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SUMMER 2017 ISSUE 128 • FREE

ILL CAMILLE TARA JANE O’NEIL SO MANY WIZARDS AT THE DRIVE-IN FRENCH VANILLA SEXTILE • KAMAIYAH MACH-HOMMY • LITRONIX GOSPELBEACH • BRAINSTORY DERV GORDON of THE EQUALS AND MORE


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ILL CAMILLE Senay Kenfe

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LYNN CASTLE Tiffany Anders

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LITRONIX Chris Ziegler

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DERV GORDON of THE EQUALS Brad Eberhard and Jun Ohnuki

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Mach-Hommy sweeney kovar

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FRENCH VANILLA Daiana Feuer

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AT THE DRIVE-IN Elvin Estela a.k.a. DJ Nobody

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THE SIDE EYES Tiffany Anders

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TARA JANE ONEIL Chris Kissel

50 SEXTILE

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SO MANY WIZARDS Nathan Martel

54 KAMAIYAH

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BRAINSTORY Daiana Feuer

56 GOSPELBEACH

Vanessa Gonzalez Ben Salmon Chris Kissel

LITRONIX by STEFANO GALLI


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SO MANY WIZARDS POSTER — Ben Rice and Jun Ohnuki ILL CAMILLE COVER — dana washington TARA JANE ONEIL COVER — Alex The Brown

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ILL CAMILLE Interview by Senay Kenfe Photography by dana washington

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Time is a common denominator in the struggles of most artists. It’s unavoidable presence hangs over many of us as the shadow that it is. Camille Davis—better known to us as Ill Camille—is no exception to the rule. 2012’s Illustrated along with her appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and work with Crenshaw jazz producer Terrace Martin made her the talk of the town in the L.A. scene. And then time passed. The unexpected spotlight on the young artist dimmed. Life was lived. We as consumers forget the motions sometimes. Now five years later—five years spent working with a who’s who in the tight-knit L.A. community, mind you—she blesses us with her new record Heirloom. Those tasked with building legacies are those who respect the energy—and more importantly the time—that goes into being remembered. And this is her time. Why did you call this album Heirloom? Because that’s what I wanted it to be. Before it was called Illustrated B-Sides and B-sides in my mind was always those dope records that didn’t make the A-side. And— For the young people listening, there was a time when you’d have to like change it over, you know? And there was other music on the other side! And it was cool too! That I’d normally like more!
But that’s what I was thinking it was going to be. Three weeks before Heirloom was done mixing and mastering, [producer] Battlecat was like, ‘Sis, I have to call you this morning. After you’re like really sitting with this, after hearing like ‘Spider’s Jam,’ “Black Gold,’ and ‘South Apollo’ — those are completely different records — he was like, ‘This is too personal, you got too many

personal people in your life on this album and this is not for the faint at heart or the people with the short attention span. This is going to live. You should really think about a better name. This ain’t no mixtape shit. This ain’t for today, it’s forever.’ I was like, alright. He said ‘Sleep on it and think about it some.’ And I thought about it because I had this freestyle where I said ‘I be wearing niggas out like an heirloom’ and I was like ‘Heirloom is a good word!’ I looked it up and I said ‘Ooh! Tradition, family, legacy— that’s it.’ And I hit [collaborator] DJ Shanx and Kev and Shana [Jenson Muldrow] and I was like ‘I think I’m changing it to Heirloom.’ And they were like cool! And I was like, ‘I think we were going with the wrong name this whole time because you guys is too excited’. They was too like ‘Yes!’ 7


DJ Shanx: Those latest records you were doing it was just— Ill Camille: Too personal?
 DJ Shanx: It’s just something changed that vibe. It was like ... she came up with that hard name. So now you’ve got a body of work. And you’ve worked with other people who also have bodies of work. How important is something like legacy to you? I’m not saying it’s in the front of your mind. But does that come up now? Like, ‘Alright, I’m three in. Now I gotta be like on my Prince shit, I gotta build something. This is no longer for the now—this is an heirloom. Someone twenty, thirty years from now is going to pop this in. Let me not just speak to who is going to hear this in 2017, let me try to make this so it’s in a space where it’s understandable X amount of years from now.’ Yes, that is very important—you know why? Because I was like ... dang, you know when people ask me like ‘What’s your favorite album? Name your top three!’ I’m still naming people from like twenty years ago. Right? I don’t feel like these people are on my brain or in my psyche for no reason. I think they intentionally set out to do music that was going to outlive them. Because who knows? God forbid, something could happen to me tomorrow—or to anybody on my album—but I feel like the type of music that I’m attempting to do and that people are saying I’m doing is going to live past that. I literally now be like ... I have homies that never seen 21, I have family members that didn’t live to 50 years old. What legacy did they leave? How can I remember them? If people know me to be an artist, that’s the first thing they gonna do: pull up my albums. I want them to get a sense if they never met me, never talked to me, never did nothing, before that time that they found out something happened to Ill Camille, I want them to pop in my album and be able to tell who I was by what I said on those songs. That’s important to me. And those people who say stuff like, ‘Well, what about the consumer right now? Like right now, albums are shorter, people got shorter attention spans’ ... but those kids are going to grow older. They’re gonna be 33 like me! It’s gonna slow down. And then they gonna do like I did and revisit some of the albums that they weren’t equipped to like like then. You change as you get older. It’s some young people now that ain’t hip to me gonna be like ‘Oh shit she’s dope’ in about ten years. That’s cool! That’s a very acute point. I feel that we just happen to stumble into being in niches as artists, but for whatever reason— corporations, business, whatever—there’s always this urging, pressing feeling of ‘Just try to grab as many fans as you can!’ Which is not realistic. We as consumers forget that you can only showcase this part of your life—show off this part of your sound,—and it doesn’t necessarily have to connect with me right away in order for it to be good. Yeah—regardless if I’m your cup of tea or not, you gonna know it’s quality tea still.

You gonna know it’s a trustable and reliable brand. Like ‘Man, that ain’t my way— I’m more so on the other end, I like trap music or whatever,’ whoever that consumer is, I still want them to understand what I’m about and give them the opportunity to revisit it. Why did it take so long for Heirloom to come out? Your last album Illustrated was in 2012. I wasn’t confident enough. Normally people would be like, ‘Oh—it’s a lack of support!’ I had support—that wasn’t the case. I’m blood-related to my support. It was just me! I had to get out on my own way. Any little thing that didn’t seem promising, I’d be like … ‘OK, should I switch up my style? Am I too lyrical? Am I too Black? Am I too like in the background of people?’ I just had to get on my own way mentally, and that’s what took a long time. And everything that’ll happen in somebody’s life in a three-year period will seem extra difficult to deal with when trying to focus on music. Like, OK, death is hard, breakups are hard, loss of friends is hard … but then trying to focus on the album? Yeah, I couldn’t do it. I had to give my attention to those things and work through those and then get back to the music. Now I know how to do both. And that involved … moving? Changing location? Moving away from people. Not physical location but ‘let me take myself out of this space.’ Lemme chill with just a couple people this time, or be alone a lot. So not physical, no. That made me think of ‘Home’—let’s talk about ‘Home,’ produced by Georgia Muldrow, featuring Damani Nkosi. So Georgia gave me a batch of beats years ago. 83 beats. That was one of the ones we always kept in the stash like … I didn’t know when I was gonna use it but I was gonna use that beat. And if you listen to what she’s saying, she says something about going on and it being a struggle but she just gotta press on. And in the end, she’s like, ‘I wanna go.’ So I’m like, ‘Home is wherever you feel comfortable in your spirit.’ Damani is a traveler—he just got back from Africa, and he about to leave again. He feels like that’s his home, and he’s from Inglewood. I feel like so many places I’m welcome I ain’t even been yet! I ain’t been to Brazil. I ain’t been to London! I’ve never been. But I feel like when I go, that’s gonna be home for me too because of the love that’s already in place. So I wanted to do a song that kinda shouted out those places that be showing me love, regardless of the language barrier or regardless of the fact I’ve never been, all that … I think these people are gonna hear me and treat me like I’m a part of their world. So I just wanted to do that record. Plus the bassline and everything else … it just felt like home. The beat felt like home, and I needed to reference those places. Looking at the Heirloom tracklisting, productionwise … it’s all over the place but it’s not. It’s very much west coast but the energy is very soulful, which kinda fits. Like talking again about INTERVIEW


collaboration, it fits the family you built around you. For those people who don’t understand the vibe of you or Iman or Tiffany [Gouche], what is this energy that for whatever reason has been abled to be centered here in L.A. more than other places? Best described as best you can … cuz you embody that. You’re one of the people who embodies it. I think it’s a mix of elements, right? So just being here in the west coast, you can go thirty minutes to an hour in each direction, north south east west, and end up in a different climate, literally. As I put my jacket on— As you put your jacket on! It can be cold, you can go to the beach, the desert, and the mountains in one day. I believe that has a lot to do with our temperament, and like the tempo of our music too. We’re a little bit off-kilter and we like our beats like not always quantized, know what I’m saying? And I like that. We like swing. We like our shit to head nod, and shit we can ride to. That kind of slump—we like that! West coast people are very much musicians, so there are a lot of musical elements, even in the stuff that we think is basic head nod stuff—there’s a lot of musical elements there. So when you combine temperature, our attitudes, our relaxed natures but a little aggressive, our soulful ... our like old and new soul type of ... You’re going to get our type of music, if you understand that there’s always like a dual nature to how we are, and that’s the best way to describe it. Listen to Tiffany: she’s feminine and very like heavy too, in terms of subject matter and content. She’s aggressive but in a chill way, and there’s little elements of surprise, I feel like that’s a west coast thing too. You can’t just run our shit—it’s not going to sound like a loop. There’s going to be some synth that you’re going to cut out if you try to loop our shit, and and I feel like that’s how we are. We’ll surprise you. That’s the best way I can define our music: it has a dual nature to it. Earlier I was talking about how I caught you a couple years ago with at a Forty Ounce Gold show and that was around 2013— —end of 12? Or 13? Yeah, you right. So from then to now—what has changed in terms of you as an artist? I believe I’m an artist now. You believe you’re an artist now? What’s the difference from back then? I just knew I was good. I believe I’m an artist—I’m owning it. I’m stepping into … I feel like what I’ve been called to do, which is creative arts, and hip-hop is a creative art. I feel like I was like running away from it or not all the way confident? So that gap of time was dedicated to me believing in myself that I could do this. Heirloom now, you know. Why do you recognize as it as a skill set as opposed to than something you feel you were destined to do? I believe it’s a God-given skill set. Those things are now apparent to me—they’re one and the same for me. For some people, they acquire the skill along the way. I felt like INTERVIEW

maybe I was just good cuz I like hip-hop so much? Versus maybe I’m good because God made me good? So now that I’m completely in acknowledgment of that, it’s different. My albums are gonna come out different with that sense of awareness. Also from then to now—you took I don’t wanna call it a break, but an adjustment? A re-shift in your lane? You opened to up—it went from two-lane freeway to three-lane freeway because you started working with a lot of other artists, started collaborating with a lot of them. What was your reasoning? I’ve always been very collaborative, but I think I just needed to focus on my squad more. Like Vibe Music Collective with like Iman [Omari] and [rapper] Marouf And Kev… there was always a sound and a family vibe there. I wasn’t making use of it as much as I could. You know you have all those resources and people around you so you think … sometimes when you have an abundance of something, you don’t take advantage of it. You think it’s normal. And I’m looking at it like, ‘Alright, who’s kinda built like us like right now?’ Not many. Not many. And I wanted to re-tap into that. And then me doing that was like, ‘Oh, OK, let me tap into my friends that have always been down from the jump—from the first project and the second one—lemme just bring them back on this third one as like a thank you,’ and as ‘you guys are dope, I’m a fan!’ and … we sound good together! So why not?’ So that was my purpose for making this album very much like a compilation of gifts from everybody. In hindsight, do you feel a working relationship with certain artists? People who are in the know—they know you’ve worked with some big artists, whether we’re talking about Terrace [Martin] or Kendrick or any of these artists. Do you feel those relationships have affected the speed of your own career—like moved it beyond your control or your pace? Or put you in places and situations you at the time weren’t ready for—but that you are ready for now? Good-ass question! That’s the first time anybody’s ever asked me that question. Yes! I felt like at some times, it put me in the forefront of situations and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m a year in, bro—I’m still trying to figure this out, but thank you!’ I didn’t wanna come off like not appreciative of being the center of focus in some respects. But then once you get in there, you gotta prove, too. There’s a show-and-prove part, and I felt like me not being as confident as I told you, I was like, ‘Yeah, I can only show you this much.’ Because entally I don’t think I can do what these people do can do, or what they’re saying I can do! So yeah—I definitely feel that sometimes the attention was unwarranted but I was grateful for it cuz now I’m in the perfect condition for it. And now it’s at your own pace. That’s the beauty of being an independent artist. You set your own pace. You set the tone for how fast you wanna move or

when you wanna slow down. I only drop a project like once a year—but that’s how I move! And that’s OK with me and the people that know that’s how I operate now. Before I didn’t know what the hell to do! And looking at Kendrick and Terrace like … it’s hard to follow their blueprint and their pace. Look at how they move! They doing like three or four things at a time, and won’t put ‘em out for a year or two later. But that’s them. I learned from them in that period—I just couldn’t figure it out. I’m from Long Beach and I remember seeing Terrace in Snoop’s band. Way way long ago. And I remember seeing Kendrick like opening for people! I can’t imagine … I can’t speak on the east coast, I’m from where I’m from, but I feel like here in the west, a lot of people are so connected to one another, it’s family! And so when one part of your family gets in a position of power or the spotlight’s on them, of course the natural thing is, ‘Oh, put me on!’ Or, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna put my people on!’ But sometimes it’s not right. For you? Sometimes your own vision will get lost in the sauce. Exactly. And your own sense of self will get lost in there, too. Sometimes you don’t need to get put on by nobody. You just need to chill and get your own shit straight. But I’m thankful for everything they helped me do. How do you feel about sequencing in the times of Spotify and iTunes where how you start a project as a listener is not necessarily how it’s supposed to sound? Cuz I’m one of them free Spotify people so it’s out of order! No disrespect! As a creative, do you worry about how they’re gonna consume it? I know it says ‘number one: “Black Gold,”’ but ‘Black Gold’ could be number ten or number five to them, and it can mess up the story. You have a story here! That’s why I think at least three-fourths of your project should congeal cuz it’s gonna be played out of order. People should get a certain vibe if they hear that out of order— they should hear the vibe based on the three or four that they heard. Even if it’s all out of sorts. I want people to be like, ‘OK, it makes sense that these songs would be on the same project.’ Maybe not in this order, but they make sense together, and that’s all I’m focused on. I honestly think from the perspective of a person that will get a project, open it up, look at the notes, look at like … I’m not saying I take into consideration that that’s the way it is, but I don’t even think about that shit. I wanna have an album that flows top to bottom if you play number ten first! I care about that. And there’s a video coming? ‘Black Gold’ video—shout out to Ray Carter. He directed the video. I let him choose what he wanted to do visually to let him represent the song because the song is more like an MC song, but a lot of messages in there. I’m wearing an heirloom in the video. My uncle Sammy’s coat from Cal State L.A., I think they called it State

College back then. It’s his old track jacket. It’s black and gold—my auntie Saundra let me use it. You first started out on The Pre-Write in 2011? Or was you working on somebody else’s before that? Pre-Write was my first album. But before then? Oh, I was an intern, me and [DJ Shanx] were doing this West Coast Wonders compilation-like-segment—it wasn’t just a mixtape. I was interviewing not just artists but tastemakers and radio folks and any influences on the west coast. I was just involved in the culture in some kinda way. I was a marketing and promotions intern for Cornerstone/FADER for like three years and it helped a lot. How? And why? Just seeing what I think about my own music and how I want it to be presented through. It’s easy to help somebody with they shit, but sometimes it’s hard to put your own thing together because you’re very particular about it, even down on like color schemes on the artwork, even down on fonts! All that stuff matters, you know? I learned a lot about sequencing the album in terms of like feel. Like I listen to albums and I realize the order is important cuz me and him used to sit—I had a grip of songs, and we’d go through all of ‘em and put ‘em in different orders to get different feels. That is very essential. I learned A&R stuff by doing that. How do you feel about ways of branding yourself? You have bars, this is not to be debated—and you’re a woman. And you’re on the west coast. So how do you market yourself? How do you go from Team Backpack—and I think their branding is very lyrical, to working with Kendrick? How do you find yourself as an artist trying to connect on the spectrum of wide audiences? All those things feel natural for me to do. So I just do what comes naturally for me to do and I think people understand that I’m a layered person—so me only doing one thing wouldn’t make sense as to who I am. Over time, the more albums I put out, the more pictures, the more interviews, people will begin to be like, ‘OK, well she does this and she does that, and she likes soul funk jazz hip hop,’ you know? ‘And all those things are going to be in her music so her moves are going to be based on that too.’ I shop at Target, I shop at the thrift store. I go to Ralphs, I go to Whole Foods. Sometimes you gotta go in different places to get what you need but it’s all me. So I don’t really try—I just do it. ILL CAMILLE WITH GUESTS TBA ON WED., JUNE 28, AT LOW END THEORY AT THE AIRLINER, 2419 N. BROADWAY, LINCOLN HEIGHTS. 9:30 PM / $10 / 18+. L OW E N D T H E O RY C L U B . C O M . ILL CAMILLE’S HEIRLOOM IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM JAKARTA RECORDS. VISIT ILL CAMILLE AT SOUNDCLOUD.COM/ ILLCAMILLE. 9


