygoers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day morning downtown. Amidst the excitement sat Nick Larson and Kevin Middlekauff at a small table at Kreuzberg — both Cal Poly alum and one half of the band Próxima Parada — who seemed to soak in the joy of the people around them.
The San Luis Obispo-based band, which also includes drummer Aaron Kroeger and guitarist Josh Collins, are halfway through their West Coast tour. They have been playing their soulful, groovy music along the coast and will stop in their hometown for a show on Friday, March 22 at SLO Brew Rock.
This is projected to be a big year for the band, with their first US tour, an album release and a spot on the Lightning In A Bottle lineup. In June, they will all be committed to pursuing music as a full-time job. The self-managed band has acquired listeners from all over the globe, with some of their largest fanbases hailing from New York City to Berlin, Germany.
“It’s been really cool to see people discovering our music around the world,” lead vocalist Larson said. “People all around are connecting with us and it’s super cool.”
After the success of their 2017 album, “Big Seven,” the band has been hard at work producing an upcoming record. With plans to release the album in the Fall, they have been working tirelessly every day to perfect their music.
“This new album we just recorded — we all four wanted to agree on everything, and that’s really hard,” Larson said. “We all decide everything. In a way, we all play each other’s instruments. It really feels like a unit and not just like four individuals trying to show off how good they are.”
Larson, who also plays keys and guitar, and Middlekauff, who plays bass, started playing music together in the dorms their freshman year. Along with having been roommates for multiple years, the two have driven across the country and have developed a harmonious friendship.
“We have a great communication style,” Larson said.
Not only is communication within the group a driving force for the band’s success, but also communication between the band and their audience. The vulnerability in their lyrics allows for listeners to connect to the band on a deeper level.
“People say our music is soulful,” Larson said. “We’re playing music that feels personal to us. It’s original music, we’re not playing covers. Each song is going to sound different. It all has a life of its own.”
Their openness with their audience has allowed fans to reciprocate, sharing personal stories and emotional vulnerability with the band.
“You sit down with people and have these really genuine conversations and connections and it’s only happening because we’re able to play music,” Larson said. “People feel like they know us because they’ve heard our music. We’re sharing our soul with them, so they want to do the same.”
“We’re sharing our soul with them, so they want to do the same”
This year will introduce them to thousands of new listeners when they showcase their talents on the Lightning in a Bottle stage.
“Festivals are fun,” Larson said. “It’s like a built-in audience too, which is so nice. You get to share with people who might not have come to your show, never heard of you, or maybe they don’t think they like that genre or something, ‘but that actually sounds really good,’ so you get to pull in some new ears which I really appreciate.”
As they get ready for their U.S. tour, the band members are compiling a list of cities and mapping out their route. They are most excited to play in New York City and Atlanta.
“I picture people being really warm and welcoming,” Larson said in response to the band playing in Atlanta.
Whether it is toward their devout listeners, festival-goers or the band members themselves, Próxima Parada values honest, human connection. The band members prefer balancing their hectic shows with a mellow lifestyle. Often in big cities, intimacy can be lost. While they have not jetted off to travel the country just yet, they already recognize that the magic of San Luis Obispo is too strong to ignore.
“I just get kind of overwhelmed, so I come to SLO and there’s a pace that’s really nice,” Larson said. “You walk down the street and people smile. People say good morning. It just feels so good. Great community.”
“You walk down the street and people smile. People say good morning. It just feels so good. Great community.”
Whereas most aspiring musicians choose to migrate toward Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville, San Luis Obispo’s rising music scene and small-town feel make the Central Coast home for Próxima Parada.
“I love the idea of us to keep touring nationally and internationally and be able to come back to SLO,” said Larson.
Middlekauff agreed with a nod.
“I like that idea too.”
See Próxima Parada in action with Gene Evaro, Jr. at 7 p.m. on March 22 at SLO Brew Rock.