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Pounders Push for a Renaissance in Local Music Scene

Pounders is one of three local bands competing this weekend in the Battle of the Bands in Gilroy.

This is one local band that doesn’t want to waste their time.

Just recently they were featured in Rolling Stone Magazine and singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Pounders was featured in a David Lynch video.

This Saturday, the three guys from San Jose and Campbell compete as one of three top bands in at the former Gasligher Theater of Gilroy, now named 9Lives Club.

From the beginning, things have always been all or nothing for the three guys that make up Pounders, a local part punk, part pop, all rock band.

“It’s kind of another disco era right now,” Singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Pounders says. “We hope that punk rock makes a comeback but it’s gonna take more than just power chords. It’s something we’re working on.”

This ambition and pursuit of music has been a part of Alonso Hernandez, Pounders and Justin Imamura’s lives.

Hernandez grew up with his father playing guitar, encouraging him to pursue music as early as third grade. He joined the school band and in high school discovered jazz.

Like Hernandez, Pounders credits his father, a drummer, as an influence as well. For Imamura, a Boy Scout trip that exposed him to Metallica set the budding drummer on his musical path.

The three came together one summer in 2006 after performing for the School of Rock at Great America and the band was formed the following year.

So what does Pounders sound like? Singer/guitarist Pounders tries to explain.

“A lot of people say we sound like old Green Day,” he says. “We’ve been classified as punk rock but every song has its own style. So we aren’t playing the same song seven times. We aren’t afraid of a ballad.”

He’s true to his word. Just take a listen to track nine on the band’s 2011 album “Chasing the Sun.”

Bassist Hernandez adds that there’s a bit of 1980s influence as well.

“There’s definitely a new wave mixed with punk rock,” he says. “It’s pop-y but with an edge.”

Take a listen to the group's track five on the same album and there's definitely the Cure influence to it.

Live music performance has been an integral way for each to push their musical skills and an area in which they want to leave their mark.

Pounders has performed at super bowl half times, was in the NBA All-Star Game with Stomp in Las Vegas, the Latin Grammy’s and America’s Got Talent. Locally, he and Imamura are in a drum performance group, Street Drum Corps.

Imamura has also appeared in Projekt Revolution Tour, hosted Nickelodeon's Slime Time LIVE, choreographs routines and performs in stage shows including Paramount’s School of Rock LIVE! and also spends time behind the scenes as a puppeteer at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo.

“We don’t just play, we perform,” Imamura says. “There are theatrics because we all have performance backgrounds. Our goal: create a lasting memory for someone.”

So when the live music scene began to lose venues for the guys to make those memories, they knew that they had to do something.

Helping Build the Local Music Scene

Back in the day, the various burgeoning music scenes throughout the Bay Area, including San Jose and Campbell would allow for musicians to network, work together to develop a scene.

"If the scene itself isn’t thriving, the bands don’t thrive," Hernandez says. "Every time there’s been a music scene, there’s been a change. There's so much music that is getting crammed down our throats by the industry. Every time a band broke out, like Metallica, Green Day (both Bay Area bands), that wasn’t what was being heard (on the radio) at the time. It’s refreshing for the music scene too. It becomes exciting again, it inspires others."

But live music is "tough right now," Pounders says.

Many local live music venues have closed, including the Chemical-Free Zone, a weekly safe place for local teens to listen to live music for $5 at the and the Gaslighter Theater.

“My favorite memories are seeing bands and playing at the Gaslighter in Campbell,” Imamura says.

The three musicians talk about a time where there were plenty of options to see live music in and around Campbell.

“Those were really fun times,” Hernandez says. “The Gaslighter was the go-to venue everyone HAD to play at. When they closed, it was all downhill for the local music scene.”

With a shortage of all ages or 16 and over venues, the group says it is harder for local musicians like themselves to get to younger fans right in their own communities.

 “It’s just really hard to get to these kids because they just don’t know what’s going on in their own backyards and there’s no way for them to be exposed to it,” Hernandez says.

One way they have been able to reach at least some of the youth in the South bay is by “paying homage” as Imamura says to local high schools.

“We play shows at Prospect and Fremont high schools during their lunch breaks,” he says.

As far as local venues, Pounders says the city of Campbell deserves recognition for allowing the to offer a place that they can play.

“The Chicken Coop has been doing a lot for the music scene,” Hernandez says. “It’s a different venue because it’s a restaurant but its great. Jeff is really doing a great job for the local music scene.”

Along with their efforts to engage the youth, Pounders have also reached out to other local musicians with a series of "industry nights" they organized and hosted late last year at the X-Bar at Homestead Lanes in Cupertino.

"We made it specific for the South Bay," Pounders says."It was a night for local musicians to get together and help each other out."

The three-man group invited bands out, live-blogged it and everything was free.

 "We opened up our network book to the public, hoping that others would do the same and help each other out," Imamura says.

There were four events held but the turnout wasn't what they had hoped for. Undeterred, the band still has high hopes for local music.

"Our ultimate goal is to have success with it, open up more opportunities and have some sort of a living, be able to travel and play the music we want," Pounders says. "Be that band that helped bring back the live music scene in the Bay Area."

Pounders perform at 9Lives Club in Gilroy, 8:00 p.m.

Bethany Curran April 20, 2012 at 04:37 AM
What a great story :) Totally agree! We need to save our local live music scene. So many venues and open mics nights are closing, it is not only sad but really frustrating. In my former life (before mommy-hood), I hosted local open mic nights. They are such great places to be a part of the local music scene, meet great people, and hear some amazing talent. My husband is a drummer and we actually met at The King's Head Pub open mic night. He is one of many local musicians who have a "day job", but really live to play music. Open mic nights give them the chance to perform in front of an audience, but also to network with other musicians. The bay area has many talented musicians and artists, it's a shame they don't have more places to perform. We have so much talent in our own backyard. We just need to get out and support them!
POUNDERS April 20, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Thanks for reading the article Bethany! Come out to the Show if you can. Hit us up at facebook.com/PNDRS or Twitter.com/PNDRS if you want some FREE tickets to the Show on Saturday!
Jason Baker April 20, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Nice, local, original story. Sounds like a great group to check out. Thanks!
Bethany Curran April 21, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Thanks guys! If we can find a babysitter, we'll be there! ;)
Jason B April 21, 2012 at 05:30 AM
I live at Campbell Ave. and 3rd Street and the music downtown has been ridiculously LOUD lately. Will have to start calling the police if it continues. It's not fair.
POUNDERS April 23, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Hello Jason B, that's too bad... You should try and figure out where the music is specifically coming from and whether it's "DJ Music" or "Live Music." We live right around the corner from that intersection. I agree with you in it being not fair to you or the residents around you. Thanks for posting a comment!
POUNDERS April 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Thanks, Jason! Hope to have you check us out someday! Without music what else is there? Imagine a movie without the soundtrack...
POUNDERS April 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM
We got 1st PLACE from the Battle of the BANDS!
Bethany Curran April 23, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Woo Hoo!!! Congrats guys! :D Sorry we missed it. Couldn't get a sitter for the kiddos in time. Will def have to go to a show soon though!

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