LITRONIX Interview by Chris Ziegler Photography by Stefano Galli

Kevin Litrow made Litronix during a year or so in his old apartment above a perpetually manic Venice gas station, the kind of place where humanity in its totality is constantly—for better or worse—on display. And Litrow’s pose on the album cover is the perspective of the resulting Pump The Gas: the musician alone in a crowd, looking up toward something only he can see. Think of it as the feel-better hit of the summer so far, or more of a self-help philosophy than a solo album. This is the next generation of Litrow’s earlier efforts with N.O.W. and 60 Watt Kid—even his extra-energetic Silver Apples-meets-Can outfit Dance Disaster Movement, who lived (and loved) every word in their name. But Litronix—like its recurrent pill imagery would suggest—is the scientifically purified version of Litrow’s formula, a negative-image of Suicide or Talking Heads where cosmic light sears away the horror of modern life and the blank space left blooms with a strangely earnest hope. On the long-gestating Pump The Gas (made with help from longtime collaborator Avi Buffalo) the sunrise soundscapes of Neu! become the surface streets of L.A., with the freedom of the autobahn replaced with the interstitial space of the gas station—the place you have to go before you can go anywhere else—to serve as the setting for songs about people who come, go or sometimes get stuck. And with help from Litronix, you don’t have to get stuck. You’ve said so much about this gas station—what do you think the gas station would say about you? I think the gas station enjoyed my time there. I think it liked me being there. I think the gas station enjoyed that I was listening and it may have thought it was just a little noise but it liked the little noise. It gave it a little love. And that corner is so intense, that gas station needs some love. I thought Pump the Gas was the opposite of ‘pump the brakes.’ Is this album about going faster? Or is it about fueling up? I would say it’s more about fueling up. That’s when you can take a trip! If you don’t have any fuel, you’re not going to go anywhere. So to me, the album kind of represents like spirit of the—a lot of things on all levels. There’s a lot of symbolism and it’s kind of a mystery of itself. But I would say probably the ultimate goal of the gas station—of fueling up, of pumping the gas—is to pump your spirit with life. That’s the ultimate goal. There’s a lot of raw spirit out there, like especially on that corner, especially in 10

that area of Venice, and it’s different kind of culture than a hipster culture or like living in Brooklyn. That intersection is pretty intense. So there’s a lot of rawness of just life in general. And then on top of that, the symbolism of pumping the gas—we can look at the way I’m holding the gas pump, too. It kind of looks like I’m holding up a gun. We live in a car environment and people from all kinds of places are coming to the gas station. Especially because LAX is down the street … you got travelers, people from all countries, you got locals. You got people that are like doing drugs at the gas station. Dealing or doing? Dealing and doing. You got the people that do, and the people that deal. So many deals I saw down there, going on right below my window. A lot of this stuff is put into the lyrics. But a car pulls up, somebody comes around the corner and then they grab something out of the window and then they give them some money. And some of the darkest moments with some

of the meth tweakers—there’s this one guy who would pull apart his bicycle and put it back together. It was the middle of the night, and he was throwing his bike parts around, pissed off he couldn’t put it back together. I looked out the window and saw him and I literally saw like a cage over him—a dark, dark black cage and he was in the cage screaming at himself, talking, surrounding by parts, and couldn’t put the fucking bike seat back on. These are little interesting things. Were you just an observer? Or did you also go to the gas station yourself? I would only go over there to grab some potato chips when the liquor stores closed. Sometimes I’d get a candy bar. One of the guys that’s in the song, he’s a character—he worked graveyard. He’s an old old man. An old Irish-looking man. He had a big giant belly and … poor guy, he must have been I would say 70 years old, working at the gas station graveyard shift. Anytime I would go in there, he was only listening to doo-wop. I thought that was interesting. He listens to

like some Elvis, or some Everly Brothers, or old doo-wop. The guy definitely had soul, but he’s not looking too good physically. And he could barely move around. When you told him ‘I want the potato chips,’ it took him ten minutes to walk to grab them and walk back to the register. There’s a lot of pharmaceutical imagery attached to Litronix. Is this inspired by all the pills in the gas station? Wake-up pills, pain pills, allergy pills, sleeping pills—is Litronix something that would be sold in the same rack? No—the logo of Litronix came from the ‘Are You New Age’ single. When I was trying to put together the cover, that’s what automatically came to me was to put a tablet, and it really worked out. Also I worked in vitamins. So I think what’s just subconsciously around me is pills. In ‘Are You New Age’ you sing, ‘What’s your name? / 5HTP Tryptophan.’ That’s a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, right? What does that mean? We’re searching for happiness— INTERVIEW


—and that’s serotonin? Serotonin is happiness. That’s a subliminal poetic line right there, just to explain what we’re searching for in New Age. People are always searching for the right cure—for happiness. That song is kind of an ‘Are you a realist or are you an idealist?’ thing. It goes around on a few different things and makes fun of New Age but then it comes back to serious. New Age is actually a thing—New Age is actually really old age, if you want to get down to ancient scriptures and stuff like that. One of the lyrics says ‘Do you believe in what you see? Or do you see what you believe?’ That’s what it comes down to. There’s people out here—and I have plenty of friends—that would be like, ‘If I can’t see it, it does not exist.’ I’m sure there a lot of people like that. And there are a lot of people that are more dreamers—a lot of people believe in more than that. This record is like a positive take on Suicide to me—instead of terrifying, it’s encouraging. Almost motivational. Good! Good! Mission accomplished! When you write these songs, are you trying to motivate yourself? Like a pep talk? Or are you reaching out to the listeners? Both I guess. I try to treat every song like a painting. And every painting has its own subject. One song I could be wanting to tell a story—creating some imagery of some sort. That could be from my own experience, or something that I’ve gone through. There could be another song where I’m not really telling a story but I’m seeing the story happen in front of my face—like I’m more on the outside, watching a movie. That song could be something about that everybody relates to for the people. Like, ‘Hey guys, nobody talks about this but you can all relate to it right?’ Like ‘Hole in the Wall.’ Who is like … no one wants to admit that … They secretly peep at everyone else on the internet? They peep! You think that song is going to be about a hole in the wall like a hole you go in—like a dive bar or animal den or something. Then you realize the perspective is from someone hiding in the wall and spying at the rest of the world through the hole. A new dimension of our technology today! So when Devo sings about a beautiful world, they don’t really mean the world is beautiful. They make that clear. On this record when you sing about the good life, do you really mean you’re having a good life? Or is it so positive it’s becomes a critique? Compensating for something that isn’t there? It can be very symbolic just like pumping the gas. It represents another thing—letting go to the actual cosmic spirit. Letting go and knowing that you’re backed without having to worry. It’s really about belief. It’s believing to the point where you are covered. And when you believe and you’re covered, everything comes. You don’t even have to worry. Every day is a holiday. It’s almost like you’re happy 24/7 because you 12

know you’re covered. In the beginning it talks about somebody who … ‘You almost made it through but you walked the other way / and I hate to see you get so mad.’ You gotta get through the tunnel to know that belief—that everything’s gonna be ok, that everything’s gonna work out for you. To go through that dark dark tunnel first. That other person—they didn’t make it and they’re living life in anger still, but if you keep going you get through it and then you’re there. And love surrounds you. Is that something that happened to you? Or that you saw happen to someone else? I’ve experienced it in a cosmic way of sort of just going through my life. It’s me breaking through and becoming wiser as I get older and learning what is—just learning life, basically. What about ‘Maggot’? That’s about a parasitical thing that you have to crush and stomp. Do we have to use force to get rid of bad ideas? This song seems to say, you have to stand up to it, confront it, squash it under your foot. A lot of insecurities come from us. Not other people—it comes from our own brains doing it to ourselves by thinking we’re not good enough, or we’re ugly or something. And society maybe causes that—who knows? But that little parasite is us—our own brains doing that—and sometimes you need to like smash it. And it’s one smash, and it’s gone. You have to do it yourself. No one’s gonna do it for you. It’s DIY self-help! There’s a white light motif that’s part of the music. Is that a Lou Reed white light— oblivion—or like the Kurt Vonnegut white light of pure human soul? More on the lines of Kurt Vonnegut. It’s spirit. If you got the spirit, you got the spirit. Elvis Presley had the spirit. Screamin Jay Hawkins had the spirit, or Howlin Wolf. These people were sweating the gospel, sweating it out of their skin. Like—who does that? That sounds scary to even say that. What does that mean? That’s light! I’ve seen people describe you as a preacher or evangelist when you play. And since you’re talking about the light, the spirit, the gospel … are you doing spiritual music, if you stripped away the electronic trappings? I would probably say that. I don’t like to sound religious. I’m not part of any religion. I was born Catholic. My mom is from England and they’re Irish Catholic, and I was brought up on that. But I read all religions too. I look into Ayurvedic [knowledge]and the Bhagavad Gita and read about the Kabbalah, and martial arts and Qigong and and Buddhism. I enjoy all of it. But the spirit is the spirit—it has no religion really. Honestly. It’s the feeling of going out into the middle of the street with your really nice shoes on and stomping as hard as you can and jumping up and down—that feeling is more like the spirit. That would be me, if you stripped it down. Or that’s what I would want to be or feel … not to sound pompous or anything

because it’s not a pompous thing. It’s just a real thing, it’s just raw—it’s in us. It’s in everybody. But people don’t really know about it or think about it so they don’t let it out. But everybody has it. Even back in interviews with your prior band 60 Watt Kid, you talked about how the concept of freedom animated a lot of your work. Are you as free as you want to be now? Definitely. At this point in my life I feel like I’ve grown so much and learned so much and I have things that inhibited me back then, even in my San Francisco days. My mom was passing away and very sick. Things were happening that were really hard to deal with that I never dealt with before—crazy life experiences and struggle and survival. At this point in my life I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been doing my best to figure out how to be disciplined. I think discipline is the key to freedom. It’s the yin and the yang. You’ve got the freedom—the yin—and if you don’t have the discipline, shit can go haywire. So you gotta have discipline. And my level of discipline even for musical practice is about the four elements of life that are very important. Money, which is stability. Spirit, which is like why are you on earth? What are you here to do? Health—without your health you might as well not have money. And your career. I try to separate money from career, even though it can connect. You gotta discipline it separately. I think that musically it’s also because I’ve really grown into looping. I’ve acquired more pedals and more things that I like to use in an interesting way, and I don’t have to deal with a band anymore. You’ve described Litronix as a music machine. Why a machine specifically? Probably the loop pedals. So you mean it literally. Yeah. Everything is loop fuel. That’s my band—these pedals. They’re what makes the music. You come up with a loop and suddenly that loop is the basis of a song. Then you put other loops or other layers and that creates the pop structure but the base is some loops that you randomly came up with. That’s the machine at work. To me, all these loop pedals are swirling drills and machines making something. They’re creating something but they’re running on their own. An autonomous creativity algorithm. Basically. That’s what it does: it runs itself. But I control it. Never are those machines running on their own. They’re still under the control of me. They’re basically under supervision. So they’re like your kids. Yeah. They’re little kids under supervision. And I never let them get out of hand. Everything is created in my room and everything is set up so I come home from work and I just work on music and there’s different ways for me to make beats or make a sound. As far as my whole life, all the bands I did were crucial to come to this point. I took all the ways I used to play music in all different bands and sounds and just put it into one big pizza pie—one big pizza, with all the toppings.

But it’s also the opposite—it’s purifying your sound, in a way. All that extra noise has just been dissolved away. And it’s just the core. It’s the core. It’s become one thing. I love being in bands, but at this point, I don’t want to argue with anyone. And it’s hard to deal with people, especially in music— we’re all crazy. I’m crazy. And we all get insane sometimes and the arguments can affect the music. I really believe that. And when you’re not arguing with anyone, wow. Things open up. This really reminds me of ‘Good Life’ because you talk about all those elements in the lyrics, right? It almost seems like an instruction manual for people who want to do what you’re doing right now. I mean, I kinda created my own instruction manual on how to live life. Maybe one day I’ll write a self-help book but at this point I’m using it for myself. 
Once you finish helping yourself, you know it works. How did you synthesize all this together? These ideas about discipline and freedom—did it come from music you’re making? Or did you use them to make the music? It comes from shit going haywire. So for instance … money starts going haywire and all of a sudden you’re spending all your money eating out at restaurants, and you’re not going to be able to pay your internet bill. That’s when I’m like, ‘OK, let’s fix the problem.’ It’s years of trying to come up with some basic structure that keeps you in check. I think I finally came up with one that works. You make your own self-help book, and your self help book is the four structures that I said: health, spirit, money and career. And this crystallized through your observation of the gas station. Some of the people you watch at the gas station are scary people. It starts making you go, ‘I don’t want to end up like that.’ I don’t live there anymore. I moved a year ago. And I’m very happy. Healthier. The noise level on that street was insane. Now I’m living in a peaceful spot on the west side. Almost suburban silence. It’s funny that observing this mass of humanity for so long scared you into taking care of yourself. Well yeah! And that’s where the yin and yang comes in. You need the darkness to know there is light. What is the story on ‘Men Are Good’? It’s all poetic. The song is just a theatrical fantasy: What if all men were good? What if all of mankind were good? What would the world be like? There’s part one, part two, and part three. Part one, the woman is protecting herself. She’s got a gun. And when the man says, ‘We’re on the same team!’ the woman drops the gun: ‘No one’s ever said that to me before.’ And then the man and the woman are walking together hand and hand and they come to a creature, and the creature is part two. He’s pulling a gun on everybody: ‘What do you want?’ ‘Why can’t we just say hello?’ And that’s pretty much what would happen if all men were good people, but since they aren’t, it’s only a INTERVIEW


fantasy. By the end of it the creatures and all the men and all the women and all the whole world is coming out and dancing on the street but they don’t know why they’re dancing. There’s two men on the side of the street with guns—they’re not dancing. And they put the guns to everybody’s faces and they say ‘Why are you dancing?’ and we all say ‘We don’t even know but guess what? It feels so good.’ Serotonin domination. That tryptophan. In ‘New Age’, when you say ‘does your life ever change / it’s like a river, it’s never the same,’ is that from the Greek philopspher Heraclitus? I just made that up. Are you excited you came up with the same bedrock philosophical concept as a lost Greek philosopher? He said, ‘no man ever stepped in the same river twice.’ I didn’t even realize that. But that’s true. A river is always moving. It’s never gonna be the same. Like the ocean waves. You go to that same beach every day, it’s always gonna look a little different. Is that a happy thing or a sad thing for you? It’s both. I think I’ve come to terms that nothing ever lasts. When my mom passed away, that pretty much tells you straight up, ‘We’re all going to die.’ We’re in these bodies for a minimal amount of time. We don’t even realize how minimal it is. I mean, all these rock stars are passing away at 50 now, and it’s scary to think about it. But at the same time, once you kinda come to the conclusion that nothing ever

lasts, I think that’s one step into gaining a little more knowledge into … like cosmic land. That’s where you can look at things a little differently. You realize that you don’t want to waste your time on negative stuff and drama and war and hate and crime. You want to do something good, whether it’s like creating something rad, doing something for the people out there, or just making something that’s positive and loving and warm, or inventing something that’s going to help everybody. Are you talking about this record? I’m talking about just in general—inventing something for the world. As someone who’s listened to the record, I feel like you could be talking about the record. I appreciate that. Thank you. I just want to make music as true to myself as I can. That’s all that really matters to me, and if it uplifts the people, to me, that’s mission accomplished. Somebody told me when I played live that the music uplifted their spirits. They were in a bad mood before they came to the show. That to me is awesome. That makes me feel good. LITRONIX’S RECORD RELEASE WITH ALINA BEA AND AVI BUFFALO ON THURS., JULY 27, AT THE HI HAT, 5043 YORK BLVD., HIGHLAND PARK. 8 PM / ADMISSION AND AGES TBA. LITRONIX’S PUMP THE GAS IS AVAILABLE ON FRI., JUNE 30, FROM PORCH PARTY RECORDS. VISIT LITRONIX AT FACEBOOK.COM/ LITRONIX1.


