NAMM NAMM NAMMITY NAMM...

Sean's NAMM Badge and Rabea Massad playing guitar at Chapman Guitars/Victory Amps Booth

Sean's NAMM Badge and Rabea Massad playing guitar at Chapman Guitars/Victory Amps Booth

I’ll never forget the first time I was told about the NAMM show. I was 14 and just started paying attention to the equipment I was using. I was fascinated by all the little boxes on the floor, the amps and speakers, and of course the guitars. And then my guitar teacher tells me about this crazy NAMM convention that takes place every year. He tells me to imagine Guitar Center and multiply it by 1,000 and how every year the companies come and debut their new products for the year. So every year between January and March I was entrenched in all manner of magazine and internet coverage of the show. And then one day I finally got invited to my first NAMM show. It was everything I wanted it to be! And then I went to another and then another. Before I knew it we had arrived at 2017 and I would be attending NAMM for the tenth time…but this time it was a little bit different.

NAMM has always been a big deal to me. I’ve met a lot of really great people, but this year I had the opportunity to work for Victory Amps and Chapman Guitars. As a YouTuber, Rob Chapman holds a bit of a legendary status and the prospect of working within his circle presented new relationships and opportunities. I couldn’t have asked to work with a better crew that weekend. From Martin and Aaron of Victory to Rabea, Matt, Hannah, and Johnny from Chapman we all buckled down to help each other and make sure everyone left NAMM happy! I really have to thank them for their efforts. I’ve worked many NAMM shows where I felt the burden lay solely on my shoulders and it was clear to me that they all cared about what they were doing. Thank you guys!

NAMM has also become a bit of a reunion for me as well. Because of what I do as a guitarist, songwriter, and YouTube demonstrator I’ve been able to befriend many people within the gear community. People like Robert Keeley, Josh Scott of JHS pedals, and Brian Wampler all have become colleagues and people who I enjoy seeing and talking to. And then you get to make new friends like Daniel Tyack of Salvage Custom pedalboards, Gabriel Tenorio of GTSCo. and more! And then your old college buddies come back into town! That can only mean one thing…a big party! 

                                                          Gabriel Tenorio winds all his guitar strings by hand, one at a time!

                                                          Gabriel Tenorio winds all his guitar strings by hand, one at a time!

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Robert Keeley and Gabriel Tenorio we all headed to East LA to Gabriel’s shop for the “Secret Taco Hang”. I’m not certain if nearly 70 people in attendance counts as secret though…

We were treated to quite possibly the GREATEST TACOS EVER, coffee roasted and brewed by our friends at MadLab Coffee, and beer from our friends at Three Weavers not to mention a raffle with prizes provided by MORE of our friends.

Notice something though…all these people I count as friends. The entire weekend I was surrounded by people who are hard working, goal driven, and doing their best to be positive. I didn’t hear a single negative phrase all weekend and everyone I saw supported each other. We could all use that in our lives. Take it from me…2017 is going to be a lot better than you think. We Cockeyed Optimists all believe so.

                                                     Sean and Zach at the Secret Taco Hang with Robert Keeley and our friends from the rock band Co-Op. 

                                                     Sean and Zach at the Secret Taco Hang with Robert Keeley and our friends from the rock band Co-Op. 

I hate Halloween...

What can I say about Halloween? I’m not a fan. I don’t get spending a crap-load on a costume that you’re only gonna wear once. And yes, the good costumes are pricey. The cheap ones rip as soon as you put them on.Yes, I’m talking to you Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton version costume branded for Disney.

And let’s talk about giving out candy. I’m always buying too little or too much candy. One year, I’ll think not that many kids will come by and then, BOOM! outta candy. The next, I’ll get extra candy and sit around for weeks afterward guiltily eating it myself. 

But as it FINALLY cooled down in SoCal signaling that we may yet, get Autumn this year, I thought we should put a Halloween themed song online. Now what song should it be? Well, as my obsession with The Cure continues, this summer we started working out a cover version of “Lullaby”. 

Hmmmm….. spiders…. blissfully dead…. it’s much too late to turn on the light. Now THAT sounds a bit spooky. Not to mention one of the most awesome bass lines ever written. Since I’m not going to wish you “Happy Halloween!”, I’ll instead say Hope you enjoy our version of Lullaby by The Cure

-Cynda

Where there's smoke...

I don't know what it is with us and fire lately. One week Cynda sets her hair on fire and the next a wildfire breaks out in the hills near my house.

