Spotlight on Local Artist, BISS List Interview with Eric DiBerardino (06.29.16)

By BISS List Contributing Editor, Josh Danson

For the last few years, we at the BISS List have been fortunate enough to interview a literal A-Z of our favorite musicians. From Anders Osborne to Zigaboo Modeliste, Chris Wood to Karl Denson, and many more. This week we’re kicking off a new feature that will focus the spotlight on some of the many excellent local and up-and-coming artists that give the vibrant Bay Area music scene its daily (nightly?) lifeblood. If it weren’t for these guys and gals hustling, playing gigs across the city and around the Bay, there would be no BISS List. If you haven’t seen or heard of any of these folks yet, be sure to catch them while you can because they may be the next star to shoot out of the local scene and onto the national circuit.

Eric DiBerardino is a bassist/guitarist currently residing in San Francisco, CA. Born and raised in Connecticut, with a 6 year stint in Colorado, Eric’s been playing music since he was 16. He currently plays electric bass in Go By Ocean, The Loyal Scam (where he is a founding member), Fred Torphy & The Spirits, Guitarmageddon, and more! He is truly one of the hardest working men in the Bay Area music scene and he’s also a great guy.

I sat down with Eric, widely known as “DiBar,” on one of his rare nights off and discussed music, the local scene, what it’s like to quit your day job and dedicate yourself to music full time – and even talked a little baseball. 

You can catch Eric this Thursday evening, June 30th, at the Bottom of the Hill where he will be playing with his band Go By Ocean as part of an excellent triple bill.

BISS List: How long have you been working as a professional musician in San Francisco, playing out live?
Eric DiBerardino [DiBar]: I moved here at the end of March 2010 and I believe my first gig was April 2010 – with Go By Ocean, who at the time were calling themselves Acacia Collective – so it didn’t take long for me to get in the flow and start playing out with other musicians.

BL: Right on. And did you know those guys beforehand? Or did you meet them when you moved here?
DiBar: I’ve known Ryan McCaffrey, the principal songwriter for the band, since I was 18. I went to college in Colorado with someone he grew up with down in Southern California. So we met in the summer of 1998.

BL: Was he the one who said, “Come on out, there’s lots of gigs out here and opportunities for musicians,” or were you already set on coming out here?
DiBar: No, actually. I moved out here and then we caught wind of each other and linked up. And it just so happened that right around the same time their bass player left the band.

BL: Oh nice, how fortuitous.
DiBar: Yeah!

BL: So you mentioned Go By Ocean… What other bands are you currently gigging with? Because you are one of, if not the, hardest working men in Bay Area show business.
DiBar: [Laughs] Thanks man. Well, in addition to Go By Ocean, there’s The Loyal Scam, which is an instrumental trio with Jeremy Korpas [guitar] and Corey Sheridan [drums]. Then there’s Cold and In the Bay – which is a tribute to Old and In the Way. That’s the bluegrass band that I play guitar in [along with members of Hot Buttered Rum, Steep Ravine and The Grateful Bluegrass Boys]. And I also play with Guitarmageddon, which is going to be playing up at High Sierra in a couple weeks.

BL: And that’s with kind of changing cast of cast of characters, right?
DiBar: Yeah, exactly. Guitarmageddon has lot of different guitarists and a handful of drummers that play depending on availability. And for the most part I hold down the bass and we usually have a few guest bass players as well.

BL: Nice. And how did you get looped into that?
DiBar: Through Sean Leahy. I became good friends with him and we started gigging together about three years ago. We work together all the time, on and off, in different projects. In fact I just played a gig at the Sweetwater with him recently as part of the Sean Leahy trio. So I’ll be doing Guitarmageddon with him up at High Sierra and then he’ll be playing with me next month. We play a lot of different side projects and one-off gigs together, whether it’s up at Terrapin Crossroads, or the Boom Boom Room, or the Sweetwater.

BL: Yeah, he’s definitely another one who we’re fortunate to be able to see playing all over the Bay Area all the time.
DiBar: Oh man yeah, he works so hard.

BL: OK, so we have Go By Ocean, The Loyal Scam, Cold and in the Bay, Guitarmageddon and you have a couple other solo things that you do as well, right? I know I’m missing one or two others…
DiBar: Yep, exactly. There’s also Fred Torphy and the Spirits, which is a trio consisting of Fred Torphy from Big Light, me on bass, and Cochrane McMillan on drums. That’s another band and we’re currently in the process of recording an album together. As far as the solo things go, I do a thing called Under the Covers, which is where I play covers from the 60’s through the 90’s and I just do hours and hours of cover songs. It’s a really fun little solo act with just me and an acoustic guitar. And I just recently formed another group called DiBar and Friends, which is a group of musicians from around the Bay Area and we’ve been doing a monthly gig at The Ivy Room which is in Albany, basically in Berkeley.

BL: Yeah, of course, The Ivy Room; opened towards the end of last year by the former bar manager at the Independent, Lani Torres, right?
DiBar: Yeah, she and Summer are running a great club and they’re trying to restore what used to be a great local scene there.

BL: That’s awesome. Love Lani. So you mentioned a bunch of different local venues and it sounds like you’ve pretty much played them all, at least the small to medium sized ones. Not to put you on the spot, but what’s your favorite place to play? Or maybe one place that really suits you and you just love the vibe there. What would be at the top of your list?
DiBar: Well, I have two current favorites in San Francisco and those would be The Independent and The Great American Music Hall. Of course I haven’t played the Warfield of the Fillmore yet, but those two are my two favorites that I’ve played in, mostly due to the acoustics, the sound; but it also has to do a lot with the staff and the vibe, and the history – especially when it comes to the Great American.

