While the Covid-19 pandemic certainly hit the pause button on live music in Marin County last year, it did not break up the scene; local bands are jamming once again as venues reopen and live events return to the North Bay.
One of Marin’s busiest musicians is Point Reyes–based Danny Vitali, who’s playing in a half-dozen groups right now, and who just released his second album under his own name.
Out now as a digital album and soon coming on blue vinyl, Vitali’s Fronds is a seven-track trip of psychedelic-folk that tells the story of, well, everything.
Born in California, but raised in the Midwest, Vitali relocated to West Marin a decade ago, and his debut solo record, 2016’s Invernesia, was heavily influenced by his surroundings.
“In the five years since (Invernesia), I’ve been traveling around California and exploring it,” Vitali says. “I feel like California is so broad and wide, there’s so much to see.”
After taking in sights ranging from Mount Lassen to Death Valley, Vitali used that expanded landscape to fuel his creativity, making Fronds a somewhat musical continuation of Invernesia.
Yet, Vitali plunges his indie-folk style into deeper waters on Fronds, creating his most ambient tones yet—such as the album’s hypnotic instrumental title track—as well as crafting his catchiest song to date, “The Afterglow,” which is a heavy contender for Marin’s song of the summer.
Thematically, Fronds contains a compelling narrative arc that Vitali compares to a sci-fi fantasy story.
“Sort of like an alternate world that you enter in the first song,” he says. “And you go through kind of like a psychedelic trip.”
In that trip, Vitali experiences the death of the ego in the song “The Big Beyond” and finds clarity in the final track “Alturas,” which both refers to the idea of altruism and is the name of a tiny town next to Modoc National Forest in the northeast corner of California.
“I was reading a lot of Ursula K. Le Guin,” Vitali says.
Recorded before the pandemic, in the Bay Area’s acclaimed Tiny Telephone Studios, Fronds features the talents of Rob Shelton (production, synthesizers, keyboards), Luke Temple (co-production, guitar, synthesizer, vocals) Dylan Squires (guitars, vocals, co-writing), Michael Pinkham (drums), Andrew Maguire (percussion), Paul Spring (vocals) and Carly Bond (vocals).
When the pandemic shuttered the North Bay in March 2020, Vitali says he began stress gardening and refocused on completing the album’s production and release. Given that the record was recorded analog and straight to tape, he says the imminently-arriving vinyl is the ideal way to experience Fronds. “It makes a lot more sense when you hear it in that format,” he says. “Really loud.”
Now that West Marin destinations like the Old Western Saloon and Smiley’s Schooner Saloon are reopening, Vitali splits his time by playing with several local outfits including the Haggards, Kelly McFarling’s band, the West Marin Grateful Dead Appreciation Society led by Alex Bleeker and more.
“I’m playing in about eight groups right now, and everybody has a record coming,” Vitali says. “It’s going to be a fun, outdoor-show summer, and I’m looking forward to it all.”