Many bands begin and grow in the Isla Vista community, playing at different houses day and night, but one band, Givers & Takers, took their love of music to a greater level.
This group was born here in Santa Barbara six years ago and has since achieved success, playing with acts such as Walk the Moon and Alberta Cross. The psychedelic bliss-rock four-piece is currently located in Los Angeles living out their musical dream.
Three out of the four band members are former Gauchos and attribute much of their influence to their surroundings here in Isla Vista. Members Mark Pollack and Zack Greenwald have known each other for almost their entire lives, but became particularly close through a high school retreat program. These two eventually met Alan Krespan and Drew Bruchs in Isla Vista, and found that they all shared a passion for music.
For the most part, music was a something these four always had a niche for, and they took advantage of the inspiration they had around them in Isla Vista.
“It’s impossible to be in I.V. and not be influenced by its pace, its beauty and the fact that the place, by nature, is like some whimsical social experiment that we have always felt lucky to be a part of,” Givers & Takers said.
The group notices now that the songs they wrote in Isla Vista seem to spread out more and take their time in different ways. They were immersed in hippie culture, so they experimented and just jammed. The band has a lot of love for Isla Vista and everything it has to offer.
“Our favorite spot in town proved to be the I.V. Food Cooperative. It was our social hub – a place for physical and spiritual sustenance. That place just never stops giving,” Givers & Takers said.
Something that resonated with the band was getting to have the house-show experience. The live, intense gathering of people in a small driveway cultivated a feeling that they adore. The memories are filled with people in trees and on rooftops, immersed in their psychedelic music and raw energy.
“As adults, we are in love with our whimsical past,” Givers & Takers said. “As individuals, we have memories of living in detached garages, falling in love over and over again, every single day, learning what hippie smells like, biking through DP and comparing who heard the best ridiculousness after the ride, winding up at body painting parties, swimming with dolphins and the list goes on. Santa Barbara feels like some kind of utopian island. We live just an hour away now, and when we come back, it feels like we have jumped universes.”
Much of their early experience comes from being able to play at house shows. The band started with just two guitars, a bass, drum kit and Greenwald’s singing. However, they have always had a curiosity for new sources of sound, so they added keyboards and sample pads to incorporate digital elements. Currently, they sing background vocals and harmonies, and would eventually like to include brass, woodwind and string instruments. Their choice of what kind of music to play was never anything conscious or verbal.
“The reason we work out as a band is because we all get to put the deepest parts of ourselves and our experience with music into the project,” Givers & Takers said. “We don’t believe in coincidence, and we don’t believe in chasing down a certain sound.”
With this unique approach, their music tends to be about more universal topics like coping with emotions, insanity and obsession or living with sickness, forgiveness and tough love. The band rarely writes love songs and they avoid topics like resentment, anger and blame.
Their biggest challenge as a band has been being able to endure through all the hardships of their individual lives as well, as maintaining some sort of income while giving the band the time and energy it needs grow and sustain.
The band said, “We just want to be a vessel for love by relentlessly playing our music for as many people as possible.”