Walking into World Records was a little like stepping back in time. Not only was it crowded with customers seeking out unique LPs on Record Store Day, some of Bakersfield’s music royalty were there, casually sitting around circular tables, decorated to look like records.
It was a family reunion of sorts, if you were around in the early 1990s when the Bakersfield music scene was thriving and bands like Spike 1000, Cradle of Thorns, Jumping Trains and Brian Jones Was Murdered were familiar faces in local venues like Jerry’s Pizza and Bottom’s Up (now Riley’s).
At the ripe old age of 30, still clinging to the idealism of a 20-something, Charles McNeil decided to form a band.
It wasn’t his first band, but it would be the last one birthed in Bakersfield. Of course, no one knew that then. All they knew was this unusual marriage of punk and pop melded together to create a sound unlike any other to come out of Bakersfield before or since.
When I first saw them play in 1998, they were a mop-topped Beatle-esque foursome, belting their lyrics into 1950s-style mics. Twenty years later, they look a little different, and only two of the original members remain – but they can still entertain a crowd.
When asked where the name came from, McNeil described his long flight to England in the early ’90s and his exhausted pilgrimage to the grave of Brian Jones, founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones. A fan since he was a kid, McNeil was fairly obsessed with Jones at the time, and when he later decided to form the band, the name just seemed right.
Bass player David Pearson, also a Bakersfield native and the only other original member, shares in the singing and songwriting. When I asked them who the lead singer is, they turned the question around, asking me who the lead singer of the Beatles was, John or Paul? They’re a pair of bookends on stage, but each of them contributes their own unique flair.
As for the band’s other members, there has been a rotating cast of drummers and lead guitarists over the years, but current drummer Joe Curet has been with the group a year now.
Originally from Chicago, he spent his formative years in Nashville, touring with rockabilly punk band This Train, even playing a show in Bakersfield somewhere along the way. He says his claim to fame is having been to every state in the union, except Alaska. After moving to Los Angeles in 2016, he was having a hard time finding someone looking for a drummer, until he answered an ad Charles and David had placed on Craigslist.
“In Nashville, you can throw a rock and hit somebody looking for a drummer. When I moved to LA, it took forever to find anybody to play with. So I was so happy to find these guys. When I heard their music, I knew I would fit right in,” said Curet, whose soft-spokenness belies his humility. A left-handed drummer, he contributes a lot to the group’s sound. And he can sing. They plan to get him on a mic soon.
Lead guitarist Dan Delcastillo has more of a punk rock background, but since BJWM’s sound is a hybrid, it works well. An Orange County native, he spent some time playing with the Road Vultures, a punk band out of New York, as well as various other Los Angeles bands before finding Charles and David, also on Craigslist. He’s been playing lead guitar since the band reformed almost three years ago.
They group plans to continue playing shows around Los Angeles and do some more recording. They would love to come back and play another show in Bakersfield, if they can find a venue that will have them. They’re not your mother’s cover band, but they’re also not going to draw the teenage hordes.
Ultimately, it can be hard finding where they fit in.
“It’s something we ran into back in the ’90s,” said McNeil. “We weren’t punk rock enough to play with the punk bands and we weren’t mellow enough to play the alternative scene.”
In an effort to relaunch the band, BJWM remastered its original 1997 LP, “Death of a Popstar,” releasing it as a 20th anniversary edition in 2017. They will be performing at the upcoming International Pop Overthrow Festival in Los Angeles this summer. ￼