Eight years after breaking up, a popular local rock
band regroups and releases a new/old album
The trip to Hollywood should have come eight years
ago, when Phallucy was one of Sacramento's leading
alternative-rock bands. But on a recent November
morning, cases are stuffed with instruments and duffel
bags are packed as the band hits the highway for a gig
on Sunset Strip.
A suitcase is loaded with copies of "Valium," an
album that was recorded by Phallucy in 1993, yet
unreleased because the band broke up shortly after its
creation. But Phallucy is now back in business, at least
for the time being. Along with a string of warm-up
shows, including a gig at Hollywood's illustrious Viper
Room, the band is embarking on an 11-day tour of the
West Coast with Team Sleep, a side project of Deftones
singer Chino Moreno.
Phallucy, which plays next Sunday at the Colonial
Theatre on Stockton Boulevard, showcases a slightly
different unit than that from the early 1990s. While the
band's lineup shifted umpteen times during its heyday,
Phallucy circa 2001 features the group's core: singer
Dave Garcia, 34; guitarist Sonny Mayugba, 31; and
drummer Abe Cunningham, 28. Chris Muñoz, 30, formerly
with local rockers Phibe's Infernal Machine, handles
Phallucy's bass slot.
left, Abe Cummingham, Chris Muñoz, Dave Garcia and
Cunningham is spending some of his time off from
the Deftones getting back together with former
bandmates in Phallucy.
and keyboard player Dave Garcia is one of the
founders of Phallucy, which will complete an
11-stop tour with a concert next Sunday at the
plays the bass during a late November rehearsal by
the reunited band Phallucy. Muñoz is a new
addition to the popular Sacramento band that broke
up in 1993.
Phallucy, from left, Sonny Mayugba, Abe
Cunningham, Dave Garcia and Chris Muñoz, rehearse
in West Sacramento in late November before hitting
the road on a tour that brings them back home for
a concert next Sunday.
Few local bands could resurrect themselves after an
eight-year hiatus and quickly score a choice gig at the
Viper Room. Renewed interest in Phallucy comes in great
part via Cunningham, who now drums for the
"There's been a natural, curious buzz about
Phallucy," Cunningham says. "Our (Deftones) side
projects, like Team Sleep, have been getting a lot of
attention. I've been stoked to watch 'Valium' come out,
even though it's strange that it took eight years."
So the road to Hollywood looms, but first it's time
to travel back a decade to Sacramento's burgeoning
alternative-rock scene for some background.
In the early 1990s, the number of Sacramento-area
bands that had hit the Top 10 could be counted on a
peace sign salute (Tesla, Club Nouveau). Cake was still
playing in coffeehouses, Papa Roach was barely in high
school and the Deftones were drudging through the
backyard party circuit.
The now-defunct Cattle Club, housed on a nondescript
stretch of Folsom Boulevard, was home base for
Sacramento's alternative-rock bands, and Phallucy was
among its top draws. Phallucy was the first local act to
pack the venue to its 400 capacity. The band also shared
bills around town with such heavyweight groups as
Smashing Pumpkins, Run-D.M.C. and Green Day.
Thrash-funk was the sound du jour, but Phallucy
carved its niche with an artsy brand of heavy metal,
courtesy of Garcia's moody wailings and Mayugba's chunky
yet textural guitar playing. Cunningham started his
drumming career with an early version of the Deftones
but couldn't pass up an opportunity to join Phallucy
Moreno, one of Cunningham's chums at McClatchy High
School, had no problem understanding why Cunningham
would jump the early Deftones ship.
"(Phallucy was) the biggest Sacramento band at the
time," says Moreno. "Me and Abe were in 10th grade and
he had Phallucy's first demo tape. We had one of those
Walkmans with the dual inputs, and we'd stick the
earpieces up our sleeves so we could listen to it during
class. I remember that Abe and I were standing in the
lunch quad one day and he said, 'Dude, Phallucy asked me
to plays drums.' And I was like, 'Man, you're sorry if
you don't do it.' "
With Cunningham on board, the band continued to rock
local clubs and toured Northern California and the
Northwest in 1992. The band also strived to continually
change its sound. While Phallucy honed strong Jane's
Addiction and Black Sabbath influences, the group also
experimented with saxophone excursions courtesy of Josh
Coker and episodes of freak-out jamming. Phallucy had
enough punch to keep the funk-metal masses and emerging
grunge fans moshing faithfully, but the band's
increasingly heady sonics led to some lulls in show
"We were kind of losing fans," says singer Garcia.
