For the last few weeks I have been following the band Purple Mafia around. Purple Mafia have been together since four of the boys met as pupils at Ripon Grammar School. The band is made up of Dan Reynard, (vocals), Josh Stockdale, (lead guitar), Harry Yates, (rhythm guitar), Tom Stringer, (bass guitar) and Alex Boulton (drums). Purple Mafia were invited to California by the Unison Music label to record with Grammy-nominated producers Bruce Watkin and Ryan Dorn at their Los Angeles recording studio.
The group of 15 and 16-year-olds stayed in a house that is part of rock history, and the last known address of Jim Morrison and played at A Whiskey Go Go, where Janis Joplin, The Doors and a number of major British bands made their US debut at, including The Who, The Kinks, Cream and more.
Unison Records was founded in 2007 by Producers Bruce Watkin and Ryan Dorn. Growing up in the music industry, Bruce Witkin has a lifetime of experience as an artist and producer. He has recorded and toured with Adam Ant and Vanessa Paradis and has recorded countless artists including The Romantics, Joe Perry, The Blasters, LA Guns and many more. Bruce wrote and produced music for Martin Short's "Jiminy Glick" and served as Johnny Depp's Vocal Producer in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd," for which he received a Grammy nomination in 2008.
Bruce is also founder of the Sheila Witkin Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money through live music events for charitable organizations, including the Dan Marino Foundation for children. From mic to mix to master, Ryan Dorn is well known for his prodigious talent and experience in all phases of the studio environment. He has produced and recorded a myriad of artists including Whitney Houston, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Faster Pussycat, Cher, Adam Ant, Motorhead and many more. Johnny Depp and Bruce played in a band called "The Kids" when they were teens and are very dear friends. Johnny has played guitar on a couple of the Babybird recordings that Unison have released and was kind enough to direct Babybird's video "Unlovable".
The youngsters' stock has been rising higher with each passing week this year. Their single 'She Thinks It', recorded with engineer James Mottershead who hails from Harrogate, has just gone through the 12,000 hits mark on YouTube. What I find reassuring, about Purple Mafia is their lack of choreographed polish. They don't turn up on stage in matching outfits, and make no attempt to shimmy or twist or impress with a two step of fancy footwork ... instead they impress with their music alone.
Over dinner on the terrace of the Chateau Marmont Restaurant I finally got to ask Purple Mafia about their time in Hollywood. Still buzzing and smiling from their day in the studio, the boys are talking about their day. I asked them what their first impressions of Hollywood were, laughing Josh said "the weather is nearly as hot as the girls".
When asked how the Unison Music studio compared to other studios they have recorded in, vocalist Dan Reynard and drummer Alex Boulton agreed with bassist Tom Stringer that at Unison there was no room for mediocre performances and that the producers expectations are for musicians to perform at their absolute best. The care that goes into getting the right tone for the part, the effort to get the best performance and the ability to adapt to new arrangements is required. The boys also commented on how comfortable and relaxed they felt recording in Hollywood.
I asked them how they thought the gig at Whisky Go Go differed to gigs in the UK? "it was amazing " they beamed "new audience and a great sound. We thought the crowd were real fun and enthusiastic. It was all so exciting, and the purple beach balls just added to it". They continued "We all grew up around different genres of music and when we came together as a band all the genres of music came together to make an original sound"
The waitress came over with our food, she was admiring the boys British Accents. She told the lads that girls in LA really dig the British guys. As I looked around the table there were smiles all around. Now they were relaxed I felt I had their attention, and we talked about their experience in the Studio. They told me it was a very relaxed atmosphere and the producers that they were working with were amazing guys, they also said that they loved guitars, drum kits and all the studio gear. I laughed "are you planning on taking the gear from the studio back to the Uk", they reassured me they would be leaving it in LA so they could come back to LA.
A trip for these young musicians would not have been complete without seeing at least one famous person, they told me they met a guy called Stefan Abingdon from a Uk Tv programme called The Midnight Beast, They also saw my favourite Rapper, Dizzy Rascal and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the restaurant they were clearly getting a lot of female attention, so I asked them what sort of women they fancied, They joked we love all girls especially the ones who give us attention. I got them to tell me abut their song 'Gadgets for the girls', I joked that they clearly all have sex constantly on the brain? But I was wrong and promptly corrected. 'Gadgets for the girls' is a euphemism, it may seem like it evolves around sex but it doesn't, it's about a guy who can't compete with another guy who has all the expensive gadgets to impress the girls.
It was the bands last night in LA and I asked what their plan was on returning to the UK. They looked disappointed to be going home, but they said "we plan to work on our music, get a bigger fan base and to build on coming back to the states. On their Hollywood dream I asked how it had changed their lives they joked "Our American accents have improved a bit. Wanna have a corn dog at the mall?" Very impressive I must say!
I really believe these boys have that special something to go the distance. It amazes me that Purple Mafia aren't already huge. Their gigs will soon be turning into events! For such a visual band it's unusual that music television haven't snapped them up for an appearance. Are you paying attention producers of Later With Jools Holland, Transmission and Pop World?