the Koalas log

The Koalas: Behind the Music

Lanaya Voelz Lanaya Voelz, 41. Vocals. Born in Central California, Lanaya is an engineer at CDM. This is Lanaya’s first band. She was in the musical “Chess” with the San Luis Obispo Little Theater and has been performing in the shower for years. Her greatest musical influence is her mom as “she started me on the piano before I could talk and has been more than supportive of my musical endeavors ever since.” Lanaya enjoys all the Koala songs but really gets into the Blondie songs, go figure. See Lanaya’s head shot.
Steve RoySteve Roy, 62. Lead/rhythm guitar. Born in Los Angeles, Steve is a retired teacher (at University City High School). Steve’s influences include B.B. King, Ten Years After, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Jose Feliciano. He’s previously played in the S.E.D. (Seriously-Emotionally-Disturbed) Six, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and T.S. Express. Besides Black Magic Woman and Sultans of Swing, Steve’s favorite songs are “anything I sing.” We all like Steve as he owns most of the equipment.
Marty IrwinMarty Irwin, the only band member who is the same age as Kevin Koala. Lead/rhythm Guitar & Vocals. San Diego bands have included Common Ground, Twilight Express, and Swing Shift. His guitar influences have been B.B. King, Eric Clapton & Brian Setzer. Well kept secret: He is a lefty, but plays the guitar right-handed. Dislikes: the smell of Corn Nuts.
Neil Choplin plays keyboards.
Andy Hudson Andy Hudson, 52. Bass. A photographer and publisher of Photo Tour Books. Andy was born in Redditch, England, home of John Bonham from Led Zeppelin and two members of Duran Duran. This might explain why Andy moved to New York in 1988 and San Diego in 1990. Previous bands include Original Sin, Cascade and Free Beer. Andy’s favorite Koala song is Heart of Glass, “because all five of us worked so hard to learn it.” He’s occassionally been spotted as Ziggy Stardust. Visit Andy’s website.
Ted Molter Ted Molter, 51. Drums. Director of Marketing for the San Diego Zoo. Born in the home of “Rock and Roll,” (or at least the museum) — Cleveland, Ohio — Ted moved to San Diego in 1998 with his wife Jo Ann. During college at Kent State University, he played in several bands including Neon Octa and Inside Story. Read more about Ted.
KevinKevin Koala, age unknown. Spiritual Guide. Some say he’s related to Yoda, others claim he’s the true author of those “Chicken Soup” books. Long ostracized for his rare tuft of pink, yellow and blue hair, Kevin dreamed of a day when he could unite all mind-melding marsupials, hallucinogenic herbivores, or, as history has come to know them, The Psychedelic Koalas.
Age = age when band turned sweet sixteen in January 2016
Past Koalas
Phil ShorterPhil Shorter, 42. Lead/rhythm guitar. A Ph.D researcher/engineer at ESI US Research & Development, Inc.. Phil was born in the north of England but moved to New Zealand before any real damage was done. He played guitar for Kronecker Delta and A-band-with-no-name, and his influences include J.J. Cale, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler and Blues in E. Phil's favorite Koala songs are Sultans of Swing, Wonderful Tonight and Bobby McGee. Phil's alter-ego is Jimi Hendrix.
Tony Pistollo Tony Pistillo, 46. Keyboards. At the time: Director of Public Relations at Four Seasons Resort Aviara. Also born in Cleveland, Ohio, Tony moved to San Diego in 1997 while working for SeaWorld Adventure Parks. Starting at age 7, Tony took organ lessons for 13 years, and specialized in Italian polkas. His favorite polka: She’s Too Fat. Various bands came and went including Fast Forward, Eclipse, A.P.B., The Steve Vanderink Duo, The O’Brien Brothers and Loaf. Tony’s big claim to fame is that he was almost the keyboard player for N’Sync. He declined an invitation to join the N’Sync band as they were forming in the mid-90s, not realizing that he was declining future fortune. He had a second chance to make it big with the Koalas. Look how that turned out.

The E! True Hollywood Story

“We’re getting the band back together.”

