It’s rare that a band make as dramatic a transformation from one album to the next as Fainting Goats have made between their debut album, Native Sounds of the Golden West, and their sophomore release, Cambria Pines. While the former album consisted of hook-filled indie rock influenced by the likes of Camper Van Beethoven, Guided by Voices and Sparklehorse, the local four-piece group’s newest music owes less to those artists than it does to Neil Young, The Mother Hips and early Eagles.
“This new sound draws on more of what I’d call ’70s California country rock,” offers the band’s leader, drummer/vocalist Dave Roda. “My dad was actually in that scene here in Santa Cruz, and I think at some point in my life, it rubbed off on me a little bit.”
In the most literal sense, it would be half-true to say that the Fainting Goats that made Native Sounds of the Golden West was a different band than the one that recorded Cambria Pines. While Roda and rhythm guitarist Don Roland have both been with the group since its inception in 2003, lead guitarist Chris Foss and bassist Mott Jordan—the latter of whom is also the creator of the new album’s impressive cover art—are relative newcomers.
While Roda remains the group’s primary songwriter, five of Cambria Pines’ 11 tunes were penned by either Roland or Jordan. This brought a slew of new influences to the band’s sound, including some unexpected ones. Jordan’s “Sister Hold Tight to the Line,” for example, is a blatant salute to The Grateful Dead, complete with some well-placed Jerry-style leads from Foss. By Roda’s account, the nods to the Dead on this song are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. “The song is actually about some trippers—some hippies hanging out and having a creekside rock & roll party,” he explains. “I think it’s meant as an ironic thing, more or less.”
“Sister Hold Tight to the Line” isn’t the only stylistic foray to be found on Cambria Pines. For example, Roda describes the first song on the album, “Buttonwillow,” as “my attempt to write a country song of some kind.” In all probability, his interest in that genre can be traced at least in part to his father Gary, who played guitar in bands like Fly by Night and Airtight in the ’70s and early ’80s. The elder Roda is still playing pedal steel in various country groups in the San Joaquin Valley. “He’s probably hitting it harder now than he did back when he was in his 20s,” Dave notes.
Dave has his own hands full with various musical project: along with Fainting Goats, he currently plays with local Americana/folk singer/songwriter Amee Chapman and with the rock band The Falling Off, the latter of which also features Mott Jordan, Camper Van Beethoven guitarist Greg Lisher, vocalist Jay Pomerantz and Counting Crows/Camper Van Beethoven/Monks of Doom multi-instrumentalist David Immerglück.
When he’s not gigging, recording or spending time with his wife and two kids, Roda works at the Scotts Valley-based audio recording products manufacturing company Universal Audio. Through this gig, he has come into contact with musicians like Seal, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha and, on one memorable occasion, Pete Townshend of The Who. In 2014, he found himself on the phone with that legendary guitarist, who reached out to the company for help with some trouble he was having with an audio device. After solving his problem, Roda emailed Townshend “Lemonade,” arguably the catchiest tune from the Goats’ first album.
“It was just for fun,” the drummer recalls. “I thought, ‘Yeah, sure. He’s never going to listen to it. He’s Pete Townshend, right?’ So I send it off, and I swear to God, within 10 minutes, he writes back: ‘Song is cool. I love the chorus spread and backing vocals.’ That was probably one of the most amazing, humbling things that has ever happened to me.” Those interested in putting Townshend’s assertion to the test can check out “Lemonade”—along with a ton of other Fainting Goats songs—at faintinggoats.bandcamp.com or on the band’s Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Fainting-Goats/196606735685?sk=app_2405167945.