For a phrase containing just four ordinary, single-syllable words, the foreboding phrase—”We need to talk”—is the last sentence anyone in a relationship, especially one they thought was going well, wants to hear. We’ve all heard the various permutations, some more subtle than others, but usually, it ends with bad news.
David Sauer, frontman of local indie punk band, One High Five, has been dealt his fair share of bad news. Following the release of his first album, “Here, Hear” in 2015, the musician and songwriter has struggled to keep his band alive. With band members dropping like flies—20 in the course of three years—playing consistent shows was becoming impossible as his morale waned.
“You grow up with the romanticized version of a band of friends hanging out, knowing each other for so long, and then they go out and conquer the world together,” Sauer said. “That romanticized image of what a band should be or could be was kind of taken away from me multiple times over the last number of years while trying to get a band together.”
He realized that the only person he could rely on was himself and despite bouts of depression bordering on the existential, Sauer couldn’t ignore the quiet buzz to keep writing. Working from his garage studio, Sauer threaded together the core of his soon-to-be released, second full length album—”Beardlip”—a collection of 12 deeply personal songs that encompass all the artist has realized about himself.
“‘Beardlip’ is kind of a word and symbol of being so close to my mouth,” Sauer, now 37, said. “I think the personal nature behind this album was something that I enjoyed trying to get into it more, especially lyrically. At the end of the day… just remembering to believe in myself.”
Sauer knew that he wanted his next album to feel bigger and fuller than his last. With no band members to offend, or help for that matter, he seized the opportunity to try out some new ideas.
Inviting his friends—mostly other locals from the city—he achieved the feeling of a four or five piece band, replete with a driving vocals section. The opening track of the album, “C’mon” features a six second burst of country bumpkin’ twang voiced by Kevin “Dyzzy” Diehm, owner of Dyzzy on Vinyl Records on E 7th Street.
“[Dyzzy] used to throw shows at his shop and I was always in love with how he would introduce the bands right before they would play,” Sauer said. “He’d be there with a mic in his hand and a smile on his face and just go off on these crazy introductions. I wanted to capture that because to me, at the time, he was just an important player to my growing up in Long Beach.”
Borrowing fingers from guitarists Jason Gray and Edgar Rodriguez are driving, animated guitar solos featured on “When You’re Coming Down,” “Fear of Failure” and “Out on the Dance Floor.” Accompanying vocals backing Sauer come from Derek Phillips of San Pedro, who is both Sauer’s friend and fellow sound engineer at the Federal Bar in downtown.
The gang of vocals featured on a quarter of the record, most notably on “Fast Food,” the first single released on his record, are harmoniously delivered by 11 other various friends from the local live-music landscape.
“It made me really happy to share that with my friends and have them help me out and support me,” Sauer said. “We can look back 30, 40 years from now having that shared experience. I think it’s great.”
Despite some of the heavier, introspective lyrics, “Beardlip’s” tone is infectiously upbeat—a hallmark of pop-punk rock that he fell in love more than a decade ago—but experimental enough with quirky organ melodies and rambunctiously catchy hooks that straddle neo-1960s garage rock and rockabilly.
Following the album release on Oct. 11, the band is going on a regional tour that runs until Oct. 20 and extends up to the Pacific Northwest. Sauer enlisted the help of two of his friends, and musicians each involved in their own respective local projects. The lineup is currently—albeit conditionally—comprised of drummer Michael Malinowski from funk-twinged pop rock band Nothing But Flowers and Daniel Chavez from psychedelic rock group DCHAV, playing bass.
“It’s been so much work trying to get this tour and the album release going and knowing that it’s going to end on the 20th, and I might not have a band again after the 21st, has been kind of a strange feeling,” Sauer admits.
Still worth it though.
“I’m really proud of the album, how spunky, raw and honest it is… I’m glad I didn’t give up. I don’t think I could if I tried, to be honest,” he said. “I’m hungry for the next project and I can only hope that my story can inspire others to persevere.”
You can catch One High Five this Thursday, Oct. 10 at Alex’s Bar; 2913 E Anaheim St. Supporting them are local powerhouses Asi Fui and The Vespertines, as well as LA’s movie monster costume-clad garage rock/punk outfit, The Drac and the Swamps. Tickets are $5, you can purchase yours online, here.
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