MACH-HOMMY Interview by sweeney kovar Illustration by The Obscurist

To the uninitiated, grasping the sound of Mach-Hommy may require effort—the Haitian MC’s bars can be glyph-like, dense and packed with meaning and subtext. The beats he selects often do not acquiesce to the tempo and flavor of the day, and the sounds are mixed more for feeling than coldly objective sonic correctness. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find plenty of ore—like bespoke rhyme schemes that shrink and stretch, always coming back full circle, specific and intentional deliveries that give each track an individual hue, and a deep command of the English language that naturally produces a dense and engaging lexicon. In an era where who you’re standing next to is more important than what you create, Mach-Hommy is a renegade creating according to his own code. He’s gathered his own tribe with the likes of MC Tha God Fahim and producer August Fanon, amongst others. He follows his own strategy and trusts his instinct, choosing to market and distribute his music in specific and intentional ways. L.A. RECORD spoke with Mach-Hommy by phone to get a glimpse into the thought process behind his craft, his view on cultural appropriation in hip-hop and how he managed to sell 187 CDs for $300 apiece exclusively through Instagram. His The Spook EP (with KNXWLEDGE) is available now. You were telling me how you don’t do too many interviews. You gotta come with respect, whether it’s out here in these streets, in these board rooms, or wherever it is. Some people think they can wave the flag of whatever two-bit rag that they write for and that shit means something to me. It don’t mean nothing to me. I shoot all these people down because they don’t come correct. You know how long people been hitting me up, bro? It was annoying at first: ‘How you even know what I’m doing?’ I’m not even putting out music like that. The thing is that the people that curate the culture for others, the dudes with all the keys on the ring, they listen to Mach-Hommy. I wanted to tell you a bit about myself since we haven’t met before this conversation. I’m out here in L.A., I’m Mexican … well, I was born in Mexico … Mexico, word—I got mad respect for the culture. Thank you sir. Mexico’s a little complicated—we got our colonial history, so there’s good and bad. That INTERVIEW

reminds me a bit of the podcast interview you did with Tea & Converse. You were talking about the effects and benefits of uninterrupted culture. That’s what I know about y’all and that’s what’s beautiful. You know the gringos might go for the ayahuasca and all that but we know it’s beyond that. Y’all some solid, proud people man—for real. Even the worst vato, cholo or whatever, he still has some kind of cultural pride or some kind of cultural depth. They can still have a conversation with you about some culture. What else is there at the end of the day? We share some food, we share some historical event, and we share some music. When I say I have a great respect, just touching on your culture a little bit, my dad used to be a folk singer. My dad had me listening to Norteño music. I’m with it. I’m salt of the earth. Most often than not, when you say you’re on the ground with the people, the average person is quick to draw a parallel with you being on the ground floor with you being poor, with you being disheveled, with you being less than. I don’t subscribe

to that mode of thought. I’m a rich-ass Haitian on the ground floor. I’m rich! I’m on some wealth in people. The money can’t even get you nowhere if you can’t pay the right person, so what’s the money about if you ain’t 100? Mexico struggles with its bullshit too. The classism there is pretty stark and there’s racism and anti-Black sentiments that people don’t really talk about. That part is a trip because there’s Black and indigenous peoples in Mexico so it’s like people are trying to distance themselves from their own family. Just to add on to what you’re saying bro. You got some who identify more as a Chicano, you got some who want to lean more towards being a Spaniard but don’t nobody want to lean towards … you know. Nobody want to be Black. Meanwhile you have the whole city of Yanga tucked away in Mexico, you feel me? A whole city with nothing but the blackest Mexican people you’ve ever seen in your life. These peoples are coming from the Maroon tribe with Gaspar Yanga. One of the main ports of entry in North

America for that slavery shit was through Mexico. I feel you bro, don’t nobody want to be Black. Everybody want to use Black but don’t nobody want to be Black. Just like everybody want to use Haitian but don’t nobody want to be Haitian. Everybody has the Haitian that’s gonna pull up if you do this and that. What the fuck is this now? 1-800 Call-A-Haitian? The roles that’s been chosen for a whole group is crazy. You know how they say in movies like Star Wars and shit, ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ If you’re not being oppressed, you’re going to become the oppressor. As the displaced people of the earth, as the diaspora, as the scattering, you would think that we would come together, especially once we started to get a rhythm for the politics and how the engineers of this society pit us against each other with institutional booby traps. It’s to where we should know what it is when you got young white people who feel like, ‘Hey, man, I’m just following the rules.’ I remember when white people held a general consensus that niggas was stupid and dumb as hell and all they cared about was they 15


tennis shoes and don’t mess with them and get shot over Jordans: ‘Oh, you better not step on that nigger’s sneakers.’ And now you got people that was basically sustained and nurtured by that ignorance and that racism and that prejudice. Show me your elders. Let’s all get in the room and you bring your elders and I’ll bring my elders and let’s see who’s really on what. You can hide behind your clothes but who are you? Since when was you this? What do you come from? If you meet my mom you’ll quickly find out that back when Supreme Clientele was out, she stole my CD. My mother stole my Supreme Clientele CD! Her little brother stole my Redman Muddy Waters CD. I’m not into these re-releases of these sneakers because I wore them when they came out. Who are you? As an artist do you find yourself dealing with these kind of people often? There was another one of these dickheads, these self-entitled fucks, who hit me up. This guy hits me on my email the day after I put H.B.O. up on Soundcloud for streaming, trying to press me for an interview. Mind you, I’ve been living my life at my own pace forever and H.B.O. actually been out since last year, so in my head I’m thinking what’s the rush? Now I got people in my email trying to press me. You got me fucked up. We’re non parallel, we nonpareil. We’re not the same, we’re not parallel, son. You need to chill. You’re about to get T-boned, word up. I’m looking at the messages and I don’t like the tones and the way they’re coming across, like they’re doing me a favor. It’s funny, the same day this dude hit me is the same day you hit me. So why I’m talking to you on the phone right now and I’m never talking to that dude? You have to know what you’re doing when you’re talking to people, especially grown-ass men. Come to find out that this person didn’t even wait for a response. The day after I dropped H.B.O., this guy already wrote an article that he was inquiring about the day before. These people are on some platonic shit. The issue we’re having now is with the world in general and the powers that be and the fact that we’re dealing with a platonic thought system. We’re dealing with a system of thought that objectifies and stratifies everything. It’s like a spiritual divide-and-conquer, yo. Before the platonic thought process, everything was moreso complementary, harmony, opposites. In order to be whole, you gotta have the masculine and the feminine component. This is Plato: take the masculine, take the feminine, and stratify it! Make these shits polar opposites and create a thought system where one is more than the other, thereby one is indebted to the other, thereby there’s a master and there’s a slave. This is how you begin to misappropriate, how you divide and conquer and you begin to objectify shit. Now it’s no longer a woman, it’s a frail creature in need of protection. It’s no longer that my fellow villagers are hungry, it’s the grumbling of the Knaves. Everything that’s sick with the world starts with that. They’ll say shit like, ‘Look at these poor cows running around wild and eating grass. They 16

need a fence for protection and we need to kill them for food. They’re going to go crazy and eat all the grass and cause erosion and that will cause mudslides.’ This is that Hegelian dialectic shit, they create problems that don’t exist. That’s more platonic shit. It’s as simple as this, bro: whenever you have a system where things have to be separated into ‘large,’ ‘small,’ ‘strong’ and ‘weak,’ all that shit is divide and conquer. Going back to this journalist dude—the reason I went into all this platonic shit—if you were into hip-hop, if you really understood the culture you would realize that wealth is in people and you would deal with me accordingly. If I’m from Miami and I really like Drake to the point of wanting to go to Toronto, maybe I should do some research and get a coat so I don’t freeze my balls off when I get to Toronto. It’s like he took off without knowing where he was going. He didn’t bring a coat so he might catch a cold. He said the music is cool or whatever, it’s great but it’s poorly mixed. It sounds low quality. My peoples went off, or whatever version of going off is going to come from a 26-year old woman that’s in college getting their post-graduate. It’s funny because people like that call me for advice when they’re having a hard time. I don’t give a fuck about no school. People think I read books. I don’t read books, I be outside. I be with the people who you afraid to look at their social media profile. But they’ll revere those people and where they’re from forty years later when they’re talking about trap the way they talk about L.A.’s Central Avenue and jazz from the 50s and 60s. Exactly. That’s what it is. I’m too busy making history. Don’t you know how to separate the wheat from the chaff yet? You do all this reading and couch surfing and you still ain’t get it yet? You read all of this Kafka and this Descartes? You’re full of shit. You’re an English Lit major—what English literature have you read? You don’t even know what a Kool G. Rap is—why are you calling me? The more I was listening to H.B.O. and the Tea & Converse podcast you did, I appreciate how much you show in your music, rather than just outright telling. It’s like you give these brief peeks into whole worlds. Because that’s the culture I come from. You can’t say everything, you just can’t. A lot of us are paranoid, we blooclat paro. It’s like you don’t want to say nothing! You don’t even want to tell your mom if you ate breakfast this morning. You like, ‘maybe, I don’t know.’ It’s a form of PTSD. By default we just had to become colorful, everything coded. I have to make a conscious effort when I’m speaking in a dry manner. It’s me going, ‘Alright, everything flat, everything surface, everything right up front.’ But if I get the wave, if I get that energy, it’s motherfucking Chinese all the way. I could have a conversation with my niggas in front of people who think they hood—they finna be lost, I promise you. You know, you’re Mexican. It’s some other shit.

Even someone like me—a square when it comes to that shit—I feel like I can get a brief insight into some of what living in those moments may feel like. It’s the vibe of it! I got waves. I know that about myself. I got waves. I’m such an empath. It’s nerve-racking to feel everything, all the time. It’s fucked up. It’s worse when you’re in the street. So what is your objective for your art? Are you looking for respect or… The respect? C’mon—that’s a foregone conclusion. That’s the bare minimum. The respect just opens a conversation. I’m here for the bag, son. I’m here for the fucking bag of money, you dumb ass. If not, then I keep it to myself and we keep it obscure and we don’t record or do none of that. Time is money. You see me going out of my way to design sound. Guess what? There is an intended purpose for this sound that I’m designing. A) You will pay me. B) I am the vendor. I am the vendor. I am the vendor. I believe in collaborative effort, so long as it makes sense. Now, politics, red tape, corporate culture, corporate collusion, backstabbing, jealousy and envy and all of that shit—those are the free radicals that are always knocking on your door trying to permeate the cell membrane. A person like me, I’m POM Wonderful, bitch. I got the antioxidants like a motherfucker and that shit ain’t free. Time, money and expertise. I’m a master. I’ve mastered Mach-Hommy. The love and passion you have for the culture is evident, so I feel like I have to ask an obvious question: if you’re working so hard on this sound and this craft, why would you, in the eyes of some, limit the impact by selling CDs for $300 exclusively through Instagram? Cool. That’s a logical question. It’s only natural for you to ask that. It’s only natural for me to tell you that I have to create my own value. In order to create my own value and dictate the terms of my work and my brain children, I have to control the dispensation and the interaction. I have to keep it in a small enough space so I can incubate it. It’s like an egg. I need to make sure I understand everything about this. That’s why I say sound design—it’s real! It’s beyond me saying some shit and whatever it does it does. I’m watching this shit grow. It’s like when you have a baby, not even animals in the wild have a baby and just leave them. That’s what you rap niggas be doing, goofy shit. You don’t cultivate sound. After all I did—sold out the H.B.O.’s at $300 apiece, made dope money off of CDs with no love, no help, no marketing. None of these people who sharpen their blade on my whetstone, none of them gave no support. Look, bro—I ain’t telling you you got to, but just make sure when you do what you do, you know what you’re doing. I have to keep this shit under control because that’s what this is all about. I’m going to control my work and I’m going to control how it’s being funneled. I’m going to control all the feedback, it’s going to come to me. I’m going to hit heads with The Dollar Menu. I’m going to cultivate my sound,

independent of anything that could get in the way of me constructing this thing and make sure it is whole. You know how they say that too many cooks spoil the soup? It’s like that. That’s why I took this approach. It’s a testament to how much I know what I’m doing. I had so much faith that the thing I was making would reach where I was sending it. A lot of people stopped fucking with me when I put H.B.O. out. ‘You wildin’. That’s not the way it’s done.’ First of all, who the fuck asked you? I’m out here living this life that I’m living and you finna think you’re going to tell me how to do this? You know how long this shit been in the making? This shit moves you to the core—some shit you barely understand what I’m saying half the time because it’s coded—and you’re thinking it’s something to be taken lightly like that? Or you think it’s something that only the fucking creator can handle? It’s not only that you have to have the skills, you have to have the confidence to show your design. Not only what you deliver but the mode of delivery is very important too! Just like any drug. Weed, you roll it up and smoke it. Dope, you shoot it or you mainline it. It’s all different kind of ways to do shit. Based on who you is, what your background is, what your aim is, where you see this going, do you have a long-term trajectory or is this wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am and you’re trying to sell to the highest bidder as soon as possible because you’re a fuckboy and you ain’t got nothing in you? Who are you? That’s going to dictate how you roll this thing out. I could have been a fuckboy like everybody else but I chose something else. I chose myself. Thank you—I appreciate your time and your thoughts. I feel like we barely scratched the surface— It’s bad, bro. It’s bad because I don’t know if anybody is ever going to know. I’m really out here, you feel me? OK, I made some bread and all that, but I’m still me. That shit didn’t change my life. I just did what I said I was going to do—that changed y’all life! I showed you a real nigga who said he was going to do something and he did it but the reciprocity is not felt. The synergy is not there, not yet. It’s so much that needs to happen for people to even begin to get the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know if that shit is going to happen. Motions gotta happen. People have to be able to lock in with me for a good minute. MACH-HOMMY’S THE SPOOK EP (WITH KNXWLEDGE) IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM MACHHOMMY.BANDCAMP.COM, AND SO ARE THE DOLLAR MENU 1 AND THE DOLLAR MENU 2 RELEASES BY MACH-HOMMY x THA GOD FAHIM. MACH-HOMMY’S 5 O’ CLOCK SHADOW FULL LENGTH (FEATURING PRODUCTION BY THE ALCHEMIST, KNXWLEDGE AND EARL SWEATSHIRT) IS COMING SOON. VISIT MACH-HOMMY AT SOUNCLOUD.COM/MACHHOMMY. INTERVIEW


“LITRONIX is Kevin Litrow, the longtime synthesizer visionary… the purest and clearest incarnation of his aesthetic yet. He’s got an upcoming album on Long Beach’s Porch Party Records (produced by Avi of Avi Buffalo) that matches Silver Apples’ synthscapes, Suicide’s pulsebeat and Broadcast’s electropsychedelia to his own fearlessly expressive confessionals."

“Quite an album “Pump the Gas” is. A loop pedalfueled panoply of analog synth, guitar, arching vocals and particle-collision electronic beats, it pulses with the energy of its surroundings and the subversive tendencies of its experimental pop creator.”


AT THE DRIVE-IN Interview by DJ Nobody a.k.a Elvin Estela Illustration by Nathan Morse At The Drive-In split a hole in rock ‘n’ roll when they came out in the 90s, and for a few too-short years, they were as hot as it got—but in 2001, they split, exhausted in every sense of the word. But now they’re back, and not just back to perform, as they’ve done before. Now they have a new album of new music, and it’s as fiery as anything they’ve done. Here drummer Tony Hajjar speaks about the old days and the days ahead with longtime Mars Volta co-conspirator Elvin Estela a.k.a. DJ Nobody. Is it an urban myth or is it true that the name At the Drive In come from the Poison song ‘Talk Dirty to Me’? Tony Hajjar (drums): I think it’s true! Yeah! I mean … it’s super ironic but yeah, pretty positive it’s true! I’ve been asked that question once before but it was literally 1998 that someone asked it, so I’m glad that someone is asking it again! I’ve been really soaking in the new songs. I figured out that the name means ‘among other things.’ I think for everything that’s going on right now in this world—our election status and everything else that’s happened—whatever you’re into and whatever you’re fighting, there are other things. There are worse, there are better. The way I’ve lived my life is that if something bad happens to you, just remember, it’s always worse for someone else. There’s always other things that you have to battle against. That’s really the meaning of the record: there’s always something looming, and you have to try your best to think positive in this crazy, negative world. Does At the Drive-In consider themselves a political band? You have songs with such deep messages and comments on things that are happening at the time in history when the songs are being made. Is that the intent? Or does that come about naturally? That’s natural—that’s the way this band has always flowed. Words pop into his head … it’s in the times but I’ve never considered us a political band. We’re not the band that screams anti-anybody chants at our concerts, we’re living in our times and we react to it. Being called a political band sometimes narrows it down and I don’t think we’ve ever been the kind of band that wants to be narrowed down. I feel the same way—like Public Enemy was a political band, or NWA. They wouldn’t tell you ‘think this way,’ but they’d comment on things going on. Is right now a good time for bands like At the Drive-In to return? It’s a great time for rock to come back. It’s been … not dead, because it’s never been dead, and there’s always been great music the past few years. But now at least a lot of friends I know are releasing records and it’s going to be a great year for rock. And I know the kind of band we are … it wasn’t a plan to get together in these times. It just worked out on a personal level and we were ready to do this 100%, and that’s why it worked out. And it’s kind of ironic that it worked out at a time that maybe needs rock ’n’ roll a little bit more than other times. I agree! I think the past year the first time INTERVIEW

I was ever streaming music in my life. And it’s a bit shocking to look at the top 100, and there’s not a single guitar song in the top 100. Even the guys who are ‘rock’ are singing over beats now as well. It’s so true. What happened to being a rock band? I’m super excited about this year—I feel like that’s going to happen in a big way. I feel the same way—I know bands are still making rock music, but you just don’t hear about it as much as when rock was at the forefront. I know you had a jam room backstage—I saw that when I was at the last show at the Palladium. Did you come up with new material mostly on the road? Yeah! We just decided to have that jam room every night. There were some nights all five of us were in there and there were some nights no one showed up. It was about when everyone was feeling it and when everyone was ready to put things together. I would say like seventy percent of the record—or maybe a little more—was created on the road. And then we got all those ideas and we would listen back to them when we were in Seoul for those thirteen days and we put all those songs together. Some made it and some didn’t but it was at the forefront of our writing. Is that how you wrote in the past? We rarely wrote on the road back then. We’d actually … the first time we were around, we would write and then go tour on those songs. This was the first time we had the capability to write and do that anywhere we wanted. Your tour schedule then was shocking! It was pretty crazy. The way we toured … I always felt we made it harder on ourselves on purpose! We’ve learned from that. We know when to enjoy it and when to struggle a little. What’s the main difference between recording the older records versus now? We kind of kept the aesthetic of how we recorded those records on this record. It was about quickness, quick takes, not overthinking it, playing at full throttle … I say this story a lot: we had finished the first take of ‘Governed By Contagion’ because that was the first song we were releasing, and [producer] Rich Costey was on the side of the glass just shaking his head to engineer and I was like, ‘Whoa … my take must’ve sucked!’ I didn’t know what he was shaking his head at. And he presses the button to the mic and he goes, ‘I just wanna know what you guys are still so angry about!’ We all started laughing because it’s like … we even realized we’re playing with such ….. AGHHHHH! Like angst, you know? It made me feel really good. In my head, that’s how I’m tracking, and I guess it was coming off

that way. And that’s how we tracked the whole record. Really quickly—we didn’t overthink anything. Even vocals! Cedric [Bixler-Zavala] was tracking like full takes here and there like the rest of us. It was pretty intense how fast we recorded that record. So it’s performance driven? It was very performance driven. We had the budget to take our time, but we refused to because that’s not what At The Drive-In is. Speaking of which—Cedric’s Instagram is filled with old gig pictures and it seems like El Paso was so fucking crazy back then. Like it wasn’t just you guys at a venue—it was always in some weird park, someone would just have no clothes on … what is it about El Paso? There’s a natural rebellious spirit down there? I think you got it. Back in the day and to this day, man—no one comes through El Paso. People go through El Paso when they have to practice for a tour, or they’re like, ‘Oh—let’s not have a day off. Let’s play El Paso between Austin and Phoenix.’ It’s one of those places. So our scene and the bands that started there had this ‘fuck you!’ attitude towards it all. You don’t wanna come through? So we weren’t really influenced by anybody. We had the bands we loved, huge bands and little punk bands—we loved them all. But we weren’t overly influenced by them because we didn’t see them all the time! If you lived in L.A. or D.C. or Seattle or Austin, you saw every band every single time. El Paso lacked that. And because it lacked that, it created this weird push-and-pull of music that a lot of cities didn’t have. You’re right—we didn’t have venues. We played that guy’s basement, and that guy’s garage for like three hours because we had to close it down. ‘Oh, there’s a show? We have to move it to the park—bring the generator.’ It was always that kind of story in El Paso. Everyone was always ready for the worst! That’s how we all grew up. And we still have that attitude to this day, even though we shouldn’t—we still have that attitude. That’s badass. You literally had to create your own culture from the bits you’d get. Absolutely. That’s what all El Paso bands did. I always joke with Marcel [RodríguezLópez of Zechs Marquise] like, ‘Dude, all you guys look like you’re from the 70s?’ No matter who the fuck I’d meet from El Paso, it’s like … goddamn! I don’t think I look very from the 70s so maybe I’m the exception because I live in L.A. now. It’s dope—it’s a lot more passionate because of that. Like ‘This is our shit.’ I totally agree. I think it still has that, too. It’s a

