Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: Blue Sky Drive appears to be on a path to a shining future.
It's always a thrill to find new Broward bands that are willing and able to write and record original music. In an area where cover bands rule and different and daring groups are at a premium, original music immediately sets any outfit apart, especially when their material is good enough to elevate them to national status.
One such band is Blue Sky Drive, a striking five-piece outfit that hails from Hollywood. Its eponymous debut EP is a sheer delight, one that deserves to reap immediate attention. Vocalist Tricia Sheldon, who originally started singing at piano bars in her native Cali, Colombia, has the chops to suggest a long and successful career is on the way. Guitarists Lisa Cattoretti and John O'Neil, bassist Dean Robaina, and drummer Ryan Baker provide the musical muscle that makes these songs so striking right from the get-go.
- Choose Your Favorite Local Band to Perform at SunFest
"Lisa and I found each other on Bandmix," Sheldon recalls as she describes their origins. "It's amazing. The very same day I was putting up my ad, she was taking hers down! Both of us were a little frustrated with not finding the right match. We had all the same influences. We had a little chat on the phone, and it sounded too good to be true."
The two women appreciated acts like Wilco, the Shins, Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Pearl Jam. Soon after, they began writing together.
"At the time, I think the only real sound we were going for is something with an acoustic element and something very organic," Sheldon suggests. "My original writing can be very singer/songwriter and more ambient. With Lisa, we definitely worked to get a little more pop into the mix. And when we write with the whole band, we're much more rocking!"
Happily, then, Blue Sky Drive garnered attention from the outset. The group scored a pair of honorable mentions at the VH1 Song of the Year Contest for its songs "Take My Hand" and "Long to Be," both of which are included on the debut EP. In 2012, BSD took second place out of 260 bands at the Hard Rock Rising Battle of the Bands for "Breakdown," another of the EP's offerings. "Which is crazy, since I haven't played a battle of the bands since I was a teenager," Sheldon says. Most recently, they competed in the International Songwriting Competition and made the semifinals out of a total of 20,000 entrants.
Sheldon reveals the band's current plan is to finish its new single and then to record successive singles after that, eventually compiling them into an album. "Our goal is to keep putting out good music," Sheldon says. "We want to keep active in the community and play a lot of community outreach events. We also play out as much as possible. I'm grateful to bands like the Holstered, the No. 13's, Los Diablos, and Vesper Sparrow."
Not surprisingly, then, Sheldon sees an evolving scene in South Florida, one that appears increasingly open to original music.
"From what I've seen here, the scene is picking up," she observes. "We've had only good opportunities since we started playing out in early 2012. We've been playing great original music venues like the Poorhouse, 5 Points Lounge, Native Florida Tap Room, and Hard Rock. We've had a lot of venues reach out to us.
"I think no matter where you are, music, like art, is specific. People will like you or not, but if you keep at what you love and work hard, the rest will come."
Blue Sky Drive will compete in the Coconut Creek Casino Contest for the chance to open for Cheap Trick at SunFest. The competition will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, April 2. Coconut Creek Casino, 5550 NW 40th St., Coconut Creek. Visit a href="http://www.reverbnation.com/blueskydriveband.">reverbnation.com/blueskydriveband.