Body or Brain
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Body or Brain

Napa, California, United States | SELF

Napa, California, United States | SELF
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Full Circle"

a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Ray Manzarek doesn't really need to drive out to a dingy warehouse in the middle of nowhere just to help out a young band whose bassist he met at the local bookstore. But earlier this year, that's exactly how the Doors keyboardist spent his Sunday morning. Napa's indie-rock trio Body or Brain had called to ask if Manzarek would star in their new video filmed at the all-ages club the Shop, in Sonoma, and he happily showed up for his cameo.

"They're good, man," Manzarek attests. "I wouldn't have done it unless the band was truly good. I fully expect them to be the next Green Day. They're so full of energy, with good song construction, and, technically, they do what they have to do. I think they're sensational."

Think of it as Manzarek taking his always-open ears—remember that he produced X's first album—and applying it to his new home in Napa. Well, "new" meaning eight years ago, when he and his family moved to a two-and-a-half acre homestead north of town with chickens, fruit trees, vegetables and a wildflower garden. ("I've never worked so hard," he quips, "since retiring to the Napa Valley.") Now fully settled, the eloquent 71-year-old has woven himself into the local fabric, and this Sunday appears with the Napa Valley Symphony in a free outdoor performance of Doors songs arranged for symphony orchestra at the Napa River Festival.

A symphonic treatment of Doors music isn't a new concept, although the song arrangements on Sunday will be written by Richard Aldag, a local Napa arts luminary. Earlier this year, Manzarek performed orchestral versions of "Love Me Two Times," "Break on Through" and others with band mate Robbie Kreiger and guest orchestras in Europe, often bringing out unheard swing elements in the music. "The size onstage—not so much the loudness, but the bulk of the piece—becomes enormous," he says.

The celebration, presented by Friends of the Napa River, also features Elvin Bishop, the Napa High School Marching Band and other local wine, food and organizations. Like the video shoot for Body or Brain, it's not something Manzarek really needs to do. "But this is like buying at the farmers market on Tuesday or Saturday," he says. "It's the same thing. It's my version of contributing to the community." See him with the Napa Valley Symphony on Sunday, Sept. 5, at the Riverfront Stage. Main and Third Streets, Napa. 2–9:30pm. Free. 707.226.6160.
- Nothy Bay Bohemian(Gabe Meline)

"Rock Amongst The Vineyards"

Last year, Jakey Lee was frustrated with Napa. All of his skater friends had been harassed by the cops so often that they had stopped skating and just did drugs instead. All of his musician friends had declared Napa a dead town and had moved away or given up. All of the house parties his band played had started getting busted up after the first song.

On the cusp of leaving Napa behind, Lee, just 21 and with plane ticket in hand, made a decision. He was going to help Napa get a scene. His band, Body or Brain, with Robert Bradley, 23, and Taylor Hight, 22, was going to make it. Their lives would become one giant thrust toward putting Napa on the map.

One year later, it's starting to work. Suddenly, there are dozens of bands in Napa. Suddenly, there are places to play. Suddenly, people under 21—perpetual outcasts in an area dominated by the wine industry—have something to do.

Olivia Everett, who's organizing a Battle of the Bands at the Napa Valley Opera House on June 12, provides a telling barometer of the shift. "We had 20 bands apply, with only eight slots, and we still have a lot of great bands asking if the selections have been made," she says. "In total, we've had something like 25 bands express interest, and this for a town that, according to itself, constantly complains that there's nothing going on. I think they've just proven themselves wrong."

On a recent Thursday night, over 150 kids stand between the pool tables at Bilco's Billiards to catch two local bands, Defying Truth and the Helen Kellers. There are all types of people: guys with dyed hair, blondes in jeans and college sweatshirts, a girl in plaid tights with bright Converse sneakers and a Police T-shirt. The vibe is communal, clique-free and mostly mellow, until the show ends with Helen Kellers frontman Ryan Rushworth diving backward over a brass railing onto a table, various audience members commandeering the microphone, band members switching instruments and the drum set splaying apart while the crowd goes nuts.

Putting their heads together afterward, Napa musicians Brian McKee, Dylan Varner and Mikey Rhinehart, all under 20, join Bradley and Lee to make a list of current Napa Valley bands. They give up after naming 17: Body or Brain, Cloverleaf Drive, Defying Truth, the Subtones, Ove the Garden, Viridian City, the Helen Kellers, Magnanimous, Rumblefish, In These Walls, Planets, Rude Intoxicant, Brazen Bull, Thy Winter Shadow, Serf and James, Nana de Carlo and the Aftermath. "The cool thing is that every band has a different style," Rhinehart says. "No two bands sound the same."

In addition to nightlife, the newfound opportunities for bands, they say, has helped curb drug use, which by anyone's measure is widespread. Pot and speed make the usual rounds, but lately Ecstacy has been the thing in Napa. "I'm not gonna lie," Varner says, "I saw someone earlier tonight on E who I was talking to. It's not as big as it was a month ago, but it's still popular."

Drugs are easy to get in Napa; I'm given a run-down of where to buy along with somber stories about recent overdoses. "But then these shows started popping up," McKee adds, "and it gave kids something to do."

Melody Harris, the girl in the plaid tights, comes by and offers a copy of Napkin News, her zine dedicated to the Napa scene. It's a photocopied, folded sheet straight out of the mid-'90s, and it contains upcoming shows, interviews, musings and news about Napa bands and venues. "Bands have always been around," she says, "but they didn't start coming out of the woodwork until recently because they had no place to play, and that's all changing. Plus, if you are a teen in Napa, really, what else are you gonna do? This isn't a 'youth-friendly' town, but that's something else that's changing."

