By Jacob Sprecher
For the eighth largest city in the entire United States, San Diego tends to fly well under the national musical radar. I’m not saying that San Diego is anything like San Jose, where being in a band worth one single damn is apparently outlawed; I’m just saying that for a populace of nearly 1.5 million, L.A.’s more pleasant sibling is somewhat unsung. “It seems a lot of people make it here and then bounce,” says Ryan Hand, West Virginian transplant and drummer of the San Diegan psych-garage outfit Tropical Popsicle. “Crocodiles, Wavves, Dum Dum Girls; all those guys are from here. But there’s kind of a new era of bands—a lot of shit going on, [it’s just] splintered.”
Splintered it may be, but Hand is correct in stating that there is indeed something going on down in San Diego. When I walked into the Soda Bar on a Friday night in April of this same year and saw Tropical Popsicle perform for the first time, the atmosphere represented that of a genuine scene. I could be wrong, or I could just be lucky insofar as Tropical Popsicle is a very, very good band, one that does what they do very, very well. You’ve heard me rant about this group and that group, championing various shades of California psych like the Fresh & Onlys and Sleepy Sun, but that’s only because it’s a legitimate assemblage.
Hand, who took time to speak with Synthesis in anticipation of their stop at the Origami Lounge on Thursday, June 21st, is one hell of an affable and intelligent guy. Having dropped out of school in West Virginia at the age of 16 to commit to a nomadic life of touring, he’s one of those dude’s that’s been there and done that, but isn’t about to rub it in your face. He’s got too much Southern hospitality in his bones, despite the fact that he’s lived in New York, Columbus, Portland and now San Diego since leaving home some 20 years prior. Locally speaking, I’d liken him to Scott Barwick, who originally hails from South Carolina. In short, you can take a man out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the man. Hand, who you’ll want to drink wine with into the wee hours if given the chance, explained that Tropical Popsicle was born from the songwriting talents of frontman Tim Hines. Having crafted a handful of tracks as a simple bedroom project, Hines eventually demoed the material with his drummer to-be.
“We had Thanksgiving dinner together in 2010 and he already had six songs recorded, [so] he and I went out on the scout for a couple players,” says Hand, who knew Hines from endeavors past. Those couple of scouted players ultimately turned out to be Chase Elliot and Kyle Whatley, the latter of whom happens to have roots in Red Bluff.
So what started quietly in a single bedroom quickly became a serious project, and it’s not surprising when you listen to cuts like “Cathedral City” or “Havana” and the driving, trip-down-the-well melodies they enlist. The band name itself, which Hand freely admits as “a source of contention [that’s] grown on people,” was somewhat accidental. “Tim had a Tropicalia night or some shit at this bar and that was his DJ name. Somebody caught wind that he had a side project, and it all came to fruition by happenstance. It’s kind of born of laziness, error and hearsay.”
After debuting with a 7” in June of 2011 and touring consistently since, Tropical Popsicle are out on another West Coast trek (which includes a stop with The Men at the Fuck Yeah Fest) and are ready to release an Electric Orange-recorded 45 on Volar Records later this summer. Their first video, “The Tethers,” was also recently debuted on Impose, and well represents their rock ‘n’ roll psychedelia leanings. Hand tells that their introductory full-length, “the lion’s share” of which is already completed, will drop sometime in the fall. His lips are sealed, however, on label interest, deeming the matter “kinda top secret.”
And now that we’re getting to the end of the feature, I might as well just be frank and say that the point of this whole thing is to encourage you not to miss a band that, despite currently having just a pair of 45s to their name, has a really good chance of blowing up in the year to come. Shit, it’s even on a Thursday night. What else are you gonna do?
Tropical Popsicle will perform at the Origami Lounge on Thursday, June 21st. The Hambones will be headlining with Master Lady opening. 8:30 PM, $5, all-ages.