Local band Sweater Weather warms up for its first La Jolla performance

Joel and Mike McCullough are half of the band Sweater Weather.
Joel and Mike McCullough are half of the band Sweater Weather, which will have its first La Jolla performance on Friday, May 26, at Nautilus Tavern.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Things are heating up for local band Sweater Weather as a release party for its third single approaches, a celebration that also will mark the group’s first performance in La Jolla.

The free concert will begin at 9 p.m. Friday, May 26, at Nautilus Tavern, 6830 La Jolla Blvd. It also will include performances by the Night Swims and the Martens.

Sweater Weather’s repertoire of all-instrumental music can be characterized as “post-rock, neo-fusion and punk-jazz,” said La Jolla resident Mike McCullough, who started the band in fall 2021.

“There’s a very high level of musicianship in this band,” he said. “And I’ve played with a lot of bands.”

“I’ve been playing music my whole life,” McCullough said, starting with piano lessons and transitioning to bass guitar in middle school.

McCullough and his family moved to La Jolla from Miami in 2019. His wife, Elisabeth Thurlow, is a graduate of La Jolla High School.

At the time, McCullough had just been offered a job as a psychology professor at UC San Diego. Daughter Madge had just finished middle school in Florida, and son Joel had been accepted to UCSD to study cognitive science.

“The timing was just perfect,” McCullough said.

“As soon as I arrived here, I started looking for people to play music with,” he said. He played with a punk band until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

During the next year-plus, McCullough answered drummer Demyan Drury’s ad on Craigslist. The two realized they played well together and decided to start a band. With McCullough on bass, they sought a guitarist and found one in Zeve Marcus.

They didn’t have to look far to round out their quartet. McCullough’s son, Joel, is the band’s keyboardist.

Joel McCullough’s participation wasn’t a sure thing, though. “We actually auditioned other keyboard players,” Mike said.

“He runs a tight ship,” Joel said with a laugh.

“We try to make every song be something you’ve never heard before, while simultaneously still allowing you to move your body.”

— Joel McCullough

Joel, who had never been in a band before, practiced four to six hours a day during the worst of the pandemic, he said.

“Around the time this band formed, I was just nervous out of my mind with stage fright,” Joel said.

Performing with Sweater Weather, however, is a good fit, he said. When playing live for the first time with the band in City Heights last year, “I thought I would be nervous,” Joel said. “But we nailed the first two songs. … It was a phenomenal time.”

“It was wonderful,” Mike said. “If you’re not performing, it’s really hard to think of yourself as a musician. You’re just playing for yourself.”

The band’s name comes from Thurlow, who “thinks every name I come up with is terrible,” Mike said.

“That’s correct,” Joel said. “[You’re] really … awful.”

While eating outside in La Jolla Shores one chilly evening in October 2021, Thurlow said, “It’s kind of sweater weather now. That would be a good name for your band,” Mike said. “And that was that.”

The band’s third single, “La Yuma,” to be released May 26, exemplifies Sweater Weather’s “extremely eclectic stew of everything that’s influenced us as individuals,” Mike said.

“We try to make every song be something you’ve never heard before, while simultaneously still allowing you to move your body,” Joel said.

The music, Mike said, is knitted together from Joel’s listening to jazz nearly exclusively, while Marcus has played in heavy metal bands and those performing be-bop jazz.

Drury likes electronic dance music, while Mike grew up listening to indie music but has played with bluegrass and R&B bands.

“I think when we’re trying to put something together, the goal is, ‘Let’s do something that nobody’s doing,’” Mike said. “That might involve any of those influences.”

To learn more, visit @thebandsweaterweather on Instagram. ◆