Local Hero (left to right): Bassist Jojo Brandel, lead singer and guitarist Alex MacKay and drummer Leo Grossman. Bassist Max Hirtz-Wolf not shown 

Local Hero, an aspiring Berkeley group, has just released their first extended play album, The Aldgate, with five tracks. Three of the group are connected with Berkeley High while the fourth attends College Prep in North Oakland.

“This is the first time we’ve had something for sale,” said Alex MacKay, lead singer and guitarist for the group. MacKay graduated from BHS in June and has deferred admission to the University of Toronto for a year to pursue his music and to travel. “It’s a real point of satisfaction to have a completed product out there.”

The cover artwork shows a ship that was captained by MacKay's great-great-grandfather, George Cheshire

The group performed at last June’s Berkeley High graduation, and has also had gigs at a number of local venues, including Ashkenaz, Blake’s and Caffé Trieste. Current bassist Max Hirtz-Wolf is now a BHS senior, former bassist JoJo Brandel also graduated from BHS in June, and drummer Leo Grossman is currently a senior at College Prep.

Music blog Metrojolt gave The Aldgate a generally positive review: “The band has a knack for undeniable pop hooks that echo throughout the EP’s 19-minute playing time, making for a light, breezy album just in time for the end of summer.”

MacKay said he has long been interested in songwriting as well as performing, but lacked confidence until his sophomore year at BHS. He wrote what he described as “a bitter, angry song about a girl”, and that seems to have broken a logjam.

The group is planning to make a music video soon, and hopes to schedule some more local gigs. “Our fan base took a hit when everyone went to college,” said MacKay.

MacKay says his favorite group — “far and away” — is Vampire Weekend, and there are definite touches of the New York indie band in the five songs of The Aldgate. You can download The Gold Coast for free here, or listen to the album streaming here:

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...