Skee and the Motion Detectors
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Skee and the Motion Detectors

Tustin, California, United States | SELF

Tustin, California, United States | SELF
Band Folk Rock

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When local acoustic-rock musician Skee stepped up to the mic at the 2011 OC Music Awards best live acoustic showcase at the District in Tustin just a few weeks ago, he did so with confidence — or so it seemed. No one would have guessed, had he not mentioned it, that this was the first time he’d played with his backing band the Motion Detectors.

Nothing like trial by fire, especially since Skee is competing against a dozen or so other acts for the best live acoustic crown and a chance to play live at the OC Music Awards finale, March 5 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.

“I wanted to do it with a band but I wanted it to be acoustic, mellow rock and ditch the electric guitars,” says Skee (real name: Bryan Nieruchalski) during a recent phone interview. “It was our first gig but it all kinda came together naturally. There were more people there than we originally thought, so there might have been some nerves, but what the heck?”

It’s that “what the heck?” attitude that has gotten the 30-year-old to where he is today. He started playing guitar in junior high but lost interest as he entered Irvine High School in the mid ’90s. It wasn’t until his senior year, after noticing all of his friends picking up instruments, when he decided to dust off his guitar and give it another shot.

“I started playing with friends who were really good, but I was really so bad,” he admits. “I was trying to figure out what they were doing and copy it, so I’d write cheesy little songs, whatever I could come up with — but I just couldn’t sing.”

Skee and his friends formed various bands, but lacking confidence in his vocal ability, he stuck with the guitar and let other frontmen sing songs he’d inked. His band changed members frequently as well as its name; they once called themselves Muse until they realized there was a then-rising English rock act already using the moniker. Eventually the group’s singer made an exit and Skee took over vocal duties.

“I can’t believe how bad it was,” he says of the band’s early recordings. “It took a lot of time but finally I started singing things that were in my range, and all of a sudden I found a little voice in there.”

His next effort was with a band called the Traveling Accident, which managed to play some larger local shows. But when he tried to get the entire company on board for a two-week tour that Skee booked himself, the others just weren’t into it.

“I wanted us to tour because we were starting to get stagnant here in Orange County. You can only play for your friends so much, so I wanted to get out on the road. No one could go or really wanted to, so I broke the band up because of it.

“I was disappointed. It just felt like we needed a change, but it ended up being good, because it pushed me into the direction I am now.”

Skee, with the help of one of his musician buddies, fulfilled his two-week tour obligations, though he was met with raised eyebrows when he showed up solo. Still, the venue owners and small crowds that gathered ended up liking what they heard, he says.

He’s been doing solo acoustic gigs for a couple of years now, drawing inspiration from Radiohead, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson. But it was the King of Pop who truly motivated Skee to pick up a guitar and share his soul through music.

“I was super obsessed with Michael Jackson for a while,” he says. “He didn’t even play guitar, but I got to see him once at Dodger Stadium when I was like four. I sat next to Mr. T and Ricky Schroeder up in the nosebleeds, too. My mom says that I was dancing in the aisles and stuff, but I don’t remember that.

“It was during the Thriller days, and I just remember that on stage they were wearing, like, glow costumes in the dark and I could just see Michael’s glove shining in the air.”
Now, with the possibility of local award-show victory in his sights, Skee has decided to share the stage once again. Bringing on friends to perform at his showcase turned out to be a smart decision: he was soon after offered a gig at House of Blues Anaheim on Feb. 19 alongside the 2010 OC Music Awards best live acoustic winner, Billy Kernkamp, and local fave Canvas.

“Being a part of the music awards has really helped get the music out there a bit more,” Skee says. “There are some really great people out there playing, and I’m honored to be put in the same category with them. It doesn’t feel as much like a competition, but it’s funny because I am going up against some of my friends. It’s a friendly competition for sure.”

Skee says if he wins he will “do a little dance and thank my mom and dad.” But his biggest goal in 2011 is to record some of his new music and truly capture what he’s doing in the moment.

“The music now is stripped-down, it’s still rock ’n’ roll and it’s got a lot of energy, but I love it so much more now. It’s so much fun to do whatever you want to do — and when you’re in a band, that’s great, when you can actually move together as a team. That’s what we’re starting to do.” - KELLI SKYE FADROSKI // THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER


Skee and the Motion Detectors were the first performers of the night. As an Orange County-based music teacher for local youth, Skee got a rare opportunity to perform for his students. Future OC Music Award nominees in the making, the enthusiastic young audience clapped and sang along with their teacher and his upbeat, bluesy, foot-tapping honky-tonk.

Skee was in his element while he performed for his musical protegés; Skee has an intensely beatific aura, but the energy of his students illuminated it hundredfold. While Skee transformed himself into a perpetually grinning musical guru for the audience, his spontaneously assembled band brought some down-home, soul-warming funk - Nadia Noir // Staff Writer KROQ


Celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicked off on January 4th with seven weeks of free showcases at different venues across the county. 35 local artists will compete for the titles of Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic and a performance slot at the 2011 OC Music Awards, March 5 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!

