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Storied: San Francisco

Jun 4, 2024

Brett Cline is, as he puts it, from the "Deep South." But he's such a California kid that by that he means Southern California.
In Part 1, get to know Brett, who for the past decade or so has run The Lost Church performing arts theater. His life began in Orange County, where his parents ended up after meeting at UCLA and traveling around the world when his dad was a pilot in the Navy.
Brett was heavily into the punk rock scene in SoCal in the Eighties (think bands like Social Distortion and Suicidal Tendencies, among others). But his love of music started in fourth grade when he snuck into the bedroom of an older neighbor kid and found the first record from Oingo Boingo, a band that changed his life. They were his first brush with alternative art, and soon became a defining point of his early personality.
He dabbled in the four pillars of life in SoCal: He skateboarded, surfed, listened to punk rock, and ate at Taco Bell. Brett started playing drums in sixth grade and his first band was called High Voltage. He would write lyrics and draw album covers, while his friend Mark made beats on snare drums only.
His mom was always a community person. She is a christian, but not a book-burner, as he says. She started a community organization centered around school issues: Citizens Action to Save Education (CASE). She was later school board president and continued to be involved in local politics around school issues. When his Navy service ended, Brett's dad got into the corporate world. He started several aviation companies. Today, Brett sees aspects of both of his parents in the foundation of The Lost Church.
As a kid, he often went with his parents to community theaters. Brett's dad plays organ, his mom plays piano, one of his two brothers played clarinet, and his sister went to NYU and became an actor and singer.
In high school, Brett started playing more music and always wanted to tour, though that never really worked out. He started playing bass and singing more. In 1989, he graduated high school and went to UC Santa Barbara. His college band, St. Rusticus, had the local record for getting shut down by cops the fastest. "Three songs in, and the cops were there."
Going to UCSB introduced Brett to Northern California, partly because the school paired kids from SoCal with kids from NorCal in the dorms. He'd visited SF with his family when he was a kid. It was different from where he's from, but he didn't immediately like it. In college, though, he took trips up here and fell in love. He'd come up, do mushrooms and acid, and listen to older, more-mainstream rock. He got heavily into the Grateful Dead, even touring with them, as many fans do.
After college, the plan was to move to SF with his friend Davey Lyle. (Lyle did many of the paintings seen today all around The Lost Church). But in his senior year, Brett got a D in art and learned that the Spanish he took at junior college didn't transfer to the UC. And so he dropped out, got a loan from his parents, bought a computer, scanner, and Photoshop, and started making album covers for local bands.
Then his dad got him an internship in London with a graphic arts company and he took it. He saw many shows there but came back after only nine months. And when he came back, he moved immediately to San Francisco.
With no job and no prospects, Brett moved in with his friend Davey, who'd already made the move up. They lived in a warehouse in the Mission on 20th near Harrison, then moved to Sixth and Market. It was December 1993.
Check back next week for Part 2 and the origin story of The Lost Church.
We recorded this podcast at The Lost Church San Francisco in May 2024.