Hot in the shade
Josh Kmak is part of an impressive musical lineage in San Diego. His paternal uncles, Joel and Jeff, have performed in some of the city’s most beloved acts, including the Penetrators, Beat Farmers, Crawdaddys, Powerthud, the Mentals, Seventh Day Buskers and more.
While growing up, Josh was too young to be in the audience at most of his uncles’ shows. And on the occasion that he and his cousin did attend things like street fair gigs, he admits the performances were the last thing on their minds.
But the proximity to all that music left an impression. Before the young songwriter, guitarist and singer had even left high school, he was struck by an undeniable calling.
“I didn’t have any say in the matter,” Kmak told DiscoverSD recently. “Music took over my entire life. It became, and still is, my absolute obsession. I hear people say things like, ‘I’m thinking about picking up the guitar and taking some lessons.’ It wasn’t anything like that for me. Whether it’s reading about music, listening to music, practicing music, talking with someone about music, playing music -- any chance I get to be musical, I take it.”
His obsession paid off. Playing in the San Diego scene for only a handful of years, Kmak has already made his own impact.
In 2010, he founded The Nformals, an alternative rock act that released an acclaimed album and enjoyed local success. But it wasn’t long before Kmak discovered garage and surf rock, and everything changed.
“I’d never really heard it before,” he said. “I just fell in love. All of a sudden, I found myself unable to write anything but garage and surf-y stuff because I was so obsessed. It was a dramatic turn.”
Their bassist left the band, but Kmak and drummer Cameron Sisti decided to “mix it up and start over.” Jerrica Ojeda was recruited to play bass and Shady Francos was born.
Channeling the frenetic energy of influences like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, Shady Francos are prone to ripping through sets of punchy, revved-up tunes that scarcely give audiences time to catch their breath. The trio is also about to unleash its first-ever four-song EP during an all-ages release party at M-Theory Music on Jan. 17. And that’s just the beginning.
“We’re actually considering being more of an EP band in general,” Kmak said. “People consume music so quickly now. We’d like to try to have more longevity and keep interest longer with EPs. We already have plans to get into the studio and put out another one very soon.”
Although Kmak also plays with local rockers The New Kinetics and teaches music to junior high kids in an after-school program, Shady Francos is his top priority. And the musical possession that initially took him over hasn’t abated at all.
“I’m constantly writing,” Kmak said. “I have a bunch of recordings stored on my phone. Whether that’s a song, a riff, or even me singing, they’re all in there. I’ve even been trying to sell my TV so I have no other options but to play music or listen to records.”
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to email@example.com
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