When the days are rough and the nights are long, listening to dirty, funky truck-stop blues–the kind best accompanied by a strong whiskey, a smoldering cigarette, and spot leaning against the jukebox–strongly serves as a reminder that your struggle is just a part of the cosmic journey. These black and drunken backdoor blues can be found in Orange County-native Skee’s hazy, nocturnal Mississippi Delta-driven songwriting.

With a cathartic dark humor and crunchy tenor, Skee’s music feels like a long road trip on a starless night with the headlights turned off. Every angst-ridden chorus serves as a dangerous precipice while he ropes you back in with a slick, lyrical smirk and a promise of better things to come later in the night.

Loading up on caffeine in a Newport Beach meets “Portlandia” coffee shop, my interview with Skee felt almost cinematic rather than perfunctory. Skee possesses that rare mojo musical icons seemingly secrete since birth. Haloed by a feverish glow while describing the core of his passion songwriting, Skee is undoubtedly a born musician and a bit of a poetic soul.

This poetic sensibility reflects brilliantly in the rhythm of Skee’s music. Rather than letting the lyrics exclusively tell the story, Skee lets his sound sculpt the air purposefully, the sharp intake of his breath summoning sadness or his soft scatting encouraging a sense of freewheeling debauchery. While many may easily compare Skee’s vibrant tenor and musical tonality to that of Jeff Buckley or Van Morrison, Skee is an edgier creature. His dark witticism tongue lashes sentiment that might have fallen melancholic, his funky, guitar slides are nearly on par with Bo Diddley and he has the slight swagger of a hip-hop star which materializes when Skee confesses to being a “little gangster” as a child and spontaneously throws out raps by Skee-lo and Too Short. If anything, Skee seems like the living embodiment of sound:

“My influences are all over the map. Anywhere from Dylan to Ray Charles to Jeff Buckley to The Grateful Dead…I really love everything but what you’ll see with this group is some honky-tonk, some good old foot stomping, this heavy acoustic guitar, and [makes train noises] you know, a train noise.”

Given the unfettered extent of Skee’s imaginative prowess he exhibited during the interview, it was not shocking to learn that he teaches music to children. Despite’s Skee’s brief sojourn into the suit-and-tie corporate world, he’s also wanted to be a musician since he was a teenager, inspired by an old O.C. band and accidentally tapping into the musical collective unconscious with his first bands with varied monikers:

“There was like Noble Pebble. They played at our high school and I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to play at our high school.’ At our outside stage and then like senior year we got a band together and played outside on the stage.”

“Before Emic and Cornerstone, it was like Morning Wood and Muse, all these bands that were already famous. One time we said our name was Muse because we didn’t know of another band called Muse and we played a show at the Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa and all these people showed up that we didn’t know…And someone was like, ‘Dude, there’s another band named Muse.’ It was before they were big, like their first album or whatever. All these people were so bummed.”

Not one to be held down by convention, superficial stability of as trite a thing as a name, Skee was originally billed as just Skee for the OC Music Awards but decided to spontaneously put together “a little 5-piece” called Skee and the Motion Detectors who will be playing their first show at Tuesday’s showcase. Like a true artist, Skee seems to go where the moment takes him, even if that means not going home for days, and where the gods of music dictate–whether it be as a solo performer or as part of a collective.

“I said, ‘Well, I love the acoustic guitar.’ So I started doing solo…I’ve been doing acoustic stuff for a couple of years and it’s gotten a little bit bigger and a little bit better. I’ve been really used to just doing my own thing and playing solo which I enjoy because you have the freedom to do whatever you want on stage.”

It is this personal fearlessness and cheeky impetuosity that make Skee both a brooding charmer and talented performer. His personality, like his music, acts as a respite from the work-worn days and tells a secret of the bigger things that lie at the end of this long and dusty road called life.

“You see the end…you’re gonna get there. Some steps just take longer than others.” - Nadia Noir // Staff Writer KROQ


Discography

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Bio

Lead vocalist and leader of the band, “Skee”, has been captivating audiences since 1997, balancing vintage influences with contemporary exploration. He gained early experience playing with childhood friends, Darren Goldstein (Yellow Red Sparks) and Rami Gabriel (daddad). In recent years he has honed his skills while touring the West Coast and mid-west, traveling as far as Costa Rica to serenade listeners with nothing but a cool croon and guileless guitar. Backed by his band, The Motion Detectors, the upbeat, bluesy, foot-tapping honky-tonk music radiates an intensely beatific aura. On stage, Skee transforms himself into a perpetually grinning musical guru for his audience as his band brings some down-home, soul-warming funk.

In both 2010 and 2011 he was recognized by the Orange County Music Awards Committee with a nomination for Best Acoustic Artist and Best Folk Artist in 2011.