In Marin, I play a lot at Terrapin Crossroads and the Grate Room there is an incredible sounding room. They did a great job with their Meyer Sound system and it’s also very intimate. It holds about 375 or something like that. The way they set it up, I just really enjoy it. Another of my favorite venues in the whole Bay Area is the Sweetwater Music Hall. Aaron Kayce and from the top down, all the people who work there and what they’ve done there I really admire. The sound is incredible and the stage always feels really great. I’ve played there with my bluegrass band, as well as with rock and funk outfits, and no matter what style of music I bring in they just always do a great job.

BL: So speaking of Marin and Terrapin Crossroads, how did you first get the call to play there? You’re not necessarily in residency there, but you are among the cast of characters that definitely play there very regularly. So how did that association first come about?
DiBar: That happened roughly in March of 2013 when Acacia [now Go By Ocean] got an opportunity to play there and we started doing a residency, once a month. So that provided us with the opportunity to meet everyone up there and those guys gave us a great chance to come in and hone our craft and build our audience among some new fans that may not have heard our music if we hadn’t been given that opportunity. Since then, we’ve been doing fewer shows with Go By Ocean up there, but I’ve maintained about five or six gigs a month, with either the Terrapin AllStars or doing happy hours there. My band Cold and In the Bay is obviously a good fit for the venue since we’re doing a tribute to Jerry’s bluegrass band. And I’ve had the chance to play in the Grate Room with some of the collaborative shows they’ve done there. Jason’s Crosby’s birthday being the most recent one. The Ramble on Bangladesh, George Harrison tributes that were put together by Steve Pile of Lazyman, and I’ve also done a Bread and Roses benefit with Tea Leaf Green, filling in for Reed Mathis on bass. So the opportunities I’ve gotten in both rooms there have really pushed me to work harder on my craft and have opened a lot of doors for me around the Bay Area, and for the bands I play in.

BL: That’s great. I love that there’s such a thriving scene up in Marin these days, but I’m also kind of pissed. It used to be one of the things we could hold over people’s heads who moved out of the city and got big houses with backyards and stuff, “At least we’ve got all the good music venues over here in the city!” But not so much anymore. Oh well…
DiBar: Yeah and now they’ve got the new outdoor stage that they opened up out back too. I’m really excited to play out there sometime soon.

BL: For sure. So with all the music you’re playing and all the different projects you’re involved in, do you have time for a day job? If so, what is your day job? Or are you just living the dream and making it work?
DiBar: No, day job at the moment. Kind of just scraping by, living the starving artist lifestyle. Believe it or not, I spend a lot of time during the day preparing for these shows. Whether it’s by charting out songs, or with a cup of coffee – or two – and spending an hour or two on e-mails, getting musicians together for the multiple projects we have going on, or reaching out to venues. So it can be a pretty all-consuming day job just to keep all of this in order and prep the shows so that we’re doing interesting things and not just the same old stuff every time.

BL: Yeah, well I know you’ve got quite a repertoire and to be able to keep all those songs straight and have time to rehearse them with the extensive cast of characters that you play with, that has to keep you busy.
DiBar: Yeah, it sure does. I pretty much have no time for a day job. So, hopefully I can continue along like this, because it is pretty enjoyable.

BL: Yeah, exactly. Who wants a day job anyway?? Alright, we’ll start to wrap it up here with a couple fun ones. I know that you did a Beatles tribute a little while back, so I gotta’ ask you the age-old question… Stones or Beatles?
DiBar: Beatles!

BL: That’s what I figured. Alright, in one minute or less, what is it that you love about the Beatles?
DiBar: I think it’s the song writing… Wow, they’re such a huge influence on me, it’s tough to break down in one minute. But there’s a certain quirkiness to their songwriting, especially on the Lennon songs. I do love all of their contributions, but with Lennon in particular there’s a certain darkness and melancholy, along with beauty and humor, and they just have a certain way of writing chord progressions that set them apart from other musicians, other songwriters in my opinion.

BL: Perfect. In a similar vein… I know you’re from back East. In fact, I know that you’re from the Tri-State area. So much like the classic Beatles vs Stones rivalry, where do you stand with regards to the Mets and Yankees?
DiBar: Oh Mets, for sure Mets!

BL: Yeah, I thought you might say that too [laughing], and that’s where we differ.
DiBar: Yeah, my first game was in 1983. Expos versus Mets. I was four years old and I have very faint memories of it. But my father kept the ticket stubs, so that was something I was always able to look back upon. Really I grew up going to both Mets and Yankees games growing up, but through it all I stuck with the Mets.

BL: Well that’s awesome and I had a similar experience imprinting on the Yankees at an early age. Eric, it was a pleasure getting to know a little more about you. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me and I look forward to seeing you out at one of your many local gigs in the near future.

You can see Eric DiBerardino with his band Go By Ocean playing at the Bottom of the Hill on Thursday, June 30th as part of a great triple bill along with Big Light, featuring Fred Torphy, Steve Adams and Bradley BiFulco, and the Santa Cruz-based Scary Little Friends.  Doors open at 8:30 pm, show starts at 9:00. Tickets are $10 at the door. The classic SF venue, Bottom of the Hill, is located at 1233 17th Street (17th @ Missouri).

For additional show details and to purchase advance tickets, click here.