David Shapireau first picked up the guitar to play funky Southern-tinged R&B in high school. Now, several decades later, the 58-year-old musician, building on musical liaisonswith the likes of Norton Buffalo, is finally fronting his own rock'n'roll band, West of Next.
"I've had my own jazz bands before but never anything like this - it's the first time I've ever sung," he says. "I'm enjoying it very much."
The path to this point was long and musically winding. Shapireau moved from Europe (by way of Baltimore) to California in 1972 and quickly became immersed in the Northern California rock scene, playing with, among others, Norton Buffalo, Jerry Garcia and Maria Muldaur
Shapireau's personal set of songs arrived long before he had a band to call his own.
"I just got this songwriting fever in 2002 and had hundreds and hundreds of songs - I finally decided I should do something more with them than just sing them to myself."
And so, finally, after moving to Sacramento in 2008, Shapireau put together a band that reflected his musical aesthetic (everything from western swing and bluegrass to Zydeco), all cut with a diamond-like precision.
"I have a background in jazz composition ... and I needed someone who could play very well technically and read music."
Shapireau found like-minded musicians in guitarist Steve Randall, drummer Tony Dey and bassist Paul Knutson.
Now, West of Next's sound is an amalgation of eclectic sounds, melancholy observations and pop sensibilities.
It is, he says, an equation that adds up to the unexpected.
"The average rock band doesn't usually do it that way."
West of Next
Song: "Something to Go On"
Style: Off-kilter pop
Behind the song: "Most of my songs are about melancholy and loneliness but this is more positive," Shapireau says.
"I just thought that everyone needs something to get them through - we all have our belief system, be it religion or another person."
The song's structure, he adds, diverges from rock's usual verse-chorus-verse framework.
"Most of my songs are usually very Broadway or Beatles," Shapireau says.
"I'm not exactly sure why this one came out different but when you're writing you want the mood to fit the lyrics - I wanted something upbeat but, because of my personality, also a little eccentric."
See them: Thursday at the Java Lounge, 2416 16th St, Sacramento; the all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. and is $5 at the door.
On the Web: www.myspace.com/davidshapireauwestofnext
Listen to "Something to Go On" here: