New Book Honors Underdog Songwriters From The Inland Empire...

In this humorous memoir, readers will learn about a demented group of songwriters from the Inland Empire as well as its regional myths, true crime stories, and characters involved with the Southern California DIY music scene between 2000-2010.

LOS ANGELES, CA — Tone-deaf singers, meth heads, ghosts, murders, and concerts unravel in each chapter of Bards of the Inland Empire. For 10 years, Daniel Rolnik attended shows at DIY music venues like The Smell and Pehrspace to hear songwriters wail about the cities stapled to the Eastern edges of L.A. To better understand their lyrics, which were filled with allegories of smoking speed and battling mental illness, Daniel collected strange, yet true stories of their hometowns. Cities like San Bernardino and Pomona intertwine with narratives about the underground music scene of Los Angeles, giving these songs and their writers more context than ever before. John Thill, Whitman, Jon Barba, Kevin Greenspon, I.E., and a few others are the Bards of the Inland Empire. Daniel Rolnik is just their unauthorized biographer.

I think the Inland Empire is like the Bermuda Triangle of California. It pulls scum to it like a magnet and lets it fester in the embrace. A group of songwriters, who I nicknamed the bards, grew up there and managed to escape through their music. But, I had to write a book about it all rather than have you just listen to their albums. I’d feel embarrassed if you heard their music before reading this because of how terribly it was recorded. It wouldn’t give you the right vibe. Also, all of the places that the bards performed at are quickly disappearing and one of the members was banished from the music scene for sexually harassing a fan. So no matter what they do, they’ve got little pieces of the I.E.’s distortions embedded into their cerebrums. When things are this weird, you’ve got to share them with others.
— Daniel Rolnik, author

Read about the hellhole of the Inland Empire and the bards' escape from it through the heavenly gates of Los Angeles' music scene. Journey into myths surrounding Mount Rubidoux, the Toxic Lady, the Riverside Catacombs, the Chicken Coop Murders, and more. If you love underground music and want a catalog of the 21st Century's best characters like Karen Centerfold, Monkey Bucket, and Almighty Opp then this is the book for you! Explore venues like The Smell, Pehrspace, and Echo Curio without getting threatened with a knife by the security guard. Full body leotards, Tuvan throat singers, and a guy that smashes glass over his face – it’s all inside BARDS OF THE INLAND EMPIRE - and all of it is true!

Bards of the Inland Empire will be available for $25 from starting May 11th, 2017. It was self-published by the author. Stores throughout Southern California will be selling copies of the book with exclusive front-cover designs.

The book is 211 pages and includes lyrics by John Thill, Whitman, Jon Barba (Nicole Kidman), No Paws (No Lions), Voice on Tape, and I.E that were previously unavailable.

If you would like an advanced copy of the book or more information, please email the author at: 

Portrait of the author, Daniel Rolnik


Daniel Rolnik is the world’s most adorable art critic. He has written for magazines, newspapers, and blogs - in addition to creating the Portland Art App for smartphones and tablets. Bards of the Inland Empire is his first book, but he has more in the works and writes fast. Daniel is epic. He lives with Ginger the Dinosaur Dog and his wife. Before writing the book, Daniel ran an eponymous art gallery for two years and got kicked out of every location he was in. He's currently practicing the art of eating dinner with strangers.


Feel free to use any and all images on this page.


"A puddle amassed below him and the salty water splashed around as he flailed his arms and legs in meth-induced bouts of liquid dancing. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough." - from the Introduction


"The strangest part of the lounge wasn’t the wet books, or the dirty couches, it was the snack area...It was where you could usually see the owner, Jim Smith, who looked more out of place in his own club than we did." - from Chapter 2: The Smell


"Whitman was a tone-deaf musician that performed regularly, recorded multiple albums, and ran Folktale Records. He had taken his name from the 19th Century poet, Walt Whitman, after reading Leaves of Grass in high school and the only thing similar about the two was that they both walked on Earth at one point in their lives." from Chapter 4: Whitman & Folktale Records


"He kept his priceless relics in an array of tunnels called the Riverside Catacombs, which he had constructed underneath the hotel." - from Chapter 5: The Shaman of Mount Rubidoux


"When I think of the world’s greatest songwriters, I think of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Thill." - from Chapter 6: John Thill


"As an act of desperation, the doctors cut open Gloria’s shirt and decided to use a defibrillator on her in a procedure known as electrical cardioversion...Soon afterwards, staff members in the room began feeling ill and either passed out, vomited, or needed to sit down. Meanwhile, Gloria was convulsing on the operating table and struggling for her life." - from Chapter 7: The Toxic Lady of Riverside


"The heat inside was also driving everyone to the brink of insanity, especially a girl named Ajax who had mummified eyes and was rolling about the audience in a sort of haze with her arms at her side." - from Chapter 12: Pehrspace

Original Keywords: Daniel Rolnik, Inland Empire, Riverside, San Bernardino, Pomona, Covina, The Smell, Pehrspace, Il Corral, Echo Curio, Almighty Opp, The Cocaine, downtown LA, Los Angeles, Toxic Lady, Midgetville, Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, Crime, Meth, Underground Music, Songwriters, Music, Sean Carnage, Monkey Bucket, Karen Centerfold, John Thill, Whitman, Kevin Greenspon, No Paws No Lions, Voice On Tape, Die Bene, Jon Barba, Nicole Kidman, I.E., Margot Padilla, Bards, Humor, Deathbomb Arc, Memoir, Book, Lyrics, Bards of the Inland Empire, Folktale Records, Dan the security guard, Bridgetown Records