Welcome 2009 with Carlsbad’s Stone Senses

Probably one of the most successful bands to come out of Carlsbad, Stone Senses is getting ready to close out the year at The Royal Dive in Oceanside in support of their second full length album, Live It Up.
For those of you who don’t know, Stone Senses is comprised of seven members, most of them North County natives. Their blend of soulful roots rock reggae has set fire to the standard of reggae music and the fiery trail left behind them of rabid fans and satisfied music critics has been smoldering since the band’s inception in 2004.
The band has successfully encompassed San Diego’s relaxed lifestyle and penchant for the mellow, which could be reason one that the band has enjoyed serenading audiences (local and not) more than 400 times.
They’ve shared the stage with headlining national acts like reggae sensations The Wailers, Don Carlos, The Abyssianians, Natural Vibrations, The Aggrolites and Bedouin Soundclash. They have played to sold-out crowds throughout San Diego at venues like The House of Blues, The Belly Up, The Coachhouse, Cane’s, SOMA, Reggae Day at the Del Mar Fair and Harrah’s Rincon. Stone Senses released their second full-length album in August called “Live It Up.” Reviews on the album have been pouring in from reggae music sites like www.thepier.com, which hailed it as the band’s “critical step from wearing its influences on its sleeve to defining its own sound.”
The band has always had an interesting two-singer dynamic, with each singer possessing a unique ability. Eric Castaneda sings on the more upbeat ska/reggae tracks while Mike O’Gara possesses the soul and emotion of the band’s signature sound.
Tracks like “My Little Angel” showcase O’Gara’s great singing ability and it’s quite refreshing to hear him really open up and belt out those melodies.
The new album is an excellent evolution in the maturing band’s catalog. Hopefully the positive response toward O’Gara’s tracks will allow the singer more confidence to continue to explore and develop more of the sound captured on “Live It Up.” Other notable tracks are an acoustic rendition of “Broken Crown,” previously released on the band’s debut album “Harder Than the Rest” — which is not too unlike a Bradley Nowell acoustic gem — and “Regret.”
I caught up with Stone Senses’ sax and keyboard player/manager Mike Flanagan to talk briefly about the band and their latest release.
“The new album is a little more upbeat with more rock infused into the reggae than on our last one,” Flanagan said. “It’s not as laid back as ‘Harder.’ I think it’s just the direction we’re heading towards which is a mix between reggae rock and rock. The sound is always developing.” Flanagan also mentioned that they’ve recently added a new drummer and bass player to the mix and have been busy getting their two newest members caught up to speed on all their songs, especially in time for their big New Year’s Eve show at The Royal Dive.
“Live It Up” was again produced and released by the members of Stone Senses. “We did everything ourselves again for this album,” Flanagan said. “It takes a lot of social networking and word-of-mouth to make a self-release successful. But it’s been doing really well so far on iTunes and you can also buy it at Spin and Lou’s Records locally. We’re just getting our ducks in a row for the New Year because we’re planning on hitting the road going up to NorCal, Oregon, the Northwest and Arizona.”
If reggae isn’t really your thing (and it’s not really mine either), Stone Senses still has something that appeals to rock fans. If you like Sublime or Pepper, you’ll fall in love with Stone Senses as well. If you’re in the mood for some good local music, drop in to The Royal Dive this New Year’s Eve and hear the new tunes for yourself and pick up a copy of it at the merch table while you’re at it.
Just one listen to “Live It Up,” and you’ll find yourself imagining you’re on the beach with a pina colada in hand watching the waves roll in. And that can’t be bad.
For more information on Stone Senses including shows, pictures and video, visit www.myspace.com/stonesenses.

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