working class population, and it comes off in the music and all the art—everything. Since you’re a drummer: who is your favorite drummer? My drummers have shifted but when I was growing up it was metal guys and rock guys. It was like … when I was a little kid in 4th grade, it was Tommy Lee! Then it was Lars Ulrich. Then I figured out, ‘Oh shit—it’s Bonham.’ That’s where all these guys got it from, all my favorite drummers. I was into a lot of prog metal so I liked drummer like Dean Castronovo. Now it’s … my contemporaries are drummers I love. I love Atom Willard from Against Me—I think he’s got a great pocket. I love Joey Castillo. I love solid hard-hitting drummers. Our contemporaries are amazing and I get to learn from all of them and see what everyone else is doing and learn from it. We’re in a great time right now. There’s so many great drummers and great musicians all across the board right in front of us. And hopefully a lot of the classic cats will live a lot longer and still be doing what they’re doing to teach the rest of us what’s going on. How important is it for people to age as musicians and age as artists and not give up their art or music? Especially in L.A.—it gets financially trying to survive. How important is it to keep going? That’s a great question. I’ve had a few times in my life that something was telling me to quit. After having success in At The Drive-In and then in Sparta, I went through a big lull and thought I was never gonna play music again. I was looking away from music for the first time in my life. Then something popped into me that popped into me when I was 23 and joined At The Drive-In and said I was going to give up my degree, my job, the place I lived to go with these guys. Even though I was in a different situation and had started a family and all that—I remembered that attitude. And I said, ‘It will all come if I continue working on it.’ Even if I have to take a break—if it’s still in the back of my head that I’m going home and turning on my computer and making beats for electronic stuff or trailer stuff or auditioning to do music for a commercial …. However small or big! If I’m still creating, then I’m on the right path even if I have to do something else to pay my bills. And that’s what I did for a little bit in my life, and it all came back around because I never let it go. AT THE DRIVE-IN’S in * ter a * li * a IS OUT NOW ON RISE RECORDS. VISIT AT THE DRIVE-IN AT ATTHEDRIVEINMUSIC.COM. 21


TARA JANE O’NEIL Interview by Chris Kissel Photography by Alex the Brown

Tara Jane O’Neil’s path is a winding path, taking her from Louisville, Kentucky, where she was a member of the crucial post-hardcore band Rodan, through new music composition, experimental performance, visual art and more (comparatively) conventional singersongwriter material, not to mention an early star turn in the indie flick Half-Cocked. But she’s an L.A. spirit now, and her self-titled new album—her ninth—is a reflection of that journey and a meditation on it, too, one touched and tempered by the California sun. On Tara Jane O’Neil, O’Neil offers encouraging words to the fellow wanderer and a conversation about the Los Angeles, the ‘last city.’ But there’s one idea in particular that runs through everything: the malleability and continuity of our existence, what she calls ‘the endless change of shape.’ O’Neil sat on the back patio of an Echo Park café on a recent weekday afternoon, the sun sinking behind her in a scene not so different from Tara Jane O’Neil’s muted cover. She has a wry sense of humor and a seasoned thoughtfulness about her own oeuvre and process, and soon the conversation turns from the work of music to questions reaching far beyond this little table. I like the song ‘Cali’ a lot. There’s a line that says, ‘After all the maps had burned/ You called me California.’ Why would someone call you California? I’m glad you’re reading it that way. It could be that, or it could also be me being called by the place. As in, ‘you called me, comma, California.’ It works both ways. In fact, I’ve been wondering how people are feeling that or taking that. There’s an element of Califonia that feels pervasive in the sound and the themes. It was definitely written here. But going back to where I’m at as an artist, it’s like … why do I do anything? There’s this large element of California as a condition. Everybody comes here after everything else falls away. That’s always been the thing. ‘People come to California to seek out gold! Or to become a star!’ And there’s always been that. There’s got to be a degree of optimism for someone to jump into that scenario, but there also has to be a degree of desperation because everything else is played out or isn’t working. California is the end of the line. Exactly. And in lots of ways, I wouldn’t say that’s my personal story, but in our time here, all of us in L.A.—I mean, I’ve been riding the fuckin’ gentrification train for the last twenty years. Every neighborhood I’ve lived in around the country has turned into the food court—the totally white dominated monoculture. And my friends who are here, I’ve either lived in their city or spent time there, and they live here now, and it’s kind of like the last city. That flowers into so many other things. But also … it’s a love song. [laughs] I think finding yourself where you are is the general thing, and it just so happens that California is the place, and here I am as that kind of gentrifying, train-riding person. Not necessarily seeking gold or stardom, but it is the end of the line—the last city. 22

Can I ask you about the ‘endless change of shape’ in the ‘Laugh’? Every time I hear that song, that’s the line that really resonates. Well, I said it twice! [laughs] So I heard it twice as much! But I had an inkling it might be about death. The song is very much about death. How, then, did you arrive at the idea of an endless change of shape? Well … one thing that is true is that ‘life is change.’ Jefferson Airplane. You can’t escape ‘em, those 60s California vibes. No, you can’t. You cannot. I’m steeped in that shit. I mean, that’s just what’s happening all the time. You can’t get away from the 60s stuff, but also in Rodan … In one of our songs, there was this mantra in a song called ‘The Everyday World of Bodies’ that Jason [Noble] wrote about ‘everything changing.’ That’s just a truth that keeps coming around. But specifically in ‘Laugh,’ there have been a few people in my formative friends circle and in my family who have died in the past several years. The song is actually about my father’s last few days of living—weirdly, because it’s a really upbeat number. And it’s called ‘Laugh.’ And it’s called ‘Laugh’ because there was laughter. When you get to see something like that, it’s worth noting that there are really specific ways that prove that truth. That line, it means so much. Your body changes shape, our relationships to each other change shape, other people change their shape. We’re all shapeshifting, whether you engage with that or not. And when you see somebody die, it switches your perspective about anything at all being true—or fixed. Do you think of it all in the Buddhist sense—of continuation? Absolutely. Those Buddhists are really on to something with all that. [laughs] It’s true— everything is temporary, and that is a really

liberating thing. That might be one of the themes of the record, I guess—just thinking about ‘Joshua,’ too. We move through this, and we keep going. And we are changed, and the way we see things is changed. It all curls back into this wonderful tide pool. All the time. Did you know when you started making the record that you wanted it to be self-titled? No. No. I was coming up with these other things and they were so fucking wordy. I was just, like, ‘God, shut the fuck up. Bring it down, girl.’ And I had a couple that were short, like, ‘Tara Jane ONeil—The Pond,’ or whatever. [laughs] Or ‘Tara Jane ONeil—An Orange.’ Whatever it was, but that seemed somehow so stupid. And it served to kind of bust up any individual meaning in the songs. ‘Oh, everything must refer to “an orange.”’ And there just wasn’t that. And to do something so lofty as, like, The Endless Change of Shape—that would be so fucking lame, oh my God. It sounds like an Iron & Wine record. Some people can get away with it, but it just didn’t feel right to me to title it anything. I had also toyed with a bunch of record covers, and I was just like … fuck it, dude. This is where I’m at. And it’s funny. It’s my ninth record, and it’s my self-titled record. People have compared you to Judee Sill and mentioned the idea of Laurel Canyon. How do you feel about that? I’m down with all that stuff for sure … but I wouldn’t identify my music with that. And Laurel Canyon is … I think since I’ve already taken the singer-songwriter tag away from the sometimes overworked or undermotivated music writers—is that OK to say? Please—I mean, I’ve been that person too. And you know—whenever people are doing something in the fast world, they’re looking to the catchphrase or hashtag and all that.

If you’re doing 10 premieres a day on your site it can be tough to be thoughtful. Yeah, so I get it. But it has been interesting to see that since I reclaimed that singersongwriter tag there isn’t that much more to say about it … so people have come back with Laurel Canyon. And I get it. It’s kind of risky—it’s a woman doing a self-titled singer-songwriter record, the cover—though ‘sunbathed beauty playing guitar’—is actually a sort of a foreboding heavy cover. It’s not like, ‘Hey! We found paradise!’ It’s like paradise sat out in the sun for a while. And you aren’t foregrounded in the picture. Yeah—I’m just sort of like the weird cat in the yard. I was playing it for a person, and we have very different musical references, and he listened to it and said, ‘This reminds me of a lot of things.’ I said, ‘What does it remind you of?’ ‘Well, of course, Joni Mitchell.’ I said, ‘Is that because I have a girl voice?’ I mean, I love Joni Mitchell, one of my favorite records is by her. But I don’t actually hear that—other than female voice, and some kind of weird harmonies. Judee Sill is a nourishing thing in my life, so I could see her cycling through more than Joni, even though Joni has been with me forever. I was so happy because I think later that same day, I think it was when I was working on songs at home … I played ‘Blow’ to a friend, and I don’t know if this is revealing too much, but I was like, ‘What does this sound like to you, man?’ It was that same day, it must have been or else I wouldn’t have continued the conversation. He’s like, ‘It’s Pink Floyd.’ I said, ‘Thank you!’ There are all kinds of things that people are reminded of in it, and they’re all probably pretty true. This record has been described as your true ‘singer-songwriter’ record, and it is more straightforward—for lack of a better word—than some of your other work. Why? INTERVIEW


The last record—Where Shine New Lights— felt like the resolve of this thing I’d been working toward for a few records, for a few years. It felt like I completed that particular journey. Also … I really like singer-songwriter stuff. I was like, ‘What do I actually like?’ I fuckin’ love blastin’ my tunes. Feeling feelings and singing along. And there was some growth into letting myself not even give a fuck anymore. Like … maybe I’ll make an R&B record. That’s one of the privileges of middle age—being able to say, ‘Whatever, man—I’ve done all that heavy stuff. I want to do this now.’ But also … introducing it as a singer-songwriter record feels like me playing with that tag. Because I get tagged with that all the time, regardless of what kind of record I’m making. It’s a gendered thing for sure. There aren’t many men songwriters who are also instrumentalists where it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re singer-songwriters.’ In terms of being immediately classified that way. Yeah. And it seems a little reductive. It’s a gendered thing. So it’s kind of fun to play with that. The record is self-titled, and my actual image is on the cover. It feels fun to play that, even though that’s what I’m actually doing. It’s subtle. How do you stare down—or creatively engage with—that singer-songwriter label? I don’t think creatively I am. I think in the presentation it is a kind of ironic stare-down, as it were. I started writing this a couple years ago, and I had the strong intention to do a collection of songs that had some semblance to an accepted form. But I wasn’t sure I would even put anything out because at this point there’s so much music I haven’t put out. I think that switch from ‘I’m making this work’ to ‘I’m also putting it out’ is an important part of the process for me and my intentions. Was the actual creation of this music different from how you’ve worked before? A little bit. There’s some aspect of always having to go into the deep freeze—thinking through and opening up to receive messages to make a song. But previous endeavors I would go into what I call the lab, which is me in the fuckin’ lab composing music with mostly studio materials. I have friends come and play; it’s not like I’m in a solitary fortress or anything. But that becomes just another element I get to work with and sculpt. Whereas with this record … knowing I wanted to have, like, some guitar jams, or a playable piece of music in a room with others, that totally informed how I wrote the songs. Less filigree, more streamlined. Which is kind of hard. That’s a completely different creative process. There’s definitely some reckoning about not relying on textural trickery and sonic devices and tropes that I’ve used before. I like those too, but that wasn’t my assignment to myself this time. The bones had to feel very deliverable. And there were tons of songs that didn’t make it, but you have to see those through, too. You’re in between legs of a tour right now. Is this the first time you’ve played these songs live? Some, yeah. I always end up playing in different arrangements, because I don’t have a 24

regular band. A few of these I’ve played solo, or if my friend Devin Hoff, the bass player, is around—we did some shows last summer on the east coast as a duo. There are various drummers. I was out with Tortoise like a month ago— I saw a video of you jamming with [Tortoise drummer] John Herndon. Yeah, he was playing with me duo. Every time I go out, it’s different. It’s fun. It’s more like being an instrumentalist playing the material than having a band that knows its parts and it’s set and we’re reproducing the song. I read that part of your objective with this album was to add positivity into the world. I feel like I’ve been concerned with that for the last couple of records, and just in general with my life. I’ve made a lot of records and I kind of grew up making records—the first one I recorded when I was 20. I spent the whole time of growing into myself as a person also growing into myself as an instrumentalist and as a songwriter, and doing that all on record is kind of insane. At the juncture I reached around 2009, I didn’t put out a record for a few years, and I didn’t tour like I used to. I stepped off the treadmill of it and checked myself … if I do continue to go out, why do I do that? What is the purpose of all this in the world? By 2009, I had been touring for the better part of 15 years. Like … I’ve collected all the perks of touring, I have all these things I’ve done. What is the intention of it at this point, as my human self right now? I’m not making happy-go-lucky pop music, but it feels like I’m trying to contribute something and be, yeah … posi-core. [laughs] There’s the pull-quote for the interview. You have to be careful when you create genre labels like that! I know—maybe we should not say posi-core because I think that exists and I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate. [laughs] When you went to Chicago to start recording the album, were you like, ‘I want an album that sounds like … ’? Were you trying to make it sound the way it ended up sounding? I didn’t have that vocabulary but a couple of the guys who were playing were dropping a couple band names they use as reference points. But no, I didn’t have that so much. I did the demos and they had drums—really shitty drums—and so the feel was already there when I got to Chicago. Those guys are just really sensitive, amazing players. We didn’t even get to rehearse. I just sent them demos, and I guess they thought about it for awhile because they showed up and totally had the vibe on. So it wasn’t so much, ‘Let’s make this genre record.’ Because I think also—especially the second side—they’re very different sounding. It has a very free kind of feel, for a singersongwriter record. There’s a twinkling of keys here or a short burst of trumpet there—it feels like a loose arrangement. Devin [Hoff] played on that ‘Cali’ song, and that one we just tracked live in my garage room, hoping for the best. Many years ago, I wrote these complicated structures with lots of parts, and it was really fun and also really difficult to use—they were more sculptural

things, and they were hard to live with on a stage or in a live scenario. But because the Chicago recording was essentially a live recording … one of my interests is to have the material be strong enough that it can stand up against factors like me having this kind of drummer or being alone or having this weirdo play. And first of all being able to be instrumentalists. Because I love playing guitar, and it’s not just being able to play chords, which is also a great thing and a fun thing to do. But I do like to stretch out as an instrumentalist, and I like it when people hire me to play on their shit. [laughs] It was a few of those things—going in without any rehearsal, and the material being like that, it was open to people just playing. I was interested in the way you sing on this record, all the quiet, steady harmonies. I recently heard the track you did for the Karen Dalton tribute album Remembering Mountains, ‘At Last the Night Has Ended,’ and you sing very differently on that song— louder, more clearly. Was the singing on this album inspired by the material? Did it flow out of the process? Harmony, be it with vocals or other instruments, always ends up being something I work with a lot. That’s one of the fun things about getting to do studio stuff—the opportunity to have a bunch of harmonies. I’m not making records now that are documents of a great live band—they’re studio creations. Even though in Chicago we got to play live, and with Devin we got to play live, there’s still that fun thing about, ‘Let’s put four of me. Let’s do four parts. We’ve got the tracks.’ It’s the only time I’m ever going to do that with this material. And it’s just nice. It’s more like a painting. And, you know, when I’m live … most of the time when I actually get to play music, I don’t have that. So maybe when people see me live it’s more like that Karen Dalton jam. That’s something I want to do in the near future, though—I’m not sure if it would be the old material or whatever, but somehow do a decent recording of the bones. I’ve always fleshed things out and it might be fun to not do that. The two sides of the record contrast a bit— the first feels more shadowy, the second warms up a little. It was hard to sequence it because it is a collection of songs, versus the last one [Where Shine New Lights] which was one long piece. I had songs, but I had to make each song work with its next buddy to create a narrative arc for that one. For this one, I didn’t have any of that. I couldn’t figure it out. But a friend of mine did one little switcheroo [snaps fingers] and the whole thing came together. I mean, I knew some should be on the second side, but it’s also just a shape that makes sense to me. When I play live, I don’t come out large—I never come out large. I think that’s because my music requires a little bit of attention. It’s good, for me too, to find a little bit of ground within that. To be able to—energeticallyspeaking—create an access point. I mean, some people don’t like that at all as an access point, to have a dream-like thing. Some people need that go-for-it-all-at-once. But for me, it helps me wade into what’s about to happen.

