Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

1947 California Cupcake Company


Kris Graft

Whatzup Features Writer

Published February 15, 2007

Heads Up! This article is 15 years old.

Finding the 1947 California

Cupcake Company proved to be just slightly difficult, but only because

Starbucks are multiplying like bunnies across Fort Wayne. Once whatzup

and the increasingly popular Cupcakes

agreed upon the “correct” Lima Road Starbucks to find each other, the

burning question of where the band came up with their name emerged. Sure, it’s

not the most original question presented to bands, but c’mon, The 1947

California Cupcake Company? Josh Spall, comic book fanatic

and lead vocalist for the two-piece acoustic rock act, says that an obscure

1960s bubblegum pop band called The 1910 Fruit Gum Company inspired the band’s

particularly unusual name. “We drew the year 1947 out of a hat [literally]

and chose California because it was a little exotic considering we’ve lived in

Indiana all our lives,” said Spall.

The band almost called itself

the 1947 Fruit Cup Company, but “Really with just two guys [in our band],

‘fruit’ just gives a bad connotation, you know?” laughed Spall.

The other half of the Cupcakes

is Ramon Volz, guitarist and backup singer, who also leads a few alternate

lives as a second-grade teacher, kids’ soccer coach and guitar instructor.

Despite embracing acoustic rock

today, Volz and Spall were in a metal band in high school called Destiny by

Choice. “We thought we were awesome,” said Spall. “The metal

band was great, but I can only play so many Iron Maiden covers in one day.”

After Spall and Volz’

metal-laced dreams dissolved, the two continued to hang out and make music

anyway. “We just started hanging out in the back of Volz’ truck, just

driving around playing music,” Spall said. “We’d stop in a parking

lot and do cover songs for hours.”

      The close friends, who went to

high school together in Marion (and are big “Jeopardy” fans), say

their music is a cross between “Simon and Garfunkel and Tenacious D”

with a live show that involves plenty of stage antics and audience participation.

The two lay claim to a “huge” following in Marion and began hitting

the Fort Wayne music scene at the now-defunct coffee house Seekers, where they

eventually began hosting open mic nights.

      The Fort Wayne music community

has proven to be an integral part of the band’s growth beyond open mics, as

members of other bands have lent the Cupcakes a helping hand in landing gigs.

“I notice that the Fort Wayne music scene is really close-knit now,”

said Volz “The Fort Wayne music scene is becoming more of a community.

That’s what I like about it.

“The bands that gave us our

first few shows were Pleasing Melani and Left Lane Cruiser. Our first couple of

shows were at Legends playing with those guys. Everyone seems to be closing in

as a group, and it’s really kind of cool. Everybody I meet digs us,” he

said, explaining how a number of fellow Fort Wayne musicians set the Cupcakes

up with shows.

“It’s a lot easier to just

have everyone else do the bookings for us,” added Volz.

“The truth is we’re both

kind of lazy,” joked Spall.

Spall also says that he’s

“really big” into fortwaynemusic.com, where the band has 14 songs

posted on the site’s music section. The online destination has proven to be an

effective hub for local musicians and music lovers to swap gigs or just talk

music.

The Cupcakes’ repertoire is made

up primarily of covers, including pop rock selections such as Extreme’s

“More Than Words,” a reggae version of A-ha’s “Take On Me”

and Beck’s “Where It’s At.”

But Volz says that the band puts

its own twist on familiar tunes.

“We do covers, but we

Cupcake ’em up. People love that because they’re still able to hear something

that they know,” said Volz.

The two also throw into their

set a few originals, some of which are chock-full of sexual innuendo or

otherwise comedic material.

“It’s hilarious. People

just crack up,” said Volz of the Cupcakes’ shows. “We do songs like a

rap about bacon-flavored gumballs. To watch a two-man acoustic group do rap and

somewhat pull it off, people love that.”

The band plays a variety of venues

around Fort Wayne, including Firefly Coffee House, Mad Anthony Brewing Co., 469

Sports and Spirits, among other locations.

Volz and Spall come off as

pretty content with the overall scene, as the two have trouble finding anything

to complain about. The only frustration the Cupcakes sometimes encounter is

when venues ask them to tone down their shows.

“I like to jump off

stages,” Spall admits. While listeners enjoy the enthusiasm, Volz and

Spall say that some venues don’t appreciate the raucousness.

Venue owners in the past also

haven’t appreciated some of the Cupcakes’ racier content. “I hate being

censored, especially in a bar,” explained Spall. “We did a song

called ‘Juicy Juice,'” he recounted of one gig (get your mind in the gutter

to explore what the song might be about). “We played it, the crowd was

going crazy and diggin’ it, and the manager in the bar said, ‘We need to keep

it PG13-family friendly.'”

“‘PG13′ in a 21-and-over

bar,” Volz interjects.

Spall continued, “Our songs

are pure innuendo. There’s no cursing in them. So we revolted and played 20

solid minutes of Disney tunes. We played “Hakuna Matata” for a solid

seven minutes, and the crowd dug it.”

Some of the biggest Cupcakes

milestones include opening for Herman’s Hermits and 1964 – The Tribute at the

Three Rivers Festival, as well as coming in seventh out of around 100 bands in

2005’s Indianapolis iteration of the Emergenza Festival music contest.

But what’s in the Cupcakes’

future? “Four or five years ago, we were like, ‘We’re gonna make it

someday, we’re gonna be huge, we’re gonna blow up,'” explained Spall.

“But we talked about revising the goals about a year ago or so. If we were

going to make it huge, we probably would have made it by now. So we’re just

going to have fun and earn a little money on the side.”

The band has also thrown around

the idea of traveling to Europe, or, on a smaller scale, doing a college tour

in order to spread the Cupcake love. Spall says that the pair plans to do an

album once time allows, possibly in the summer.

The 1947 California Cupcake

Company’s next show is at The Unitarian Universalist Church on February 16 at 7

p.m. For more info on the Cupcakes, check out their MySpace page at

www.myspace.com/the1947californiacupcakecompany.

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