In electrical terms, “alternating currents” are electrical energy that alternates in direction of flow, switching periodically. In the post-punk/psychedelic/art rock scene of Oakland, The Alternating Currents are a band striving to infuse the noises of the Town into their music.
As with the electrical concept, the band’s creative flow moves in various directions, but always out of Oakland. The four Bay Area transplants in the band — Ruben Diaz, Augustus DeVandry, Joe Miller, and Eric Park — have been based in Oakland for the better part of two decades. They are devoted to their community, where they collaborate with local producers, videographers, artists, and photographers.
“We all love the flow and diversity of culture here, small communities of music thrive under these circumstances,” said Diaz, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the group. “We just love being involved in it.”
But the band’s connection to the community is deeper than just the people who are a part of it. The sound of its music draws profound inspiration from the places and things around it.
“I’m influenced by the sounds of Oakland in the free melody that moves around the town,” Diaz said. “Whether it’s the bass flute sound of a Bart train heading underground by 7th Street in West Oakland, or the cacophony of breaking glass from my neighbor’s endless recycling of bottles and cardboard, I try to find harmony in the mundane — like the G note drone of an air ventilation system or the avant-garde poetry of strangers talking on their cell phones as we pass on the street. I’m trying to embrace random inspiration while reflecting on the paths of a rich musical history. Oakland has an immense history in blues, soul, R&B, funk, hip-hop, rock, and punk; I’m trying to embrace that muse that comes up from the asphalt.”
The band’s music embraces the dissonance of daily life in the Bay Area, encouraging experimentation with sound. Its two released singles, “Invasive Daisies” and “Kingdom How” both feature the intense, controlled vocals of Diaz atop strong guitar and rhythm tracks. Both songs are taut, well-produced, three-and-a-half minute rock blasts, blending psychedelic instrumentation with post-punk energy. It’s a sound you might expect from a band whose very name comes from electricity.
“Invasive Daisies” starts with a fierce guitar riff and quickly moves into an ominous melody of guitar and bass guitar. The song features an elegant key change as the guitars seem to battle themselves, switching between a calm lull of melody and an acute series of riffs. The ominous lyrics sing of nature in distress, with good things represented as turning harmful.
“Invasive Daisies on my wall / Sweet Dulcet browning on my soul / the moon is sick and tired / of the dandelion sun / the rising skeletons / and churning worms / and sub-atomic bomb / down in the garden bed / come and whisper madly I am dead.”
The song’s striking video features shots from the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland Hills and has a running motif of Day-Glo pink flowers and grasses, evoking the colors and moods of late-Sixties psychedelia. Masked individuals walk through labyrinths and hold black and white balloons, as if a Beatles video were filmed in The Village from the surreal late-Sixties TV show The Prisoner. The video was directed and edited by Matt Robeson of Oakland’s White Light Prism.
The band is working toward the release of its first full-length album, NUN, from which it will play songs in an August 3 show at San Francisco’s Amnesia Beer And Music Hall. The band’s new record is in the process of being recorded and produced by engineer Alex Laipenieks at Owl Sight Recorders in Temescal. Like Diaz, Laipenieks is a firm believer in the analog processes of recording and mixing music. The record was recorded using all analog equipment with 1 inch 8 track tape.
The 14-track double album will consist of two vinyl records with cover art designed by Joshua Nissan King of Oakland. Diaz believes vinyl provides deeper, more immersive experience with the music.
“I wholeheartedly believe in vinyl,” Diaz said. “In my opinion, music as an artform needs to be tangible. Being able to hold onto the record, look at the album art and drop the needle is half of the experience with the music.”
Outside the studio, the musicians have a vast array of other passions and commitments. Diaz was a solo folk performer for six years but is now involved in Oakland’s coffee scene, while also working on various electrical projects. Lead guitarist DeVandry went to school for engineering, which he throws into his work with electrical equipment and aural experimentation. Drummer Miller, a woodworker who is involved in the cannabis industry, does studio work with other groups and has played with Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah, among other groups. Bass player Eric Park has worked on other musical projects with artists such as Peacers and FUCKWOLF.
The band rehearses in the basement of Augustus Vandry’s West Oakland home. A typical rehearsal includes pizza from Amazona’s and a case of beer.