The day started out quite nice. I had been enjoying a nice lunch out with friends when I get a text from my cousin asking me if I had to evacuate. Heck of a way to start a conversation isn't it? Long story short, a wildfire had broken out in the hills behind where I live in Orange County. As I rushed home, I could see a plume of smoke in the distance but the presence of two fire-fighting choppers and a lack of worry from my neighbors put me at ease. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to grab my most valued and loved guitar, my laptop, recording studio computer, hard drives with our master recordings, and a change of clothes just in case. Thanks to the work of the fine OC Fire Fighters no homes were lost and the fire was extinguished quickly. So naturally I had to see what it looked like...

It was a wasteland: burnt plants covered the ground in a thick, black ash. Tree trunks that still stood were charred and void of any leaf and only a few patches of yellow grass still stood. Immediately I thought "this would be a great place to shoot a music video!".

So early one fine morning a week later Cynda, Nick, Zach and I found ourselves hauling our cameras, instruments, and a few chairs down into that wasteland to shoot a live acoustic version of "Half Life". The setting was perfect, a "place of waste and pain". But the beauty of the wasteland and hard times is that life will return one day and that place of pain will become beautiful once more. We hope you enjoy the video and we'll see you all real soon!

- Sean

Through the fire and the flames, we carry on

It began like any other night…a band, their instruments, and a few iPhones in Video mode. The goal? Film and record a live acoustic version of their song “Black Hole”. What followed is a prime example of a night where you SHOULD just stop and give up. But this is not one of those stories…

We are Cockeyed Optimist. That means we do things a bit differently. No matter how many things may go awry, we press on towards our goal.

Everything had been going well: we set up the microphones and cameras, ran a quick soundcheck, and all was on track to run as smoothly as possible. But when you’re a four piece band trying to record audio and video of yourselves there are plenty of things that can go wrong. 

Take 1: After listening back, we realized we couldn’t hear Cynda…at all. So we decide to add in a handheld microphone

Take 2: We had way too many candles on the table in front of us, making it difficult for Cynda to sing and light them all before the song could end. Okay, fine. Take away a few candles.

Take 3: All seemed well…famous last words. Intro, Verse 1, Chorus 1…awesome! This take is going great so far. Verse 2, we almost get through it. As we launch ourselves into Chorus 2, out of the corner of my eye I see Nick. He has this extreme look on his face. My first thought, in all honesty was: “Nick, you’re messing up a good take!”. Then the words leave his lips: “FIRE! FIRE! YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE!!!”

Turning to my right I see Cynda. But there’s something different: her hair is ablaze! Without even thinking all I could do was swat her hair to put out the flame. A few swats later the fire is out…thankfully. Cynda’s okay, my hand isn’t burnt, Nick is sitting down again, and Zach is finally able to pick his jaw up off the floor. It’s hard to really process all of this with the lingering scent of burnt hair in the room and the idea of giving up has begun to sink in.

But we decide to go on. We’re all hear for a reason and we might as well finish.

Take 4: Cynda pulls her back and we dive in. We think we’ve got it! But then, we go to check the cameras and realize one of them stopped mid-take. UGH! Great. Wonderful. We decide to go for it one more time.

Take 5: THIS IS THE TAKE! All goes well. The candles get lit in time, the band sounds good, and all cameras got every minute of it! As we celebrate a good take, Cynda looks to her wireless microphone to turn it off and makes a startling discovery: the microphone was muted during the entire take! I think Charlie Brown says it best: “oh good grief”

It’s late. Like, really late. We’re tired. Do we really want to do another take? Are we going to perform well or was that the straw that broke the camel’s back? Then Cynda gets an idea: “What if I just record a vocal overdub?” Not a bad idea at all.

And that’s how life is: not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes you get a 75% Live take. You don’t always get 100% the first try…or the fifth. But that’s okay. In the end, being a Cockeyed Optimist is about seeing the good that comes out of every situation. The good out of this? What you’re about to watch: a (mostly) Live version of “Black Hole”.

We hope you enjoy and can see the candle in the Black Hole that you might be in.

Just like going home...

...or so I was told. When the idea of playing a few songs for the students at my old school was presented to me, I have to admit that I was slightly resistant. 

Campbell Hall will always hold a special place in my heart. It was at that school that I discovered my love of Music and performing. I performed in front of a live audience for the first time when I was 14 and it was on that campus. But like many of us, high school holds some not so sweet memories. As a teen I was constantly picked on and bullied. It probably would come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I was once picked on because I wore a Gibson guitars jacket regularly my sophomore year. (You can't make this up.)

As the students filed into the gym I felt a bit of the nerves creep up. These kids only had vague ideas of who I was and who we as a band were and what we did. But I decided to do what we do best: dive in head first and give them the best of us. The response was thunderous! I could not have fathomed the reaction. I am truly humbled to have been given the reaction we got. I am thankful for the opportunity to show them what we do. And I am excited to go onwards and upwards!

- Sean