What started as a New Year’s resolution in 2014 quickly became a lifestyle for singer Cassandra Cronin, guitarist Connor Cronin, drummer Jared Frazier and bassist Dan Cato. The Travelling Ills, or The Ills for short, has brought its unique blend of sounds to the Central Coast, fusing punk, jazz and alternative sounds to create a blues-drenched aesthetic.
“The band plays swampy, heavy, thick music laden with a brash rock and roll attitude,” said Nano Guijosa, guitarist of local band The Redlight District. “It’s very impassioned music, which is a trait all good music shares.”
Siblings Cassandra and Connor played music together for a long time before Cassandra met Jared at UC Santa Cruz. Cassandra recalled meeting Jared while working at KZSC and bonding over their similar taste in music. After going on a trip to a University of California Radio Network conference, the two began playing music together.
The band played as a three-piece for several months, influenced by the makeup of The White Stripes. It wasn’t until the following summer when the band found Dan on Craigslist while in search of a bassist. The group was impressed with Dan’s audition, and within that same week Dan had memorized all of the band’s songs and began performing with The Ills.
“It’s crazy because we had about 10 songs already written and it’s impossible to learn that amount in as many days as we gave him but he’s a trooper and he did it,” Cassandra said. “He had this whole binder with each of our songs and all of these notes and code words that weren’t even musical terms.”
The four band members spent the week building up to their first performance practicing on a houseboat provided for them by the Lake Shasta Bridge Bay Resort.
“It was an excellent way to join a band, playing rock and roll on a boat going top speed and generally being a maniac,” Dan said. “Ever since then we’ve been the best of friends.”
The band embodies a do-it-yourself mentality, using any available space it can to record. From Connor’s old high school music room to Dan’s bedroom, the music stands on its own legs regardless of the setting. Limited resources pushed The Ills to follow a recording method similar to some of the 1960s groups that the band idolizes.
“We do all of our recordings live,” Jared said. “We treat the recording session as a performance with everyone in the studio, because there’s a certain energy there that you can’t necessarily get when you’re doing things separately and to the book.”
The band is excited for the future, as growing resources only increase the amount of possibility to be found in recording.
“Someone in the community by the name of Ian Thornburgh who records other artists offered to do some recordings for us. That’s where we got our latest song ‘Volver.’ We’re pretty happy with it,” Jared said.
“Volver” showcases the band’s varied writing process, where songs include everything from jamming to personal dreams of the band members.
“I don’t know if it’s a good way to live, but I actually take serious ideas from my dreams and bring them into life,” Cassandra said. “With ‘Volver’ I was having some moral dilemma in a dream that I was dealing with for the rest of the day. A lot of people have this experience where they’ve done something and they’re not sure if it was right or wrong because they haven’t seen the consequences yet.”
Many of the band’s songs stemmed out of Connor and Cassandra’s “sibling telepathy.”
“A lot of times we’ll both be writing something independently and we’ll discover that they go weirdly well together,” Cassandra said. “Usually we come to [the band] with a melody, a hook and how we want the song to sound. From there, it’s like a pile of bones that the band puts together.”
The band aims to entertain its audiences by being as energetic as possible. Dan said he hopes the band can create a space for band members and audience members alike to be open without fear of judgment.
“When you let it all out, when you really inhabit the spirit of rock and roll, people will absorb that and they will give you energy back,” Dan said. “I’ve never played a show, not even to the most sleepwalking, freakin’ shoegazing crowd, where we still didn’t elicit some sort of response from them by just laying it out there.”
With its music, the band wishes to impart meaning that couldn’t be expressed through any other medium. Connor explained how music can resonate with someone if the creator’s ideas are conveyed effectively.
“The music extends outside of ourselves,” Connor said. “When you enjoy your favorite band, the music becomes yours. As soon as our music isn’t just ours and it becomes someone else’s, that’s when we’ve accomplished something.”