Bios

Cristina Battani

Vocals & Rhythm Guitar

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Cristina grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where Motown and Bob Seger dominated the airwaves of her radio. The day after she graduated from college she moved to New York City to pursue a career in music, where she quickly built her reputation in the city’s highly competitive and diverse music scene. She has performed in many of its best known venues, such as The Bitter End, Nell’s, CBGB’s, Kenny’s Castaways, S.O.B.’s, and the Wetlands. Her various bands spanned a variety of styles, including alternative rock, reggae, jazz and blues. Completely immersed in music, she held senior executive posts as a VP at RCA Records, Volcano Records, and Velvel Music alongside legendary music executive Walter Yetnikoff. Her daily routine afforded her substantial exposure to some of the world’s greatest musical talent, many of whose influences can be heard in her vocal style today.

 

Ray Brindley

Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals

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Ray Brindley comes from a musical family in North Alabama, where he learned piano, drums and tenor saxophone before settling on the guitar.  He was playing jazz and popular standards in his grandfather’s big band at a young age while also absorbing the influences of classic and southern rock such as The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Dixie Dregs.  After leaving the South, he was a guitarist in the Stanford Jazz Band, had instruction by saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist John Scofield, and played jazz and rock music in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston while pursuing a medical degree.  Despite his range of musical interests, Ray finds that while he can take the guitar out of Alabama, he can’t take Alabama out of the guitar.

 

Michael Braunfeld

Drums

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The desire to drum began for San Francisco native Michael when he first saw Ringo playing his signature backbeat with the Beatles. The yearning to become a drummer only intensified with the arrival of more British Invasion bands. This explosion of new music along with the onset of what was known as the San Francisco Sound greatly influenced his early drumming sensibilities. Able to replace the practice pad with proper drum set in 1967 he was soon playing in a band. At the tender age 15 he had already recorded a demo and in November of 1969 performed at the legendary Fillmore West.  Michael has played intermittently over the decades and prior to joining Firewheel studied with noted drummer and polyrhythm master Peter Magadini.

 

Bob Keast

Bass

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Bob’s playing career began at age 13 after discovering a souvenir guitar his sister had purchased in Mexico. His early guitar heroes were both flamenco players: Sabicas and Manitas de Plata.  Like most guitarists at the time, Bob went electric in the mid 60’s and played lead guitar until the early 80’s. At this point he began playing bass.  A long time San Anselmo resident, Bob has been active in the Marin music scene for many years. An eclectic and diverse musician he has played in a host of bands ranging in styles that include Latin, Reggae, Blues, Rock, Pop, Jam, and even Berber (Algerian dance music).  Clearly, he is unafraid to try and play anything he thinks sounds good.

 

Laura Cooper

Keys & Backing Vocals

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A Marin County native, Laura had an inclination for music since an early age, singing in school plays and taking up flute. Her mother is a trained classical singer and pianist, and Laura’s great grandfather ran away to join the circus as a multi-instrumental musician when he was eleven. Laura taught herself piano, influenced by the styles of honky-tonk and boogie, as well as 80’s pop synth and psychedelic 60’s Farfisa. In addition to being a proud member of Firewheel, she occasionally composes and records her own material.