Do you think of this record as the beginning of a new phase? Or a departure for you? It depends on the next record, because isn’t a phase kind of a pattern? Does it have to be two or three? I guess it has to be three. OK—so I guess it remains to be seen if it’s a phase. [laughs] OK, sorry! It’s not a phase. But do you think of going back to what you were doing? Or of what you’ve just done? There are a few things I want to do next. I mean, I’ll never make the same record again. Even ten years ago, I was feeling like I was making different records. And I really have made each one pretty different. This one is more of a leap into something else, but none of them—including this one—felt against what I was doing or where I was at. I do a lot of actual drone work and instrumental work that I’m hoping to release physically in the fall—just instrumental work where there are certain elements that were once together that have been split apart just a little bit so they can be on their own. I still have a ton of pedals. I play an electric autoharp. I do drone shit. It’s not as if you’re done experimenting with music. I get to do a lot of that with the dancers I work with in town, and that’s a good balance for me. I think it helps to maybe serve the music, too, because I get to be the weirdo who is doing pitch-shifted air sounds with a four-foot-high frame drum and an electric autoharp. I get to do that and I really need to do that. But then I also get to try to play guitar well and sing songs in a sincere way. So, we’ll see what’s next. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I wanted to ask you about the song ’Joshua,’ which I thought might relate to that California theme—Joshua trees, in addition to the biblical Joshua. The song has a wandering-in-the-desert vibe. Like ‘A Horse WIth No Name.’ [laughs] That song was written in one session in one day, which doesn’t happen very often. I was in an isolation zone, natural beauty zone, and … you know, I think rather than a personal journey, it’s some kind of reassuring message while on a journey to our hero, who’s on a hero’s journey. There’s a line: ‘Let the moon be in the morning sky.’ It’s a blessing song, really. Like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ [laughs] ‘Don’t worry about it. We got you.’ Let the universe lead you to your destination? I think, yeah … maybe there’s something about the discomfort of any sort of journey, but ultimately it’s a bigger thing, and maybe it’s some sort of blessing for having faith in that process, that ultimately it’s going to be alright. TARA JANE O’NEIL WITH BOUQUET ON MON., JUNE 19, AT PIETER PERFORMANCE SPACE, 420 W. AVE. 33, UNIT #10, LINCOLN HEIGHTS. PIETERPASD.COM. TARA JANE O’NEIL’S SELF-TITLED ALBUM IS OUT NOW ON GNOMONSONG. VISIT TARA JANE O’NEIL AT TARAJANEONEIL.COM. INTERVIEW


SO MAN


NY WIZARDS Interview by Nathan Martel Photography by Ben Rice Poster design by Jun Ohnuki

On their new Lolipop album Heavy Vision, L.A. quartet So Many Wizards delve into the turmoil of life and the world today, balancing joy with the daily trials of living and turning emotional strain into a route to renewal. Founder Nima Kazerouni, longtime member and drummer Erik Felix and bassist Devin Ratliff—guitarist Martin Roark was on vacation in Hawaii—use this far-ranging conversation to explain the inspirations and the neuroses that shape their sound. How did personal tragedy shape the Heavy Vision album? The creative process changes when something like that occurs. Nima Kazerouni (vocals/guitar): It started not with tragedy but with the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me—the birth of my child. Warm Nothing come out a week after my child was born in 2012. My daughter and that album were created at the same time. That had a lot to do with shaping my worldview. Completely inverted my life. Seeing the world as a father … it’s the craziest thing ever. So being a father and experiencing tragedy while having a newborn, that dichotomy is the foundation for Heavy Vision. When Vera was one, her grandfather was dying of cancer. He actually was one of the Mayors of the Salton Sea. I was going out there before those documentaries, but they show the strangeness and how amazing that place is. We’d go visit her grandfather’s family. It was crazy seeing my child interact with this dying man. That started this string of events. A year later my best friend—my dog—was hit by a car. That affected me severely. It happened right in front of my daughter … I’d never experienced something so close to me immediately disappear like that. [points to a tattoo on the inside of his right arm] I have Nico forever right here. That fucked me up. It seems the older you get … things happen with family members. Recently, my uncle committed suicide. So even post-Heavy Vision, the record being written a couple of years ago, everything makes sense. It kind of verifies what we wrote. It’s comforting … Erik Felix (drums): Reaffirming. NK: Reaffirming. And aside from literal death, becoming a father, growing up … I’m 34 years old. I’m not a 20-year-old punk kid anymore. I have real-life responsibilities and allocating my life and time to meeting those demands from being a father to the band … it’s a death in a sort of way. ‘Hey, I have to make ends meet, I can’t just be a gypsy musician for the rest of my life. I have to provide for my child—be responsible.’ I’ve been lucky, I’ve had great opportunities to make music with friends. In the best way, I’m just thankful to be writing music. I’m at a place where I’m always thankful. We’re all growing up at the same time. Do you feel that personal loss or tragedy is an important part of the creative process? Or an important part of the identity of an artist? NK: [long pause] Absolutely. You experience something and translate that to song. It provides a release. It’s therapeutic. Releasing that [feeling] is also a death in itself, in a way. EF: It certainly brings about an extreme, visceral feeling. Whether it be loss and then renewal, or love. Gaining something or experiencing something like love after the fact.

That’s probably why you hear these themes in music—either heartbreak or love. NK: It’s what affects you the most. EF: They’re just such strong feelings that bring about this need for expression. NK: That’s very true. It seems that every time I’ve written an EP or started a side project, it stemmed from losing something very dear to me. Crown Plaza because I broke up with my girlfriend of ten years. Nectarines—this other project—also stemmed from heartbreak and loss. A lot of these songs on Heavy Vision come from the same place. Thinking about it … loss plays a significant role. When you lose something, you want to create, too. It’s therapy. ‘I lost this thing, and now I have to create something else in its place.’ I’m paraphrasing, but Nick Cave recently said somebody who has experienced loss or tragedy should start a band and tour. NK: Absolutely. Tour is very one-dimensional. You have a goal and you do it night after night. EF: You have a destination, you get there at night, you arrive at the venue at a certain time. You have to sound check at a certain time. There’s a beginning and end to it every day. Then you just repeat that the next day. NK: You have an agenda and as long as you’re on that task, everything just kind of falls by the wayside. At the same time, yes—you have a lot of time to think about your life, but it’s in a different scope. You’re not sitting around at home wondering what to do with yourself. You’re in this ship that’s going forward. You feel accomplished in a sense. You feel good about yourself and following through on things every night, no matter what, whether you want to or not. You have an obligation. EF: And you’re sharing your music with people all over, every night. Connecting with them and things of that nature. It’s nice to feel that connection after any kind of loss. NK: It’s definitely good advice. Nick Cave knows what he’s talking about. The recording techniques applied to this album suggest a distance between you and …. not necessarily the listener, but the subject matter. It implies a feeling of vulnerability. NK: Absolutely. Devin Ratliff (bass): You’re in way too deep here. EF: It kind of works both ways. NK: You’re not off. Erik had a lot to do with that. He likes it when vocals are buried. I personally thought that on this album the lyrics are easy to decipher. I don’t know. I wrote them so I know what I’m saying, of course. This album is a vulnerable album. The lyrics are super vulnerable. It deals with death and loss. And in a way, yeah—something had to give. So having the vocals kind of tweaked out is deflecting a little bit. 27


EF: In the process of writing the record, recording the record … when we were recording it, we were still writing parts during the session. You remember? I was definitely writing drum parts and fills. I think the record caught us in the transition that Nima alluded to. We had one foot in our former selves, who we were in our early to mid-twenties, and were now entering this different phase in life. So we’re trying to make sense of that—while also being in a band—and what that means now at this stage in our lives. In ‘Swimming Pools’—with the lyrics ‘I’ve got to move this mountain’—there’s this chaotic bridge. It’s like you’re searching—as a band—for emotional purchase. Seeking something tenable. NK: I honestly don’t know how that bridge came about. I listen to that and it totally makes sense, with the lyrics and the timing of where it comes in. I was in Tucson and I wrote it sitting next to this swimming pool. It was quite literal. There was this mountain behind me and I had this thought, ‘Oh shit— I’m going to die here! This is it. Holy fuck!’ Which is a pretty heavy feeling. DR: Why did you think you’re going to die there? NK: Well—just kind of waste away. I mean … I’m in Tucson. DR: You didn’t have plans yet? NK: There were no plans. To move back or whatever. It was a heavy time. I think that the band took what I did, with the verse and the chorus and together, I think, we decided … EF: What I like about that song is this tension that builds throughout, throughout, throughout, even towards the end. You never get that full release. It ends very abruptly, just kind of a thud. I attribute that to just us not wanting to show our hand. Us coming to grips with bitter or brutal reality. Day to day living and getting older, and how some days you don’t get that satisfaction. Some days are just really terrible. And some weeks. And some months. There can be these weeks of frustration. We tried to convey that in this song—we withheld a type of release. I wanted to express that dissatisfaction. But I hope people feel, like I do, that it ends on a good note. But you still don’t get that full release. It almost seems that the song will turn into a Sonic Youth type of dirge, but then it turns into, ‘Haha—jokes on you!’ DR: [laughs] We should have done that! EF: That will be the remix. DR: If I had my way! The desert and death are great motivators in art. Being in Tucson and having that death notion—it’s not really an accident. EF: [to Nima] It must have been really jarring for you being in L.A. and then going to Tucson. NK: It was a weird time. We were still a band. The album came out, the first one, Vera was born … and I was living there, but I was also flying bi-monthly to play shows in Echo Park to keep this band alive. People didn’t know that. Most thought I was living here. And to have that duality … to come to the city once or twice a month, and be in this community and then to fly back after an intense week of recording and playing shows and practicing to going back to this desolate desert … Where I lived was on the outskirts of Tucson. It wasn’t in 28

the city; I was out by the Catalina Mountains. It’s very beautiful but also desolate. I could see three-sixty of the horizon which was crazy. At nighttime you feel like you’re in outer space. It’s scary. There are so many stars. Doing that back and forth for a year really messed with my head. But it also provided clarity. I would write a lot in both states. I was able to stay in Echo Park in my cousin’s cabin. I had this space to take in what I experienced in Tucson as well to write music. These settings were conducive to writing. I had isolation in both places, which helped. I wasn’t sleeping on couches. Well, maybe a couple of times. EF: You did. NK: [laughs] Oh man, yeah—I am a gypsy! Yeah, but it was a desert and that desolation does help in writing about death. It’s scary. You’re by yourself, you’re alone—and I’m a naturally neurotic person, as everybody knows. That fear of death has always been with me. Getting older and experiencing it first hand with different people dying around you … you think about yourself and having a child. You being to think about your own mortality: ‘What if I die? What’s going to happen to this child?’ All that hits you at once. Heavy Vision had to be created to deal with that. Now you’ve replaced the desert with the urban setting by moving back to L.A. NK: I don’t have that release anymore by going back to the desert. It’s a little claustrophobic. I was used to having that wide-open space to collect myself and see what’s going on from an outside perspective. Recently, living in Long Beach especially—I love Long Beach, but it’s such a small community. I kind of feel trapped, you know? Some of the new stuff we are writing is reflecting that. So Many Wizards started as a bedroom project, right? With just you? NK: I guess you could say that. It started years ago in Long Beach and it’s kinda made a full circle. It began with just me, there were friends helping. Especially with the live shows … sometimes. It was a bit of a shit show. I didn’t want to come off as a singer/songwriter. Nothing against singer/songwriters, but I wanted to be different. So I utilized these televisions that would simulate people. I stacked them on top of each other … it was so much work. I had to use a lot of family resources. My uncle has a shop in Gardena, and my cousin helped me create these faux old TVs that needed to be gutted out. Of course it’s super dangerous to do that in the first place, and on top of that, it’s very difficult to put in flat screens. So we created these empty TVs with flat screens, which took a couple of months … and once it was ready, it was just a shit show upon a shit show upon a shit show. You get to a point where you try to figure out how to sample and play these parts with the televisions. EF: Seven or six televisions, having to set them up—and then to sound check? [laughs] NK: Stress levels were through the roof. This was back in the beginning, when [Erik] was one of the helpers. This is before he became official and we said, ‘Hey, let’s focus on the songwriting.’ And give ourselves a break. EF: It was a cool idea—ambitious. But it was a little bit more than we could handle. NK: But we handled it. We handled it for about a year. And it was cool while it lasted.

But nothing lasts forever. And I’m glad for that. For very obvious reasons … EF: Because it actually let us have real people join the band and play the parts. NK: So that happened for about a year. There was a drummer. Erik helped out. My friend Johan helped out. My other friend Vince who now plays in Furcast. It sifted into me and Erik just being a two-piece. Which was pretty awesome. We did that for another year or two. We got to record a second EP in San Francisco at Different Fur Studio with Chris Chu, formerly of Morning Benders. We actually played KXLU as a two-piece. Got to play CMJ with Warpaint. At the time it was wild. It’s crazy because as a two-piece, you’re totally vulnerable. There’s nothing you can hide behind. EF: When we recorded that record with him, that last Morning Benders was getting mixed by Chris from Grizzly Bear. It was a year before that record came out. Chris reached out to us because Nima had given him the first EP. NK: Old school tactics. They were playing the Treasure Island Festival. I went in with a ‘you never know!’ mentality. I had a couple of CDs with me and I ran into Chris, told him they played a great set, shot the shit for a little bit … and then why not? I’m the kind of guy like, ‘Who cares? Don’t be shy.’ As these guys [in So Many Wizards] know to a fault! Six months later when we were on tour, I receive an email from Chris: ‘I really like your stuff. I’d love to record with you. I’ll be free for these certain dates’. And he did it. Charged us next to nothing. And it was awesome. Got to go to Different Fur Studios. EF: And he really crafted the songs too. NK: Yeah. He played on them. It was a cool experience. That was the Love Songs For When You Leave Me EP. The transition from a bedroom project to a full band—what changed? And how much did it change? NK: Extremely. EF: It changed even when I joined because it was no longer just Nima’s creative vision. I began offering input and helping form the sound. NK: Erik became integral to the writing process. In this very room [Erik’s living room] we did a lot. I would come with some really raw ideas. [Erik’s influence on] the dynamic and structure of the songs are huge. The Love Songs For When You Leave Me EP is all over the place. It’s kind of a shit show. [laughs] Warm Nothing is a little more cohesive. But Heavy Vision is particularly cohesive. When a whole band comes together it becomes that naturally. It’s no longer just my neurosis completely taking over. What is the narrative arc of So Many Wizards? Aesthetically, artistically … ? EF: It started with Nima initially. And I became the first official member of the band. And as time has gone on, there have been different friends … NK: We’ll call them wizards … so many of them. [laughs] We walked right into that. EF: Strike that from the record! NK: NO! EF: But there have been a lot of people who have contributed to the project. Even going back before my time. There was Joaquin and Vince who were integral to the beginning

stages. Throughout each incarnation these people shaded the sound. But at its core, it’s always been Nima’s voice. Even when we were writing and recording Love Songs, I felt like a supporting member. When we started writing Warm Nothing, that’s when I began to feel like a full-fledged member with an equal voice. At this point, we have a sense of what we want So Many Wizards to be. All these friends that have been with us have shaded it, but I think this current incarnation is the longest one we’ve had. It’s been great to have that—it helps the creative process when everybody is on the same page. When you know what everybody wants to get out of the project. There’s the narrative structure of being an artist as well. The trajectory from the Love Songs EP to Heavy Vision tells a story. NK: It chronicles the life and times of Nima Kazerouni, the way I see things and the way I experience life. That’s typical of most songwriters. They write about what they experience, what they’re into and what they’re learning at the time. EF: For instance … on the first EP and the first album, there are a number of keyboard songs. The songs revolve around Nima’s voice and this old Casio he found somewhere which provided a lightness to the songs. And to me, there would be no purpose to play songs with such levity at this point. NK: At this point, yeah, it wouldn’t make sense. Going from twenties to thirties, it impacts what I write about, and how I experience things. Life is … life is super harsh at times. We don’t know what’s coming; we don’t know how we are going to feel with every turning point in our lives. Creating this music is me—or we—wrestling with that. We aren’t becoming more negative—not at all. We are becoming more matter of fact. We’ve done the light stuff. EF: You never know. We may come back to it. It’s a matter of getting comfortable in your new skin—comfortable with who you are now and where you’re at. When we get to a point where we understand what that means—reatively and otherwise—maybe we’ll bring back the keyboard. Or maybe not. NK: Keyboard’s dead, man! EF: Maybe we’ll evolve into something else. NK: I have no idea what’s to come. But I will act—or rather react—accordingly. Nobody is going to be on this ship forever. EF: Including yourself. NK: Including myself. I do work on other projects. And they do impact my creativity and my time. However, that being said, So Many Wizards is near and dear to me. No matter what happens. I will continue with this project in the foreseeable future. But there is no saying where that narrative is going to go. As there is no knowing where any of this is going in life. But I’m really thankful to weather the storm with Erik Felix this whole time. We’ve had a lot of different people come in and out, and we’ve had a lot of shit occur within our live. It’s cool to just go into the studio and just kind of wreck together. When all is said and done, we’re two friends writing music together. Which is pretty awesome. So Many Wizards has been labeled as ‘dream punk’ … I hate labels, and would argue this album is recorded as an avalanche of sound with pop melodies and tendencies. INTERVIEW


NK: When Niko Bolas was mixing us … EF: Oh yeah! On Warm Nothing. NK: He was like, ‘By themselves, these parts are garbage.’ [laughs] He’s a well-seasoned dude, or rather engineer—totally accomplished. And we’re new—amateurs in a way. EF: We mixed that in the Capitol building. In these really amazing facilities. Rverything just state of the art and great. And here we are in this amazing facility mixing songs that we recorded at a friend’s house studio and Loyola Marymount’s recording studio. We had this hodgepodge of recordings and we are in this absolutely incredible facility and [Niko] is isolating these tracks and he’s just … he was borderline disguised! NK: Well, it was disgusting. EF: But when he put all the tracks together he was all, ‘Yeah, this is pleasant—this is good’. NK: Yeah! He liked it. I don’t know. That was Warm Nothing. Yes, Heavy Vision is very dense. But I’d like to think, these songs ... the guitar and lyrics they do hold their own. I think Martin’s guitar parts … he’s so good and he has so many ideas. He did a lot. And it’s very guitar driven this album. EF: You’d say that Heavy Vision is more guitar driven than Warm Nothing? NK: Definitely. But we did layer it. Eric Penna is to be credited with that as he produced the album. He was really into layers. I remember him being, ‘Let’s do this! Play that guitar!’ EF: ‘Play that guitar again!’ NK: ‘Play through five different amps! Play different guitars!’ He’s a gear head. Everything was analog. He didn’t have ProTools or anything. Everything was done as it would have been in the 50s. DR: Erik recorded the drums to 2-inch tape. NK: There weren’t any plug-ins. Everything was manually done. Reverb wasn’t created with a reverb plug-in. So it was way harder than it should have been … and it took years off of his life. That’s why the drums sound so good. EF: We recorded them here in that adjacent room [the dining room]. NK: He liked the acoustics and he brought his board. EF: He came in and started clapping. And he was all, ‘Yeah, this is going to work’. Two weeks later, he brought the two-inch tape deck. Which is massive! It was a Tascam, something like six feet long. We set up in this room, where we are now and he ran the mic into the next room and proceeded to track for two days. DR: A lot of the bass and guitars were done at his house. NK: It’s weird hearing you two talk about it while we sit where it was done. It’s like a ghost was here. It lingers. NK: It does! I can still hear the drums. EF: A number of the songs were written in this room too. NK: And you know what? This house is threatened to be bulldozed because like everywhere else in L.A., they’re building shitty condos. However, Erik just told me this building might be nominated for … EF: It potentially could be nominated for historical landmark status, but it may not. It may not achieve it. NK: I hope this place doesn’t get torn down. INTERVIEW

