When people ask us about what we love about the Sacramento music scene, we always talk about the Generals—a band with big, soaring melodies and evocative, inspiring sing-along tunes…and they’re two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
We got to meet the Generals when we played a show together at Chalk It Up in Sacramento’s Fremont Park, both of us booked by mutual friend and local legend Jerry Perry. The Generals’ frontman, Matt Sertich, stood in the sun—the 100 degree afternoon sun—to watch our set, which is something we will never forget. We did a CD swap after the show, caught their electric performance, then hit the road and popped their album into our player. And we’ve been fans ever since.
It’s a busy Friday afternoon and the Generals, Matt Sertich and Kirk Janowiak, are getting ready for their show at Harlow’s in downtown Sacramento. They’re opening for the popular 80s New Wave band Modern English, best known for their Billboard Top-100 hit “I Melt With You” (and for those of you who missed the 80s, it’s that song that Hershey’s used a couple Christmases ago… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpP51j74Iyg).
We connect over Skype before they head over for sound check, and they’re over at Kirk’s house, with the same enthusiasm that infuses their music, both live and recorded.
They’re getting promotion started for their upcoming release Keep Your Light On, named after the album’s lead track, and we start talking about social media, which will be a main focus for them. “I call it virtual touring,” says Kirk. “With the internet, there’s always something new…you’ve got to keep up with the times.”
Keep Your Light On is a positive new album of what could be described as hopeful nostalgia. Not getting lost in the past, and not wandering around knee-deep in regret, but learning from what’s behind you, using it to propel you forward. A pretty great message for our time, as any time. It’s their most developed album to date, driving pop put together by two guys who are at ease with themselves and their world.
The Generals started around 2005, but Matt and Kirk have been playing music together in garage bands since the early 90s. “Kirk got his first drum set at Sears,” explains Matt, “and I picked up a bass guitar and we just started jamming.”
“We grew up in the same neighbourhood,” says Kirk. “Matt grew up down the street from me, so we’ve known each other before we even started music, we’d go out and skate together.”
Jamming led to their first band together, Pocket Change, a gig which lasted a decade with Matt and Kirk as the two permanent fixtures, joined by several friends and also, for quite a bit of the time, by Matt’s brother Marty.
After more than 20 years of being in music projects together, with all the challenges their bands have faced from gigging to girls to travelling, Matt and Kirk have remained a strong songwriting duo. “It takes a certain personality to have to go through the grind of playing music, you know what I mean?” says Matt. And, of course, I do—anyone who’s ever been in a band gets this. Remembering his misgivings when Pocket Change ended, Matt goes on, “It was kind of scary when we called it quits. Almost like….is this it? Taking that first year off of playing music and then coming back with a different perspective, we didn’t really know what we were going to do with the whole Generals thing.”
It’s a good thing the Generals thing did happen, because it’s brought a lot of great tunes to the Sacramento music scene—from their first project, Save Me, to the more recent self-titled album, which includes a very cool version of “Eleanor Rigby”. They’ve done all their work with producer and friend Joe Johnston, who has been working with them from the beginning—and who has also worked with well-known Sacramento mainstays Cake, the Deftones, and many others.
What really makes the Generals stand out is their sound. They’ve got a huge range of influence—from the east bay punk scene, to new age, to early 80s pop, OMD, the Cure, U2, and Depeche Mode, to John Denver and Barbara Streisand, Matt adds with a smile. They all made their way into the world of the Generals.
But it’s more than that. It’s the influence beyond the musical. It’s daily life, and life from their perspective. Relationships that go beyond simply boy meets girl. It’s about family, sadness, tensions, love stories, nostalgia, and hope. When Matt’s dad passed away, he says, “It just put a whole new perspective on life…just another chapter in my life, with lyric writing, not really holding back anymore… I think when you come out at the end—you write it, and you put it all together—when you’re coming from the heart, people are going to get it.”
“Hopefully,” he adds with a laugh.
People are definitely going to get it.
You can follow the Generals on:
Official Website: thegeneralsmusic.com
Listen to the full track of “Keep Your Light On” below!