The Bobbleheads are an indie “sunshine pop” band, based in San Francisco, CA who have been recording and performing since 2003. Consisting of John Ashfield (guitar/vocals), Phil Bulan (drums, vocals), Eugene Koh (bass), their sound is best described as innocently optimistic guitar-infused rock with melodies and choruses that will stay with you for days. The jangly 12-string Rickenbacker guitars, harmonizing vocals and short, 3-minute format keep the music light, bright and strong.
Their first album Automatic Fun, was released in 2004 and recorded by Chris Xefos (ex King Missile). That same year it won an Out Music Award for Best New Recording. The album showcases their positive attitude and optimism, derived from the ever-present California sunshine. To support the release, the band gigged regularly throughout California, building a local following.
Keeping the “happy pop” sensibility alive, they wrote songs, committing tracks in 2008 for the Johnny Mathis inspired 2 Guitars, Open Fire e.p. Johnny Mathis’ (the 60’s and 70’s pop vocalist) records were a staple in John’s house growing up, but the songs here are more about that feeling of childhood innocence and optimism, rather than actually Johnny Mathis.
By 2010, they were and are a perennial live act at the International Pop Overthrow music festival, playing annually in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their clean, bright and melodic sound is always a crowd and critics favorite at the festival. The same year saw the release of the M Class e.p., which included songs that had become requested favorites at their live shows. This recording shows how the music continued to evolve its immediacy, both in structure and content. The song M Class is a reference to the car they had to move out of the garage in order to practice. They would set off the alarm to use it as a beat AND key, developing the song from that. John’s vocal harmonies with Phil are now tighter and the band had matured their playing into a very practiced ensemble.
2014 finds them on their 4th album, Make Yourself Happy, produced by Doug Hilsinger and mastered by Chris Xefos. The songs have gotten shorter, more concise, and more intense, clocking in with an average of less than 3 minutes each, but still retaining that optimistic and sybaritic nature.
Originally as a 5 piece, the Bobbleheads choose their name as various members kept nodding off during their day jobs because of their band commitments. A year later they were still finding themselves and soon slimmed down to a 3 piece, the current lineup. John emerged as the primary songwriter, forming a tight, direct sound. It’s obvious their influences are 60’s and 70’s top-40 AM radio and 80’s college rock. It encompasses bands like The Beatles, Sweet, Bay City Rollers, Wings, The Knack, Rick Springfield, R.E.M., XTC, Squeeze, The Apples in Stereo, and most recently, Swedish Pop sensation Per Gessle.
John, Phil, and Eugene’s origins are geographically-different-but-the-same-wherever-you-go suburbia with malls, chain stores and endless parking. John is a veteran elementary school music teacher in the Orff style. His experimentation and discipline in the classroom spills over into his input into the band. Brevity has been a staple of John’s style, giving the music an almost punk feel in its intensity, however without the angst. Trading on John’s classically trained vocals and harmonizing with Phil’s vocal backing, a high degree of musicianship has always been a tenant in their music. The harmonies give the band their unique vocal sound, supporting their sunshine pop feel. Eugene ties it all together and brings that “something special” to the live shows.
The band continues to perform and record on a regular basis, searching for the perfect pop song and believing the world isn’t such a bad place after all.