It was nearly a decade ago when I was at the Casbah and first met Brian Clinebell. The frontman of the Kabbs was playing pool, and I overheard him talking about the venue, suggesting that the booking was rather insular, lamenting that new bands couldn't break through to get a show. I kept poking at him for more before admitting that I, in fact, worked for the venue, then his eyes got wide in an, "Oops, what did I just say," kinda way.
In a meeting with Casbah owner Tim Mays and Casbah local-band booker, 91x radio personality (and SoundDiego contributor) Tim Pyles later that week, I shared the story. To be honest, I was irked. How dare Clinebell say such things about the beloved Casbah? But both Tims immediately suggested giving the Kabbs their own show.
“I think it was, like, a Thursday and we were freaking out," Clinebell recently told me. "We only had about seven songs and had the headlining spot.”
Fast-forward to 2020 and the band is dropping a self-titled record on Friday via Bandcamp that was recorded in 2019 over a few sessions at the famed Earthling Studios with local legend Mike Kamoo and mastered by Rafter (Roberts).
“It was spread out over a year because we had to spread out the sessions [for financial, time and other reasons], but they were very tightly constructed sessions…," drummer T.S. Ward told me. "It was maybe three single days of time to make the whole record."
“We're lucky because all of us work together pretty good, [and] quickly," adds Clinebell. "Almost everything we've worked on has been like that."
Everything on the new release was recorded live, as is often the case with Kamoo and Earthling Studios.
“Each song only got, like, three takes … it's not like a prolific thing where, 'OK, we're gonna write 50 songs, and we're gonna trim the fat to 10 great ones,' " Ward said. "It's not like that at all, because we're really specific about parts.”
It should be stated that Ward's day job is managing and teaching at the School of Rock, where he has mastermind all of those great School of Rock tributes to local bands, and he's been in many other San Diego groups as well, including Oh, Spirit!, a band that features Kabbs bassist Ryan Combs as its frontman.
During the shutdown, all of the members of the band have kept their day jobs. Clinebell has continued his graphic design work for clients, including Sharp Healthcare, from home. Ward has continued his School of Rock duties with individual lessons via Zoom. Vocalist and guitar player Kyle Whatley works as a planner for MTS and spends his days reworking bus and transit routes based on critical service and demand. And Combs continues to work for Hess Brewing, which has pivoted to making sanitizer and selling it curbside.
On top of all that, before things really started to shut down, Clinebell got engaged and Ward became the father of twins.
Music. Community. Culture.
Needless to say, they're very busy.
The new record is available Friday on Bandcamp, but fans can also be pre-purchase it in vinyl, which will begin shipping on May 5. For Friday only, Bandcamp is giving its revenue share to the artists that have been affected by COVID-19, so it's a great time to buy not just the music of the Kabbs, but all of our local musicians with Bandcamp sites.
I don't think that chance meeting with Clinebell all those years ago was chance at all. Earlier this year, I was hired by North Park Main Street to book the North Park Festival of Arts and Music on May 9-10. The Kabbs politely declined because they had a better offer.
“We're waiting on a confirmation from Tim Mays,” Clinebell emailed back in January. “I know the guys wanted to play Festival of the Arts as well … but we don't want to mess up our release show.”
Perhaps sometime in the future, when the ability to play live music returns, they can actually play both.