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Friday, October 22, 2021

Student Sounds: Tempura

TEMPURA / COURTESY
TEMPURA / COURTESY

Student musicians talk Boysenberry Funk, choosing a band name and Open Mic Nights

Kelly Chang, a third-year design major, hurriedly drove her band, Tempura, to its next gig. In the back, her bandmates were wedged between instruments, all rattling around in the backseat, anticipating their performance.

“We have all of this shit crammed into our car, all these drums on [top of] us in the back seat,” recalled Sam Hornstein, a third-year biological systems engineering major and the band’s bassist. “And [Chang] was driving, and [she] asked, ‘Are we a band?’”

The three of them laughed in recollection of the event, reinforcing their friends-turned-bandmates dynamic.

“I remember [Sam] said, ‘This is like the moment you want to tell someone you love them, but you don’t know how to say it,’” Chang said.

But the evolution of Tempura was more gradual than this tale suggests. The band members met the way most first-years do: Chang’s roommates were high-school friends of Hornstein, and Hornstein lived in the dorms two doors down from Kawayan De Guzeman, a third-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major and the band’s guitarist and vocalist.

Chang recalls meeting De Guzeman, however, in a more memorable way.

“I was jamming with another group of people, and then [Kawayan] showed up in [his] shower shoes, shirtless and in a towel,” Chang said. “Literally we were outdoors, in Segundo.”

The fourth member, Kelly Hutchinson, has since left UC Davis, but he remains significant to the band’s origins.

Before Tempura started performing — or even calling itself a band — the members simply got together to jam. Eventually, they planned their first show at one of Entertainment Council’s Open Mic Nights. And, to the band’s surprise, people were more than impressed; listeners approached them after their set, asking if the four would perform at various events and house shows in Davis.

Since then, Tempura has become a local favorite at house shows and small parties. The band spends the majority of its musical efforts on live shows, but have released one track on SoundCloud, titled “Pink Submarines,” and hope to release more recorded content in the near future. They plan to continue their live shows as well.

“We have a Wine to Water performance, which is a fundraiser for Engineers Without Borders,” Hornstein said. “And we’re trying to play Picnic Day again, and maybe a couple other house shows.”

But before Tempura became Tempura, the band struggled to find a name. In fact, during their first CoHo performance over a year ago, the band had no title. Thinking little of it at the time, they presented themselves by the most random words they could think of: “Boysenberry Funk.” Despite the moniker, their music is not funky, nor particularly fruity.

Chang recalls getting emails in the following days beginning with “Hey Boysenberry.”

And, though amused at the result of their success, they chose to spend more energy on giving themselves an official title.

“We thought hard about [our band name]. We were like, okay guys, Boysenberry Funk… we made that on a whim,” De Guzeman said. “We got to think of something legit before it gets too permanent. So we started brainstorming.”

Though the name was a top contender, Hornstein recalls a few strangers’ approval that served as a solidifying force.

“[De Guzeman] came up with ‘Tempura,’ and I was kind of on the fence about it, but I saw these two guys [outside De Guzeman’s apartment] who asked me, ‘Yo, you guys jamming in there? What are you guys called?’” Hornstein said. “And I said we were still thinking about it, but one of the names was Tempura. He said, ‘That’s a cool name, man.’ And I was like, ‘Alright.’”

Among the many names the band’s members bounced off each other (including The Stumps and Folk-A-Dots), they finally settled on Tempura, especially liking that it was just one word. The name suits them well; tempura, a deep-fried Japanese dish, is both flavorful and well-loved — Tempura is no different.
Written by: Ally Overbay — arts@theaggie.org

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