Interview with the Southern California band Alma Desnuda


Alma Desnuda is: Paul Suhr, Tony Glaser, Chris Bryden, Joe Glaser

1.      What distinguishes you from other musicians…what do you feel makes your sound unique?


I think the biggest distinguishing factor of Alma Desnuda from other musicians is our connection to something bigger than amplified notes. Alma D is all about the music, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more than just sound. We use music to connect to what’s around us, like our friends, families, and community, as well as each other and especially this Earth. The music is our connection to that Alma, the soul; we just try to breathe into it.Our unique sound flows from our individual influences and styles into an eclectic harmony, which I think our upcoming album, Middleway, will show. It’s all Alma.

We get a lot of inspiration from the San Francisco Bay, our home, where icons of the Woodstock era, like the Grateful Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, CSNY, Santana, CCR, Sly Stone, and so many others came together and inspired generations to come.

 The parallels between then and now, with the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam, and now our own deterioration of community, consciousness, and the increase of unjust war, creates a fire in our beings that finds an outlet through the connection of music. In that context, I think you could say we’re continuing that conscious revolutionary spirit in a fresh San Francisco sound.


2.      Where do you get your song ideas? Share more about your process in composing. Music or lyrics or concept first? (As a writer I tend to start with a concept first.) 

(Chris) Song ideas strike anywhere and anytime. I let them emerge at their own pace. Sometimes it’s a lyric that comes, sometimes a melody, sometimes a riff. Each song is it’s own creation. My only job is to stay open and listen. Topically, I am drawn to write songs that weave the personal and universal together and that challenge the listener to wake up and see our lives through a larger perspective. Mothers are scolding children all over the world, people are falling in love every day, someone finds their life looking up while another loses a job.

Everything is in constant flux but operating under universal themes. The more I dive into my own experience and pay attention to others’ lives, the more I see that we are all working  with the same experiences and emotions. Writing about those experiences through a personal lens brings relevance to the songs and allows people to connect with universal existential issues through Alma Desnuda’s particular frame of reference.   

3.      Did/do you have a mentor with whom you worked to develop your music?


The beauty of music is that it is one of the purest ways for us to relate to each other. Our mentors become anyone we can share in this connection, like the Confucian way of self-cultivation through others. We continue to learn and cultivate our craft every time we play a note and share in song, and so in this sense I have had quite a number.

In the more traditional sense, yes, I have had and continue to have mentors. It was advice given to me early on, to learn from those who came before me, that has contributed positively to my growth as a musician and as a human. 


One of my mentors I met on my way to college at UCSD, a dear friend named Joseph Lee, who to this day continues to mentor me in the business of music. While in college, I had the fortune of studying under the expertise of Detroit great Kamau Kenyatta. He helped me to develop my sound immensely, with constant support of my unique style and the freedom to compose the music for the Advanced Jazz Improvisation class my senior year. It is a powerful force when you have a mentor who truly believes in you, and for their support I am eternally grateful and would like to take this opportunity to thank them, especially those not mentioned here.





4.      How has it been different to work as a band rather than individually?

Joe: One of the most beautiful things for me about being in this band is that I have aligned my work with my two greatest passions: music and community. By focusing my energy into what I love most, I naturally let go of worries of the future and the obsession with individual success. My life has become a constant appreciation for what I have now, and the drive to use it for the benefit of all. As long as I stay true to myself and do what I love, I am confident that what will come back to me will be positive and in great abundance!

Being such close friends has helped the band grow quickly and strengthened our ability to work together. We recognize each others’ unique skills and experiences, and give each other the space and encouragement to grow. The result is a highly efficient and motivated team. Being in a band is a 24/7 job and it intertwines with nearly every aspect of your life. We’ve responded to that fact by being completely open with each other and willing to support one another with any problem that may arise. Above all, we are brothers. You can see this in our music and how we perform.

 5.      How’s the international reception for your music…have you ever played out of the US/discovered you have international fans? We have many international readers.                                                                                                                                       – 

Alma D has plans in the near future to embark on an international tour with our first stop in London.  Since our music is greatly inspired by the travels we have done, it’s no surprise that people in various corners of the globe have been able to relate to the themes and over-arching message of our lyrics.  Interestingly enough, I work at an international school where students from around the world return home with a copy of our EP in their suitcase.                       

6.      What would be your ideal concert experience? How do you adapt to such a variety of venues?

Joe: The perfect concert experience has three ingredients: nature, a feeling of connectedness to each other, and good sound. Our flexibility with the size of our sound has allowed us to play in a wide variety of environments, from street corners and tiny cafes to farmer’s markets and concert halls. But no matter the size, our desire to connect with the audience remains the same.

It brings me great joy to see how people react to our music. I especially love watching little kids dance to the music, or a mother swaying to the groove with a small child in her arms. It helps me realize that we are not just playing music, we are communicating. 

Why did you choose music as a medium as opposed to writing poems, etc? How did you choose your style of music? Do you feel being a musician has changed you as a person? Do you respond to situations differently having a musical outlet for expression?

Paul -Apart from the obvious changes (ie. inclusion of cool hats in my wardrobe and sophisticated music lingo to my vocabulary) the biggest change for me comes in the form of how I perceive the world.  Just as I’d imagine it goes with any creative project, whether it be art or film-making, the success of a song is dependent upon the listener’s ability to relate to it.  To this end, I have become much more attuned to my environment, others, and myself.                                                                                                                                     

9.      Share some stories from your travels and live performances…favorite memories? Funniest thing that has ever happened to you on the road, most poignant memory, etc? Anything interesting in how others respond to your music?


Oh man, where to begin?! I would need two brains, or one brain updated with cybernetic technology to catalogue all of the amazing memories and stories of my musical endeavors! I’ll try to pick out a few.Alma D has a unique ability to connect with all types of people.
One recent memory that brings a smile and laugh was playing outside a Brett Dennen concert at the Filmore in SF to promote for an upcoming show. We set up a little acoustic set on the corner full of hardened scalpers and needy panhandlers, and then just got into it. It wasn’t even halfway through our first song that we had all of those people aforementioned singing and dancing with us, sharing in contagious joy for the moment. It was cold and windy, but it didn’t matter. After a couple songs, one loud and abracious scalper came by, gearing up to take over the moment with clatter, but was immediately shushed by our new friends, then he joined in our song sharing in the golden moment.
The connection music brings is beautiful. Whether it be the dancing of parents and toddlers as we play on the streets, or the cheering of the crowd as we fill a club, or even our mom saying we’re awesome when we play in the house.



How has your music changed over the years, and where do you see the creative spirit taking you in the future?


 Chris: I think our music has changed in that it’s gotten better and our focus has become clearer. We have a better feel for what works and what doesn’t work. Regarding the future, we are confident that the creative spirit will take us where we need to go as long as we continue listening to the universe and keep in mind that we are conduits through which the universe expresses itself, nothing more and nothing less.


We have already traveled so far in such a short time and yet we’ve only just begun. We trust that by staying in the present moment and attending to the details that are in front of us, the journey will unfold as it should and we will be enabled to reach a vast audience of listeners spanning the globe.


Case in point, the reason you are reading this right now is because we played a benefit concert for Food Not Bombs and Cristina from Synchronized Chaos happened to be there. Like Jonny Appleseed, who traveled  with a bag of apple seeds and let them blossom where they may, we’re confident that if we put out the right ingredients, the rest will take care of itself.