Just like her hero, gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt, guitarist Molly Reeves loves defying expectations.
A spunky 21-year-old with a head of riotous red curls, she’s the front-woman of the Red Skunk Band, a Central Coast combo that specializes in 1930s-style hot jazz.
“It’s such good music,” she said. Never mind that it was popular about 60 years before she and her bandmates were born.
According to Reeves, the Red Skunk Band belongs to an indie revival that’s musically rooted in America’s past.
“The music we’re playing, people seem to connect with it,” Reeves said. “It makes them feel good. It’s real and raw, and there’s no divider between the entertainer and the audience.”
In these very real times, she said, “people just want real music.”
Formed about six years ago, the Red Skunk Band— formerly known as the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band — is establishing itself as one of the region’s hottest, hippest young bands.
Band members, who range in age from 19 to 24, attribute the group’s unique sound — a blend of bluegrass, gypsy jazz, Dixieland and swing best described as “’30s punk” — to their wide-ranging roots.
Although Reeves and trumpeter Justin Au grew up playing traditional jazz, honing their skills at summer camps sponsored by the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society, their bandmates’ musical backgrounds range from rockabilly (bassist Jamie Mather) to classical (violinist Pam Sheffler) to progressive metal (drummer Ken Davis). Most are Morro Bay High School graduates.
“We’re more than the sum of our parts,” Mather said, adding the band’s bottomless energy comes through in their music.
So far the Red Skunk Band has released three studio albums, including 2011’s “Hot and Haunting,” featuring original music by Reeves. (Her latest solo album, “Swing Grass,” comes out this month.)
They’ve also found widespread success on the statewide concert circuit, performing at the Live Oak Music Festival, the Sacramento Music Festival and the Dixieland Jazz Festival in San Diego.
This Saturday, members of the Red Skunk Band will play at Stokefest, a fundrais-
er for the San Luis Obispo chapter of Surfrider Foundation. Other gigs this summer include a July 13 concert at the Central Coast Wine Classic in Avila Beach, and the Swing Garden Party, Aug. 18 at The Lodge in Morro Bay.
The following month, Reeves and her bandmates fly to Montreal to participate in an independent film production.
In addition to contributing a few songs to the movie’s soundtrack, the band members will appear on camera in the black-and-white, noir-style film. (Two Red Skunk Band songs were featured in the film “More than Stars,” which premiered at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival in March.)
“We’re always looking for new experiences,” Boorman said, and new audiences.
According to Mather, Red Skunk Band fans range from hardcore punk rockers to laid-back folkies to gray-haired jazz aficionados.
“We definitely get a good response from the older folks,” he said. “We’re reinvigorating those festivals, reinvigorating the music.”
The band members are equally happy to see their music embraced by an even younger crowd.
During a June gig at Templeton Community Park, Boorman recalled, “We ended up getting 10 or 20 kids up onstage dancing with us for a good three or four songs. This one little girl went up and gave Jamie a hug.
“We’re just stoked that there’s another generation that’s getting excited about the music.”
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.