“If you want, we can draw you a diagram.”
So offers Jenna Eyrich, co-founder of O.C.-raised, L.A.-based band Sweet Bump It. It’s not a bad offer — over the course of two years, the group ballooned from her and a high school friend to seven people, spouting their own weird mix of old-school funky soul. The first 15 minutes of our interview are spent just getting down everyone’s names and establishing how they met.
“It’s gonna be a ‘follow the bouncing ball’ kind of situation,” warns diminutive guitar shredder and lead singer Nicole “Paco” de Leon. “You really might want that map.”
It starts at an all-girls Catholic high school in Fullerton.
“We met the first day in the same Spanish class,” says Eyrich, the willowy brunette who serves as Sweet Bump It’s bassist. “And since it was Spanish class, that’s where I dubbed Paco ‘Paco’ and we became friends.”
De Leon picked up the guitar her junior year, while Eyrich’s very first instrument was a $40 used bass de Leon bought for her off of Craigslist.
“I brought it to her at school with no case,” says de Leon, as the rest of the band laughs in the background. “And I was like, ‘Can you learn how to play this? We practice on Friday.’”
Friday rehearsals blossomed into The Studiofix, an all-girl power-pop group comprised of Eyrich, de Leon and drummer Jacqueline Pablo. The trio served up two albums and an EP between 2004 and 2011. They also churned out at least one music video where the make-up was done by Marlaine Reiner, now one of Sweet Bump It’s three background singers. Reiner also grew up with Lisa Deines — another one of Sweet Bump It’s three background singers. (“Lisa and I have known each other since Brownies. We sang in another band together like… 10 years ago.”)
So go virtually all the connections between the members of Sweet Bump It. Francesca Salac, the third background singer, was a freshman at Rosary High School when Eyrich and de Leon were juniors. Andrew Parker, the lead guitarist, “was seduced” (de Leon’s words) by Eyrich after the pair geeked out at a show for his other band Rumspringa. Jay Doo, the drummer, met Eyrich at a law school party. She asked him to drum for them before turning around and puking off an apartment balcony.
“It was one of those conversations you don’t think is gonna go anywhere,” says Doo. “I’ve had talks with bass players too many times where it’s like, ‘Come play, come play’ but that’s just drunk talk.”
All this finally coalesced in April 2013 when – as Doo says, and the other six agree – “things just clicked.”
“It was like back in high school, when we would play for like eight hours straight,” says Eyrich. “That’s how it felt.”
Coordination is unanimously cited as the group’s key difficulty. Day jobs and home bases for each of the group’s members range from financial planning in Echo Park (de Leon) to making skateboard videos in Long Beach (Reiner). Nonetheless, the seven try to meet up once or twice a week — sometimes for, literally, eight hours straight.
“We just shot a music video literally from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.,” says de Leon of a shoot earlier that month. “By 4 a.m. we were literally like, ‘Sleep sucks.’”
All that hard work might just be paying off. The gang’s spent the past week scooting up and down the West Coast — including, apparently, a special performance for the mayor of Fresno. They touch base back in L.A. on Friday, where they plan to celebrate the release of their self-titled debut LP by tearing up the Bootleg.
When asked where they want to go from here, the group hems and haws before de Leon sums up their feelings.
“I want to lay down when I’m dying and be like, ‘That was cool, man,’” she says. “I want to motorboat the balls of life. And you can quote me on that.”
Sweet Bump It's album release party is Friday, March 27 at the Bootleg HiFi.