Isla Vista has a long tradition of producing talented musical acts, from bands like Rebelution (mid 2000s) to singer Jack Johnson (late 1990s). A lot of this was encouraged almost accidentally - in 1980, a person opened up a small storage unit business on Seville Road, and it turned out that there was huge demand for using the units as rehearsal space, eventually torn down in 2012 (keep reading for more about this).
“My first experience with IV was walking down the street and hearing music, bands playing out of their garages and you go further and there was another band in another garage” -Jack Johnson from "Scene & Heard", a 2007 documentary about the history of IV and its music scene.
Add any more bands that you know of, and link to their music so people can check it out! Somebody could also write/expand articles about past & present performance venues in IV: the Red Barn in Estero Park, Biko Garage, Rancho House, etc.
Musical acts currently based in Isla Vista
- This is Napoleon https://www.facebook.com/Thisisnapoleon/
- RabbitFoot https://www.facebook.com/rabbitfootmusic/
- The Six-Sevens https://www.facebook.com/thesixsevens/
- The Real Savage Henry https://www.facebook.com/therealsavagehenry/
- Hedge Hog and the Fog https://www.facebook.com/hedgehoginthefogband/
- Mellow Grass https://www.facebook.com/mellowgrass/
- The Mallards https://www.facebook.com/TheMallardsOfficial/
- Careless Cub https://www.facebook.com/carelesscubgrantchesin/
Past musical acts based in Isla Vista
- The Fire Department (listen) - "Dubbed as “party rockers” by The Santa Barbara Independent, the musicians first gained notoriety in the Isla Vista, CA party scene"
- FMLYBND (listen) - "We're a band from the slum beach paradise of Isla Vista, CA." "Electronic Grunge"
- The Ole's (listen) - "Each of The Olés’ songs have a groove and a story that captures the meaning of living on the California Coast. In Isla Vista, where the band hails from, The Olés have been known for playing raucous party-rocking live shows." Music video.
- Yancellor Chang (listen) - "We're a band, from Isla Vista" "It's kind of like if Beyonce, Frank Sinatra and Ozzy had a love child that made weird sounds..." "tags: chillout mellow punk reggae rock Isla Vista"
- The Crash Landings - "An excitable band of lads from Isla Vista, CA"
- Dad Clothes - "Clothes for Fathers - Isla Vista CA" Genre: dad-rock fusion
- Sun Daes - "sometimes we sound sunny but sometimes we sound starry" Genre: Reverberated Pop/Surf Rock
- The Mojo Wire - Questionably competent retro-sixties blooze/surf/garage rock, 1997-2001
- Honey White - "Some of the best music to come out of Isla Vista" —SB Independent. Epic garage rock, 2002-2007
"Has a Wikipedia article" level of famous:
- Animal Liberation Orchestra (listen to "Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song)" + Wikipedia) - "funk pop n roll aglow with exceptionally ebullient songcraft and deliriously danceable grooves"
- Iration (listen + Wikipedia) - "an alternative/reggae group of musicians formed in Isla Vista, CA" "A deep-rooted reggae influence is fused with elements of rock and pop"
- Jack Johnson (listen to "Bubble Toes" + Wikipedia) - "known primarily for his work in the soft rock and acoustic genres"
- Lagwagon (listen + Wikipedia) - "Goleta, California’s Lagwagon first burst on the scene way back in 1988 playing a unique brand of speedy, highly technical pop-punk that made them one of the most influential punk bands of the 90’s."
- Max Vangeli (listen + Wikipedia) - DJ "best known for his house music productions"
- Rebelution (listen + Wikipedia) - "The seeds of Rebelution germinated in Santa Barbara’s college town of Isla Vista in 2004. A student named Marley D. Williams had recently switched from baseball to bass guitar when, walking to choir practice one night, he heard strains of roots-reggae coming through a door."
- Steve Aoki (listen + Wikipedia) - "electro house musician, record producer, and the founder of Dim Mak Records" "In college, he produced do-it-yourself records and ran underground concerts out of his Biko room in the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative"
- Thriving Ivory (listen + Wikipedia) - "swelling guitar lines, plaintive melodies, driving piano with a pop rhythmic style" "Founded at U.C. Santa Barbara in early 2002, Thriving Ivory quickly made its rise in the local college frenzy."
- Toad the Wet Sprocket (listen + Wikipedia) - "an American alternative rock band formed in 1986"
- Ugly Kid Joe (listen + Wikipedia) - "an American rock band from Isla Vista, California, formed in 1987" "Ugly Kid Joe's sound includes a range of styles, including rock, hard rock, funk metal and heavy metal."
Stories about music in IV
"Scene & Heard" (2007) is a 25-minute documentary about the history of IV and its music scene.
In 1980, Sid Goren opened up a storage unit business with two buildings on Seville Road, and he got requests from lots of bands to use the units as rehearsal space. Many (if not most) of these bands got their start by practicing there. A photo of the units in 1987.
From a Bottom Line article in 2011: "Among the original visionaries who saw its potential as a practice area were the members of a hardcore punk band formed in 1982 called Rich Kids on LSD (RKL). The young bunch of music junkies stumbled on the location and approached the owner, a man known as “Cricket,” who allowed them to make use of it. Signs of the RKL’s presence can still be found as Jesse Youngblood, a member of the band The Groms, pointed out. “If you come inside our unit you can still see some faded lyrics that RKL had written up on the ceiling in like 1982, before getting signed,” Youngblood said."
From the LA Times in 1993: "...doing his fair share to postpone any onslaught of silence, and keeping the I.V. music band scene viable is the local "Godfather of Rock," 78-year-old Sid Goren..."Now I rent to 19 or 20 bands and I've got a waiting list. It's pages and pages long. One band, D.O.G. (Deadly Orgasmic Grooves), has been waiting for two years." Everybody who's anybody in I.V. rock rents from Goren. He's got Leadhead, Popsicko, Grizelda, Indica, The Gathering, and lots of others with funny names."
Goren ran the complex until he was 91 (in 2006) and died in 2010. The storage buildings were torn down in 2012-13 to build Icon Gardens, a luxury student housing complex. Here's a photo of the old building on the sale listing and an Instagram photo of the new building by one of the bands that practiced there. A redevelopment document said "The project is envisioned to be a model for future development in the downtown area that will encourage other redevelopment projects, thereby improving upon the existing neighborhood character and built environment of Isla Vista."
There are no other dedicated spaces for band practice in IV, which doesn't seem great for neighborhood character.
The parking lot fence had a painting of ancient Egyptians on skateboards and surfboards, now one of the Lost Murals of Isla Vista. Dante Elephante uses a photo of part of the painting: "Their current logo, an Egyptian pharaoh clenching a surfboard, could have been found a year ago inhabiting a wall behind their former practice space on Seville Road (the garages were more recently torn down by their landlord)."
In Stewart Brand's book titled How Buildings Learn, he talks about the importance of "low road" buildings - how informal, cheap, practical, adaptable spaces are important for fostering creative uses and new ideas - think of the Silicon Valley garages where famous companies got started. That book was also turned into a TV mini-series, and the second episode shows some examples of low road buildings, including a garden shed used as a music recording studio by people who wouldn't have been able to afford formal studio space. Self-storage units adapted for local needs is a classic pattern in communities, and a community with fewer informal inexpensive spaces has fewer options for supporting creativity.