You're not crazy if you think you've heard the blues-electro-pop-hip-hop sounds of Long Beach quintet the Spell before. That's because four of the band's members — singer Josh Brown, guitarist Steve M., bassist Tone Blair and guitarist-keyboardist Andy Kiddoo — all spent time in On Blast, a group that appeared on the verge of success before disappearing.
In December 2009, I joined Brown, Kiddoo, Blair and then-guitarist Travis Raab on a trip to Mexico City, where the quartet played the main stage at the inaugural Goliath Festival. From 500 yards away, I watched and listened to the group soundcheck “Optimistic” — the opening track to the band's self-titled debut — and I thought, “These guys are going to be huge.”
I'd never come across a local group with more potential than On Blast, but it turns out my prediction was incorrect. What was supposed to be the band's coming out party instead turned into the beginning of the end. Raab left the group soon after, and the threesome attempted to continue as a trio. But downsizing from a quartet translated into a thinner live sound.
Then came problems with Street Life Records, the label to which On Blast was signed. (They prefer not to discuss the issues.) Kiddoo, Blair and Brown in 2010 formed the Spell along with original On Blast guitarist Steve M, and the foursome soon incorporated drummer Branden Murray. Whereas On Blast was a rock-inspired dance group, the addition of Murray made the Spell a dirty, blues-based rock band with electronic undertones.
There's a little bit of everything on the band's 11-song debut, Ha Ha Vwah Lah. Tracks like “Fireside” and “Use You Like I Used To” weave hypnotic rhythms with Brown's ethereal vocals. Songs like “Never Hurt You” and “Life is Heavy” feature pulsating grooves sure to get the House of Blues' dance floor moving when the quintet celebrates the release of the work tomorrow night.
The Spell performs tomorrow night, March 29, at the House of Blues with Dirty Diamonds, So & So, We Are the Arsenal and Chase Jordan.