As I understand it, Heavy Vision took two years to record? EF: Noooooo! [laughs] Technically it took six months to record everything, everyone’s parts … does that sound right? EF: To track everybody took about six months. Mixing and mastering took another few months. So the entire record about … DR: Sitting on it took about two or three years. NK: Yeah, it’s been done for a while. That how things work. I’m realizing, talking to other people in bands … records take a long time to come out, unfortunately. Vinyl production is backed up. Different labels have different obligations to other bands, financially. It is what it is. That being said, distancing ourselves from this record and having it come out now, it makes sense. It doesn’t seem to us like old material. I listen to it and I like it. I’m liking it more and more. Maybe I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, but the delay helped my feeling toward the album. You know when you work on something so much and then you’re just sick of it—the silver lining is we got to distance ourselves from it and when it came out, we could revisit it with all the elements involved in releasing an album. I’m really proud of it. It’s eerie that things are happening in my life now that reaffirm the subject matter. In the ‘Modern Way’ video, the one with Nima walking around holding the plant … Nima, you seem like a man apart. Is this a visual representation of what the album is about? It seems you’re untethered. The band isn’t even present in the video. DR: That was all my idea. NK: Devin actually directed it with his roommate, Elise. DR: It was a collaboration. NK: That was Devin’s interpretation of the song really. And he nailed it. DR: I’d wanted to make that video for a year. I was inspired a little bit by Midnight Cowboy. Walking through the city. Just observing. Detached. And 90s music videos. The R.E.M. video—that’s a reference a little bit. A Guided By Voices video I referenced from a little bit.. And the black and white comes from? French! DR: Ha! To be honest, yeah—French new wave. I wanted to be as French new wave as possible … Just kidding. No actually, that came a little afterwards, to be honest. NK: That was Elise, wasn’t it? DR: Yeah. We realized that all the different locations we shot—the lighting, daytime, nighttime, inside, outside, interior, exterior— gelled better with black and white. And I think it turned out better. It was meant to be black and white, I feel. It worked out great. Nima called me at the last minute and said, ‘Hey, you know that “Modern Way” video you want to make? Let’s make it! This week. Let’s do it.’ We did it in two days. Shot it, edited it. It was quick. NK: We’ve had other music videos made for the album and this one … EF: So seamless. NK: Yeah. If you want something done, you do it yourself. And you have full control. And we did. So going forward, I’m going to take that mentality to heart. Because I kind of lost it. So Many Wizards started with that mentality. I’d make my own EP, I recorded in

my bedroom. It was like, ‘Screw everything else.’ EF: You actually fabricated— NK: —my own reality? EF: [laughs] No! The CD cases. But yeah— that too! NK: I feel like I had it right on the first try. Going forward I’m not going to wait around, number one. For records to be made. As stoked as I am for Heavy Vision to be out but also detached from it coming out years later, it’s still relevant. We have to charge forward with every project and everything I do. You gotta do it yourself. As a quick aside—how has the collaborative process been with Nima, for you Devin? … pretty difficult? DR: [laughs] It’s always difficult with Nima. NK: Son of a bitch … [laughs] DR: Honestly, it was pretty great. We work well. My roommate and I went down to Long Beach. We had a basic idea. And Nima pretty much let us do whatever we wanted. Of course, the editing process, Nima had his head behind my shoulder. He’s a songwriter! He’s editing all the time! DR: Yeah, I feel like, aside from the fistfights and everything … we work really well together. It was pretty easy to do. NK: I’ve had a lot of people work with me in the past, and it hasn’t worked out … These people who are remaining, like Erik, God bless his soul. I am a little to bit to a lot bit crazy—a neurotic personality. And kind of into having my space. A real Oscar Wilde here! NK: [laughs] I’ll be like, ‘Let’s do this!’ And Erik is really great at taking all that bullshit, and being all, ‘OK, alright’ and throwing it back at me in a cohesive, logical way. That’s huge. It’s invaluable. I really can’t believe he’s sitting next to me to this day. He’s put up with a lot of crap. And Devin, too. We work really well together. At times, I can be really short with how I direct. It’s something I’ve been working on for years. But it’s not always the easiest thing to maintain. It’s awesome, though. When they are able to not get offended or whatever when this happens, it’s cool. Band dynamics are a very delicate situation. EF: Absolutely. All the parts are written over the course of multiple practices. Nima will come up with a song—sometimes fully fleshed out, with structure, all the chords, all the lyrics and melodies. Other times it’s just a really bare idea and then we’ll flesh it out at practice. Each of us will bring something, and we have a lot of overlap in our tastes as well as distinct individual tastes as well. When that happens we nudge it certain directions. If someone is taking something in a particular direction that perhaps somebody isn’t comfortable with, somebody else might nudge it in another direction. NK: It’s like NPR is what Erik is saying. [laughs] I hate it so much! But it’s a necessary evil. You’re in a band with people who need to … DR: Express themselves. NK: Exactly. DR: I feel like when I first became part of the band, I hadn’t quite learned what Nima liked and what you didn’t like. I felt like I was

trying to play too many melodies, and you’d be like ‘No no no no no. Just keep it simple.’ Now having been in the band for three or four years, I know what you’re going to like, so when we work on parts … NK: He’s a yes man! I love him! You got to be a yes man to be in So Many Wizards! DR: I feel like I pretty much play whatever I want and you’re like, ‘Cool!’ NK: I was just kidding—he definitely brings something now. Like, I know what Erik likes and what he will laugh at … Everybody dynamically affects each other and influences each other. And then you start writing these things where everybody is immediately excited, and we know we have a great song and we’ve got a couple of those already recorded for the next album. It’s exciting to be a part of, but it also takes a long time to get to that level. A lot of times, you don’t make it. Because there is a lot of dissonance and disappointment, and in order to be in a band you gotta work past it—or else the band will dissolve. What are the ultimate plans regarding Heavy Vision? NK: We are going to go on tour in July. That will be a U.S. tour. Also speaking to a booking agent to put together a European tour in October. We got to tour the U.K. when Warm Nothing came out. That was really great. DR: Before my time! NK: But we haven’t toured. And, yeah, that was before Devin’s time. That was when Frank Maston was in the band. That was Frank Maston’s—he’s a friend of ours—that was his first tour, a U.K. Tour. And our buddy Geoff Geis partook—it was so fun. It was a blast. I haven’t toured in four years, and my daughter is four, so you get the reasons why. I’m excited. I’m ready to tour. I can logistically do it now. And I’m excited to have people hear the record and also to move on. I’ve been waiting, psychologically. You write music for the band, but you can’t really move forward until a record is put out. We’ve got the record out, thank God, let’s move on, let’s collect ourselves. Now my brain has been fried, really. EF: Now that it’s out, there isn’t anything inhibiting it or whatever will come next. NK: We’ve already begun recording with our friend, Scott Barber, at Barber Shop Studios. He lives in Echo Park and has this really great studio. I record everything with him now. All my projects. It all comes together and compliments each other, even though it isn’t Heavy Vision related. But with Heavy Vision, I’m excited to hear people’s reactions and if they are stoked on it. The album kind of grows on you. It’s even been growing on me. Maybe at first listen you don’t get certain things, but on repeated listens it becomes more nuanced. I’m pleased to have written a record that grows. SO MANY WIZARDS WITH SANTOROS ON FRI., JULY 21, AT THE SANTOROS VINYL RELEASE PARTY AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $8-9.50 / ALL AGES. THEECHO. COM. SO MANY WIZARDS’ HEAVY VISION IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM LOLIPOP RECORDS. VISIT SO MANY WIZARDS AT SOMANYWIZARDS. COM. 29


BRAINSTORY Interview by Daiana Feuer Photography by FUNAKI

Kevin and Tony Martin grew up in Rialto, California, part of the suburban wasteland of the Inland Empire, and their first exposure to the psychedelic experience came through the church. Every Sunday their gospel singer father performed with a band designed to incite altered states in the congregation, and people ran through the pews speaking in tongues before collapsing in ecstasy. There they learned the transformative power of music, and now with longtime bandmate Eric Hagstrom, they write jazz-y psychedelic songs about—and for—reflection, love, and generally tripping out by contemplating the universe. Their new self-titled mini-album came out in May and was produced by Chicano Batman’s Eduardo Arenas. We sat down at my kitchen table to talk about it. Tony Martin arrived strapped with an acoustic bass strapped, playing from the moment he walked in until the minute he left. It made for a gentle soundtrack to our conversation, which got pretty deep. You grew up around religious music. Tony Martin (bass, vocals): Church was so big in my parents world. Our dad was a gospel singer. He was/is a soloist. Can you describe a particularly psychedelic gospel experience? TM: Oh man, easily—we had so many. People would literally be jumping off the balcony to the first floor, speaking in tongues, falling in ecstasy, running around the pews. Kevin Martin (guitar, vocals): My grandma … her brother made a church, here in East L.A. They were apostolic pentecostal. They have a lot of rules. Ladies aren’t allowed to wear pants. It’s all about dimming the woman. Very strange. TM: Kinda culty. My parents got out of it eventually—that’s the truth. KM: But the music that they played was Baptist style, Hammond organ, improvisation, then the bass line kicks in and everybody gets the holy ghost—they go crazy, running in the aisles. It’s a lot like punk. The beat, it’s fast. And the musicians are amazing. But as they progressed towards what we call ‘liberal’ Christian music, the music was so whack. TM: My dad struggled in that. He was trying to tell them, ‘Feel the spirit. What is this?’ KM: It was the mega churches. The moneymaking churches. TM: I call them stadium churches. It’s just corporate. He did not fit in. KM: He was miserable. He hated it. Among the lines, he felt like a slave. He told the choir director—who was actually his friend—that they weren’t feeding them when they were making them rehearse a shit-ton because this big guest was coming to the church. And they’re not getting paid. 30

TM: The music that we did, even though we stopped going to church, it’s all tied to the same thing. John Coltrane is the same thing. Fiery, improvisational, just seeking-salvation stuff. When music decides to separate from the church and just be music. TM: And it still reaches the goal. That’s why I think the gospel element of our music is not necessarily the notes we’re playing—it’s how we’re playing it. The goal is still reaching God or the universe, whatever you want to call it. That feeling of infinity that’s in everybody because we’re all essentially little blips of light. KM: Our souls are infinite. TM: So yeah—we had many crazy experiences. KM: But our dad was also really into R&B, soul, jazz. He liked a lot of music. TM: He was a musician’s musician too. I remember one time he was talking about Janis Joplin and analyzing her singing. ‘Her tone is so raw. She sings with this part of her voice. Listen to her melody right here and how she variated it from the one before.’ KM: He has ears, yeah. Natural talent. TM: Hell yeah. When I got into music he bought me a bass from the swap meet and an instructional video from the 1980s. That’s how you got your first bass? TM: Yeah—then I started playing bass. KM: He always really encouraged us. Once he saw us into music he just jumped on it and started giving us random shit. He’s always like, ‘Hey, I saw this at the swap meet.’ He’s a bargain hunter. He goes on a regular basis to his normal spots and he just comes up. He got a whole stove that was supposed to be $4,000 for $150.

TM: He got a Fender Rhodes Electric Piano on his wedding for $25 at the swap meet. KM: On his wedding day. He went to the swap meet on his wedding day? KM: And for $25 he got one on his wedding day. He’s crazy like that. He would just bring home stuff from the swap meet. I got into the wah-wah pedal, and that’s a big element to our music. When I was 12 he just came up with a wah-wah starter pack. He used to come home with these big plastic bags. He gave me an original crybaby wah-wah pedal. And it was old. It was all squeaky and shitty. But it still worked. And then a Jimi Hendrix live in Berkeley 1971 tape. TM: It’s so perfect! It sounds like your parents really support what you’re doing. TM: Yeah, but it’s been a journey for sure though to that point, ya know? They just had to see how serious we were about it. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, I want to be an artist, and I’m stoned all the time, and not getting a job…’ KM: ‘And not doing shit.’ TM: I don’t want to live that way. This is my life and everything stems from that. [Hagstrom is tapping on his phone, playing the drumbeat of a familiar song … ] TM: What was that you were playing? Was that Aaliyah? Eric Hagstrom (drums): That’s pretty good, Tony! It’s a classic. KM: It gives me a certain feeling every time it comes on. At least it gives me the feeling of when I was watching it on The Box. The box … of TV? KM: Ha! It was a channel called The Box where you call in and request music video.

TM: We watched it all the time. I know all those songs. It’s amazing to think about the songs that we all know by default, ingrained in the fiber of our beings … KM: Like Outkast … TM: ‘Everybaahdy, yeaaah!’ EH: For Tony it’s Spice Girls. It comes on and he knows all the words. TM: I don’t even know the names of the songs—but I know them all. EH: All those songs … they figured out how to make you learn the songs after hearing it one time. Everybody can sing the words to those boy bands. That’s an interesting point of entry to talk about your music. If you compare Backstreet Boys to what you’re doing … EH: It’s almost exactly the same. If it is, it’s the way more stretched-out version. When I was listening to the album, I felt like it was distilling one thought and stretching it out like putty—altering the pace of my mind. KM: I think the songwriting process is very much about that—that deep thought. Deliberately making sure that you’re saying something that not only rhythmically sounds good—so it goes with the music— but that actually has meaning. I revise my songs so there’s more deliberation with each word. And then maybe you have to revise it rhythmically because you come up with a different line. So I think it comes from a place of deep thought. EH: We aren’t trying to fit into a three-minute thing. We just feel it out. ‘Evil Cowboy’ is almost eight minutes long. That comes from our jazz background. One of the most famous jazz songs is nine minutes long. INTERVIEW


TM: That atmosphere of creative thinking allows more room for you to unwind. Pop music is just supposed to … at least how people make money with it is they make songs that are pleasing to everyone to digest. That’s the focus of their composition. Because we aren’t bound by that, there’s more room to be creative. Do you take liberties with your rules? TM: Oh hell yeah. ‘Evil Cowboy’ doesn’t have a verse per se. It’s not A-B-A. There’s no chorus. Usually the chorus is the hook of a song. I don’t repeat. The chorus doesn’t develop like (sings) ‘Everybaahdy…’ There’s no part like that. ‘The First Yesterday’ is like that too. EH: That’s going to be the title of our article: ‘Psychedelic Backstreet Boys.’ Did you guys split songwriting on this album? KM: I only wrote two: ‘Fruitless Trees’ and ‘Moth Love.’ Tony wrote the rest. As opposed to our first record—I wrote most of those. We worked on this batch for about six months, playing them live, switching them up. EH: We’ve played them a lot more since we recorded them and what’s funny is that we keep changing them. When we listen to the record and look at how we play them now, it’s interesting how different they are. The tempo is a big thing, the beat a little … things get rearranged. The song ‘Water’ is arranged very differently. Your songs could be considered more a platform—you’re not expected to play them the same way every time. KM: Totally. Sometimes the way we play it on the record … it doesn’t flow that way in real life. At a show, you have an audience and you want them to have the best time and keep their attention. EH: It’s more fresh like that too. Some bands play their songs exactly like their records and then people come to expect that. We aren’t trying to do that at all. KM: I think we’re moving out of an era where it’s been all about ‘the record.’ Now that you can download that shit from anywhere … at least for a band like us, our live show has been our money-maker. It’s how people remember us. We improvise, we have parts that aren’t on the album—it brings the recording to life, and yet it’s different every time. EH: It keeps us excited about the music and that translates to people. Do you identify with garage rock? TM: Pfff. KM: To me it’s kinda one-dimensional. We want to remind people that psychedelic music means a transformative experience, not just dressing up like you’re from the 60s. Although I do like stuff like that and I do emulate those kind of things, but musically our focus is about how the music experience can change your life and be a spiritual experience. That refers back to what we were talking about that stretched out experience. That’s something you associate with going into a relaxed, open-mind state. TM: That’s the atmosphere we want to create. People need it. We need it. My brother and I grew up with church music and that’s what the church music was about. I’m not part of INTERVIEW

the church or religion so much, but when I listen to jazz, I get that feeling. When I went back to church with my dad, it was just like jazz. It was Christian music but the musicians were all so dope. KM: Yeah it was like, ‘This is not what I believe in per se, but right now, I’m feelin’ it!’ TM: Some shit was happening and it was beautiful. EH: I think with psychedelics, jazz, gospel, Christianity, and Buddhism, and everything—the experience and feeling that they get from their practice—it’s just putting a different label on the same thing. I heard this guy talking about how all these different religions are digging onefoot-deep wells but they should all dig one big well—it would be way deeper. People focus on the well itself but what’s actually important is the water. Everyone wants the same thing. It’s a feeling of oneness, that we’re all connected. TM: Returning to wherever we come from, going to the universe. I think—like, what you were talking about that stretched shit—it all comes from improvisation. You reach those states, like you see in folk music, rumba from Cuba, ceremonial music from that tradition, in North Africa you have the whirling dervishes and qawwali music … it all leaves room for improvisation. And the improvisation allows you to freely create on the spot so you are connecting to a deeper place inside of you. You have to open yourself up to create. TM: A lot of the time I feel like I’m not making it. Something is channeled through me. My atoms are trying to communicate some shit. EH: Yeah—you’re just letting it come out. It’s funny. Sometimes we’ll be playing a song like that and we finish and it’s like … what? That was ten minutes? KM: Time is skewed in those states. You feel like you’re traveling faster. Music involves time and when you’re in that state, time really doesn’t mean the same as when you’re just sitting there. Like you said: pace. It’s a whole different space in your brain. EH: We were playing these gigs and going into these types of states, and people were kinda like sitting there staring at us and we would be like, ‘Oh no—they don’t like us.’ Then we talk to them later and they’re like, ‘That was fucking amazing!’ TM: We’d get so insecure about that. EH: We were just so glad they were actually going with us. You would hope they could give some kind of a sign. EH: It’s mostly when we play for people that are seeing us for the first time. TM: I remember looking into this big-ass crowd of a sold-out show. This one guy had his mouth open so wide. Everyone had these weird faces. And after we were done with the song everyone started screaming. If they’re talking it means they don’t care. But if they’re drooling, it means they’re paying attention. EH: I think it means Tony’s just a sexy man. KM: Brainstreet Boys. That should be your Halloween cover band. Jazzy psychedelic Backstreet—

