by Sarah A. Peterson
The blues are in their blood, but are just one of the diverse musical genres influencing the electrifying sound of Fresno two-man band Strange Vine.
Vocalist-guitarist-bassist Toby Cordova and drummer-guitarist-Rhodes pianist Ian Blesse have been jamming together since their high school days, but the duo formed Strange Vine (the name fittingly a blues title by Delta Spirit) five years ago.
KRL: How did you guys meet, and how long have you been playing as Strange Vine?
Toby Cordova: We met in high school. It’s a long story, and a little incriminating…so I won’t go into it! But we have been playing as Strange Vine since 2009.
KRL: What kind of music do you play?
TC: Folky Americana Bluesy Psych-Rock.
KRL: Who are Strange Vine’s biggest musical influences?
TC: Our biggest influence is our friend Corby Yates, and our amazing parents. We both grew up in musical households and learned a lot from home. We are both blues hounds, and spend a lot of time listening to the greats like Son House, Skip James, Howlin’ Wolf, R.L. Burnside…the list goes on and on. I also think it’s safe to say that we are both heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Robin Trower, and music of that nature. Hopefully you can hear it in our music…oh yeah, and I can’t leave out Tom Petty.
KRL: What are your musical backgrounds?
TC: In high school, the pastor in my hometown (Big Creek) would let Ian, our friend Corby, and I jam in the church. We called it “The Electric Church,” and that was how we first started jamming together. After high school, Ian helped form a band called The Same Shape (who were amazing), and also joined The Corby Yates Band. I joined The Corby Yates Band in 2008, and we started Strange Vine as a side project in 2009.
KRL: Who did you listen to growing up?
TC: Everything. My mom and dad always had music on. My dad tended to listen to a lot of Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk…probably too much Kraftwerk for my liking. Luckily, my mom was always practicing old hymns in the living room, so I got to hear her play all the time.
KRL: Where has Strange Vine played?
TC: Over the last few years, we have done as much touring as our resources and our wives will allow. We have gone as far North as Bellingham, WA, and as far East as Brooklyn, NY. We have eaten a lot of pizza, and have slept on some pretty shady living room floors in that time span.
KRL: What is Strange Vine’s songwriting process?
TC: We don’t have a songwriting formula. One of us will usually have some basic idea such as a riff, a chord change, or a melody that we like. Then together, we will keep adding and changing parts until a song is formed. Sometimes it’ll happen in a day or two, but sometimes it’ll take a month. It just depends on the song.
KRL: What upcoming projects/shows are you most excited about?
TC: We are playing on the infield at AT&T Park right before the players take the field at a Giants game this Saturday [Aug. 30]. We are both really excited about that one. We are also gearing up for a tour back East this October. We will be opening for Robin Trower in Connecticut, which is going to be insane. He is one of my all-time favorite guitar players, and I can’t wait to play with him again.
Check out more local band & musician profiles in KRL’s music section.