Blues indie band rocks green

Kimberly Krieger

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Drew Schwartz, the 22-year-old front-man of the The Watchtowers, is environmentaly conscious in and outside of his band. Photo Credit: Kimberly Krieger / Staff Reporter

The vibration and beats of blues-infused indie rock reverberated through a tiny second floor apartment in Santa Monica. This is where Drew Schwartz and The Watchtowers practice for their up-coming gigs.

One of their upcoming concerts is taking place at Trip Bar in Santa Monica May 20, and all of the proceeds will go toward the environmental beach group, Heal the Bay.

Schwartz and his band members, stand-up bass player Dylan McCabe, electric guitarist Antonio Rodrigo and drummer Zakary Iannitelli, feel strongly about helping the environment.

“When I released my EP initially, it was all on recycled materials, and the t-shirts were printed on recycled shirts,” Schwartz said. “I do everything I can.”

Schwartz found the gig, he said, by chance while feverishly searching for new places to play on Google. Originally from Buffalo, New York, the 22-year-old front-man titled his latest EP “Go West & Grow Up,” pairing bluesy, acoustic riffs with experimental sounds and emotional vocals.

“We just finished my tour, and I started booking and playing shows before I had a place to live here,” Schwartz said.

Drummer Zakary Iannitelli, 21 came from New Jersey, but his band members said he fits the California lifestyle perfectly. Although he isn’t tied to any environmental groups in L.A., Iannitelli said he would help out his community back home.

“I was a big part of the Ocean City community, and we always did cleanups as surfers. It’s like, my second home,” Iannitelli added.

A picture of Ianitelli’s dog, Duncan McCloud, hangs off of one of his smaller African Djembe drums. Tinkering with different computers, microphones and instruments, Iannitelli picked up an oblong wind instrument, the didgeridoo, and recorded its sound. As the band began to play their song “Darwinism,” Ianitelli played the drums with his hands, while using his feet to play the tambourine.

“Basically, I find anything that makes noise and turn it into an instrument,” Ianitelli said, who also said he has had no formal training.

Ianitelli and stand-up bassist Dylan McCabe, 20, make up the back band, The Watchtowers.
They said they first met Schwartz on a wild night of partying. For their past two shows, they have gone acoustic because Antonio Rodrigo, their electric guitarist, is out of town.

Their last live show was at Rusty’s Surf Ranch in Santa Monica on April 9, and McCabe said that Drew Schwartz and The Watchtowers gathered a larger crowd than the headlining band.

“After us, everyone left, and they are a signed band,” McCabe said.

“People were drained afterwards, they cheered so loud and hard,” Schwartz added.

Schwartz uses a lot of energy on stage, McCabe said, and described his stage presence as something similar to a young James Brown.

“It’s all about hard work, and Drew just has bags and bags of it,” McCabe said.

Though his band-mates hale from different parts of the U.S., McCabe is native to Los Angeles, and has volunteered for Heal The Bay in the past.

“I only volunteered with Heal The Bay for about two weeks, but I’ll probably go back,” McCabe said.

Along with this, McCabe regularly volunteers for Treepeople, an environmental organization that promotes the planting and growth of trees.

“My goal if I can’t make it with these two is to join the forest service,” McCabe said.

After starting with Treepeople about a year ago, McCabe began taking kids on reforestation hikes, and he said he plants trees at least twice a week.

“I’m going to buy national forests when I’m rich and famous,” McCabe added.

In addition to their environmentally conscious performance on May 20, Drew Schwartz and The Watchtowers are also performing acoustic on April 23 at the Voodoo Lounge in Hollywood, and on May 2 at Brick By Brick in San Diego.