What about skating? Doesn't Napa have a skatepark? "Skaters are hated by adults in this town," McKee says. "Cops just look for a chance to bust young people. If it doesn't have to do with wineries making money, they don't want to have anything to do with it." Varner agrees: "Once you get your license in Napa, you stop skating."

Bradley chimes in. "Once you get your license in Napa," he says, "you leave Napa."

Later, Lee and Bradley walk me down to the skatepark, a half-block concrete area that's dimly lit and scattered with litter, next to the city's sanitation-treatment building. No one's out tonight at all, other than the occasional car that drives by and yells unintelligible threats at us out the window. We stop at one point, in the middle of downtown at 11pm, and the complete and utter silence is stunning.

"Hear that?" Bradley says. "That's the sound of nightlife in Napa."

Lauren Roll, who books the bands at Bilco's, started inviting younger bands almost as a community service. "Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing for anyone under the age of 18—even 21 and younger; there's pretty much nothing for you to do at nighttime," she says. "I've been lucky enough to get a lot of the younger crew coming in, anywhere from 14 to 18, that have some really good music going on."

Across town and down a long driveway in Napa's industrial area, past granite and sign shops, is Rockzilla. Named for the myriad rock-climbing walls that fill the 25-foot-high warehouse, the title is also fitting for the band playing. When I walk in, a singer in a basketball jersey is screaming his way through a metal-ska version of Mac Dre's hyphy anthem "Thizzle Dance," while three boys stomp around the blue rock-climbing pad in front of the band: one in a spiked leather jacket, one in tie-dye, one shirtless.

The band finish playing, and the kid in the leather jacket comes by to try and sell me the band's demo, a Sharpied CD-R with no case for five bucks. Audience members try their hand at climbing the rock walls while the next band's guitarist warms up in a series of technically proficient metal solos that sound like a hundred fax machines arguing with each other. It takes them about 40 minutes to officially start playing, when an amp is finally delivered via an overheated car.

As at Bilco's the week before, it seems the crowd at Rockzilla rejects class division or social status; everyone seems to get along under the banner of something exciting actually happening in Napa. Along with the blend of cliques here is a noticeable integration of age and race. There are parents, veteran rockers, teenagers and small kindergarteners—and there's also more black and Latino people here than at any non-hip-hop show over the hill in Sonoma County.

Lee, who is half-black, adopted and raised in a mobile home park, is an active proponent of the "real" Napa and an outspoken critic of Napa's renown for wine and wine only. He tells of writing to guitarist Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, and receiving a response that still irks him: "How's Napa?" Walla wrote. "Go taste some wine for me."

As if funneling this frustration into their instruments, Body or Brain's performances are mind-blowing demonstrations of the limber gymnastics of youth. Lee plays riffs on the electric guitar with his bare hands, no pick, and he moves like a clock spring that's frantically uncoiling. He jumps, kicks, slings the guitar around his back, tap-dances, does the splits and moonwalks, all while playing the guitar and not missing a note.

The band's new EP, Second Star to the Right, could've been a dour complaint reflecting the nothingness for kids in Napa. Instead, it creates a whole new Napa, a vibrant, exciting Napa that's full of energy and tight hooks, a Napa where everyone's invited to the party. When "It's Just Like Magic" was played on Live 105 recently, DJ Aaron Axelsen called them an "exciting new local band from the 707." - North Bay Bohemian (Gabe Meline)

"Body or Brain: Live Review"

The stage exploded with vibrant color as California locals, Body or Brain, took the stage, sporting trendy and exclamatory clothing and rocking out on neon-colored instruments. But the overall look of the band was only an indication of the enthralling intensity of their music. The band’s performance was vivacious and bursting with energy, maintaining an upbeat, fun atmosphere throughout the entire set.

Lead singer Jakey Lee’s voice was infectious and his attitude was brimming with enthusiasm and charming energy that riled the audience and inspired movement. Their songs were youthful and spirited, with intense drumming and captivating guitar riffs. The music was fast-paced and playful, creating the perfect environment for toe-tapping and jumping along to the beat. Although they were the second band to perform that night, Body or Brain definitely conquered the stage, captivating fans and putting on a high-energy show. The band stood apart from the norm of pop-punk musicians, creating an image that matches the intensity and vivacity of their sound. Each song was as thrilling as the next, keeping spirits high and constantly surpassing the level of excitement and entertainment one would normally be used to.

Overall, the show was thoroughly enjoyable and the musicians definitely maintained a sense of showmanship and theatrics. Body or Brain is a band that excels at creating a fun and playful atmosphere, and their music goes straight to the bones, riling you to move and dance to their bright, colorful sound.

-Stephanie Dotto - Performer Magazine (Stephanie Dotto)


Single: "Be What You Can Be"

EP: "Ready"
1. My Heart
2. To The Top
3. No More Nice Guy"
4. Overload
5. Born to Love

"It's Just Like Magic" and "1995 Is Still Alive" have been featured on KITS 105.3 San Francisco Through 2008 and 2009



Coming from the virtually nonexistent music scene of Napa, CA, Body or Brain is a 2 piece Indie Rock band. Comprised of Jakey Lee on Guitar and Lead Vocals, and Taylor Hight on Drums and backing vocals.
Body or Brain sets the stage on fire with their high energy live show, and everybody in the crowd can always feel their passion and flame. Pulling influence from all directions, they boast tight instrumentals and high-spirited lyrics.
Their devotion is unbelievable, and their live shows are never a disappointment. These guys are a gem, and they are sure to continue to gain popularity.