The origins of Owl can be traced to upstate New York, where bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Dan Dinsmore played together as teenagers in a local band called East Wall. Wyse relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a music career and in 2006 joined the Cult. After a few tenuous starts, Wyse and Dinsmore united with guitarist Jason Mezilis in 2007 and became a hard rock power trio called Owl. Owl released an eponymous debut in 2009 and a second album, The Right Thing, this year.
Owl may be part of a revival of the power trio, a genre that was the hallmark of pioneer hard rock bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the late 1960s. At Arlene’s Grocery tonight as part of the CBGB’s Festival, Wyse proved to be more than an adequate singer and bassist, Mezilis was a dazzling guitarist and Dinsmore was a star drummer. Wyse occasionally plays the upright bass with the Cult, but a thin electric model has become his trademark in Owl. He occasionally played it with a bow, often using delays and sound effects to further expand the band’s sound. Overall, the band managed to combine pop hooks, a straightforward hard rock sound and curious musical experimentation, all without sacrificing integrity for radio dreams. It made the band sound familiar yet fresh. Wyse remains loyal to the Cult’s recording and touring commitments, but he has a very hot side project in Owl.
Owl plays the Mercury Lounge on November 30. Visit Owl at http://www.owltheband.net.