Accomplished songsmith Leigh Gregory has been through a lot of ups and downs, but with Memory’s Mystic Band he may have found a new lease on life.
The San Francisco-based singer has slowly and steadily built a reputation for himself as a talented songwriter, both with his solo work and with his various bands. At the beginning of the 00s, things really seemed to be coming together: Gregory formed the band Mellow Drunk (featuring The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Rick Maymi), which released two LPs and an EP in a 3-year period, and he also put out a solo album, ‘Rest Your Weary Head.’
Mellow Drunk’s melodic guitar pop style received favorable comparisons to The Byrds and The Church, and the records were lauded by critics and fellow musicians. Gregory’s singing style in particular was often compared to Steve Kilbey, Nick Drake or even David J. His solo work found a similar but more stripped-down atmosphere, mostly just him and a guitar.
Despite the acclaim received by Mellow Drunk’s records, and despite many high-profile gigs — including opening slots for Supergrass, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Lilys, Luna and more — commercial success eluded the band. Gregory’s health problems further compounded the issue, and Mellow Drunk all but ended (a third Mellow Drunk LP, ‘One Thousand Lights,’ appeared in 2009, which received glowing reviews but almost no promotion).
After major spinal surgery and and an extended hospital stay, Gregory returned to music. Even while struggling with his health issues, he clearly never stopped writing, as 2009 saw the release of his second solo album, ‘Rainy Season Never Ends,’ an enigmatic concept album called ‘1973,’ and the aforementioned Mellow Drunk LP.
His latest project began while he was still in recovery from the surgery, because he just wanted to be able to play while sitting down. He brought his acoustic guitar to a local tavern and played. Friends and fellow musicians began joining him for shows and Memory’s Mystic Band was born.
After a couple of years, MMB’s lineup has solidified with the addition of brothers Ville and Jaako Vilpponen on bass and drums, respectively. Mellow Drunk keyboardist and long-time Gregory collaborator Stephen Cavoretto has also become a regular member of the band, contributing keys, backing vocals and trumpet where appropriate. Cavoretto and the Vilpponens both played in San Francisco neo-psych band Dora Flood.
MMB’s latest release, ‘Imaginary Clouds,’ finds the band going in a more electric direction. The EP was put out by Green Fuse Records/Vollwert on February 16. Check out “Far & Away” and “In Circles” below:
“Far & Away”
In regards to when MMB will release a full-length, Gregory told Rock Edition, “I really like that the band is taking our time before coming out with a full-length release… casually putting out EPs and singles… gives us a chance to try some things out and release songs that will most likely just be available on those releases. We’ve got seven more songs recorded that need mixing so there might be one more EP to be released [before the] full-length.”
With Memory’s Mystic Band, Leigh Gregory appears to be just getting started.
Pick up Memory’s Mystic Band’s new EP Imaginary Clouds.