A harmonized version of Afroman’s “Crazy Rap” could be heard echoing through Guitar Center in San Francisco as musicians Cort Young and Albero Berul were goofing around during a work shift. Singing the lyrics “Colt 45 and two zig-zags” in unison sparked a co-worker’s compliment and led Young and Berul to jam together outside of work. Once they found bassist Greg Yannett, drummer Lyman Jerome Alexander II, guitarist Ben Hicks, saxophonist Lucian Pixley and vocalist Rai Ahmed-Green, holding jam sessions turned into writing original songs. By the time they were gearing up to play their first gig, these musicians realized they needed a band name, and Last Planet was formed.
Caltopia attendees may have noticed Young and Berul playing acoustic renditions of their originals near the many outdoor booths. Their stripped-down set gave a taste of what to expect at their Cornerstone gig held Sept. 1. With instruments amped and most members present, the band consisting of UC Berkeley and Berklee College of Music alumni brought a polished energy to Cornerstone.
“When we get asked, I think both (Cort and I) generally describe it as punky bluesy rock under the umbrella of alternative, which is super broad, but honestly, it kind of has to be because our sound is kind of all over the place,” Berul said of the band’s music style in an interview with The Daily Californian.
“In ‘Gold Ferrari’ you can hear some country influences,” Young added, referring to Last Planet’s unreleased single. “‘Straight Jacket’ is harder rock, with some blues rock in ‘Jonesing.’ We’ve also got a soft acoustic song.”
Last Planet approaches cover songs with a similar sense of broad influence. At Cornerstone, they covered Blink-182’s “Dammit” and Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be,” flavoring each with elements of funk. As far as originals go, Young and Berul are the core songwriters.
“Albero brought ‘Jonesing’ and ‘Buried Alive,’” Young said. “Some of the other ones, like ‘Not Enough,’ I brought to (Albero). There are a couple where we just drank Jameson at my old apartment and literally wrote together on the couch. ‘Skydive’ was one of those.”
After the foundation of the song is set, the rest of Last Planet adds their own individual nuances and improvisations, energizing the song into wholeness.
Although Last Planet recently released its debut EP Petrichor in May 2021, recording began at the end of 2019 — just in time for the unexpected obstacles of the pandemic to test the band’s confidence.
“In some ways it was a little bit of a blessing in disguise because it gave us a long period of time to work on our recordings,” Berul said.
“It also gave us a lot of time to make a lot of mistakes,” Young laughed. “We did record it slightly before the COVID shutdown, but the whole retracking production stuff took way more time than I anticipated. We made a lot of mistakes and had to redo stuff, whereas now I think we are way more efficient.”
Inside Young’s apartment sits a newly built vocal booth where future recordings will take place. Last Planet has several songs it’s eager to record, but as members of an unsigned band, they’re learning to balance business with creativity.
“Al and I are not full-time musicians right now,” Young said. “We both have full day jobs, which makes some things a lot harder.”
Berul, however, points out the new benefit of being able to financially invest in the band and the possibilities it may open.
Last Planet worked hard to make the Cornerstone show a reality for itself, as well as for other bands. After reaching out to venues, Young directly messaged Anthony Arya Band and Alex Lucero & The Live Again Band via Instagram, bringing strangers together for a night of live music. To close the show, members from each band shared the stage to collaboratively cover The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” emanating an easygoing vibe as if they’d all known each other for years.
As for the up-and-coming band’s future, Last Planet is focusing on releasing singles, ideally on a monthly basis.
“We want to develop what we think is cool,” Young remarked, “not just what is popular.”
Young and Berul may have moved on from singing “Crazy Rap” harmonies at work, but they’re still bringing a fun approach to their passion for music. Their talent is now professionally produced, and after Last Planet’s Cornerstone gig, their momentum is only building.
Contact Amanda Ayano Hayami at [email protected].