The sound of your city: Songwriter spreads the gospel of music in Sacramento

NineFingers in his home office in Sacramento compiling a copy of The Sound of Sacramento. Courtesy Photo

By Casey Rafter

The edges of its binding have begun to fray after weeks of thumbing through its pages – its blue duct tape slightly sticky at the corners, but still protecting the hand-punched staples.

Studying lines on the tape of this zine tell a tale of hasty construction: Its 50 pages were printed the morning it was purchased for $10 at Beer’s Books. Titled “The Sound: A Sacramento Songwriters Guide to Getting By,” the publication is at once a songbook, an introduction and an inside look at a plethora of local musicians.

The zine was produced by Sacramento musician NineFingers. Its collection started making appearances at Beers, located just down the street from The Library of Musiclandria, and a little further east, at Phono Select Records, in November 2022. There’s also a playlist and colorized digital copy of it available online at Bandcamp.

As the creator, NineFingers felt an obligation within Sacramento’s creative community to lift up others like himself. It’s a philosophy he tries to share in different arenas too, including his work with the Sacramento Songwriter Circle.

“If they were local, I said ‘Yes,’” Ninefingers recalled of connecting with Sacramento artists. “It was the type of thing that I’d be really excited about if I ran into it as a reader, and as a musician … I was super determined to make it happen, no matter what. This is the type of thing that I just think should exist in every city.”

The construction of the physical collection is quite homey — published from home on a printer NineFingers purchased specifically for this project. He’s gone through two batches of toner already, spitting out pages that feature a total of 24 local musicians.

The name of the zine comes from a phrase often heard in NineFingers’ former stomping ground of Bakersfield. Not only does he have friends who run a music store called “The Bakersfield Sound,” but it’s something he hasn’t been able to get out of his head since moving to Sacramento.

“I was just looking for a one-word thing and ‘The Sound’ made sense: it’s the sound of your city,” he reflected. “I really want it to spread and I want everybody else to be making these. I want to go on tour one day and I want to stop in Nevada City, Modesto – big cities, small cities – and, when I go into the local coffee shop, I want to see ‘The Sound of Nevada City.’”

Among the musicians included are local favorites like Sarah Reiwitch, Sol Caracol and Isle of Stipe. Sacramento band Dogpatch had a two-page spread featuring illustrations by its lead, Emilee Durbin.

Durbin also illustrates all of the band’s show posters — and her own for her solo performances — by hand.

A note on the band’s insert for the zine, with bubble letters by Durbin, bragged that their song “Moon in the Pines” only required three guitar chords: E, A major 7 and D.

“It’s one of our songs about losing love, so I figured it was perfect to share,” Durbin said. “He asked for art and chords so people could learn it themselves. I figured why not describe it. When people feel more connected to a song and what it means to the artist, it’s more exciting.”

Each musician in ‘The Sound’ gets their own one or two-page spread, usually including art they contributed, as well as lyrics to one of their songs and chords so that other musicians can try them out. In some cases, performers contribute blurbs about the issue’s overall theme.  

“I really hope that next time more people give blurbs,” Ninefingers admitted. “They have an opportunity to open the door a little more in ways that they normally won’t be able to, and they need to take advantage of that opportunity, because no one is looking for us.”

Chris Casuga of Fake Canadian, Luhan Si Hadin and NineFingers before a performance. NineFingers wears a Blooming Heads shirt. Courtesy photo

For some, the hope is that ‘The Sound’ will give exposure to young or newer artists in Sacramento who might only be caught at open mics at the moment, rather than taking the stage at premier venues like the Starlet Room.

One such artist is 17-year-old Viva Corless, who met NineFingers at the bi-monthly Songwriter Circle. Stylized “VIVA,” her song “As Long As I Can” unfurls a cut and paste design across two pages of the latest zine. The layout includes maps, a butterfly, a flower and lyrics that appear to have been cut out of a type-written log then affixed to the page.

VIVA’s somber lyrics include the heart-wrenching line, “Even after you’re gone and forgotten, I’ll remember you as long as I can—”.

“If you’re an artist, I think that part of your duty is to help support and uplift other artists,” VIVA said, mirroring NineFingers’ take on the philanthropy. “That’s kind of how we all get through it together. I think that that’s one of the most beautiful things about artistry: it is so much about helping other people, whether it’s writing songs that are universal and other people can relate to or … creating a safe space for people to experiment with their own types of music. I feel like that’s what NineFingers has done.”

In “The Sound’s” Issue #1, NineFingers has already laid a foundation for a follow-up. He says Issue #2 will be called “Loving is Easy” and instead of featuring breakup songs, the volume will focus on songs about successes in love. He’s hoping for the next issue to hit the stands in June.

NineFingers has toyed with the idea of allowing more artists to contribute while keeping the published version of the zine limited again to 50 pages. In that case, he’d meet the demand form contributing artists by creating an expanded edition of Issue #2 digitally.

“All the people that are in the first issue, I know for sure are working on something,” NineFingers teased. “‘Loving is Easy’ was an easy jump from ‘Breakups are Hard,’ but I definitely do want to do a different theme each time. At the same time, if someone submits something, it’s not like I’m going over it with a fine-toothed comb. The goal is for all of us to share our music.”

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