There is a group of tribute bands around Orange County preserving 90s ska and punk rock music. They are a community of musicians, singers, and entertainers performing at local rock joints like The Slidebar in Fullerton or Diego’s in Santa Ana. Some bands are veteran acts, others are rookies, but most of them do it to pay homage to the bands they grew up listening to. That was the case for Angela Riccio, a 27-year-old woman from L.A., who had a dream of starting her own No Doubt tribute band, called New Doubt.
Tribute bands, like New Doubt, are known for their ability to capture nuances of artists they’re imitating. Unlike cover bands, they’re not playing a variety of top 40 songs in their street clothes. There’s a formula to it, usually consisting of costumes, theatrics, and a careful selection of talented musicians that can look and sound the part of a chosen band. For Angela, starting a tribute band came with a lot of unexpected surprises— one of which resulted in motherhood.
When Angela was 15, she met Gwen Stefani for the first time as a teen reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram. She still has the photo of that day saved on her iPhone, in case anyone asks.
As Angela grew older, she started singing No Doubt songs for fun at local karaoke bars. Strangers showered her with compliments while commenting on her Gwen-a-be looks and voice.
After realizing her talent, Angela wondered what it would be like to perform on a more professional level. Instead of performing one or two songs for people, perhaps she could cover a whole set of songs and get paid while doing it.
In 2014, she pitched her idea to a musician she knew from high school. He had a small band with three other guys and used to jam for fun in his garage. When Angela approached them to start a No Doubt tribute band, they all wanted in.
But not everyone in the band agreed with the theatrics associated with becoming a successful tribute band. Angela had a hard time convincing some of her bandmates to get into No Doubt’s character roles. Not only that, but girlfriends and spouses of certain band members were reluctant to support their boyfriend’s participation in the band — causing awkward moments within the group.
When tensions became too much to handle, Angela opted to go her own route, proclaiming leadership rights to New Doubt. Those who wanted to remain part of New Doubt were welcomed, but had to follow Angela’s new vision if they wanted to be a serious tribute band.
Only two bandmates remained with Angela: Sterling Gutierrez and Johnny Serrania. Gutierrez, the band’s bass player, decided to bleach his hair to replicate No Doubt’s bassist, Tony Kanal. Guitarist Johnny Serrania, took the role as No Doubt’s stringy guitar player, Tom Dumont, and developed a romantic relationship with Angela along the way.
The band had their Gwen, Tony, and Tom, but still needed a musician to serve as No Doubt’s wild and spontaneous drummer– Adrian Young. It had to be someone ballsy enough to play in his boxers while wearing black lipstick and rolling out beats to hits like, “Underneath it All.” When Angela put an ad out on Craigslist, she instantly received a message from a thirty-something bachelor named Justin Schubel.
“I’ll dress up like that foo’ and I’ll set my drums up like him too,” said Justin, who attached a photo from the time he met Adrian at a music convention.
Learning that Justin also played for the 182’s, a tribute to Blink 182, Angela knew he would be the perfect addition. After deciding to hire him, Angela partnered with a booking agent to get them a six-city west coast tour— with a headliner in Vegas.
Her next step was sifting through thrift shops to purchase as much vintage ‘90s gear she could find, and study No Doubt YouTube videos hoping to perfect Gwen’s mannerisms, or “Gwenisms.” Everything from Gwen’s tiger-like crouches to sultry salutes were added to Angela’s repertoire of moves to transform her into “Gwen-gela”– her alter-ego.
The band gained momentum during their first few shows around Orange County. Crowds loved them and venues were stoked that they didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg to hire veteran tribute bands like No Duh – New Doubt’s standing competition.
But amid all their excitement, Angela had a secret she needed to share with her bandmates. A recent visit to her doctor revealed that she was pregnant with Johnny’s baby– a souvenir from their vacation in Hawaii.
“What does that mean for the band?” Justin wondered, shocked at hearing the news. It seemed as if things needed to be put on hold.
Easing their worries, Angela ensured them that the tour would still go on — and it did. In between shows, Angela balanced out doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood checks, and band rehearsals.
But by the end of the tour, Angela was starting to feel the effects of her pregnancy. In Vegas, her feet were swollen to twice her shoe size. Another day, she had a debilitating migraine that temporarily stunted her eyesight and made her feel as if she couldn’t speak. She was worried she wouldn’t be able to make it through her last and biggest performance.
“[I] can’t trip out,” Angela reminded herself. “It’s our biggest show.”
The show was about to begin and people from the Strip were starting to fill the dance floor. Glittering lights on a marquee outside flashed around New Doubt’s name. Underneath the stage’s dim purple lights, Angela and the band were anxiously waiting to begin.
Suddenly the spotlights came on and the band jumped into their first set of songs for the night. The crowd cheered— dancing, singing, and drinking along to hits like “Bathwater” and “Sunday Morning.” Revealing her six-and-a-half month belly to the crowd, Angela was met with hoots and hollers from the audience.
“Guess what I’m having?” she asked the crowd playfully. “Just a Girl,” she said, leading the band into No Doubt’s 1995 hit single.
By the end of the show, fans were chanting for an encore. New Doubt had successfully cemented their status as a legitimate tribute band and venues were lining up to invite them back for a repeat performance.
Within the next few months, the band went on hiatus and made plans for a summer comeback tour. Angela and Johnny got engaged, bought a house and welcomed baby Melody Moon into their lives in April. For Angela, things were finally starting to come together and she wasn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.
“Nobody just wins the lottery or gets the perfect job and has the perfect amount of time to start a family,” says Angela. Sometimes it takes unexpected surprises to “get your shit together” and just go for it.
Check out New Doubt at facebook.com/newdoubt or their handle @newdoubt.