TM: ‘Everybaahdy….’ EH: ‘Leave your baahdy.’ Tell me how your lyrics fit into this vision we’re talking about. KM: With ‘Moth Love’ I’m trying to dispel illusions in my writing. It’s a theme for me. I don’t know why I’m writing it while I’m writing it. It comes and it sounds right. It’s a collage of words at first and I’m all in the details and then I come out and see the full picture and I get to know what it means. There was a basic beginning of intention. It was a summation of some of the personal love relationships I was in and how I was perceiving it and them perceiving it in this blind way that makes you miss that you have to love yourself. You’re trying to be absorbed in the love that you feel by giving your love to somebody and then it being reflected back, but then you’re not being able to have that in yourself— —for yourself? KM: Exactly. So with that song I had the idea that I wanted to write about this concept. Basically the chorus: ‘No, no, no, you’re not loving me / you see / it’s my love for you that sets your own self-love free … ’ You know what I’m saying? I’m talking to myself but also explaining it to people. It’s like everyone talking to themselves. It’s ‘moth love’ because moths go to the light— they’re obsessed with it, and then they die. I have positive connotations about death, but in this song, the dying part is not good. It’s loss-of-potential kind of death, the death of what can really happen when you do love yourself fully. To me that comes from a place where everything in life is an illusion. And this was a common illusion that I felt I was participating in. And I thought no—I gotta not depend on love being this thing I get from another person, but being with myself and doing things I enjoy on my own. So self-reflection, notions of love for others and for the self—there’s another song that gave me vibes about love. And not the ‘I have a crush on you’ type of love. TM: That’s probably ‘Dreams.’ The difference between this album and the one we made before is that the one we made before is more of a reflection of the outside, someone looking out into the world. This one is more introspective. We’re looking inside of ourselves—it’s about loving yourself. In ‘Dreams,’ it’s about when you love someone really deeply, no matter if you’re not with them—they’re inside of you, and you always love them forever. A little part of you always does. I’ll have a dream once a year about a certain person that I’ve connected to in a deep way, and I always wondered if that’s my own personal experience or if other people have that? The boy I loved when I was ten years old always pops up in my dreams. KM: Yeah—it’s like your lovers turn into archetypes, symbolic things tied to the emotions that you felt, and they come in your dreams when those feelings are involved. It’s very strange. TM: ‘Love is so strange, it doesn’t change, it’s the faces that change.’ Talking about when you connect with somebody so deep you feel like GOD … there’s some God shit

going on. Regardless of who you connect to, if it’s true deep love, you’re going to be connected to them forever. I just always wondered whether other people experienced that. If everyone is experiencing these universal things, it’s hard to comprehend how someone can be capable of horrible things. How can someone— KM: —do something terrible, if we are all the same. Today someone exploded a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert. What the fuck is that? This person dreams, this person loves … how could anyone? KM: I use that frame of thinking to still feel empathy for someone who has done something so heinous. Everyone does horrible shit in their life. They hurt each other. It’s not equal to putting a bomb on strangers. But everyone has a flawed quality to them. EH: People are depressed and full of anger and hate and somebody comes along and only points out the negative of other people and then creates this mind frame in which you don’t look at the humanity of other people—or at what we have in common. KM: I think that kind of shit says a lot about our society and what people are going through. People need help. It’s tricky to identify who exactly. TM: Shit’s been popping off all over the world. Terrorism is everywhere. Let’s tie this back to the role that music plays. If religion involves music, then let’s think about what role music has in shaping people’s ideals. KM: Definitely. Music is mantras. You like a song, you listen to it a lot. That’s a mantra. Whatever is in that song—the meaning of the words in that song—it becomes part of your subconscious. Music, man … that’s the original magic of life, making sounds. I always think about the first people who were like, ‘Oh!’ Tones, arranging sounds … that magic is in our DNA. It might sound cliché—‘music is the universal language’— but it is! Everybody feels that magic. I trip out. This guitar I’m playing, it’s an old instrument, but it’s been reinvented many times. And there might be so many things you can do with a computer, but people still get a fucking kick out of a guy going di-gi-di-gi-dee on a guitar. It’s really primal to me. And it really shows the power that music has once you put meanings and your heart and soul into lyrics. I’m trying to help people get liberated—to look at their emotions and things they might not look at a lot, and I’m ornamenting it with a song so it’s an easier thing to digest. Your love, your humanity … it’s a hard thing to be in touch with on a day-to-day basis. BRAINSTORY ON THURS., JULY 20, AT THE LEVITT PAVILION LOS ANGELES, W. 6TH ST. AND S. PARK VIEW, MACARTHUR PARK. 7:30 PM / FREE / ALL AGES. LEVITTLOSANGELES. ORG. BRAINSTORY’S SELFTITLED EP IS OUT NOW ON EL RELLENO. VISIT BRAINSTORY AT BRAINSTORYMUSIC.COM. 33


LYNN CASTLE Interview by Tiffany Anders Illustration by Dave Van Patten

Just when you thought you had discovered all there was to know about California folk rock in the 1960s, Light in the Attic unearths an absolute gem of bittersweet psychedelia. While you may not have heard of Lynn Castle until now, heavyweight contemporaries were championing her talents back then. Like most struggling musicians, Lynn had a day job: she was one of the only female barbers in Los Angeles, and cut hair for ever groovy rock gods in Los Angeles—from Jim Morrison to songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and more. And as a teenager, she dated a then unknown—but soon to be hugely successful—producer named Phil Spector. Then she won the ear and earned the encouragement of another composer and producer,  Lee Hazlewood, who bought her a guitar and cut her first single “The Lady Barber” for his LHI label. And producer, composer and arranger Jack Nitzsche—known for his work with Neil Young, the Rolling Stones and Bob Lind and film scores from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest to Sean Penn’s 1991 The Indian Runner—recorded a demo session with Lynn Castle in 1966 which consists of just Lynn, guitar and vocals and the occasional word of encouragement from Mr. Nitzsche interspersed from the recording booth. Lynn and I sat down in her backyard on a sunny morning in Glendale and discussed everything from the glory days of the Sunset Strip to writing melancholy personal songs. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get into music? When did you start playing? I knew that I was show biz when I was three. I wrote this song—I don’t know if I can remember it, but this is my song. Three years old, sitting in a taxi cab: ‘When mama asked you what you gonna be when you’re all grown up like me / I was very very calm I was very very sure / with dimples in my cheeks and blonde curly hair / I straightened up my skirt / I said mama I want to be a movie star / she said Oh! No! Oh no! / Don’t you wanna be a teacher? Don’t you wanna be a nurse? / Baby don’t drive me crazy, get your education first! / but she was already late cuz we had Hollywood and Vine and I had my Dubble Bubble gum popping and stars in my eyes / and there I was in Mary Janes the littlest flirt alive / learning how to whistle catching sailors with my eyes / couldn’t wait for weekends to put lipstick on my mouth / slip on mama’s stockings and parade around the house / I’s a movie star, a movie star, mascara down my face!’ I love that! When was that written? I wrote that probably … let’s see, I’m almost 80. So I have to count it now. So … twentyeight maybe? That many years ago? So you had the bug. You grew up in L.A. Yes. But I was in a boarding school—Fort Levin, South Gramercy in L.A. They were the only one that would take kids as small as my brother. My brother was six months. I was two and a half. And I was there for almost twelve years. I didn’t actually see people very often—we were usually the only ones left at the school all the time. But I practiced piano and I danced and I sang and I was probably off the wall even then, a little too much probably. But unfortunately, even though I was pretty good, the owner of the school, she had granddaughters. So no matter how much I tried, the granddaughter INTERVIEW

always got to be the one. I was always put in the back and I always thought something was wrong with me. ‘Your mother doesn’t want you, your father doesn’t want you, nobody wants you, and even at school you’re not good enough.’ What are you supposed to do? Well, I still love it anyway no matter what happens. I know that feeling. Everybody’s trying to survive their childhood. There might be some people now with kids that are going to be happier, but there’s no perfection. There’s only the act of doing. So let’s talk about the single for LHI: ‘Lady Barber’! I wrote it cuz I was a lady barber! I love it because it’s your story, and it’s got these great lyrics about being free. It’s an empowering song. I wrote it for myself! Nothing much has changed. I’m a space case still. I was. I guess I would have to die and come back in some other form to be any other way. I wrote that song and I just played it for Lee [Hazlewood]. And he said, ‘Wow! You got any more?’ So I played more and he whisked me off to Phoenix and we recorded it over there. One night, he had a band that was already there doing their thing, so I probably didn’t come in til really late, 11 or 12 at night, and we just cut ‘Lady Barber’ and ‘Rose Colored Corner.’ He thought they were really good! He loved them! And then shockingly enough because Billboard was a big deal in those days, it was bubbling under—way down there on the quicksand was ‘Lady Barber.’ After that did you have plans to do a fulllength? Those were the songs you demo’d with Jack Nitzsche, right? No, that all—well, wait a minute. Maybe, yeah, I probably did. If they were all there, part of that same session, then they were all part of that, part of that day, that afternoon.

So Lee Hazlewood heard it after that? Or before that? Could it kind of be simultaneously? Maybe all in the same thing? Chicken or the egg, horse or the cart. Grant at Light in the Attic, he found my first song. That was when I was 16 and I wrote it on the piano. I wrote ‘Love’s Prayer’ and then my uncle, who was on television, my uncle heard it and said ‘I know some people that might like that song.’ So he took me to Barry De Vorzon and Billy Sherman, who had their little office [for Sherman Music Co.] on Argyle, right next to Lee Hazlewood, so that’s when I met them. That was when I was like really young. 16, 17. And a very young 16 or 17 cause I’d never really been out in the world. I’d only been out in the world about four years. And then the Spinners recorded that for Capitol? Yeah! And then they wrote my name wrong! They didn’t even write Lynn Castle. They wrote Len: L-E-N. Grant showed me that. I think he’s going to see if they ever made any money on it. No matter how much happens to me, no matter how many bad things, or the rug gets pulled or what, I’m hoping … I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I mean, wouldn’t it just really be something to actually have enough money to be able to pay to take your kids on a vacation instead of just two nights in a tent somewhere? I still have big dreams but I just want to be healthy or just drop dead real fast. I just want the best! I want the best for everyone, including prisoners! I think it’s a shame your full album didn’t come out at the time, although I’m very grateful that it’s coming out now. There’s something about being really emotionally honest as a female songwriter that I think might be off-putting to people. I always think, ‘Why is it with someone like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen it’s

seen as this courageous thing that they’re being emotionally honest?’ If you think about that Bob Dylan record Desire with ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Sara,’ it was seen as such a big step. I feel like it’s different with female writers. I definitely don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know how to write any other way. I don’t know how to write for anybody. I don’t know how to write, and I only write from what I know. I can’t make it up, I can’t write a line just to make it work. Also, I don’t know how your life has been, but in a way people have never known what to do about me. Ever. Even when I was performing, it was like ‘What is that?’ I had so much energy. I was just rocking out! And there was a time—when I’m really singing a lot, because I can really sing raw— no one knows even if it’s a guy or a girl! Never! Even when I could sing ‘Take a Little Piece of My Heart’ because Jack thought I should— they were thinking of doing Janis Joplin, and Jack thought I should be Janis Joplin. So I totally learned some of those songs. And I’m telling you, I was pretty close! Not her, but close enough! In fact, sometimes people used to think that I was imitating her, and I wasn’t. There were a couple people that wanted to do Janis Joplin. And there I was, standing right in front of the friggin guy that’s going to make it, he saw me and everything—I said to myself, ‘Well, here I am! I can do that!’ But did I get picked? No. That’s what I’m saying. The heart has to dictate. If your heart says, ‘Well, you stink!’ but there’s something that makes you say, ‘Well, I don’t care if I stink because even if you don’t like it, my heart wants me to do it. My spirit wants me to do it. Follow your heart.’ I love Light in the Attic. They’re crammed with heart! They’re crammed with heart! I hope by digging me out of the past and fast forwarding me into this life, I hope I’m a benefit to them long after because I don’t feel like I got handed bad songs. 35


What I think is really interesting about your songs is that they’re so honest. Very emotionally honest. But that’s nice! It’s good for me because that means you can relate! So you’re in the company of the song, it’s not about you or me, it’s about how nice that is that you’re handing me back. For what I love. I’m intrigued by your guitar playing. On those demos, there’s a lot of finger picking. I’m trying to remember how to do that now. I do that in my sleep! Before Light in the Attic, I thought ‘I just wanna remember how to play guitar.’ It’s slower now, because a couple years ago I broke my wrist. I’d just taught myself with a guitar book and I always liked folk music. So it was natural for the 60s to do some of that picking, like Donovan. I remember living this apartment in the Valley with another girl that worked in the same shop as me—in fact she was my assistant. And then I remember Lee [Hazlewood] just knocking on the door and handing me this beautiful rosewood baby Martin. Just gave it to me! I did have another guitar. I would have had to because I’d already been writing on a guitar when my kids—I see myself, one kid was born in 62, one in 63, and I was already writing songs for them. You know? In the closet. I was already writing. I was doing hair and I was full on writing songs. In fact that was when I first started—I was afraid to sing in front of anybody so I would sing but not in front of anybody. I would for my kids. I told [legendary 60s photographer] Larry [Raphael] that I wrote songs and he wanted to hear it. I remember I was so freaked out when he told me he really liked my voice and that he thought my songs were amazing. I was just playing some of my children’s songs. ‘Gather some sticks, a carrot for a nose / put them together add some old tattered clothes / a silly scarecrow with a tear in his eye / who could not even frighten a shy butterfly/ The children they laughed as they danced all around … ’ I’d write all these stories for my kids and I have a couple of them on tape that I did when I had my little four track. I was stunned when he thought I was really good—I kind of idolized him. He was so exceptional, his artistry and everything. He was so amazing—so brilliant. He knocked my socks off, so when he thought I was good, then there was this tiny thing that … ‘Maybe I am! Maybe I do have something that I’ve loved my whole life!’ So you met Lee Hazlewood early on—that seems like a good starting point for your music. I remember—Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Lee Hazlewood, I remember all of us being at the Nickodell together. Phil Spector, I loved Phillip. I loved him. He was so sweet. He was so sweet. I had no idea, so to be with somebody that is really just … off that little bit too much to where they want to own you and follow you around. I remember one time I moved into an apartment to get away from … something made me get away. And Phil took the apartment two apartments down. In the same building. You dated him back then? Oh yeah. He was my boyfriend. 36

