The homegrown band Whitestarr has been named the headliner of the 3rd annual Battle for De Beach, a band competition event produced by the Malibu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
The competition, billed in a Surfrider press release as “a unique fusion of environmentalism and music that will increase awareness of coastal water quality issues facing our beaches and waves,” as well as attract new members and raise funds, will take place Saturday night at Hollywood’s Viper Room.
Whitestarr, a local band comprised mostly of sons of parents who are music legends, has a sound that is seventies Southern with a decidedly modern edge.
Drummer Alex Orbison is the son of immortal rock and roller Roy Orbison, and guitarist Duane Betts is the son of Southern rock legend Dicky Betts (the Allman Brothers Band). Damon Webb plays bass, and Whitestarr’s two lead singers are Cisco Adler and Asher Levin. Stoney Potato is the band’s stage dancer.
Fresh off the Kid Rock, Rock n’ Roll Pain Train world tour and the Atlantic Records release of its first album, Whitestarr talked recently about their music, which is firmly rooted in the traditional feel-good sounds that made the music of the seventies so enduring.
With frequent comparisons to the Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones, Adler describes Whitestarr as dirty, nasty and sexy, and a translation of their lifestyle. Co-lead singer Levin credits their diverse musical influences for their layered sound. And drummer Orbison points out, “People hear some of their favorite bands in our music.”
The music is the key for band mates. Betts explained that Levin writes the lyrics with Adler, and then the band gathers and organically develops melodies that embrace the words. “We all just pick up the vibe and the song is born.”
Many of those tracks, ones that will appear on the upcoming Atlantic Records release, were produced by Natasha Shneider and Alain Johannes, the same producers credited with records by No Doubt, Queens of the Stone Age and former Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell.
While Whitestarr concedes there’s plenty of room to grow, the band has already attracted a devoted following.
Whitestarr became Malibu favorites in 2001 by playing weekly gigs at the Malibu Inn, and today the band members still rehearse on the sunny shores of the coastal city. Before 2001, singers Adler and Levin were going it alone, and Betts, Orbison, and Webb were part of another local ensemble, Backbone69. Stoney Potato was in law school.
Whitestarr was formed under tenuous circumstances. Backbone69’s lead singer, Chris Williams (son of songwriter Jerry Lynn Williams), had died in a car accident on a narrow mountain road, an accident that greatly affected the community and the local band scene.
“There was a tribal vibe,” Betts said. “It was like the tribe lost its chief.”
Solemnly, Betts added that Whitestarr has reached a place that his friend Chris would be proud of and would likely be a part of.
Malibu has always been like a family to the band, sharing in both the tragedy and triumph of their talented sons. Orbison in particular reminisced at how Malibu provided much needed support when his father died.
“The community embraced me,” Orbison said.
While the band shares the genes of many rock and roll greats, including music impresario Lou Adler, Cisco’s father, they’re going on their own with talent, but advice from their families.
More information about the Battle of De Beach can be obtained at www.surfrider.org/SFMalibu or by calling 310.451.1010.