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LA band touches down at PeachFest
When Brian Aspinwall, lead vocalist for a Los Angeles-based rock band was considering band names, he drew on an important piece of history dating back to the Cold War.
He settled on the name, Checkpoint Charlie, which is the same name given to the best-known checkpoint in Berlin from 1945 and 1989 until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Checkpoint Charlie was a passageway to freedom,” said Aspinwall in a phone interview.
The location was the only place at which foreign visitors, diplomats, Allied forces and their relatives were able to cross from West to East and back again.
This feeling of accessing a passageway to freedom is the same rush Aspinwall and his bandmates: Ben Bonomo (guitarist/bass/keys), Mason Amlee (drummer) and Jorge Sotomarino (lead guitarist) get when they play in front of an audience.
On Saturday, the group is making its first stop on Canadian soil when they play on the Peters Bros. main stage at PeachFest starting at 7:45 p.m.
“We just love to perform, we love to play outdoors on a big stage,” he said, describing their sound as a combination of independent and alternative rock.
The band formed around 2010 when Aspinwall and Bonomo, who were friends through high school, talked about getting a couple of other musicians to round out a group.
They began playing in coffee shops and other small venues and, after going through a couple of incarnations with changes in band members, they settled in when Amlee and Sotomarino joined the lineup in 2012.
That same year Checkpoint Charlie began recording its first album, Love Karma, teaming up with producer Mike Plotnikoff and Igor Khoroshev, former keyboardist for the group, Yes.
The album was mastered by four-time Grammy nominee Howie Weinberg and is set to be released later this year.
“We’re all super excited about the album,” said Aspinwall, who found musical inspiration when he listened to Pink Floyd’s album, The Wall at age 11. “The songs in our album are all original songs that come from our hearts.”
Among his other musical influences are Nirvana and Grammy-winning artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who headlined at Boonstock in Penticton on the August long weekend.
Aspinwall said he admires Nirvana lead singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain because he wrote basic lyrics that “cut through all of the BS.”
He also likes Macklemore because he and Lewis believed in their talent and abilities and recorded their 2012 album, The Heist, without support from a record label. Instead they released it independently through Macklemore’s label, Macklemore LLC.
With all of the challenges and pitfalls a band must endure and overcome to remain close and stay together, Aspinwall said he’s proud of their foursome and what they’ve accomplished and believes they’re moving in a positive direction in terms of the emotional connection they’re making with their audiences.
“Success is irrelevant,” he said. “Getting people to relate to your music when you’re performing is what matters.”