Daring To Be Different

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

If you go to hear local band Underscore play at Blue Fin Billiards on Cannery Row this Saturday night, don’t expect to hear “Mustang Sally”. And you won’t hear “Hotel California,” “Two Tickets To Paradise” or any of the other rock standards played by typical Monterey bar bands.

That’s because Underscore is a band that prides itself on doing something different, and you may be pleasantly surprised when you hear its brand of funk-tinged rock, led by singer Nikki Anderson’s powerful vocals.

The band had its beginnings in 1995, when bass guitarist Dale Hameister moved to Monterey to attend school at the then brand-new California State University, Monterey Bay; campus. There, he met drummer Matt Brown, and together they formed a number of bands that played around the campus and the Monterey area, including the somewhat infamous “Pizza and Beer.”

The bands may have come and gone, but the rhythm section of Brown and Hameister stayed together, eventually becoming Underscore. Hameister cites jazz and funkk players such as Jaco Pastorius and Bootsy Collins among his bass- playing influences, whereas Brown comes from more of a hard rock background.

Together, their styles merge to provide a tight, unified backbeat to the songs, which can be by turns driving and danceable or softer and more open. The demo versions of “Chemical,” “Holiday” and “Wrong Turn,” all available as mp3 files on the band’s Web site, give an idea of the range of their material.

Vocalist and lyricist Anderson has a background as an actress as well as a singer. She’s appeared in stage productions, including “Grease,” and movies such as Blue Collar Films’ ‘A Time to Kill.” She carries this experience into her on-stage performances with the band, which are often commented on by audience members as one of the reasons why they keep coming back to the shows.

The fourth, and newest, member of Underscore is guitarist Lake Sachtleben. Formerly of the Monterey-based band Sofa King, he has played many styles of music during the years and brings, according to Brown, a harder rock edge to the band’s sound that fans are enjoying.

Underscore has spent the last two months in the studio recording its first full-length CD and is planning to have it ready for release soon, along with a revamped Web site. Brown says the band members are “stoked” about the recent recording sessions and are looking forward to Saturday’s show at the Blue Fin, where they will be supported by San Francisco-based band Enda.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, July 11, 2002

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