Cambodian psychedelica filtered through Long Beach’s fading neon lights: singer Chhom Nimol and bandleaders Ethan and Zac Holtzman share their story.
Dengue Fever formed in Los Angeles in 2001 when the Holtzman brothers Ethan (organ/keyboards) and Zac (vocals/guitar) discovered a shared love of Cambodian rock and pop music of the ’60s. After adding sax man David Ralicke, drummer Paul Smith and bassist Senon Williams to their lineup, they went looking for a Cambodian singer. Enter Chhom Nimol, a well-known karaoke singer in Cambodia who had moved to the States and was singing in nightclubs in the Little Phnom Penh area of Long Beach. Her distinctive voice, Khmer-language vocals and hypnotic stage moves were perfect for the band’s hard and fast Cambodian-American sound. Dengue Fever’s psychedelic rock vibe mixes up cover versions of Cambodian tunes with original tracks written by the Holtzmans (and then translated into Khmer). In this Fireside Chat, singer Chhom Nimol and the Holtzman brothers discuss how they met in Long Beach, the lyric-writing process, touring in Cambodia and much more.