"In general, a lot of people thought we were boring. We
weren't really grungy -- my voice was more high pitched
and didn't have that Eddie Vedder sound -- and it wasn't
funky. Other bands were coming up and we were going
through a transition. It was hard to get people into our
sound when it was a little different than what was going
Still, Phallucy pressed forward and completed work on
"Valium" in 1993. It was to be its first full-length CD,
but mounting personality conflicts broke up the band and
the album was ultimately shelved.
Following Phallucy's demise, Mayugba co-founded
Heckler magazine and Garcia received a degree in fine
art from the University of California, Berkeley.
Cunningham rejoined the Deftones, which eventually
became a platinum-selling hit, while Mayugba and Garcia
formed the power-pop band Daycare.
A few bootleg copies of "Valium" have surfaced over
time, and Garcia got word last year that an acquaintance
was going to target Deftones fans and sell copies of
"Valium" on the Internet site eBay. Instead, Garcia and
Mayugba decided to remaster the album and release it
themselves. Mayugba called Cunningham while he was on
tour with the Deftones to discuss rekindling "Valium,"
and all parties agreed to push forward. Still, there
were a few mixed feelings.
"At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to revisit
Phallucy," says Mayugba. "It was what it was, and you
kind of move on. But I never stopped playing a lot of
those Phallucy riffs. That band is and was a very
special band for all of us. It was heavy and intense,
and the fact the album never came out is weird."
Once Cunningham found a break from touring, he and
his former Phallucy bandmates holed up for two days to
remaster "Valium." Five thousand copies of the album
were released on Sept. 11 via Mayugba's Blackliner
Records, and a few live shows were scheduled. But with
support from Cunningham and Moreno, a handful of
Phallucy gigs quickly snowballed into a full-fledged
jaunt with Team Sleep -- swanky tour bus and all.
But first, the band was to jump headfirst into the
music scene with a warm-up show at the Viper Room.
Fueled by a couple of months of rehearsals and a lot of
nervous excitement, the band set off for Southern
Saturday night on the Sunset Strip. Sleek BMWs and
super-sized SUVs with 20-inch rims roam the boulevard,
past the valets at the swanky hotels and chi-chi
restaurants, while foot traffic treks toward such
nightclubs as the House of Blues and the Whisky a
The Viper Room, co-owned by Johnny Depp, is one of
the Strip's most infamous watering holes. In 1993, actor
River Phoenix collapsed outside of the club following a
drug overdose and later died. Brawls at the Viper Room
involving such celebrities as Nicole Eggert and Tommy
Lee quickly made gossip columns, and the threat of
paparazzi has resulted in the club's strict "no cameras"
policy. The nightspot remains a choice destination for
the über-hip and famous, and impromptu concerts have
featured such musicians as Bruce Springsteen, Red Hot
Chili Peppers and Sheryl Crow.
Each Saturday night, the Viper Room hosts "Club
Favor," a mix of hip-hop DJ dancing and rock bands
presented by Cypress Hill percussionist Eric Bobo and
Los Angeles promoter David Salko. Via Cunningham's
friendship with Bobo, and a thumbs up from Salko after
hearing samples of "Valium" online, Phallucy is
plastered on the Viper Room's marquee, to appear on Nov.
17. The date also coincides with the birthday of Cypress
Hill rapper Sen Dog, so his buddy Everlast and members
of the Cypress Hill crew are hanging out as Phallucy
prepares to play.
The Viper Room itself isn't much to speak of. The
room, awash in dull, reddish-brown paint, is lined with
a half-dozen booths and holds about 200 people. Still,
the club's hipper-than-thou reputation and small
confines make the Phallucy members nervous, very
nervous. As C-Minus, the DJ for Korn, spins Eric B. and
Rakim's "Move the Crowd," Mayugba fidgets with his
guitar rig and can't decide which setup works best.
Prior to the gig, Garcia spends a chunk of time changing
from one outfit to another.
