Tracorum reflects San Francisco’s musical diversity

San Francisco’s music scene is celebrated far and wide as being the hub of complete hippie-dom.

And well it should: Love it or hate it, the city remains the center of the music world when it comes to bands such as The Grateful Dead and its legions of offshoots, good and bad. While it remains a sad mystery to many why corners in Haight-Ashbury and its surrounding neighborhoods are still flooded with kids wondering why they were dealt the crappy card of being born half a century too late, it’s still a city with much more than throwback bands who idolize the Woodstock and Altamont era.

And it always has been more than that; the City by the Bay has produced many more jazz, blues, roots rock and punk bands than those born from the Summer of Love.

One of them is Tracorum, a San Francisco band that plays New Orleans-style soul, rhythm and blues and funk rock. They are led by Fletcher Nielsen, whose barroom and barrel-house boogie-woogie piano leads the quartet as they blast through all things rock music, including at times trailing off into the extended jams for which their home city is known. Joining Nielsen, who also plays guitar, is Ian Herman on drums, Mark Anthony Calderon on bass and Derek Brooker on electric guitar. They last played Durango in 2011.

“The band started as a vehicle for original songs I was writing,” Nielsen said from San Francisco. “I’ve always been a songwriter, I guess. One day, I felt the muse in my head and songs poured out, and I started writing them down. That has led us to where we are now.”

Tracorum is touring the West behind their new release “Tricked.” It was recorded at Prairie Sun Studios, a revamped chicken farm-turned studio about an hour north of the Bay. It’s a place of rock royalty, even boasting some hand-me-down equipment that was once used by The Who.

Forgoing the modern tricks of recording, “Tricked” was recorded organically, favoring an old–school approach over the ease of on-screen editing.

“There’s something about some of those old analog boards. It’s a hands-on experience, not digitized,” Nielsen said. “I feel like there are electrical ghosts inside those pieces of gear that are unexplainable and cause a warmth and magic modern technology can’t re-create.

Like their 2010 release “The Lesson,” “Tricked” is a combination of all the aforementioned musical styles, although it’s not the greatest representation of their live sound, which is a fuller, raucous, more fun–filled version of what is captured in the studio. “Tricked” does have its rock moments, a taste of what’s offered live.

“When you get the chance to go in a studio and record, for us, it has been to this point of trying to explore the songwriter side of things,” Nielsen said. “We play a lot of those songs live, but we stretch them and rock them out harder in the live situation than the studio performances.” Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.