The Insomniacs seemed to literally explode onto the scene out of nowhere in 2006 as a fully-formed and functional unit, delighting audiences with their joyous, yet highly contagious musical sound and irresistible sense of swing. In just a short period of time, this Portland, Oregon-based four-piece band accumulated numerous awards and critical praise, including a 2006 Muddy Award presented by the Cascade Blues Association for Best New Act, in addition to airplay on the nationally syndicated radio news/talk program, the Ed Schultz Show, which broadcasts to over 3 million listeners on over 100 affiliate stations across the nation.
Recorded in the living room of bassist Dean Mueller’s house, the Insominacs’ self-produced debut release, “Left Coast Blues,” was quickly snatched up and issued on Delta Groove Music in August 2007, propelling the album to the #5 position on the national Living Blues radio charts. Critical praise and industry recognition from the blues community soon followed, earning the band their second Muddy Award, this time for Best Contemporary Blues Act of 2007, as well as a 2008 Blues Music Award nomination for Best New Artist Debut.
Building off the success and momentum of “Left Coast Blues,” the Insomniacs began racking up the miles on their Sprinter van while introducing their fresh take on West Coast blues to festivals and clubs up and down the coastline and into the Midwest. They continually expanded their reach as they conquered new towns and added to their ever-growing list of adoring fans. In the process, the Insomniacs helped fill a void left by many of the pioneers and practitioners of this uniquely left coast music, who were either no longer with us, or had decided to move on and explore other avenues within the musical spectrum.
Guitarist Vyasa Dodson, whose exotic name is a Sanskrit gift from his Northern California mother, had a revelation when he switched from emulating Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton to studying jump blues masters such as Junior Watson, Tiny Grimes, Charlie Christian and Little Charlie Baty.
“The blues isn’t dead,” says Dodson. “It’s just going in different directions. B.B. King and Buddy Guy got started when they were young. The same thing is happening today.”
“Blues music just speaks to me,” says bassist Dean Mueller, who had his mind blown teaching at Centrum’s Port Townsend Country Blues Festival, where he jammed with John Cephas, Louisiana Red and Honeyboy Edwards. “It was just so cool. I knew I had found my home.”
Together with Alex Shakeri on keys and Dave Melyan on drums, the Insomniacs busted out with an original mix of blues, swing, jump, R&B and rock & roll that had crowds dancing the night away.
Their sophomore effort, “At Least I’m Not with You,” was produced by Jeff Scott Fleenor and recorded at Clear Lake Audio in North Hollywood, California in only two days. Led by 27-year old vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Vyasa Dodson, the Insomniacs laid down an astounding set of material that had been finely-tuned night after night out on the road over the last two years. With the benefit of utilizing a professional recording studio this time out, the band had world class equipment at their disposal, which included access to a grand piano and Hammond B3 for keyboardist, Alex Shakeri. Joined by label mates Al Blake and Mitch Kashmar on harmonica, as well as Joel Paterson on pedal steel guitar and saxophonist, Jeff Turmes, the Insomniacs expanded on their original intoxicating formula to deliver an album full of wildly contagious, feel-good music guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
“At Least I’m Not with You” was greeted with widespread critical acclaim. The Insomniacs took home the 2009 Blues Blast Award for Best Contemporary CD, and earned their second Blues Music Award nomination for Song of the Year in 2010 for the album’s title track penned by Dodson. They even landed a feature article in Blues Revue Magazine who summed up the group with one poignant sentence: "The Insomniacs could become legendary." Unfortunately all good things come to an end. The Insomniacs disbanded in early 2011 following a brief farewell tour.