With the clock nearing the band's 11:30 p.m. set
time, the members of Phallucy lock into a group hug. The
crowd -- a mix of young women in their club-hopping
finest and guys in both urban and preppy gear -- turns
toward the band after an introduction by Bobo. Mayugba
keeps his head swung back with eyes closed as the fuzzy
chords to "Kristy" kick in. Cunningham, who is used to
rocking sports arenas, hasn't been this exposed in ages.
Garcia and bassist Muñoz direct their gazes anywhere but
at the audience.
Stiff stage presence aside, the band's music locks in
mightily. Cunningham's attack and rapid-fire fills on
"Firebug" test the tenacity of his drum heads. The Viper
Room's sound system is surprisingly punchy, and Garcia's
vocals, which veer between tender and torrential, ring
with a sturdy force.
The audience responds in cool but appreciative
fashion. Some of the club's more hip-hop-inclined
patrons pay little mind to Phallucy, and one inebriated
fellow heckles the band, but the majority of the crowd
offers solid applause between tunes.
Phallucy's show whips by in 35 minutes, and afterward
the band unwinds with a few drinks while C-Minus pumps
another round of hip-hop mixes through the
Outside, Garcia is cornered by a new Phallucy fan. "I
know good music, and I thought you guys were awesome,"
she says. "Where can I get your CD?"
The festivities continue all night, both a half-mile
away at the band's hotel room and at a nearby
after-party hosted by Club Flavor's promoters.
Some catch a few hours of sleep before the hotel's 11
a.m. checkout, and then a pit stop is made at Swinger's,
a trendy coffee shop on nearby Beverly Boulevard.
At Swinger's, supermodel-tall waitresses in go-go
boots serve a noontime breakfast. Mayugba occasionally
nods off -- the result of his all-night bender -- as
Cunningham scarfs a tofu scramble. Muñoz is away
visiting family and friends, while Garcia still hasn't
surfaced since leaving the after-party for Malibu with
some newfound friends. It's been a whirlwind 24 hours,
and the band is still buzzing about its show.
"Man, I was hella nervous," Cunningham says.
"Overall, I thought it went pretty cool, but I got
scared when it came down to it."
"I was nerrrrvous, dude," Mayugba says. "Even just
thinking about it now makes me terrified. Right when we
started playing, I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is it.'
And it wasn't just any crowd, but a Hollywood crowd. I
was tripping off that."
Since the Viper Room gig, Phallucy played in San
Francisco with Swarm (formerly Death Angel) and at Old
Sacramento's Scratch 8. The band's show next Sunday
culminates its 10-day tour with Team Sleep.
Phallucy's itinerary back in the old days was rarely
this busy, though the question remains as to how long
the good times can last. After the holidays, Cunningham
will be immersed with the Deftones as that band starts
work on its new record. Phallucy gigs will thus be few,
and the band doesn't have a firm game plan of what comes
Cunningham, however, insists that Phallucy isn't just
a hobby while the Deftones are on break.
"It's not a side project," he says. "It feels too
good for that. This band stands on its own two feet.
There will definitely be some juggling involved, but
taking this on the road again could be the next thing. I
could go on tour and play two sets: one with Phallucy
and one with Deftones."
Mayugba and Garcia also want to get back to work with
Daycare, but the rejuvenated Phallucy has led to some
tasty musical adventures. The moody metal on "Valium"
still sounds relevant, while the band has even written a
few new tunes and added Garcia's keyboard playing as a
fresh melodic element.
"In the past two months that we've been playing
again, we've all brought some really good things to the
table and are complementing each other," Garcia says.
"For me, there was a high level of doubt with how this
was going to work. We've had our differences in the
past, but over the years we've matured."
The satisfaction of finally releasing "Valium" and
playing shows just might be enough. It's taken the band
eight years to come full circle, but what a closure it's
"On one level I'm like, 'Yeah, let's get a manager
and get a label and do it big like Deftones do it,'"
says Mayugba. "Then again, we're putting this album out,
we're going on tour in a bus and the shows are gonna be
good. So if we get to the new year and nothing (more)
happens, I'll still be happy in general."
"To this day, I'd thought about the music we had
made," Cunningham says. "It was cool to come back after
all these years and be ruling in Hollywood."
The Bee's Chris Macias can be reached at (916)
321-1253 or firstname.lastname@example.org