As rock bands go, the Aviators are seriously lacking in at least one vital area. They are entirely too responsible.
They're punctual. They avoid unnecessary drama. They don't trash their hotel rooms after shows.
"We're the most non-rock and roll band of rock and roll bands," says Aviators lead vocalist August Young. "We show up on time, we play our scheduled slot, we get off the stage."
That no-nonsense approach is, at least in Young's case, the product of a work ethic that might incapacitate the average joe. For the past decade he has been driving forklifts, dollying refrigerators and delivering restaurant food for eight, 10, 12 hours a day and then, usually on weekends, driving to L.A. or the Central Coast for a show that might last till 1 a.m.
Monday morning invariably rolls around all too soon but, hey, the rent doesn't pay itself.
"He's been a superhero," said Jon Lee, Young's boss at Emser Tile, the floor tile wholesaler where he has worked as warehouse manager for almost four years. "It's almost like he's been living a double life all these years. We work long hours here and he has still found the energy to have this other career."
This week Young's "other career" officially became a much more significant part of his life: He has joined forces with Japanese guitarist Akio "Jimmy" Sakurai and will take a hiatus from the Aviators to embark on a new direction. His last day at Emser Tile was Friday.
Young's new role: That of Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant, perhaps rock music's all-time greatest screamer. Young has the pipes to pull it off, too.
Some would call Sakurai's band, Mr. Jimmy, a Led Zeppelin cover band, but, as the Hollywood Reporter proclaimed in a recent review, Sukurai does not impersonate legendary rock guitarist Jimmy Page so much as inhabit him.
Page himself concurred after seeing Sakurai one night in 2012 in a Tokyo club. The moment of their meeting is preserved in a documentary film, "Mr. Jimmy," which is making the rounds at film festivals around the country — most recently at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and the DocLands documentary film festival in San Rafael. (We only get a glimpse of Young near the end, since the film had all but wrapped by the time he joined the band.)
A Led Zeppelin tribute band? Hardly, says filmmaker Peter Michael Dowd, whose full-length documentary earned a 100 percent score from Rotten Tomatoes.
"I sometimes feel like I’m there seeing the best band that ever was, at their absolute peak," Dowd told Japan Times.
This is the world in which Young, Stockdale High '07, now finds himself.
He looks the part with his Foo Fighters T-shirt and shoulder-length curls but, more important, he sounds the part. Young has Plant's nuanced shriek-moan nailed down so well, the audience in a darkened club might momentarily believe Plant had somehow rediscovered his shredded vocal chords.
That makes him a great match for Sakurai, who knows the Zep catalogue of songs so well he can perform spot-on "live" versions from any era in the band's recorded history — and he looks the part, too, from Page's sunburst-finish Gibson Les Paul to his black dragon stage costume and mat of black hair.
Young, who joined Mr. Jimmy in May 2018 and played his first show with them in August 2018, had to lose 30 pounds in order to pull off Plant's trademark too-small, open shirt look. He took no shortcuts. "Running and eating right," he said. "I was a little overweight."
He also had to take time off from his day job in order to play on several road trips with Mr. Jimmy, including Tokyo, but he still managed to keep show dates with the Aviators (so named because their first gig was in a hangar in Shafter).
Good thing Young has the support of his Aviators bandmates and particularly co-founder Dan Foster Reynoso, with whom he goes way back — all the way back to Warren Junior High. They went to different high schools but attended Bakersfield College together for a while, although they spent more time making music than studying, with predictable results. Now they're 30-year-olds doing 30-year-old-type things such as, in Reynoso's case, raising a family. Reynoso's wife was in labor Tuesday.
"If it wasn't for the Aviators who've been playing all this Zeppelin stuff, I would've had a harder time learning it," Young said, acknowledging drummer Sherwin Smith, guitarist Matt Purdy, bassist Matt Reid and Reynoso. "This (job with Mr. Jimmy) helps promote the Aviators too. 'Yeah, check out August's show with Mr. Jimmy in Tokyo.'"
Mr. Jimmy, with its new lead singer, is scheduled to play a June 8 show in Los Angeles, but if you don't already have tickets, don't bother: It's already sold out. Your next chance will be Aug. 17 at Petie's Place in Tarzana, Aug. 20-26 at the Aspen Film Festival, and Dec. 16-20 in Tokyo, Japan. In between, Young is back with the Aviators.
Grueling? Sure, but Young has proven stamina for this kind of thing.
They're rooting for him back at the tile warehouse.
"It's bittersweet," says Lee. "We're going to miss him but we knew from the start he was destined for bigger and better things."