Andrew Thams of the Peripherals began his interview by stating, “The internet has killed folk music.” He meant this statement not literally, of course, but as a description of individuals and bands thinking for themselves and creating innovative music. Developing creative, unique, and new music that sparks interest and appeals to the masses in today’s musical world is not an easy task. So many tunes, verses, and thoughts have already been done and are out there among us. In the genre of folk, the Peripherals are doing their part to contribute to a new sector of this classic category; they strive for an eclectic and unique sound that keeps not only the audience and fans on their toes but the band members themselves guessing as well as to what will be said or done next. Their music can be defined as an artful storytelling with harmonious undertones that include rock, soul, and spoken word delicately laced into a folk base.
Formed in 2010 as a duo between Andrew Thams and Omar Musisko, the Peripherals were so named because, like the actual peripheral nervous system, this band was controlled by two “brains” or central control systems working together to form one incredible outcome. Thams and Musisko met through the San Diego Songwriters Meetup Group and had a chemistry and audible bond that drove the two together in a creative whirlwind. Despite the obvious close friendship and surmounting talent between the two men, the differences among them are striking. Thams is an ex-underwater welder who lived in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and then moved to San Diego after Hurricane Katrina; he now roams around the country competing in running marathons and other athletic competitions. Musisko is a witty child psychologist who hails from chilly Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and is also a happy family man who is a proud, picture-flashing papa of a beautiful baby girl. Both original Peripheral members play a wide variety of musical instruments including the mandolin, bass, guitar, piano, violin, harmonica and, as per Musisko, the pair are continually striving to learn to play more instruments and to stretch themselves as musicians, as well as composers and lyrics writers. With so much creative talent between the two, several outlets need to be in place to ensure that no talent is wasted or missed; while the primary project and focus of the men is the Peripherals, both Thams and Musisko have other projects that keep them engaged and functioning outside of the group. This space allows for new ideas and thoughts to surface and flow between the two. Musisko explained if a piece is too jazzy or electronic for the Peripherals, the music is not wasted because they are still able to use it in another project. This, of course, works vice versa, because when a piece is written for another project and he feels that it would work into the Peripherals or the harmony would sound better with Thams’ voice, he can bring that new idea into the band. The greatest “new idea” for the Peripherals included making the duo into a trio.
The final member of the completed band was drummer Dylan Jones, who joined the Peripherals in 2012. Jones was not present when I met up with the band after a wonderfully packed patio performance at DiMillie’s Italian Restaurant for the Art Around Adams event last month. Jones was described as the “show-stopper addition” by his bandmates. The variety of percussion instruments that Jones plays, which includes drums, shakers, and cajons, adds to the massive moments in the songs from the studio and, in larger venues, the percussion parts are able to bring home the immense feelings portrayed in the lyrics that the softer-sounding violin, guitar, or vocals could not alone do. He has taken the Peripherals’ sound on to a next level that could not have been achieved without his talents. After forming the complete trio, the band was then signed to their current record label, Aural Gravy Records. Aural Gravy is a San Diego-based label that fully supports local and independent musicians by producing music and promoting the signed bands in any way possible. The guys described the signing as a step in the right direction and are now “knocking on the door of what is next.” They are currently, and always, writing new music and experimenting with fresh sounds; even the few covers that the band performs on occasion have been reinvented to where an audience member might not even realize initially that it is a cover. One such cover described to me by the band is a Grateful Dead hit; the guys realize they are not Jerry Garcia and reworked the song to encase their individual talents and, in that manipulation, were able to create an original feeling in the song that did not previously exist. Multiple weekly rehearsals ensure that the bandmates are on the same page and are able to freely converse and have a wide array of experiments performed. One such experiment at a recent rehearsal included a louder trombone piece being worked into the mix; this led to the surrounding neighbors having the police called to quiet down the tunes. No big deal for the Peripherals, however, a new practice spot had to be found in order to continue.
Frequent rehearsals are planned for an upcoming event that the bandmates showed a high level of excitement for. The Peripherals accepted an invitation to perform at the upcoming Concert in the Park Series in the University Heights neighborhood. This family-friendly show will welcome five to six hundred people to Trolley Barn Park to hear the band step out on July 18th for a two-hour long performance. The newest album on the horizon is an EP, which is in the works; recording will begin this summer but the Peripherals are thinking of taking more personal actions in the future. Thams and Musisko are community oriented and refreshingly genuine. While chatting over a couple of beers in the crowded bar area after their high-energy performance at DiMillies, the two musicians welcomed people from surrounding tables into our conversation and laughed as they cracked jokes together. Breaks from talking music were taken to check out the hockey game score, chat with fans and friends, or offer the band’s newest album Declarations as well as tickets to an upcoming show for Thams’ other band, the Liquorsmiths, at the House of Blues. San Diego’s community support of the Peripherals has been immense and led to the band wanting to give back and making a commitment to stay tied to the area. The Peripherals have played many well-known venues throughout the city including House of Blues, the Casbah, and the Belly Up and are consistently receiving invitations to play more sets. Thams expressed his gratitude and happiness at being contacted regularly to perform and the opportunities that have been given to the band by friends and other local talents. The band hopes to continue in this direction and is now moving toward playing festivals both locally and nationally. They have, as of late, been in contact with festival circuits and fellow artists such as Andrew Bird and are in the pipes to tour soon. The Peripherals would never stop there with the future plans, though; that would be following a beaten path, which these guys do not do. The band members have been working towards the possibility of putting together a local festival for the San Diego community that would take place somewhere out of the way and include other local artists. The Peripherals are also looking at performing intimate studio shows while recording this summer. Putting his past to good use, Thams has been working to create a bike-powered electric generator for the electric components of a show and hopes the band may one day be able to host “hiking shows.” This would enable an intimate show to be held pretty much anywhere following a stroll through the scenic beauty of the SoCal area. The goal for the band is “to do something no one else is doing” and have “broken down, raw shows,” according to Thams. These unique plans for the band can be summoned into one key objective that all three members share, “that by perpetuating ourselves, we perpetuate the community as a whole.” The positive direction and genuine community-oriented views of the Peripherals have opened doors and created friendships that are launching this mold-breaking thought and thrusting the band forward. All the great artists of the past have thought differently and sought change; the Peripherals have the brains, talent, and out-of-the box thinking to detour from the beaten path and find their own innovative way.
See and hear the Peripherals perform live at the University Heights Concert in the Park Series on July 18, 6 -8pm at Trolley Barn Park (corner of Adams Ave. and Florida St.) and then will be taking a short break to get some recording done.