Channeling Homer's "Odyssey" via the 60s band Cream, Brave Ulysses is a rock and roll throwback hell-bent on future grandeur.
Drawing their name from "Tales of Brave Ulysses," a Cream song from 1967, the East Bay alternative band is emblematic of every kid in America who's ever picked up a guitar and dreamed of becoming Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. Harrison Flynn, 19 (lead guitar), Noah Baldwin, 17 (lead vocal, guitar) Chris Tuck, 15 (bass), Tyler Bach, 19 (guitar) and Jared Cvetich, 16 (drums) have been together since the band's formation in 2011. In just three years, they've inspired vigorous dancing and serious consideration at California venues including Berkeley's 924 Gilman Street, Walnut Creek's Red House, Oakland's now-shuttered The Vitus and this month the Fox Theater in Oakland, and earlier this year, the legendary Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles (opening for Buckcherry), where Cream played "Tales of Brave Ulysses" in 1967.
With two EPs already on sale, Brave Ulysses' first album, "Peace By Peace," features 10 original songs and is slated for a mid-July release.
Ten days after their big splash as one of 12 finalists competing in "Oakland's Got Talent," a fundraiser for Oakland School for the Arts and arts-education advocates 51Oakland, members of the band are still riding high. They didn't place, but that wasn't a problem.
"Playing the Fox was unreal," Baldwin said. "Professional, high-end gear, the view of 2,000 seats -- we said, 'Wow, we're here.' It was fulfilling."
Tuck is bolder: "I think the big venues are where we're supposed to be," he proclaims.
Harrison, the band's more pensive, cerebral element, says feedback from drummer Pete Escovedo -- advising more interaction with the audience -- is making him think. Recalling his crazy, adolescent angst as a 13-year-old, still hooked on the rebelliousness he recognized in the sound and lyrics of bands from The Rolling Stones to Green Day, Harrison says, "Rock music is the voice for young people. I want to bring back rock."
Today's music, they agree, is "shallow pop," "not intricate," "lacking in power." They moan collectively about repetitive choruses with lyrics about partying or designed for shock value. The music they love branches from a power tree -- drums, bass, guitar -- and demands time, not technology, to perfect.
"We don't go into our garage and lay down a drum beat with GarageBand," Baldwin says. "We don't use technology as a crutch."
They record on tape, not digitally, and Harrison says harnessing their abilities is a positive part of their collaborative songwriting. "We just get into it, or we don't," he says.
Tuck says he sometimes feels like they're about to argue, but it never happens. Baldwin attributes the atmosphere of camaraderie to being accustomed to failing. "I feel safe bringing stuff in. We either morph it, ditch it or dig it."
Building their fan base is a constant goal -- work Baldwin said is best done face-to-face during a show. Even so, they actively promote themselves on Facebook and Instagram. Harrison says their growing popularity comes from adapting to the Bay Area's varied audiences--Berkeley "moshes" (exuberant, near-dangerous physical contact); Walnut Creek fans are serious and immobile; San Francisco's Mission District crowds clap briefly, then lean forward for the next song; LA audiences "sway, head-bang, and are laid back."
Their dreams are rooted in classic rock, but geared for the future. Harrison says he's "in it for the long haul," mentioning influences like Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, Clapton and old blues greats like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. He's studying music at Diablo Valley College and hoping a European tour is on their horizon.
Baldwin, a Moraga resident, will be a senior at Oakland School for the Arts this fall and intends to get a college degree while working as a professional musician. Tuck, about to be a sophomore at Alhambra High School in Martinez, will continue to "annoy my family because it's non-stop. I come home from school, practice one hour on bass, one hour on guitar, then switch back and forth until I watch TV." Either his age or his can-do nature causes him to say, "I can't picture myself doing anything but music. I want to play sold out shows."
The central Contra Costa band will headline at Red House Studios, 1667 Botelho Drive, Walnut Creek, Friday night, June 27. Doors open at 7 p.m., show begins at 7:30. Also, the band's third stop at Whisky a Go Go is on the books for July 11.