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La Jolla rock musicians ready to make fans come Unbound

The members of Unbound, a La Jolla-based alternative rock band, just released their first album, and they already have fan issues.

During the middle of their CD release show at the SOMA concert venue April 22, a girl climbed up on stage, wrapped her arms around lead singer Rueben Angel and gave him a kiss on the cheek. As the jubilant fan was escorted off the stage, the band members raised their eyebrows, shrugged their shoulders and kept on playing.

“Unnecessary distractions,” guitarist Ryan Olson said after the show.

With big smiles and catchy music, the band, 22-year-old Angel, 21-year-old Olson, bassist Devin Dunn, 19, and drummer Andre Gamboa, 18, will have to get used to the catcalls.

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“They got the music, they got the look, they got youth on their side,” said band producer Steve Wetherbee. “They got everything on their side. The only thing that I think at this point could stop them from making it is themselves.”

For the last four years, the musicians have poured their heart, soul and money into becoming a band. Their sound is mirrored by the name they chose for their group: Unbound. It’s rock, it’s pop, it’s heavy metal, it’s jazz, it’s funk, it’s grunge.

“Everyone who listens to our music,” Gamboa said, “is always like, ‘Wow, there’s nobody out there that sounds like you guys.’ ”

Full of melody, harmony and rhythm, Unbound’s sound is pleasing to the ears of 10-year-olds and 30-year-olds alike. It definitely has a groove to it, and at the SOMA concert, not one foot could resist tapping along.

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“Just This Time” is an emotional album, reflecting the band’s life experiences. Some songs are happy go lucky, others are darker, others are about rebirth. Overall, the message is one of hope.

“The whole album takes you on a trip,” said Angel, “around what I think is not adolescent, but the young adult mentality transitioning into adulthood.”

Unbound’s album and sound are the product of four different individuals combining their musical influences. Everyone contributes to writing the music and lyrics, but certain songs reflect different band members. However, the young La Jollans all have two things in common: an early passion for music and Michael Jackson.

At age 6, Angel was attracted to the shininess of the saxophone, thus starting a long and varied musical career. Growing up in Argentina, he listened to Latin pop ballads and Michael Jackson.

“That was the only American in Argentina,” he said. “In fact that was the first album, the first By the age of 5, Gamboa was banging on pots and pans on the front porch. To save her kitchenware, his mother bought him a beginner drum set. Hands down, Michael Jackson was his biggest influence. He listens to metal, punk and technical drumming CDs.

“I like to learn new things off other drummers and then make it my own,” Gamboa explained. “I get an idea off another drummer and do it and then change it up.”

After watching his big brother play guitar, Olson picked up the instrument at age 10. He cites the Seattle grunge scene as his major influence.

“I was the only one in this band,” he said, “who hasn’t been heavily influenced by Michael Jackson.”

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The guys tick off a long and varied list of bands and artists who have influenced them: Nirvana, John Mayer, Pinback, The Urge, 311, Jimmy Eat World and Juliana Theory. Weatherbee said it’s not just their musical preferences that work together to create a unique sound; it’s pure talent.

“You can’t teach somebody to be great at music,” he said. “Everybody in that band is a natural. They’re just very natural at their instruments. There is no weak link in the band.”

The magic started in Spanish class at La Jolla High School, when Dunn overheard Olson talking about playing guitar. He suggested they try playing together.  

“It turns out he lives on my street,” Dunn said. “So, we just started playing and it’s just like instant connection, musically.”

Gamboa, who has been friends with Dunn since middle school, joined about a year later after his previous band broke up.

They found Angel soon after when another potential singer asked Angel for a ride to the audition.

No matter what happens with their music career, the members of Unbound are friends first. And if it doesn’t work out, everyone has a backup plan.

Angel is graduating from UCSD in June majoring in economics and theater. He plans to be an actor and a stock broker. Olson is studying graphic design at the Art Institute.

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Dunn is majoring in communications at San Diego State University. If he can’t be a musician, he’d be a personal trainer. Gamboa has been running the family landscaping business since his father passed away more than a year ago.

The young musicians aren’t going to let their dream slip away. They hate competing with other bands, but they will do what it takes to rise to the top.

“We will steamroll people if we have to,” said Angel.

Unbound’s next performance is at the Casbah on May 16. For more information on the band, go to www.unboundrock.com.