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
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