Creating new fire out of classic combinations is the key to success for a band such as Verdoros. The name itself, in honor of the late-‘60s Pontiac color that blends green and gold into shimmering, workman-style retro perfection, was inspired by their notion to put the sounds of Amy Winehouse and Chuck Berry in a blender and pour it over their punk-rock roots to see what sticks. The result is a mix of classic and combustible cover tunes with heart, soul and edge.
Former Cadillac Tramps guitarist Brian Coakley and bassist Warren Renfrow joined forces with vocalist Harlis Sweetwater, saxophonist Geoff Yeaton and drummer Nick Colliflower. And this weekend, the group are crashing the New Blues Festival. We spoke with Coakley about how these local all-stars got their motor running
OC Weekly: You guys are playing the New Blues Festival but would you consider yourselves a blues band?
Brian Coakley: No, this band isn’t like your regular grandma’s blues band. We actually don’t even really play much blues. We’re doing a bunch of different covers that are more rock & roll and soul. We do Chuck Berry, Little Richard, an Amy Winehouse tune and one Cadillac Tramps song, a Bo Diddley song. We’re playing ’em pretty straight, too, but with our lineup, everything always comes out with a little bit of a bite. We’re not playing punk either, but for whatever reason, it comes out with a bit of an edge.
How did the band come about?
Harlis hit me up maybe a year ago and said we should do an old-school rock & roll band, and it was one of those things that sounded cool, but we never talked about it again—until the Blasters were playing on Super Bowl Sunday at Gallagher’s, and Scott [Tucker] and Vanessa [Turbay], who run that place, said they needed an opener, something kinda special, so we literally formed the band to do that show.
How did you decide on the name Verdoros?
Harlis suggested the name, and I said, “What’s that?” and he sent me this ad [for a Pontiac] from the early 1970s . . . and it came out in this certain color they called Verdoros—it was like verde green and duro gold, like green gold. It sounded like a cool name.
What made you confident to move forward with a new band?
Warren and I decided to do this on a whim and have fun without any pressure, and when we played together at the first Verdoros practice, we walked out of there saying, “That was really cool. Let’s do more of this, not just one show.” Right away, everyone felt like this was gonna work. We’ve only played one show . . . and it was a phenomenal success. It started out with us not thinking much about it, but then it blindsided us and really became a lot of fun.
What other bands do the members of Verdoros play in when you’re not onstage together?
Everybody in the band has serious projects. For Warren and I, Blind House is more of the serious project that we do together; Warren’s also in Greg Antista and the Lonely Streets, which he’s also committed to. Harlis has the Harlis Sweetwater Band, but he’s also got a group called Coyotes del Barrio. And Geoff has the Legendary Swagger, and Nick has the Snake Oil Salesmen. We’re all super-committed to our main bands, but this project is like dessert. You get to go and have fun and be relaxed; there’s not a lot of stress or pressure, but we’re still able to do it at a really high level. Our first show was with the Blasters, and our second show is on the main stage of a festival.
The Verdoros perform at the New Blues Festival at the HB Sports Complex, 18100 Goldenwest, Huntington Beach; www.newbluesfestival.com. Sat., April 27, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. $40-$125. All ages.