LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Carnie Wilson is a tyrant about voice pitch. “I can’t help myself!” she admitted recently. “When somebody is flat, I’m going to be the one to say, ‘you’re flat, get it together – we’re a vocal group.'”
The vocal group she’s referring to is not the one that made her famous – Wilson Phillips – but rather California Saga, a new act that takes the concept of a family band to extremes. Not only is the group comprised of the children of Beach Boys members, California Saga’s material is Beach Boys songs. Its members include Brian Wilson’s daughters, Carnie and Wendy Wilson; Carl Wilson’s son, Justyn Wilson; Dennis Wilson’s son, Carl B. Wilson; Mike Love’s son and daughter, Christian and Ambha (who’s just 16) Love; and Al Jardine’s sons, Matt and Adam Jardine.
“You can hear the history in our voices – little nuances of our parents,” Carnie tells CBS Local during rehearsals on July 10. “It’s really a trip.”
California Saga may be a Beach Boys cover band by the Beach Boys’ spawn, but there’s a twist: They’re not concerned with the hits. “The thing that makes the Beach Boys a diverse, well-rounded group is the fact that they have such depth in their music,” Carnie says. “It’s not just the cars, the surf and the girls – it’s 20/20, it’s Friends, it’s SMiLE.”
A mere three gigs in, California Saga’s repertoire is comprised of hidden gems like “Little Bird,” “Anna Lee, The Healer” and “I Can Hear Music,” all from 1969’s 20/20 and 1968’s Friends, harmony-heavy albums that were more quiet psychedelia than rah-rah surf-pop. The band made its debut on June 2 at the Hollywood Bowl, performing two songs with the Beach Boys. This performance served as a warm-up for the following night in Irvine when the band played a 20-minute set as the Beach Boys’ opening act.
“When we were at Irvine, Mike Love came up to me and his eyes were all bloodshot red, tears in his eyes,” Wilson says, adding that her dad, Brian Wilson, was “blown away” by California Saga. “I was so proud, I sort of flipped out. I burst into tears, because I kept thinking about all the fighting they did all those years when they worked together. Now they’re back together, and us kids are together, too.”
Tuesday night, Love again showed his support for California Saga, whose name stems from a three-song suite on 1973’s Holland album. At the band’s show at Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum, Love showed up unexpectedly for an onstage rendition of “California Girls.”
“All of our parents were pretty happy about the whole thing, and it was an emotional thing for everyone,” says Christian Love, who has played in his father’s Beach Boys touring band for seven years.
California Saga has long been in the works, and many of its members have toured on the Beach Boys Family & Friends tour together in the past. Sparked by the Beach Boys’ reunion kickoff at the Grammys back in February, the idea got momentum. Carnie says she heard from cousin Justyn Wilson first, but that Matt and Adam Jardine “had been asking ‘when when when’ for years.” The family congregated at Carnie’s house months later for rehearsals, with help from her music producer husband, Rob Bonfiglio.
“I was definitely for everyone getting together, because over the years I haven’t really had a chance to hang out with any of these folks,” Christian says.
Both Carnie Wilson and Christian Love are hopeful about the future of California Saga, and its potential to move beyond Beach Boys covers and into original harmonies for an album.
Just this week, Wilson was working on a song with her husband for the band, titled “Golden State Summer.”
Their next show will be at the Beach Boys’ Lake Tahoe concert this weekend. With “America’s Band” hitting Europe on its 50th anniversary reunion tour later this month, Wilson says there’s potential for California Saga to come along.
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local