The influence of Krautrock, Zamrock, Northern soul, blues, and prog on San Diego’s Volcano

By Andrew Hamlin, Feb. 14, 2019, in the San Diego Reader

The San Diego all-star band Volcano, who release their debut album The Island on February 15, blend the sounds of Fela Kuti, Can, James Brown, and the Allman Brothers. Asked how a bunch of stoners pulled this off, guitarist Zach Oakley makes it sound all quite elementary. 

“It was a natural amalgamation of everything we like,” testifies Oakley, who also plays in Joy and Space Nature. “We listen to Krautrock, Zamrock, Northern soul, blues, and prog every day. I think before Volcano we may had been a little more narrow-minded in that we just wanted to put together heavy bluesy jam bands. Like hey, ‘let’s start a band that sounds like Blue Cheer or Captain Beyond.’ But with Volcano it’s a little bit of everything.” 

Volcano features keyboardist Gabe Messner from Harsh Toke, bassist Billy Ellsworth from Loom and Radio Moscow, drummer Matt Oakley (Zach’s brother), and percussionist Ake Arndt from the visual arts collective Operation Mindblow. With prog and Krautrock in the mix, a concept album was not entirely unexpected. 

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“Gabe came up with the concept of the album being the story of a lost island and its struggles against outside invaders and the dark governing forces of nature,” Oakley explains. “The main lyrics and story were written by Gabe. There are also a lot of chanting and vocal melodies that we all came up with on the spot in the studio to fill out the tunes. Hard to say which individual came up with what chant or certain vocal expression, but it’s safe to say that it was a combination of everyone getting into the Volcano headspace and allowing stream of consciousness to take over.” 

Asked for San Diego music stories, Oakley allows that he doesn’t have much glowing to say. “San Diego is pretty sleepy as a music community,” he concludes. “Nothing comes easy in terms of crowds, record deals, or hype in San Diego. No one gives a fuck. Either they’re too old to get into something new, or they’re wasted and out at the beach enjoying the awesome weather and don’t want to go to some weird show, in a weird part of town, at some weird off-the-beaten-path venue. 

“The fact that nothing comes easy for independent musicians and bands in San Diego is part of what defines our scene. We love and we’ll clearly stand by it and keep it going regardless of our town’s lack of interest. It’s a curse and a blessing.”


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