Amplif[ie]d | Dead End Friends
Written By: Natalie Bates
Photographed By: Jamie Durante
With the rhythm section pounding, killer vocal harmonies, and guitar riffs and solos that remind you of the golden age of rock, Inland Empire-based band Dead End Friends delivers music that makes you remember why rock ‘n’ roll will never fade away.
“Friends to the friendless,” Dead End Friends is a heavy rock/classic rock band formed by four childhood friends who possess a deep passion for music in all its forms. I recently had the chance to talk with the members of Dead End Friends, and over the course of a few pitchers of beer and shots of whiskey, they told me how they got their start and decided to bring their unique brand of rock 'n’ roll to the Inland Empire.
Dead End Friends consists of Mike Fulton on guitar/vocals, Tony Quezada on guitar/vocals, Mike Flores on bass, and Leo Herrera on drums. The band formed back in 2012 with a different member line-up, but has been performing with this current incarnation of the band since August (2015), when Herrera joined the ranks. They came together through a shared love of diverse musical influences to create a new breed of rock ‘n’ roll that is a blend of blues, country, punk rock and classic rock. At any show you are just as likely to head bang as you are to dance, sing, and above all else, share a beer with friends and listen to music that transcends the confines of eras or genres.
The band draws inspiration from each other and by listening to all different types of music (Quezada also claims to be inspired by Snow Dogs the movie, but I am inclined to believe this is not really the case). They love any music that makes them move, saying they listen to everything from ABBA to ZZTop (which inspired an impromptu acapella performance of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” right then and there in the bar). When asked to describe the band’s sound to a first time listener, Quezada answered, “If Snow Dogs was a musical, we would be the band writing the music.” But he then reconsidered and decided they actually would be better described as sounding like the lovechild of Guns N’ Roses and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The guys in Dead End Friends have known each other for over a decade now, growing up in Chino and Ontario. Flores and Quezada grew up down the street from each other and started jamming together when they were teenagers. Then Quezada and Fulton met in high school, and after discovering they both played guitar, they began jamming as well. So what inspired them to learn their instruments?
Flores shared, "I wanted to play guitar, but my dad told me I could play bass. So I played bass." Quezada remembered, "I was washing my dad’s car and some friends walked by holding guitars, and I was like, ‘I want to do that instead of washing this car.’ So I left the car soaked in soap and walked away. And that’s how I learned to play guitar." Fulton said, "My dad played guitar, so that was the only thing to do." Last, Herrera shared, "I wanted to play guitar, but drums were easier, so . . ."
As a band, playing live is the whole reason Dead End Friends creates music. Flores says, “I like playing and making music with my buddies, and when we play places, we get to have fun playing music with the people we would’ve been hanging out with anyways.” Herrera adds, “There are moments when we are jamming together, and it just clicks, like we’re all on the same page.” For Quezada, one of the best parts is seeing all the hard work they put in when learning a new song pay off during a show. “It’s cool seeing how the song turns out for the first time, seeing the crowd react to it, and seeing the crowd sing along to our songs.” At this point, the waitress interrupts to bring over another round of shots. Before we drink, Fulton adds, “The best part of being a band is playing live—that’s what it’s all about.” Cheers to that!
Dead End Friends doesn’t have any regular venues, but they do frequent Craft Brewing Company in Lake Elsinore, as well as other venues throughout the Inland Empire. Looking toward the future, they plan to get into the recording studio early next year, play more shows, spread their message and songs around, and overall, just take it to the next level. They have their sights set high, aiming for venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall. Maybe even create Snow Dogs 2: The Musical.
But for more locally located shows, you can catch them at Dale Bros. Brewery on December 12th for the “Hoppy Holidays” charity event that is benefiting Helping Hands Pantry or at The Corral Bar in Chino for their “Christmas at the Corral” show on December 26th.