Long Beach musician Nate Jackson’s latest project, Devil Season, released its debut album this year. Photo by Isaac Larios.

In the heatwave-ridden summer of 2016, Nate Jackson was in a bind. The longtime musician felt an itch to write. He was pouring himself into his day job as music editor for the OC Weekly, but he found that since his previous band Peyote Players fizzed out about two years prior, he was no longer actively pursuing what he believed was his true calling.

So he holed himself up in his sweltering Long Beach apartment, and with just a bass guitar, a loop pedal and his voice, Jackson created an orchestra of sounds that served as the impetus for what would become his new project: Devil Season.

“Devil season is your time of trials,” Jackson says. “We all go through it and I think I’m still going through it. There’s never really a set time where you realize, oh, I have myself all figured out now. It’s always a continuous process. At this point in time, I thought, I’m fucking sweaty and kind of lost and a bit down on myself, but if I could turn that around, I know that I’m built for this.”

Needless to say, he has turned it around. “Going South,” the debut album of his new project Devil Season, came to fruition early this year with contributions from Chris Tsagakis (RX Bandits), who played drums and keys. It was released on vinyl via Tsagakis’ Headphone Music Label.

Jackson has since recruited his previous collaborators Paul Beville (bass), Ricky Atallah (drums), as well as Chris Walker (productions, keys, drums) to flesh out the sound from studio version to live. Jackson, Beville and Atallah grew up together at Servite High School in Anaheim, where they played in punk bands together. Peyote Players was their last project together, an amalgam of prog rock and fusion.

As Devil Season, Jackson’s soulful vocal chops take center stage, doubly so with the affected delays and harmonies that weave a dark, dreamlike labyrinth of angst, emotive falsettos and declarative hooks. Paired with psychedelic keys and punctuated by deep, syncopated bass lines and hard-cut breakbeats, this is a recipe that the band has honed relentlessly over the last year and half.

Most recently, after much trial and error, they arrived at “version three” of their configuration as they call it: melodies from the sample pad, along with a clicker, sound in each of their earpieces, keeping the band uniform and grounded.

“Now we’re using the sample pad as it’s intended,” Beville says. “It’s like our fifth member.”

This marriage of tried-and-true funk and soul elements along with the newer technologies of cuing samples and manipulating vocals in a live setting speaks to Devil Season’s affinity for the timeless groove in the modern day. “Daft Punk meets Prince” is how the band describes the core of its sound.

“We give people an element of what they’re somewhat used to, and give them something where it’s like, what the hell is that?” Jackson says. “[…]Putting yourself out there as a band that doesn’t jump on a wave that already exists makes you a little bit isolated, but it’s also in a place like Long Beach that it can work out pretty well because a lot of people are eclectic here.”

Long Beach musician Nate Jackson’s latest project, Devil Season, released its debut album this year. Photo by John Gilhooley.

That’s not to say that the band stays confined in its birthplace of Long Beach. Since forming in early 2017, Devil Season has already performed at SXSW two years in a row, each show better than the last. Their lack of a clearly defined genre elicits some confused reactions initially, but half the fun, Jackson explains, is watching the music click in the eyes of the audience gradually throughout a set.

“The emotions in songs and how we can connect with people, that’s really why I wrote these songs on the first album,” he says. “And now we’re amping everything up—it’s louder and dynamic, and ultimately the songs are just more powerful.”

Their newest single “Ruined”—released in June—reflects an elevated dynamic and a cut-throat confidence in their deviation from what’s familiar. Jackson says some people have obliquely alluded to Sublime when attempting to describe their sound, and he thinks that’s probably a byproduct of being unique from the current zeitgeist.

“The way I look at it is, if we can capture a little bit of that, then we’ve done Long Beach proud,” he says, chuckling. “Just by doing our own thing. That’s the only standard I’ve held this band to, other than sounding as good as we can for what we’re doing.”

Devil Season will perform at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach as part of the 3rd edition of the Happy Sundays Festival on Aug. 26 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Devil Season’s Facebook page here.

DiPiazza’s is at 5205 E. Pacific Coast Highway.