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Positively musical
by Nathan Orme
Jul 20, 2009 | 1222 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy Photo- Izabella
Courtesy Photo- Izabella
The best music comes from the heart, and for many musicians the heart’s pain makes for a lot of great music.

But for Bay Area band Izabella, there are a lot of good things to sing about, too.

“I kind of like to have my own set of rules,” said Brian Rogers, who sings, plays several instruments and composes for Izabella. “I like to bring songs that have a good spirit behind them. The ones that stick are the ones that have an inherently positive light at the end of the day.”

Izabella will cast its positive light on the Great Basin Brewing Co. in Sparks Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Take, for example, some lyrics from the Izabella song “Heads Up,” off the group’s 2008 album In the West.

I hope we're ready for this ecstasy / I don't say much when I feel this way / I wish my eyes would communicate / The journeys I'd like to take with you and break all the rules / We'll burn some flags and fall off our bar stools / I never though I'd act like such a fool / We've got our heads up in the clouds / I never heard the rains so loud

These feelings of happiness in love were written by Sean Lehe, who also sings and plays guitar for Izabella. In the songs that do deal with pain, such as “I Can Stand,” there is still something positive.

This may be more than I can stand

Spending too much time with my head in my hands / All I want to do / Spend some time with you / Open doors into / Finding something new / All the simple things / All the joys they bring / With open hearts we sing / For finding something new

Much like its lyrics, the music of Izabella is upbeat yet mellow. The group’s Web site describes it as “dance-inspired rock and soul” and “fist-pumping guitar, funked-out keys, poly-rhythmic beats, and impassioned vocals.” Rogers says he is fine with just “rock and roll” to describe the music, but he also used the descriptor “dance rock with a cherry on top.”

The group’s history is as eclectic as its sound. The group officially formed in 2006 and it played its first gig on New Year’s Day 2007, though its history goes back a few years further. In the late 1990s as a high school student in Sacramento, Rogers was a fan of a San Francisco-area jam band called Uncle Harlan’s Band. Lehe and Izabella keyboardist Jeff Coleman were part of Uncle Harlan’s, and Rogers also used to work with Lehe at a guitar shop.

After attending high school in Sacramento, Rogers was in a jazz group called Four Guys From Reno. The name, according to Rogers, came from a question asked by a drunk fan and the answer was supplied by youthful group members who didn’t have any other answer. With such close proximity and music as a common passion, the musicians later came together in 2006 to form Izabella. The group started with a small following playing at the Connecticut Yankee in San Francisco and in just two years has played more than 200 shows and music festivals across the Western United States.

Along with Rogers, Lehe and Coleman, the group features Mark “Murph” Murphy on bass, Sam Phelps on keyboard and vocals and Lucas Carlton on drums.

In April, Izabella released its third album, titled Drugs and Apple Pie. It was engineered by Oz Fritz, most noted for his work with Tom Waits and Les Claypool. The group will also embark on its first East Coast tour this fall after a busy summer of shows in Northern California and Nevada.

Izabella’s show at Great Basin was Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. Great Basin Brewing Co. is located at 846 Victorian Ave. For information, call 355-7711.

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