What’s RAD about Beats & Eats? The food and the music! by Mikey Beats

In this installment of Beats & Eats, I take J. Gawlickof the Broken Stems out to Table 926 in North Pacific Beach where deep rooted San Diego native Matt Richman gives us a culinary palate massage.

Mikey Beats: You know the drill.

J. Gawlick: I was born and raised in Minnesota and I moved out west to Colorado in 2008 where I joined a reggae band called Uproot. We then moved out to San Diego from Boulder and San Diego was really welcoming. I had been here once before and fell in love with the place. A few years after, I started my own band, called the Broken Stems and I’ve been running that since.

Mikey: You are a true artist because not only do you play in the band, but you also do graphic design. Most people might just do one thing, but I consider an artist someone who does multiple things. 

We are interrupted by a not so random encounter with Tim Pyles, who happened to be next door recording the band Barbarian for his radio show, The Local 94/9, at Seacoast Studios, which happens to be next door to Table 926. We chat with Tim for a couple of minutes then pick up where we left off.

Mikey: You write the music and you’re also the lead singer/guitarist?

J.: Yup, we also have Brad Sweet on the keys, Chelsea Baker on bass and Andrew Bache on drums.

Mikey: You have a new female bassist. When you put the ad out in the Reader or Craigslist, were you specifically looking for a female bass player?

J.: Ha-ha, no. Chelsea was the first one we auditioned and she came in and nailed it. She left her bass rig with us, and I just had this feeling that she was leaving her rig because she knew she nailed it.

Mikey: Chicks do that! They’ll leave their underwear or their bra and are like ‘Can I come back and get that? Do you mind?’ They do that on purpose. 

Laughter all around.

Mikey: I heard you played a few shows at House of Blues recently?

J.: Yup, on June 26 we had our first House of Blues gig on the main stage, which was awesome and again on August 29th with the Belmont Lights and the Chocolate Revolution.

Alex our server comes out with a salad.

Mikey: This is the Watermelon Salad with cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, watercress, herb croutons and banyuls vinaigrette. Very refreshing!

J.: Very fresh. Check this out.

J. Gawlick shows me the sweatshirt he made for the Broken Stems.

Mikey: The thing with local bands, I always buy their merch because I understand the struggle. That’s how they are basically going to make money and pay for the next recording. If I’m out and about and the band has CDs, I’m going to spend ten bucks on a CD because that’s what supports the local acts and I don’t even have a CD player.

J.: After the promotion you put into it, you’re barely breaking even. And then you have to pay out the band and compensate them for their time, you know. It’s tough. So I’m lucky that I can put a lot of my own time in and not have to pay for it.

More food comes out.

Mikey: We have the Heirloom Tomato Salad with burrata cheese, arugula and herb vinaigrette and balsamic reduction. We also have Steamed Venus Clams with coconut-curry broth, Chinese sausage, bok choy and some Spanish paprika. This is an international dish. 

We both pause to figure out the cleanest way to eat the clams, but we shrug our shoulders and dig in.

Mikey: Let’s get dirty. Holy oral orgasm! I’ve never been a clam guy before but this clam with this sausage in my mouth together is like meat heaven in my mouth. This is an international dish, the United Nations of clam dishes. The bok choy, the Asian sausage, the clam, the curry, that is the UN in my mouth. Wow. 

J.: That tomato salad is amazing too.

Mikey: That it is. I’m less of a food critic and more so a food addict.

J.: You can find the good in all things.

Mikey: You have many connections with other local bands, please tell.

J.: In 2008, we moved to Cass Street and Hornblend. Our next-door neighbor was Andrew Mills, who is now the lead singer of Barbarian. Uproot was playing at that house and we had a jam space in our garage. There were no tenants above our garage when we moved in and then we heard some people move in and we’re like, “Shit, we’re not going to be able to practice here anymore and it’s going to suck.” And who moves in? Full Blown Stone, a reggae rock band from Sacramento. We started playing together all the time, we switched up instruments and we grooved all the time together. 

