Listen Locally: The SDMA Nominees

Adriana Mocciola/Telemundo 51

It's T-minus 10 days until San Diego’s annual SDMA’s, Listen Locally is going to help introduce you to some of these nominees. Collect some gems of coveted local music knowledge to be used at your discretion. Even if you don’t have a clue what’s going on in our colorful local music scene, the SDMA nominees are a ready-made cheat-sheet.   

Let’s talk pop bands. There are eight great nominees in this category. Regardless of inhabiting the same category, each group under the “Pop” umbrella possesses a distinct sound that commands equal love from the listeners, thus making voting extra difficult. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. Let’s have a closer look at a couple of promising nominees: Dynamite Walls and Lights On.
Dynamite Walls is a quintet of talented, handsome musician-types with instant appeal. Now one must carefully introduce a ‘Pop” band made up of nice looking males, as not to conjure images of highlights, matching sunglasses and color schemed outfits. Thankfully that brand of pop doesn't exist at the SDMA’s so read on!
Dynamite Walls' strike the ear as an indie, alternative rock sound, likened to INXS or Coldplay, only bolder with a delightfully rancorous edge. That element resides in the lyrics, just a little more provocative then you would expect from such likable, well-constructed music.
Meet the boys: Tom Pritchard- vocals and guitar; Alex Blundell- lead guitar; Allan Bates– bass and vocals; Paul Kimmel – keys, and Eric Pritchard– drums. DW has been together for four years with one full-length album, The Blinding Light Above (2007) under their belt. A follow up EP released this year- Stay Awake can be summarized as this: Tom Pritchard’s lithe vocals drive emotion-riddled lyrics, atop power chords and diverse styling. You listen and wonder as one would about a 36-year old surgeon with good hair. How are they not spoken for?
DW has captured attention of major labels but has yet to find the right match that can put their music where it needs to be, so they continue to shop.  Scaling upwards for a few years now, in the same year they released their album DW was spotted by MTV2 as a “Band on the Rise.”   So the guys don’t seem too stressed on not being signed yet. Irrefutable talent will do that to you.
Tom Pritchard describes how they felt about being labeled a pop band this year, "When I think of pop I think of a mini-microphone headset and hair highlights, or an emo cut, dance moves and screaming young girls. But, when I took a look at the past winners in this category, I felt that maybe I was the one mislabeling what "pop" is.... maybe we should run with this whole thing anyways!! Perhaps a new hairdo for the ceremony..."
Look out Jonas Brothers…Check out Dynamite Walls at
Lights On is no stranger to an unexpected categorization of genre. Their pop nod for this year matched their surprise from last year’s for best electronic band according to guitarist Tim Hines.
"We’re definitely not strictly either of the two, pop or electronic. But we do have elements of the two, along with other genres," he said. "So I guess it’s just a way of them (the academy or whatever you call it) plugging you in somewhere that loosely fits… I wouldn't even know how to properly classify us either! But ultimately were just happy to be recognized."
Lights On is hot. Their sound is hard to pinpoint thanks to the mélange of genre influences but they really nail the concoction of electro-pop, indie post-punk and do it with recognizable style that’s downright lovable. 
Having wasted no time, Lights On debuted their EP Waiting For the Heart to Beat in July 2008 just a few months after getting together and expects to release a vinyl EP (w/ a digital download card!) late September 2009. Hines notes that although they have a good amount recorded they continue to grind away in the studio, “to see what else comes out,” he said. It doesn't hurt that drummer Mike Kamoo owns Earthling Studios in El Cajon, a well-established local studio.
Lights On is: Mike Kamoo- bass guitar, drums, guitar, keyboards; Timothy Hines- guitar, keyboards, piano, vocals; Andrew Bernhardt- guitar, keyboards, vocals; Brooke Rowland-keyboards, vocals; Robert Netcoh- bass guitar.
Waiting For the Heart to Beat is a solid example of their quality.The songs consistently sweep you up from the get go, engaging, captivating and consuming. Although you hear a generous amount of 80’s synth band resonating on their 2008 album, don’t pigeon hole them, Tim Hines advises. They are shedding that a bit with current recordings. On the upcoming EP fans can expect “songs a little more guitar-oriented… Definitely more Post Punk/jangle core with a modern approach."  Whatever that means!
Cool things are going on lately for Lights On. They recently did a Brooklyn tour and had a blast playing shows, getting the exposure; no doubt a great step in turning Lights On to the East Coast. LO did disclose that they fancy the East Coast crowd more akin to their tunes. Let’s not take it personally San Diego. The NYC scene makes for tough competition for the affections of a musician. 
Most recently, their song “Wild At Heart” was featured on HBO’s Hung episode 8. Check out Lights On at

Have a listen to these awesome local bands and check out the rest of the Best Pop nominees:
Echo Revolution; Gray Ghosts; Team Abraham; The Paddle Boat; The Silent Comedy and Wendy Bailey.
Stay tuned for more Listen Locally SDMA Nominee preview articles over the next ten days, happy listening!
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