When Amy Miller comes home on July 18 with her indie-rock band Panic Years, it will be the group's West Coast coming-out party.
Though her band hails from Philadelphia, Miller grew up in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Las Lomas High School in 1999 and headed off to UC Santa Cruz to study classical piano and composition. She began playing piano at about age 7, but now plays guitar for the band.
Her path to being part of a Philadelphia rock band was not a straight one.
"I always kind of fooled around on the guitar," said Miller. "When I got out of school and moved to Virginia, I picked up my guitar again."
She said she was a bit burned out on classical.
"I just wanted to start playing music for fun again. When you are a music major in college you find yourself in the practice room for 7 or 8 hours a day. It can stop being fun."
She began her radio career in earnest.
"When I was working part time at KFOG (in San Francisco), I was sending out resumes and interviewing all around the country," Miller said. "My mindset was this is what I want to do and I will move anywhere to do it since I love radio so much. Luckily, I got hooked up with this really great job in Virginia. And after being there for a year I met my bandmate Edward."
Edward Everett was also an aspiring musician and they put out their first recordings in 2008, while continuing to work full time. Miller said she was so immersed in the music world through
"You're interviewing bands, you're going out to see them all the time, going to festivals. It was awesome, but there was something inside of me that said 'It would be really awesome to be on the other side of the microphone.' I was in my mid-20s and I decided if I want to pursue music, I had to do it now."
In other words: She was in her "panic years."
"That name is where we were at when we decided to quit our jobs and move."
They left their jobs and Virginia behind, and began getting some gigs around Philadelphia, with Everett as the lead singer and Miller on guitar. Other musicians came and went in the first few years of the band, but Miller and Everett stuck it out.
"I felt more security when I had a career in radio. My career path seemed like more of a sure thing. I am not panicking now, though. Some days, I guess. I kind of know if it doesn't work out, it's going to be OK now."
Panic Years just released their first full album, titled "The Month's Mind," with lyrics inspired by the 1927 Hermann Hesse novel "Steppenwolf."
And unlike many females in mixed-gender bands, she doesn't sing.
"A lot of people assume I either play bass or sing. I'm a guitarist in this band and I think that does surprise some people a lot."
Miller is very excited to play in the Bay Area for the first time. Miller's parents still live in Walnut Creek, and she visits them on holidays. She expects a lot of friends and family at the concert at El Rio in San Francisco on July 18.
"This band has been going for about five years. It's always been in my mind (to play on the West Coast). The time is right now to do it.
"The East Coast is more familiar with us, for sure. But that's why we are coming out there. Hopefully we'll get some new fans."
El Rio, 3158 Mission St., San Francisco -- 9 p.m. $5
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