Three shows in a span of five days earlier this month offered an example of the musical diversity of Champagne Sunday. They have enough blues influence to play Old Town Blues Festival, are rocking enough to play Art on the Ave the following day, and can tone things down enough to play an acoustic gig at Mandolin Cafe a few days later.
The band consists of Jessi Reems-Terrell on vocals, Jared Fredeen on guitar, Matt Gay on drums and Tony Shibumi on bass.
While based in Ventura, Calif., they have played enough shows up here that local residents are getting familiar with their unique sound.
They formed five years ago. Reems-Terrell grew up in Ventura. She was exposed to much music as a child, as both her parents are musicians. When they split up her father, Mitch Reems, moved to Tacoma. He is well known as a member of the New Blues Brothers Revue.
Fredeen had moved from Pennsylvania to California and was playing solo acoustic shows, as was Reems-Terrell. They met when they shared a bill one night. The bar owner suggested they collaborate.
Gay was 15 when they were assembling the band. His uncle recommended him. The duo selected another drummer but told Gay to touch base when he graduated from high school. Two years ago they hired him.
“He was relentless. He really liked what we were doing,” Fredeen commented.
Shibumi is the newest member, joining in April.
The group has released two albums and an EP.
A Mexican restaurant near the beach in Ventura has a Champagne brunch every Sunday. For $16 patrons could have all the food and glasses of Champagne they could consume. It was a popular draw for the members of the band in the early days, when they were trying to come up with a name. “We used to drink them dry,” Reems-Terrell said with a laugh.
A group of mariachi musicians used to play there and would let her and Fredeen grab their guitars to play a few numbers. A friend of hers wrote the words Champagne Sunday on a piece of paper and they used it for the band name.
It caused some confusion at first when clubs would put their name on the reader board. Some people would walk in expecting a brunch, not a musical performance.
Last winter the members decided to take their commitment to music all the way. They quit their jobs, bought a recreational vehicle and decided to hit the road.
“We have been making sacrifices all our adult lives,” Reems-Terrell observed.
They attempted to put together a West Coast tour of college campuses, which fell through. They landed one gig at Lake Chelan and headed north to play it. They ended up spending five months in Tacoma.
They played an open mic at Malarkey’s in Tacoma, which led to some gigs opening up for Led Zeppelin tribute band Kashmir. They played around the Puget Sound during this time.
It is impossible to put Champagne Sunday into a particular category. Some of their tunes have a blues feel. Others are rockers. One would fit perfect in a theatrical musical, a nod to Reems-Terrell’s drama background. She notes the four members have diverse musical interests. Shibumi is a jazz/fusion buff. Gay grew up on classic rock as well as more recent rock. Fredeen is rooted in the alternative rock of the early 1990s.
“Our musical journeys are so vast,” Reems-Terrell said.
“People ask what kind of music we play. I call it experience rock,” Gay remarked. “I tell people it is Bette Midler meets Pearl Jam.”
“It is a blessing and a curse,” Fredeen said. “Marketing is a nightmare for us.”
It can be difficult to put together a bill with other bands their style fits well with, Reems-Terrell added.
“Our music is appealing to all sorts of people,” she remarked. “We get people at our shows from 4 to 80.”
“We combine a lot of things into our shows and people seem to respond well,” Fredeen said.
“You do not need to limit yourself to just one flavor of ice cream,” Reems-Terrell observed.
One original tune has a part in the middle that combines Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.
Reems-Terrell is a huge Jackson fan. She recalls visiting her father in Tacoma when she was 9 and listening to the “Thriller” album. This resulted in her writing a song. “I love Michael Jackson. That was so inspiring.”
While Fredeen and Reems-Terrell are the primary songwriters, they note the others make unique contributions. “The new members bring their own flavor to the compositions,” Fredeen said. “All four of us have a hand in the sound,” Reems-Terrell added.
Champagne Sunday plays Hi-Fidelity Lounge in Bremerton at 9 p.m. on July 23, Doyle’s Pub in Tacoma at 9 p.m. on July 24 and Jazzbones in Tacoma at 8 p.m. on July 28. For more information visit www.champagnesunday.com.