As a band, The Donkeys tends to get defined by its Californianess: The fact that the band is from San Diego and portrays a sort of beach-combing sunshine musicality.
Anthony Lukens understands that need for simple categorization, but he says it’s also music writers being kind of lazy.
“Every time someone hits a major chord, it’s not a sunshine song,” says Lukens, who founded The Donkeys with high school friends Sam Sprague and Tim DeNardo in 2004.
Nor should “sunshine” be the catch-all description for California bands, he says.
Fresno indie-blues rock duo Strange Vine opens the show.
To him, California is Buck Owens and Frank Zappa.
“No one was calling them sunshine music.”
Sunshine aside, The Donkeys do play retro-tinged country rock ala the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Grateful Dead. Think lush harmonies, bright guitar and keyboard tones. The band has released four albums over its dozen-plus years and is gearing up for the release of the five-track “Midnight Palms” EP. The songs were recorded mostly live in studio by Thom Monahan (he’s worked with Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Devendra Banhart) and features guitar work from The Hold Steady guitarist Steve Selvidge, who the band met on tour.
The album drops Friday, Feb. 12.
“We’re gonna hit the road and try to sell a few,” Lukens says. The band plays Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Cellar Door in Visalia.
This won’t be the breakneck touring they’re used to. After the release of 2014’s “Ride the Black Wave,” they played more than 150 shows, sometimes as many as 28 dates in a row.
By contrast, the Visalia show is part of a three-day run that includes stops in Santa Cruz and at Humbolt State University. The band has just nine shows scheduled through the end of the month.
Mostly, The Donkeys will stay close to home for awhile, Luken says, although Sprague recently moved to Los Angeles, which means that for the first time since then band started, its members don’t all live in the same city. The band won’t be getting together as often as it used to and when its does, the time will hopefully be more productive.
“We used to get together three nights a week, but we’d sit around drinking beer and talking baseball,” he says.
They still do those things, he says, but now it’s at rented studio or practice space.
“That helps keep us on the clock.”
- 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30
- The Cellar Door, 101 W. Main St., Visalia
- Tickets: $10
- 559-636-9463, www.snvfoundation.org