Sometimes bands need to step out of the box and up to the plate. That’s what members of the Mark Sexton Band did Thursday when drummer Dan Weiss scored tickets to a Giants-Dodgers game in San Francisco.
Stalled in gridlock after the game, Sexton called Tahoe Onstage to talk about Friday’s show in the Crystal Bay Casino, the Reno band’s first appearance there since it played the Macy Gray after-party in wintertime.
Sexton’s younger brother, Chris, will perform with the band in the Red Room.
“It’s always fun to rock out with the Tahoe natives,” Sexton said. “We’re going to play some of our new songs. It will be a high-energy show.”
The band has a handful of Tahoe dates planed for this summer, including a return appearance at Squaw Valley’s Brews, Jazz and Funk Festival and Wanderlust. Sexton said the band’s future could include a horn section, making it a seven-piece band.
“There’s a lot of ‘sax-aholics’ out there,” Sexton said. “When audiences see there is a horn section they (get enthused).”
It was sometime between the eras of The Beatles and Madonna, and way before “High Fidelity,” when pop music lost its allure, and musicians’ challenge to attain success became even greater.
Songwriters want to make a catchy tune that is not considered shallow by so-called purists. And while commercial success is the goal, that means getting songs aired on radio, which requires three- to four- minute tracks, all the better for short-attention spans.
Nowadays, to survive bands mostly rely on tours, developing fan bases in different towns. Writing a hit song is a pipe dream.
The Mark Sexton Band is among an assembly of talented groups from the Reno-Tahoe area on the cusp of national popularity. It might be the one most likely to ascend with a boost of a hit single. The music touches on soul, R&B and smooth jazz. Treading lightly, Sexton searches for what artists call “pop sensiblilty.”
“There are time-tested methods of arrangements and we are really honing in on these details that have been successful in the past,” said Sexton, who is writing songs for a follow-up to the 2013 EP “Young and Naïve.” “We have really been listening to great songs. Like, what makes Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ so good? What makes this Stevie Wonder song so good? Is it the arrangement? Is it the consistency of the melody or is it the fact that he does a key change that takes you somewhere else?”
The Mark Sexton Band offers a taste of its music to come with its video “Drunk Off Your Love,” recorded Oct. 26 at Reno’s Valley Arts Research Facility. Shot by David Ware and Ford Corl with audio by Shawn Sariti, the video was recorded live from about 10 takes and two cameras. It’s no coincidence there is a mural of Neil Young as a backdrop.
“I think the main idea of this upcoming album is focusing on the craft of songwriting,” Sexton said. “It’s going to be a little more poppy but in a good way. It’s not like the Black Eyed Peas. It’s going to have a classic sound because we are taking a classic approach. It’s going to be a little less attention-deficit disorder with what we do in a song. It’s going to be very cohesive.”
Sexton’s trio, friends since high school, includes Weiss on drums and Alex Korostinsky on bass. The video includes renowned Reno multi-instrumentalist Tony Catalvo and Keyser Soze’s Christopher Williams on trumpets, and University of Nevada, Reno grad student Alex Caneles on tenor sax. The keyboardist is Sexton’s younger brother, Chris, who is attending UNR’s jazz school.
“The main purpose of it was to show what we are like as a live group,” Sexton said.
“Young and Naïve,” which was celebrated late last spring with a sold-out concert in John Ascuaga’s Nugget’s Celebrity Showroom, was produced by Alan Evans, who also is acclaimed as a member of Soulive.
“It sounded great even before I got my hands on it,” Evans said. “That’s what happens when you have great players recording great songs. They could have recorded it in a phone booth and it still would have been dope.”
Praise like that indicates the respect the 25-year-old Sexton already has attained in the industry.
Sexton hopes to include special guest artists on the next album, peers who have become friends. They are Evans on drums, Danny Mayer of the Santa Cruz group On the Spot Trio and a new member of the Alan Evans Trio, and George Porter Jr., best known as the bass player for the Meters.
“Where my heads at right now is just writing really good stuff, and my approach is going to be a little different than anything we’ve done before,” Sexton said. “It encompasses the pop mentality. Not necessarily a pop song, but a good song.”
It’s a fine line Sexton dexterously balances on his way to stardom.
Mark Sexton Band
Upcoming Tahoe-Reno area shows
April 18 – Crystal Bay Casino
April 25 – St. James Infirmary, Reno
May 11—Reno River Festival
June 20 – Heavenly Village, South Lake Tahoe
July 18 – Wanderlust, Squaw Valley
Aug. 9 – Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest, Squaw Valley
Aug. 10 – Divided Sky, Meyers
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.