Gary James' Interview With Mike Amaral Of
California Beach Boys Tribute Band
Their name says it all. And how often do you get to say that? Mike Amaral spoke with us about his group
Q - Mike, there must be a reason why you bill your group as California's Beach Boys Tribute Band. Is that to make the distinction between your group and a group that is to say in Ohio?
A - Well, I'm glad you're talking about this. To make a long story short about how we got the name is this: I'd been playing for a number of years, since I was a young man. I started when I was 13 years old. I played professionally until I was 21. Then I got a real job. I became a police officer. And so, mid-way into my career, I wanted to get back into music so I got back into just a Rock 'n' Roll oldies band. I did that for a number of years, but I always wanted to do a Beach Boys band, but nobody was really interested, the musicians I was with at the time. The Beach Boys' music is tough stuff. It's not easy to do. You have to have guys who have a lot of passion. I had to come up with a name. So I got a hold of my web guy and I said I was looking for a name for a Beach Boys Tribute band. Let's come up with something. She said "How about California Beach Boys?" I went "Wow! Terrific." So I bought the domain name and we're playing for about a year and all of a sudden I got a letter from The Beach Boys, which is probably their attorney, and they tell me to cease and desist and you can no longer use Beach Boys in your name. Before this a local musician said "you're gonna get sued." He knew The Beach Boys. I don't know if he told The Beach Boys. They sued me and said you can no longer use the name. You can't wear striped shirts. If you do, you'll be in violation. We have everything all copyrighted. So, I retained an attorney. It cost me $5,000 and we went back and forth and back and forth. Some of the stuff was there's confusion with the consumer who the real Beach Boys are. I said "well, nobody's ever called me and offered me a $150,000 to $200,000 gig yet." Sort of tongue-in-cheek type of thing. They said there has to be a difference between The Beach Boys so there is no confusion. Then I did the research and there was no copyright on the striped shirts. The Beach Boys stopped wearing striped shirts in 1966. It was this other band that was trying to get to me through The Beach Boys. So I said "how about if I call my band The California Beach Boys?" and that was two years ago. (2009) and they haven't bothered me since. That's the story.
Q - That's some story.
A - On the website we had to put Tribute band not associated with The Beach Boys. All the stipulations on the website is what they told us to do. Then they told me "you have to give up your name and give The California Beach Boys name to us." I'm going "I'm not going to give you that name. I paid for it." They wanted to tie up the whole thing. Now, this other band, what they're doing is using California Beach and they put Party, California Beach Band. They've been in business 40 years. We come out number one in the Beach Boys tribute. So, he's wondering how I did it and I didn't do anything. I was in law enforcement for such a long time and written a couple of books, they can't even get around. What they did is started associating everything with their name, so anything with their name came up. So Google finds out about this and put 'em lower in the standing. It's like all this nonsense going on in the background that nobody knows what's going on.
Q - To tell you the truth, I don't even know who's in The Beach Boys anymore.
A - Mike Love sued Brian Wilson. There's a big falling out there. He can't even use Beach Boys. They don't hate each other, but there's like a rift going back and forth. A couple years back, Mike Love kicked out Al Jardine and Al Jardine's son Matt Jardine was in. He used to sing all the high parts. So there's only two left. There's Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. Bruce Johnston came into the band in 1966 to take Brian's place. Dennis (Wilson) died in 1983. Carl died in 1998 and Brian's out of it, so I call it a Beach Boys Tribute Band because there's none of the original players in it. Mike Love's son is in it, then the drummer is John Cowsill, who was in The Cowsills. He sings. It's an eight piece group right now. I think Mike Love is going to be 70 or 71 this year. (2011).
Q - Have you ever met any of the guys in The Beach Boys?
