Mike Vitale is an eclectic consumer, from the idiosyncratic writings of Richard Brautigan, whose book, “The Hawkline Monster” is the genesis of his bands name, to the Beach Boys he remembers singing along to in fifth grade and the classic musical that infused his days in choir. Those influences permeate the original songs he's created on his band's debut album, “We Create and We Are Created.”
One musical inference that most likely isn't in Vitale's lexicon is Johnny Paycheck. But had he not followed instructions in one of Paycheck's songs–taking his job and shoving it up his boss' ass–it's quite possible his band, and its record, wouldn't exist.The 35-year-old Long Beach resident opted to jump full-title into music after chucking his job at a successful internet web hosting company in 2008.
“I was just sitting there watching the owners of the company take family vacations to Europe and buying new Maseratis,” Vitale says. “And meanwhile, for the employees it was like being in a giant bee hive all working for the Queen Bee. One day the boss called me into his office and started screaming at me that I was doing a terrible job. And I had busted my ass for that company. And I just figured, fuck it, if I was working that hard for someone else, I might as well work for myself.”
The Internet's loss was local music's gain. He jumped full-time into music, something he'd been working at since around 2000, when he moved from his hometown of Visalia to Fullerton, cutting his chops at places like the McClains Coffee Shop, and the now-defunct Hub Cafe and Plush Lab, playing alongside fellow singer-songwriters like Mike Barnet and Tyrone Wells. He also immersed himself in the fertile Long Beach scene, rubbing chords in the same places as people like Brett Bixby, Jay Buchanan, and Rocco DeLucca.
“That's really what this band is about,” he said. “Just me getting together with some of the many musicians I've come to know over the years.”
A rotating roster of local musicians helped Vitale on the album, but the core involves himself, drummer Frank Reina and bass player Brad Cummings, and percussionist/sampler Tonatiuh Hernandez, who will join him on his three local gigs this weekend.
The 11 songs on The Hawkline Monster's first album are all Vitale originals. And while there are a couple of love songs, most stem from observation of the weird shit that people do.
“I like writing love songs, it's the most abundant human thing there is and there are thousands of reasons to write one. But the older I get, the more I'm drawn to all the intricacies and idiosyncratic weirdness in life. At the end of the day, I'd like a song to mean something.”
As an example, Vitale points to “The Jungle,” the first track from the record.
“I hear people sometimes mention that they recognize they're animals but, usually, they talk as if animals are some kind of separate category of beings. But I look around and see how often we act like a bunch of fucking animals. The concept of personal space, or this stuff is mine, stay away from it. That's what all animals do. It seems hardwired into our DNA. Really, we're just animals with fiber-optic technology and computers. The farther we go with technology, we're still just animals.”
The Hawkline Monster plays: Thursday at the Back Alley Bar and Grill, 116 1/2 W. Wilshire, Fullerton, 9 p.m.; Friday at Bella Terra Shopping Center, 7777 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 7 p.m.; and Sunday at The Auld Dubliner, 71 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach, 10 p.m.
Joel Beers has written about theater and other stuff for this infernal rag since its very first issue in, when was that again???