Rock ’n’ roll is not an exact science. Sure, notes can be mapped out on a staff and its components can be measured in frequency and wavelength, but much of its purity relies on the random compounds of human alchemy.
In that field, Los Angeles trio Wake Up Lucid earns high marks. The band of cousins — Ryan, Ian and Jamie Baca — fashions primordial rock springing from the ooze of classic blues influences, familial instincts and a barely spoken covenant to remove the filters between music and its targeted nerve endings. It's brash, it's beautiful, and if it hurts a little, well, the Bacas say, so does living.
Wake Up Lucid's debut album is titled, fittingly, "Feel It," and it drips with the sweat of labor, lust, rage and even exasperation, from the caustic feedback of the opening title track to the closing, 6-minute fixation on a "Black Haired Woman."
"It's just an honest rock ’n’ roll record," Ryan says modestly — although the subtext there, of course, is that Wake Up Lucid plies its trade in a time when there are myriad phony ones, having to look no further than its own Silver Lake neighborhood to find bands that pose first and play later.
"You hear so many people who are a throwback to this or a throwback to that, people who market the concept before they write the songs," Ian says. "It feels good to just be a band that's laying it all out there."
"On the Internet people can see any number of styles they want to mimic, and it becomes a matter of saying, 'Oh, I wanna be like that,'" Ryan says. "We simply had to focus on making a record that we'd want to hear."
In many ways, "Feel It" is a record the Bacas were bred to make. Growing up in the California High Desert community of Apple Valley — "a bathroom stop for people on their way to Vegas," — they engaged in jam sessions with their fathers, devotees of classic artists such as Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Paul Rodgers.
Fast-forward several years, and singer-guitarist Ryan was living in South Lake Tahoe, playing in a two-piece and seeking a bigger outlet for a batch of songs he'd written. He moved south, reconnected with Ian and a drummer and began playing those songs live. Not long after, the pair kicked the drummer out of the band and brought on Jamie, two days before a show. "Then we kept booking gigs real quick so he wouldn't go anywhere," Ian laughs.
Wake Up Lucid released its first EP, "Look Alive People," in 2010, and followed it up with "Sugar" — recorded on the spur-of-the-moment because the studio happened to be available — in early ’11. “They asked us to come in and do a single, we showed up and did 5 songs live, mixed them as we listened back to the takes and put that out.”
But it caught the attention of rocker/producer/iconoclast Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line), who became the trio's biggest ally in their quest for stylistic and emotional clarity. To Cardamone, Wake Up Lucid brought back memories of bands such as the Flamin' Groovies, Led Zeppelin and more, and after he connected with the Bacas they bonded over old-schoolers like Pretty Things, UFO, Alice Cooper and the Groundhogs.
"We just clicked," Ryan says of the work at the Village Recorder that followed several months of writing that Jamie calls "probably the most meticulous process I've ever gone through in a band."
"Joe let us evolve on our own, and by the time we got into the studio he was just like, 'Play it like you practice it,'" Ian says. "He helped us streamline, cut down the unnecessary parts."
"Feel It" is nothing if not stripped-down, its swaths of riffage cutting straight to the bone, and to plenty of basic urges. The saw-toothed title track implores listeners to simply feel; "Drunk on Information" rages against sensory overload (while delivering a little of the sonic variety); "Rising Tide" screeches in me-against-the-world defiance; and "Facepaint" revels in cutting loose after a late-night bender.
Yes, Ian acknowledges, Wake Up Lucid favors high-energy over high-concept, but that's what's in the trio's DNA. "We're more of a 'feel' band," he says, laughing as he realizes where he's gone with his description. "So you're just going to have to feel it."