Eichler Sound Comes Alive

As music made in an Eichler home, Mystery Lawn’s free revue comes to Marin June 22
Mystery Lawn Music
Mystery Lawn Music players rehearse at Allen Clapp’s Eichler studio.
(photo: David Toerge)

What exactly would Eichler-style music sound like? Cool jazz? The ‘American Songbook’ tunes of Fred Astaire, a favorite of Joe Eichler himself?

Or would it be all about California, melodic and light, a bit of the Beach Boys and the Byrds, with Elton John and the Beatles thrown in for a British accent, written and performed by Bay Area artists—and much of it recorded in an Eichler home?

If your answer to that last question is yes, or maybe, check out the opening concert in this year’s ‘Marinwood Music in the Park’ series Friday June 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Marinwood Park. The park, which abuts Eichler’s Marinwood tract, is at 775 Miller Creek Road, just north of Lucas Valley Road. Free. Beer, wine, and food available.

Impresario Allen Clapp, who grew up in a Foster City Eichler, formed the Mystery Lawn music label in his Sunnyvale Eichler, where he has a recording studio in the former garage and a grand piano in his living area. The result is music infused with a special sound.

“The nice thing about [recording] music in Eichlers is the spaces are contiguous and open and not square,” he says. “It lets the sound spread out without getting choked.”

“Part of having a room sound good is having uneven surfaces and not having square walls,” Clapp says. The ceiling beams help, he says, mahogany walls are better for acoustics than drywall, and “the combination of glass with concrete foundation seems to just flatter the sound.”

The performers on Mystery Lawn have their own sound—though all are tuneful. “There’s an emphasis on melody and harmony,” says Karla Kane, whose band the Corner Laughers will be on the bill, complete with ‘boy-girl harmonies’ and Karla’s ukulele. “Songwriting is an important aspect…All of it is catchy.”

Allen Clapp
Allen Clapp at the controls, inside his Eichler studio.
(photo: David Toerge)

Also performing will be Alison Faith Levy, who does children’s songs, William Cleere and the Marvelous Fellas playing piano rock, the Hollyhocks performing pop rock tinged at times with country, and Allen Clapp and his Orchestra, which will feature members from all the bands.

Marinwood Eichler resident Bill Hansell, who booked the show, says he and Clapp have similar tastes in music and architecture. He also runs a monthly jam session at his home and books shows throughout Marin.

Clapp, a personable fellow who says Mystery Lawn Music came about almost by accident when he kept meeting more and more worthy musicians, enjoys the social aspect of running a music label. That’s why he enjoys putting on Motown-style revues featuring Mystery Lawn artists.

“Every label I’ve been on, none of them has taken the communal aspects very seriously or harness the energy,” he says. “On most labels, you never meet the other artists. If I were ever the president of a record label, for me that would be the most fun part of it.”

Actually, Allen, you are the president of a record label.

Here’s more about the ‘Marinwood Music in the Park’ series and Mystery Lawn Music.