Birth of a Legend

The Koalas were formed on January 23, 2000, at a pub after a particularly gruelling game of disc golf.

While recuperating at The Shakespeare Pub, the conversation turned to Andy Cunningham’s upcoming Australia Day Party. “We should form a band!” said Steve. Now Steve had been saying this about every party for the past three years, without getting much of a response. “Yes” said Phil, when asked if he’d like another pint. “Yes” said Andy, before adding his latest excuse not to haul his electric piano anywhere: “But we don’t have a drummer.” It was then that Ted, who’d recently arrived in San Diego, uttered those fateful words that all bands regret: “I play drums.”

The excitement was electric. Steve and Ted discussed songs. Phil got his beer. A band was being born.

Undaunted, Andy made two attempts to quash this foolhardy enterprise: “I can play bass,” which was a lie; and, thinking embarrassment might work: “We could call ourselves ’The Koalas.” This latter idea backfired immediately. “The Psychedelic Koalas!” said Steve, who had never left the 60s. Much approval ensued. “Yes” said Ted, eager for anything that involved playing the drums loudly. “Yes” said Phil, when asked if he’d like another pint. History was made.

The Early Years


The Koalas’ first practice was held on January 25, 2000. It was here that the band discovered that Ted had not heard the part about “Australia Day Party” and was going to be away for the inaugural gig. Unaffected by their lack of rhythm or material, just like today, the band played on for a smashing debut on January 29, 2000.

At their first gig, the Koalas received rave reviews such as “loud and vaguely in tune.” However, neither quality applied to their singing. A general casting call was made for a lead singer.

photo Lanaya joined the band on March 4, 2000. During the second gig at Kelli’s house, Lanaya came to the band’s attention with her wild dancing and ability to drink beer. However, such qualities are not enough for the perfectionist Koalas. So, after some belting renditions of Elvis songs, Lanaya was determined to be the only band member who could read lyrics at 3 a.m. The Koalas were now five.

Unfortunately, Lanaya couldn’t make the third gig. But it was here that the Koalas established their now-legendary high rate of pay: free food. This was improved by the fourth gig, Lanaya’s debut, where the Koalas actually got paid real money ($120, although the host might have said “please give this to the caterer”).


The next few gigs brought the Koalas several firsts:

Bar Gigs

photoIn August 2001, the Koalas started a regular gig at the wonderful Comstock Bar and Grill. The act became tighter, the set list more defined, and a loyal following of foolhardy but sympathetic friends developed.

By June 2002, after six gigs at the Comstock, the Koalas progressed to the region’s largest fair — the San Diego County Fair. The adjective “Psychedelic” got dropped from the name and, in their minds at least, the Koalas was the support band for Little Richard (although he was technically on a different stage).

photo Stunned by that experience, the Koalas went into hibernation for the first half of 2003. The band searched for creative differences and rehab problems, but ended up drinking at Rock Bottom. Rehab was finally found with a return visit to the San Diego County Fair for two gigs.

photo In 2004, the Koalas added a new member, Tony Pistillo on keyboards. Tony was an old friend of drummer Ted and played keys in a similar band called Loaf.

Hard Rock

The Koalas got a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe in La Jolla but Steve but was booked on a surfing trip to Hawaii on the same day, so Tony was drafted in to temporarily fill Steve’s big shoes and add variety and redundancy to the line-up. When it was revealed that Tony had unused coupons for Rock Bottom, he was invited to join permanently.


Practicing in Steve’s new garage, July 2005.

The Koalas Today

The Koalas seem to be hibernating. They’re adding new songs at weekly practices but need to start getting some gigs. Perhaps they’ll record a new demo CD this summer.

Alternate Names
Think “The Psychedelic Koalas” is weird?
They could have been named:
Abandon Hope
After The Storm
The Banned
The Beach Bums
Clap Or We’ll Shoot
Endless Summer
Shark Attack
S.P.L.A.T. (Steve, Phil, Lanaya, Andy and Ted)
Surfer Dudes
Surf’s Up Dude
The Fugitives
Will Play For Beer

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