Mikey: The current bands of these musicians are Barbarian, the Routine, the Broken Stems and Sunny Rude, and all were jamming together in the same building?

J.: Yup, I moved into this perfect zone of music, friendship and people trying to do the same thing that I’m doing. Six years later we are all starting to get all the recognition I feel like we deserve, which is really cool. It just shows that perseverance, discipline and dedication to the craft pays off. Nothing comes easy in this world, so much goes into that one hour you play on stage and most people don’t realize that.

Mikey: That’s knowledge right there.

Alex comes back with more food.

Alex: These are the Lamb Merguez Sliders. Lamb merguez is a type of sausage, they grind it and turn it into a patty to make a slider. It’s typed with a Greek Halloumi cheese, which is a little salty. There’s the pesto as well. The cucumbers are pickled a little to give them a watermelon look as are the onions and a little arugula to finish it off. 

Mikey: These are amazing. The flavor is kicking me in the face while giving me an upside down twerk lap dance. These lamb sliders are the best things I’ve had in my mouth this week, aside from my wife!

Alex lays down more food and our eyes light up.

Alex: These are the duck confit tacos, kind of our version of street tacos. They come with the queso fresco, a little bit of micro cilantro on top, the same pickled red onion as the sliders, then we’ve got a tomatillo at the end, avocado salsa here to the side and this red one is the guajillo, a chili normally from New Mexico. It’s got a little bit of spice to it, definitely more so than the tomatillo. 

J.: Caramelized onions? Some feta cheese? 

J. Gawlick gets a little excited, and I too am getting a food boner. I lay one in my mouth, a taco.

Mikey: Oh my heavens, wow. So wait, is that duck or is it …

Alex: Duck confit.

Mikey: But it’s not carnitas?

Alex: No

Mikey: But it’s in the style of carnitas?

Alex: Uh-huh.

Mikey: Because that is like carnitas.

Alex: It’s cooked to look and feel like carnitas.

Mikey: I want to cry right now.

J.: You can cry. I’m not going to judge you if you cry.

Mikey: Ha-ha, thanks J. You wear many hats and have re-invented yourself as J. Gawlick, please elaborate.

J.: I’ve been promoting Broken Stems, promoting my acoustic shows and promoting my freelance graphic design work. All three are different things and it’s hard to manage individually. I decided to recreate myself as J. Gawlik and just be my brand and let that be what I market, because it cross promotes everything I do and brings it all into one package. It’s all really stemming back from me.

Mikey: Stemming …

J.: Do you want to know the theory behind Broken Stems?

Mikey: Do tell.

J.: The stem is a foundation of anything. It can be a wine stem, a flower stem, a stem of a tree, you know? If a stem is broken, it has the opportunity to build and grow into something bigger and better, or grow in a different direction. It’s the idea that nothing’s really perfect. Everything is a little broken and there’s always a place for it to grow and change and move in another direction. That’s the ideal behind the Broken Stems. I’m on my fifth drummer now, my third bass guitarist in the existence of the Broken Stems and over time it’s grown into something more meaningful than I initially had thought. Like a stem, you can bring in a stem for a show, or another musician and all of those things are growing and manipulating and moving. Everything is always building upon itself. We talk about how we go back six years, and all the same people are in the same circles, still growing and still building their stems and adding more stems, and taking off stems that don’t work, that’s what it’s about.

Mikey: That’s band philosophy right there.

J.: We talk about all that time what goes into that one hour of music is something like hundreds of hours and it’s all about that moment. All the musicians and artists around here and around the world live for that moment. It’s that moment that counts. If you can keep that faith and discipline to get to that moment, that’s where all the magic happens.

Mikey: Well said. Thank you.

I know I always say the food was amazing and don’t complain about anything, but I do a little research before I show up at a place, but this place was different. I had never been there before and showed up on a recommendation from a friend named Holly Hitchcock. Matt Richman is amazing and I will taste him again. As far as J. Gawlick, he is pleasant on the eyes and on the ears, check them both out: www.table926.com and www.brokenstems.com.