A - This is another story. I don't even think The Beach Boys know about these lawsuits. Two years ago my stepson was working at the grocery store and this guy comes in. Now the same day this happens we're playin' in Los Gates in California and The Beach Boys are playing that same day two hours later about five miles away, a little bit North of us. This guy comes in the grocery store. My stepson says, and the guy's wearing a Beach Boys hat, "Oh, are you in The Beach Boys too?" And he says "Well, kind of. I'm Mike Love from The Beach Boys." "Oh" he says, "my stepdad has a Beach Boys tribute band. Would you sign a piece of paper for me?" He says "Sure." So he puts: To Mike with Love. Mike Love, and it's on like a register piece of paper. And so I've got it framed with an old poster from 1966 of The Beach Boys and the tickets I purchased to go see them right after we got done playing. So, that's the closest I've gotten so far.
Q - When did you put this band together?
A - About 6½, 7 years ago.
Q - I guess we touched on this earlier, but it was hard to find musicians for a Beach Boys tribute act, wasn't it?
A - I was very difficult. It was just a fluke that we all came together. It was my cousin and his son and a couple other players who were really into it. We practiced every week. We'd go over these harmony things because the thing about The Beach Boys is it's bigger than three part harmony. They have a four part harmony. They have a one and a five and then there's a three and a four that hand them each other and that's the uniqueness of it. It's like The Four Freshmen or The Lettermen.
Q - When did you debut the band?
A - What we did is, when people started hearing about us, people started calling us, when we put the group together again. We never did clubs 'cause that was one of the things we never wanted to do. We just wanted to do where people wanted to see us play. It was just like word of mouth. We did public performances and we started developing a following and that's where we are today. We didn't want to play clubs. We just wanted to play venues where people wanted to hear Beach Boys music. This band has just grown in leaps and bounds.
Q - What instruments do you play in the group?
A - Well, I'm the lead singer. I play the Mike Love part, but I also play drums. Most of the time I sing lead. I grew up playing drums when I was a kid.
Q - How often does the band perform?
A - During the warmer months is our busiest time, from April through September. Then the rest of the time we're just working in the studio doing CDs, DVDs and all that sort of stuff.
Q - Of your own music or a tribute to The Beach Boys?
A - We do Beach Boys stuff. The latest one we're doing is called "Double Feature". We did a show in the Sacramento area and we video taped it with a four or five camera shoot. It's almost ready to put out there. We do Beach Boys music, but each song on the DVD is the first one of its kind that I know of. I helped put it together with the video guy. It's a music video. So, you'll see us playing 'live'. Like in "California Girls" you'll see girls on the beach and you'll see them surfing. It's an hour and a half DVD. Each song is an actual song and a music video that goes with it. So, it makes it interesting.
Q - How much competition do you guys have?
A - Well, there's that one band that's been around for about 40 years. We have a couple down South, but I don't feel there's that much competition with it. We're getting some really good events as compared to them. The word gets around who people like and who emulates the band the best. We really maintain that clean look with the striped shirts and the white pants or the grey slacks. We have the white guitars just like The Beach Boys did in the old days. I'm trying to do the retro look 'cause I like the clean look. And it's really made a difference.
Q - Did you ever see The Beach Boys in concert when you were growing up?
A - Oh, yes. That's all I ever did 'cause my cousin would open up for 'em. He'd sneak me in with the band. It was 1964 and I brought the gal I was dating at the time. My poster says the tickets cost $2, $3, $4 and $5. And the crowd was so big they decided to let everybody in for free. I paid like five bucks for the best tickets. It was just awesome to see those guys playing. The girls were screaming. Dennis Wilson was shaking his blonde hair all over the place. I used to see all their shows and I still continue to see 'em.
Q - Your group used to open for a lot of famous Rock bands. How did that happen? Did you know a local promoter?
A - In the old days, it was no big deal. They were a little bit older than me. I played on the same stage with Buffalo Springfield, Sly Stone, Stevie Nicks, Commander Cody, Sopwith Camel. It was like growing up together. That's what everybody did. We played all over California like we do now. They were running these bands all the time. We played with The Doobie Brothers. At the time, you never thought it was a big deal.