Most musicians dream of taking their songs from the garage and exposing them to the world. In 2013, Modesto “Mo” Briseño turned on a cheap cam quarter and invited bands over to play with the hope of exposing the world to his garage.
Capturing local bands in their embryonic stage as they seek out their first shreds of exposure is something the entire music world can relate to. After five years and over 100 episodes, Briseño’s YouTube series Kilson Street still gives OC artists a platform to grow and show what they can do on their way to finding a fan base. With the help of host Richard Bernal, Mo’s brother Miguel and a handful of local writers and creatives, this monthly video series based in Santa Ana became an unlikely staple with its mix of live performances, band interviews, hair-brained skits and man-on-the-street coverage of local events. The show started out loud and lo-fi, delivering a few low brow laughs in between. It succeeded in bringing viewers into their version of SNL with a twist.
“For us it’s like the reverse of that,” Briseño says. “SNL is a comedy show with pretty good music acts on it, Kilson Street’s a show for bands with great music and a couple little skits here and there and an interview. The band is who you’re here to see.”
Kilson Street taps into a mix of well known acts like The Garden, Hammered Satin and The Hurricanes and rising upstarts like the Tritones and even a few international acts (like their recent guests Diavol Strain from Chilé).
“We’ve reached a point where some of the bands who come on are really big fans of the show and really excited to be on it,” says Bernal, Kilson’s mustachioed, often stoic-looking host. “It’s cool and weird because we never experienced anything like that.”
These days, the core of the Kilson crew has more inquiries from bands than they can keep up with, now several years removed from their days as laid back post high school live-at-home musicians in their early 20s.
“We could’ve got through [100 shows] a lot faster but we have lives and jobs and stuff,” Briseño, now 31, says during a rare moment of relaxation on a recent weeknight. “Right now we’re treating it as a “Season” format so we’re on for four months and then take a break and start again.”
His brother Miguel chimes in, “We used to release them a week after recording them which was pretty hectic.”
Briseño and Bernal began toying with the process of filming a show together in late 2012. Initially it began as a project with Suavecito Pomade to record bands for videos promoting their products. When that idea fell through, Briseño and Bernal forged ahead to put together a show with a similar concept that was similar to a local version of Jam in Van, Tiny Desk Concerts and SNL with a dash of Wayne’s World.
“I realized there wasn’t anything out there where bands could get recorded and pretty much get a full press kit for free,” Briseño says. “For me and my brother and Richard, when we were playing in bands we never had anything like that. So we figured why the hell not?”
The location for the show was (and still is) Briseño’s mom’s garage, the place where he grew up practicing and playing bands himself. The walls cluttered with soundproofing, band equipment and posters transport you to an alternate world shielded from the regular Santa Ana suburban life outside the house appropriately located off of Kilson Street and Edinger Ave.
“A lot of bands are familiar with this set up, it’s not like an intimidating TV studio,” Briseño says. “The hope was that bands would come in and feel like this is just like where they practice.”
Though it’s a common situation for garage bands since the beginning of time, recruiting locals to play in front of the camera and a small crew of strangers was harder at first than they imagined. Add to that technical difficulties that came as a result of learning how to produce a nearly half-hour makeshift TV show on the fly with hand me down equipment.
“In the first bunch of episodes there was always something going wrong,” Miguel says. “But we’ve been learning and after 110 episodes it feels like second nature to us.”
Holding the show together are the random, hokey, often technically challenged infomercials, skits and scene interviews the guys put together to fill in the time. Commercials for “Vaginol,” skits like “Stupid Stick Figure Animation Time,” Daily Show-style news from “Pat McGroin” and appearances from the show’s dog mascot Fee Fee are just a few of bits between bands. Just like some of the more random parts of the show that probably don’t fit together on paper, there’s something special about the unplanned, haphazard elements of Kilson Street that help it all come together, even with the bands they base their shows around that don’t seem like a good fit at first.
“Mo will tell me sometimes about a band that’s gonna be on and I listen to it and I’m like “why the hell did you book that band?” Bernal says. “Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to me, but once the band is in the garage and they start to play, a different kind of magic happens and the band gets to show their true colors.”
They’ve had their share of breakout stars over the years (bands like Tropa Magica and The Garden’s their side band Enjoy have been on a handful of times). For most local acts, Kilson Street is also like a permanent moment of bands that don’t stand the test of time.
“We like to joke that a lot of the bands that come on Kilson Street are no longer around, that’s the reality of it as we move throughout the years,” Briseño says.
In that respect what the show does, aside from getting bands exposure and making people laugh, is cobbling together a historical record for OC bands who are determined to get out there and make their mark.
With five years behind them, it would be understandable if the guys who’ve now moved out of their parent’s houses, got full time jobs and are beginning the trek into adulthood had no time to continue with Kilson Street. Though it’s not as easy as it used to be to spend endless hours editing, writing and goofing off, they say keeping up their contribution to the local scene is what keeps them exciting about music in OC. As long as artists are plugged in and ready to do the damn thing, so are they.
“It doesn’t seem like a chore or work,” Briseño says. “We’re actually presenting and helping bands, that’s one of the best things I can see as a way to give back to a scene that gave us a lot.”