Cockeyed vision does not daunt these optimists

Cynda Renae singing with the band Cockeyed Optimist. (Alyssa Hunter)

Cassie Rossel


The Los Angeles based band, Cockeyed Optimist, entertained students at Saddleback College with the sounds and rhythms of pure rock and roll.

The four musicians performed at the college’s student quad from noon to 1 p.m last Monday, Nov. 28.

Cockeyed Optimist (CEO) is made up of one guitarist, Sean Pierce Johnson; one bassist, Erick Feliciano; a drummer, Gus Cannizzaro; and lead singer, Cynda Renae.

When watching the members of CEO perform, one can sense the effort they put forth in order to present their music with passion and honesty, right from their attitudes on stage, to the lyrics that they sing.

“We’re very honest with how we present ourselves, and how we approach our music,” Johnson said.

Although their fan base is in L.A. and the Orange County scene, not all members of the band are California natives. Renae hails from Pennsylvania and Cannizzaro comes from Alaska, while Johnson and Feliciano grew up in California.

Music is the force which ultimately brought the foursome together.

Renae, Cannizzaro, and Johnson met while attending the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood three years ago. Renae and Johnson’s initial musical collaboration was the stepping stone that led to the formation of the band.

After writing music together, Renae and Johnson decided to take their efforts further into forming the band that came to be known as Cockeyed Optimist. They recruited two of Johnson’s friends, drummer, Cannizzaro, and bassist, Feliciano.

Johnson’s friendships with Cannizzaro and Feliciano began through their mutual loves of music.

After forming the band in 2008, the group performed their first live show in 2009, without a manager or a booking agent. They are a self-motivated group with a do-it-ourselves kind of mentality, and have managed to be their own booking agents and promoters since the very beginning.

While most bands seek desperately to get signed, CEO does not set its sights solely on the fame or fortune that signing with a label will bring.

“Our goal is to really build our band one fan at a time, and having a label won’t help us do that,” Renae said.

From re-locations, to several changes in the band’s members, it is safe to say that the founding members of CEO have gone through numerous rough patches on their journey.

Despite several setbacks, Renae and Johnson kept pushing forward and never let any obstacle sidetrack them from their goals.

The name of the band itself, Cockeyed Optimist, gives way to the band’s inspiration to keep going.

“Our band’s name is a testament to what we have to do every day,” Renae said. “We must remain optimistic, even when everything in life seems chaotic and difficult because there’s always gonna be that light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always hope, you never should just give up and give in.”

The members of CEO are a unique breed of musicians, focused not on the perfection of their sets, but on what they can learn and take home from each show.

“We made some mistakes in our set today, and we’re fine with that,” Johnson said. “It’s just room for improvement in the future. Every show we learn something new.”

Johnson said that as a band he hopes that CEO will be unique in its music as well. The members do not seek to copy the trends of mainstream rock.

Cockeyed Optimist is set to embark on a two-month tour through several cities in California beginning January of 2012. Their EP “Undocumented” is also up on iTunes.

For more information on Cockeyed Optimist, visit their website at or visit their Facebook page at