Southern California rock band Cockeyed Optimist will perform for UCSB next Monday as part of A.S. Program Board’s free afternoon concert series.
Hailing from Orange County, the four-piece band is travelling to different colleges along the coast, stopping in Santa Barbara between gigs at Mira Costa College and the University of LaVerne. All in their early 20s, CEO said they are excited to play to a crowd of their peers.
CEO includes Cynda Renae on lead vocals and songwriter, Sean Pierce Johnson on guitar and Renae’s songwriting partner, Jimmy Lee on drums and Eric Feliciano on the bass.
Renae describes CEO’s music as “real,” basing her songs off of past events. Even the name of the band, taken from the musical “South Pacific,” reflects her attitude about life — staying positive even when the world around you seems to be crumbling.
“I started writing the music myself after going through a traumatic, life-altering experience,” Renae said. “I write to emotionally heal.”
She said her songwriting process has evolved since she first started writing in 2008, and she is now able to draw inspiration from everyday circumstances. Renae and Johnson, who met at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, work well together when formulating lyrics.
“I think we found together a similar mindset when it comes to music,” Johnson said. “That was refreshing.”
The band’s EP titled, Undocumented, is a heavy-hitting compilation of rock, rap and deeply emotional lyrics.
“Band-wise, I try not to limit myself,” Johnson said. “I take inspiration from everything I listen to.”
Some of Johnson’s musical inspirations are Breaking Benjamin, Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Buckley, Nine Inch Nails and Public Enemy. We can hear some of those influences in songs like “Blight,” which showcases Renae’s vocal versatility (watch out Linkin Park, this chick can rap her lyrics, too) and “Look at You,” where the band drops strong power chords and meaty percussion behind Renae’s raw vocals.
Renae said UCSB will be the first to hear CEO’s newest song, which is all about discovering the real Hollywood apart from the stereotypical glitz and glam.
“All of our songs are real,” Renae said. “Most music today, you can’t really tell. We are going to play all our songs and be completely real with them.”
She is definitely honest. Renae gives the listener a piece of her heart in songs like “Cry Wolf” and “Bandwagon Belief System,” with lyrics like these: “I’ve held your hand and wiped tears for you / Those days are over / I won’t be there” and “You think I’m heartless / but I mean when I say / I don’t care, I’ll live for today.”
CEO’s mission of staying true to themselves and preaching honesty are admirable qualities that they would like to share with others as they continue touring.
“We want to start playing high schools,” Renae said. “They need good influences, and we are.”
In addition to playing for high school kids, the band is preparing for their two-week tour kicking off in January 2012 and is booking gigs at county fairs.
“The thing I always wanted with the band is to constantly be playing,” Johnson said.
With passion and personalities as strong as theirs, it’s unlikely that CEO will stop playing in the near future.
Be sure to check out CEO on Monday in Storke Plaza. If the show is anything like the band members, it will be lovely.
For more information, visit www.cockeyedoptimist.net.