It was fairly early by nightclub standards on a Friday night in late summer when Pockets prepared to take the stage of the Scene, a Glendale dive bar that doubles as a haunt for upcoming Los Angeles-area bands. He slammed back a few drinks, trying to ease pre-performance jitters even though, ultimately, he was “fairly confident” about that night’s set. There were 70 people packed inside the bar, Pockets was told, an unusually large crowd for a pre-midnight engagement with a band that had just ventured out of the garage.
“You go from playing a garage to playing a venue [and] it’s frightening because you can hear yourself in great detail,” the singer and guitarist recalls.
Five weeks prior to this gig, Pockets had finally put together the live band intended to play the songs he had been writing and recording since the beginning of the year. The Great Gleaming Sea was starting to come together, and this was its grand debut before the hometown hipsters that could become the group’s biggest supporters.
I attended that show, attracted to the Great Gleaming Sea by way of reputation. Pockets was a member of the recently defunct local band Love Like Heaven, which, as the name would imply, was heavily inspired by Donovan along with the psychedelic sounds of early-’90s British bands like the Stone Roses and Ride.
“I wasn’t sure that I still wanted to be in music,” says Pockets of life after Love Like Heaven. Despite his uncertainty, he wrote a few songs, laid down a few tracks, and presented the results to a few interested listeners. The reaction was strong enough to prompt him to search for bandmates, which he found in friends and friends-of-friends. Although the Great Gleaming Sea doesn’t stray far from the swirling guitar sound of Love Like Heaven, there are a few differences. Where the previous band was more straightforward rock, the Great Gleaming Sea is keen to experiment with jazz elements. More importantly, though, this time around, Pockets is singing.
Pockets, who also played guitar for Love Like Heaven’s synth-punk precursor Riah, had long been a sideman, but singing did come somewhat naturally for him.
“I can always remember being eight or nine years old and my grandmother putting on Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday or something and always humming,” he recalls. “She would always tell me to go ahead and try to sing along or hum along with the song.”
It wasn’t so much the act of singing that was foreign to Pockets, but the responsibility of being the front man.
“I spent the last four years playing guitar in a band where, if I messed up, I could cover it up really easily,” he says. “I can’t really hide behind anybody now.”
Judging from the band’s growing fan base, though, there is no reason to hide.
The Great Gleaming Sea will play with Seismic Waves at the Good Hurt on January 8.