So he was possessive—that’s tough. And I looked like I was one of the hotter tickets in town. I looked like I had confidence, I was totally artistic, I was totally more of a trendsetter, I never cared what anyone else thought or did or dressed or what they liked— never, still don’t! Before your time, the strip was so groovy! It was fan-fucking-tastic. I wish that almost everybody got to step back in time and got to have that little phase of throwing off the 50s regimen and flowers, music, da-da! Falling into someone’s house, ‘Hey, I need a place!’ ‘OK!’ And my place was a gathering place, I will tell you that. Did you have any pass-the-guitar-around parties where you’d sing? No, other people would sing. So you wouldn’t do it? Come on! I know! It took me forever. I understand—I’m the same way. I could do it on-stage or working on a song. But you didn’t pick up a guitar and— I wouldn’t even join in on the chorus! I understand that. It was ayahuasca that helped me. Ayahuasca that made me understand what it felt like—and it’s so weird because it’s not like I feel like I’m alone or special or anything. I’m just talking about like in my life, I had no idea. I remember Jack Nitzsche saying, ‘Your downfall is you have no confidence.’ Even though you would never know it if you saw me onstage, you’d think, ‘That’s the last person! She’s maybe overconfident!’ I didn’t even know how it felt until ayahuasca, and that meant I was worth being alive—that’s where it started for me. Just … it’s OK, you deserve the air that you breathe. It was so fantastic to have that little glimmering that I was OK. And that of course didn’t happen until very late in my life. I’m sure it was hard: having kids, trying to pay the bills, and then playing music. It’s still hard to make money in music. I cut hair. I made a living, I cooked, I cleaned, I got my kids clothes, tried to do my best, and then when I got some help with my kids, it was horrible. A couple times that backfired when I did try to be in bands. Any time I tried, it just felt that it was one thing too much to try to be able to do with kids. Even if I did have a babysitter. I felt bad about wanting to do music, too. I felt that was the same as not being a good mom. Which I also had issues with. That would be really really difficult. It was, and it’s not like I had parents. I didn’t know anything. I just knew, ‘Let your kids know you love them, let your kids know you love them.’ And don’t let their shoes be too small. And make sure they’re going to a dentist. The bare necessities. They’ve got cute clothes. Not like me—I grew up in fucking rags. But at the same time I don’t feel like a victim. I did when I was younger because I didn’t know. But because I have faith that we are to experience what we’re supposed to experience, I’d take it one step further. The way that I feel is—before we get that cord cut—we’re part of a divine energy and we know what we’re going to have to do, and we opt on for these crazy rides. I’m not saying it’s right or it’s true, but if you feel you opt on for the ride, then you feel, ‘Well, even though

this really feels bad, I guess I’m supposed to learn it! I guess there’s some reason it’s supposed to be!’ Not, ‘Oh you poor thing, you tried so hard!’ That’s not what I think. What I think is everything in its time. What about the Monkees song? Did that come through Boyce and Hart? Yeah—I’d written that song, ‘The Teeny Tiny Gnome,’ and I couldn’t play all of it. And Wayne Irwin, who was friends with them and, like, a studio guitar player … and also very very funny, and screwing half the chicks in town, easily. Amazing. I mean—he’d laugh, if he heard me say it. But anyway, he did it. I was the type, I’d just give them part of my song. I’ve done that a lot. Or to get help that I needed, traded songs to get things that are really needed. I’ve done that throughout my life. Can I ask you about actually becoming the lady barber? When did that happen? Who were some of the people whose hair you cut? Jim Morrison. Sonny and Cher. Steven Stills. Neil Young. That was before they were famous even. How was Neil Young? He’s my favorite. Darling! Sweet! Yeah! I don’t know him any more and he was good friends with Jack and he lived in Redwood City and that’s his studio up there so I was there—that was when my husband died and I didn’t know where I was going to go, and Jack said, ‘Why don’t you come up here? I have a place.’ My baby was just a few days old. Whatever it was, as broken as I was and everything, this was not a good thing because he and his wife were fighting a lot so he offered—and here I am schlepping all the way, baby and bag and bag—and I’m there like fuckin’ two days, three days, and him and Gracia [Ann May] were fighting so much he had me leave. That was Jack Nitzsche? Did you stay in contact with him throughout the years? Yes—he was a lifelong friend. Since teenage years. I was at Phil Spector’s last birthday party. In Montrose. I was there; he wasn’t, even though he was there in person. I don’t know what doctor did to him—he was like a zombie. It was sad. But no, Phil did not know that I wrote. In fact, when I was married to Joey, who was part of the Elvis bunch—Joey Cooper—he got that job on Shindig, so he made music, and he was doing lyrics with Red West in our apartment and I had the two babies and he’s there and he and Red are writing songs for Elvis. I was just sitting there, and I heard some lines that I thought would really work and they just kinda shoved me off. Laughed. How about Phil Spector— Phil didn’t know I wrote. He didn’t know at all? And when did you meet him?
 In my teens. He hadn’t had his first hit. It was just about to happen for him. ‘To Know Him is to Love Him.’ And I was in the Valley and he was on Fairfax. How did you guys meet? I’d love to know. If anyone out there remembers! I’d go over the hill. I’d take the bus over the hill so I could see European movies. One of the places that’s still around

is way down on the West Side, that one theater—The NuArt. So Phil Spector. We were teenagers and I think at that time he just lived on the other side of Fairfax. That’s where him and Big Bertha, his mother, lived. Phil and I, we wove in and out. My life was so crazy. I was here, I was there, I was here, I was there. What bonded you together? Was it music? I don’t know—I was into music. He was starting to happen so I backed off. I could sit with people and none of them even knew I did music. I couldn’t separate ‘What is good for me to do about me? And what is taking advantage? What is being manipulative?’ I didn’t know how to say—like some of my friends that got some of their hit records— like, ‘Here it goes and here I am and here’s the deal!’ One of my things that I’ve always done … I’ve done for other people what I can’t do for me. I’ve put people together. Like if you like a fabulous tailor or something, I would know somebody. I knew how to turn people on—this one is interested in this? Oh I know somebody over here. I always felt I was a conduit for people, even though I could not do it for me. Anyway. So Lee Hazlewood gave you the guitar— he must have known that you played music? He must have known. I must have already had one, and then he gifted me a fabulous beautiful one. I had the same thing happen to me, someone gave me a beautiful guitar that I still have. When I was 19. And I still play it. When you have a great musician, like Lee, and this was the same sort of situation, it really inspires you to keep going and playing, and I still look at it and I’m still friends with this guy. But I still think, ‘Oh this person believed in me enough to do this for me. It’s such a big gesture. It really keeps you going. It’s been 24 years since I got that guitar but I still look at it and I’m able to have that sense of positivity. You have to do it for yourself. One of the first songs I actually wrote early on and then I re-wrote it for my husband and it’s called ‘Imagine You and Me.’ It’s one of my favorite little ballads. So what I’m saying, and hitting the ball back in your court, is having this attention now, it just always proves what I always do say: you can’t write too much history for yourself. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re here. A wonderful guy from The Guardian called. And shockingly people seem to be enjoying it. It’s so weird because any time that I’ve tried to ask for attention, nothing ever works out. So the thing that works out is that I’m still writing, I’m trying to be better and better and learning and learning and now that I’ve had to take on the chore of engineering—it is not easy but I can’t really do anything else. I want to almost throw up at the idea of if I can’t keep doing it. As Townes Van Zandt would say, ‘For the sake of the song.’ LYNN CASTLE’S ROSE COLORED CORNER IS OUT NOW ON LIGHT IN THE ATTIC. INTERVIEW


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DERVGORDON OF THE EQUALS Interview by Brad Eberhard and Jun Ohnuki Illustration by Jun Ohnuki The Equals were unstoppable for the best part—truly the best part!—of two decades, breaking out in 1966 with their classic “Baby Come Back” and zig-zagging through hit after cult-y hit until the end of the 1970s. In between, they took soul, r&b, rock, glam, proto-punk, disco and funk and transformed them into their own unequalled sound, bristling with hooks and driven by an absolutely relentless beat. They were a step ahead in everything, from the music they played to the way they dressed to who they were—uniquely a mixed-race band and a majority-immigrant band, too—and while founding member Eddy “Electric Avenue” Grant would find solo fame in the 80s, the Equals’ reputation among musicians and music fans grows stronger each generation. (Plenty of other bands covered the Clash, but the Clash covered the Equals.) Singer Derv Gordon performed his first-ever U.S. show in San Francisco in January and will now be making his L.A. debut this July at the Echoplex. When I was about seven years old I came to the U.K. from Jamaica. My parents were already in the U.K. because my father was an engineer and had employment, and after a couple of years he decided he’d like to bring his family and stay in the U.K. and work. So by the time I was seven we were all living in the U.K. It was an incredible shock being from the Caribbean. I came in December and I’d never experienced cold before. When the plane landed in London I wanted to go back on the plane and they said, ‘Well, no—you can’t.’ It was so cold. All I had was a cardigan— my father had said he would send us a cardigan and we had no idea what a cardigan was so we consulted the Oxford dictionary of English—a shirt, short trousers, socks up to your knees, and shoes. I’d never seen snow before in my life, apart from in movies. We drove from the airport to our home in North London in a borough called Islington and it was snowing on the way there. What I thought fascinating were all the houses with three or four floors. Never seen that before. In Jamaica you’ve got bungalows, right? But also what was fascinating was there was smoke coming out of the tops of the buildings. I thought, ‘Holy crow—they’re on fire! Why are all these buildings on fire?!’ That was my first impression of England—of Europe really. As a seven-year-old it was fascinating stuff. That’s very vivid. Did you find yourself part of a community of West Indian immigrants? What was the community like there? In the neighborhood where I lived? No— there was one other child. He was a mixedrace child—his father was African—and there were no West Indians in the area where I lived. I went to a primary school and I was the only Black child. Was that difficult? No, it wasn’t difficult because I was treated particularly as something that was quite unique, really. One experience I had which was not pleasant was when one child asked me ... After we had physical education you had to have a shower, and he wanted to see if I had a tail. I told him, ‘No—bugger off!’ They weren’t accustomed to having any association with a Black child. It was a purely boys school as well, so yeah—you learn to defend yourself. I’d had that all my life. It wasn’t anything new. INTERVIEW

I was born in Kingston, and from there we moved to a farm in the country and I started school. I was told there to go back to where I was from. Even though I’m Jamaican—but I wasn’t from that part of Jamaica. It’s something I’d experienced before anyway. But from then on things were fine. Did that have any influence in terms of forming an interracial band? Or was that just a matter of coincidence because you were already buddies in school? We weren’t, actually. Eddy Grant and Pat Lloyd and John Hall went to the same school, but myself and my brother went to a different school. We crossed paths because John Hall, the drummer, it was his idea to form a band— not necessarily an interracial band but to form a band. His mother thought it was a good idea because John was a bit of a loose cannon as a child and she thought it’d give him something positive to focus on. So word got around in the neighborhood. A friend of mine, his name was Eddie—not Eddy Grant—asked me was I interested in joining his band? Were you known as a musician already? No, actually. So I bought a guitar and my brother bought a guitar, and when we turned up for the first meeting, Eddy Grant was there. We’d never met before. So we decided that, ‘Yup, it’s a good idea we’d form a band.’ Eddy Grant was going to be the rhythm guitarist. My brother was going to be the other rhythm guitarist because we wanted two rhythm guitars instead of rhythm guitar and bass. And I wasn’t really interested in learning the guitar so I got rid of it, and they decided, ‘OK, if you’re not going to be the guitarist then you become the lead vocalist.’ I said ‘That’s fine with me!’ because I didn’t want to learn the guitar. And the first Eddie— not Grant—decided because he was more advanced in playing, that we should practice for a few months and get up to his standard. Then he would come back and take over as lead guitarist. We thought, ‘No … if you’re leaving… ’ He was more interested in girls than music. ‘If that’s where your interests lie, then no.’ Then I went to a youth club one night. I used to run with a little crowd of about fifteen or twenty guys of similar age and we’d go from youth club to youth club. We went to a youth club that was out of our neighborhood and

of course we weren’t welcome and a skirmish broke out. I saw this guy standing there but he wasn’t involved in the skirmish, and I wasn’t involved either, so I started to talk to him. I said, ‘You know I’m a musician’—you know, as you do after two or three months. He said, ‘That’s odd because my father just bought me a guitar.’ ‘Well, we’re a guitarist short—would you like to join our band? We could learn as we go along.’ That was Pat Lloyd. And that’s the formation of the Equals. On the edge of a fight! Right—it wasn’t a conscious thing for us to be Black and white, it’s just we were Black and white. Later on we were told, ‘It’s never happened before, it’s not going to work. Blacks play with Blacks and whites play with whites.’ We thought … we’re friends, we know each other, we like each other. We enjoy doing this together. You’ve said before you tried to be a blues band and it didn’t click, you tried to be a soul band and it didn’t click. How did the Equals’ sound click? We played Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker and that stuff because we were big fans of bands like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things—those sort of bands, you know? They were doing cover versions of a lot of rhythm and blues and soul. But we found that whenever we played their songs it just didn’t sound right—it didn’t feel right. We decided that we’re not going to be great blues musicians, we’re not going to be great soul artists … so the best thing to do is to start writing our own material and therefore people can’t say ‘You’re playing it badly!’ because it’s yours—so whichever way you play it, it’s got to be good, right? It has such an original snap from the very first singles. It doesn’t sound like the Yardbirds or any English beat group. You can see influences from other artists in our music and from other parts of the world. There’s the Caribbean thing in ‘Baby Come Back.’ It’s not solely pop. My father used to play a lot of ska stuff and then blue beat, so there’s that little bit of influence in there. Eddy Grant’s father was a musician as well—he’s from Guyana, so there’s this South American thing as well. Influence came from all sorts of directions, really. Then later on we found

that writing your own stuff is more profitable because everything belongs to you—all the royalties or whatever. So there you are. How much time was there between that initial decision to be a band and finding your own ideas and sound, writing your own music, and making the first record? We did what I call our apprenticeship. We had an amateur manager—Lee Shepherd. He was an actor, he knew a lot of people in show business, and he would teach us … you know, stagecraft. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. One of his great ideas was that I should wear dark glasses. After we were going for about two-and-a-half years we had a gig in a very famous venue at the time, the Bromley Court Hotel. We were supporting—believe it or not—Bo Diddley. The place was absolutely packed. Sweat was pouring from the ceiling, it was so hot. I came onstage with my with my dark glasses and the glasses steamed up and I couldn’t see and I fell off the stage! I thought, ‘No, this is not going to be my image.’ For a start, it’s somewhat painful … But he taught us a lot of stagecraft—not to turn your back to the audience and lots of little things people just take for granted. He’d get us gigs as well, and he knew people in TV and so on and he was a great influence on us. So after about three years … we were rehearsing one night at Eddy Grant’s house and a guy lived next door. His name was Gene Latter and he was a singer. His claim to fame is that he recorded a Rolling Stones song ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and it got to number 30 or something in Belgium. To us that was fame: ‘Wow, this guy’s a super-mega star and he lives next door to Eddy!’ I’m not sure if it was ‘Baby Come Back’ or Hold Me Closer’ we were rehearsing. He knocked on the door and said, ‘That song that you’re playing—whose is it?’ ‘Well, it’s ours.’ ‘OK—I like that song. I’m a singer and I would like to record the song. I know a man and he owns a record company… his name is Eddie Kassner. I can get an appointment with him but you would have to come along and perform the song for me, and from that I think I could get a recording contract.’ We said, ‘Oh wow!’ because we’d tried a couple of record companies and sent them tapes but nothing came of it. A couple of days later he said, ‘I’ve got the meeting at President Records 41


in Denmark Street,’ which was a very iconic street for music in the 60s—all the big music publishers were there. We went along and they took us to the basement of the building where President Records was and we set up. We had a Selmer 30-watt amplifier and a Selmer Little Giant. We had a drum kit and everything went through the Selmer 30-watt because it had four channels, and the Little Giant was for two guitars. We performed ‘Baby Come Back,’ ‘Hold Me Closer’ and I think ‘I Won’t Be There’ as well. The guy who owned President—Kassner—he said ‘You’re the singer, right? Well, this guy that brought you says that he wants to record the songs. I want you to record the songs.’ I said ‘Whoa!’ I felt a bit bad but not too bad—I wouldn’t have been involved in it if he was recording it, you see? And they were going to use session musicians anyway to back him and so we wouldn’t have been in it. But he says, ‘I like your style, I like the way you’re playing, and I want your band to record the songs. I need 10 to 12 songs. I’m going to America and it’s gonna take about three or four weeks. When I come back, do you think you will have 12 songs?’ We looked at each other and in unison, we lied and said ‘Yes.’ We had about seven songs. We thought, ‘Oh sh—holy crow, we’d better write another five songs!’ And that’s how we wrote Unequalled Equals. So from the very beginning, your voice and your performance were essential—you sold the songs through your singing. But the guy that was supposed to be the vocalist … He was a good singer. If you listen to ‘I Won’t Be There’ he’s doing backup vocals on that. But your performance as well—you’re so active on stage and I assume you were like that at this audition. I can’t imagine the Equals without you in the front. Yeah—we were doing clubs in those days that were pretty tough venues, you know. If you didn’t perform well, the audience would let you know in all sorts of different ways. Some people even got injured … And also we were doing what I call an apprenticeship in the AllStar Club, which was a predominantly Black club. There you’d get visits from Rod Stewart, Elton John and people like that—they’d come to this club and that’s how they learned their craft. We had a residency there. Every Saturday night they’d have a big American artist. People like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Irma Thomas, Rufus Thomas. We were supporting these people but we wanted to prove ourselves. I remember we were supporting Wilson Pickett. At the time ‘Midnight Hour’ was number one in the U.K. charts—or up there in the top 10, anyway. We thought, ‘OK, we’re supporting Wilson Pickett, but we’re going to play this song before he comes on! How are we going to do the saxophone solo?’ ‘Oh, I know what I’ll do, I’ll get myself a kazoo!’ In this club you’ve got some serious tough guys! I’d seen them actually injure musicians they didn’t think were up to it! We did ‘Midnight Hour’ and got applause! [laughs] That’s the kind of cheek that we had! What an apprenticeship! We felt that nothing could stand in our way that we couldn’t demolish if we wanted to, and that was the attitude that we had. It sounds like it worked! 42

From thereon the album Unequalled Equals was released in the U.K. and, oddly enough we’ve got a reputation as the one of the first bands to have a top ten album before they have a top 10 single. Unequalled Equals got to number eight in the U.K. album charts and it was a big hit on the continent in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and so on. We went off to Germany to do shows like Beat Club, which was a huge TV show shown all over Europe— you had to have a record in the charts in Germany in order to get onto Beat Club. There was a disc jockey in Bremen where Beat Club was recorded, and he had a famous club where the artists that performed on Beat Club would go after recording the show—the usual free drinks and free everything else that you want. On ‘Baby Come Back’ the A side was ‘Hold Me Closer.’ ‘Baby Come Back’ was the B-side. But he thought ‘Baby Come Back’ was the stronger track and he started playing it. And whatever he played disc jockeys from around Germany would pick up on. ‘Baby Come Back’ got into the German top 10 and was there for quite some time, and then gradually worked its way over to the U.K. So after it was a hit in Germany it took about six months before it became a hit in the U.K. Everything worked in sort of reverse, really. I’ve seen some of the footage from Beat Club and you have amazing outfits. Yeah! [laughs] Some were truly amazing. I enjoy how active you are on Facebook with all the memorabilia, photos, magazine clippings—I’ve been impressed by how you were presenting yourselves. You have a look and it changes, but it always looks great! It was natural because not only did we dress that way onstage, that’s how we’d dress in normal life. I had purple suits, yellow suits, pink suits … it was unheard of for a man to be wearing a pink suit in the city. I don’t know about the U.S. but in the U.K. if a man wore pink he was considered to be gay, for some odd reason. But being from the Caribbean as well, I just love bright colors. In the Caribbean you have all these beautiful flowers—the women would dress in colorful clothes and the men as well. But when we came to England everything was gray. I asked my dad for a blue suit and he thought I was crazy. He bought me a black suit. I’ve hated black suits ever since! [laughs]We were very conscious of the clothes that we wore, and of the cars that we drove as well. You brought so much color and panache and style—it was ahead of its time. Before glam and— —that’s right. I had two crazy tailors. One was just off Carnaby Street. I didn’t buy stuff from Carnaby Street because whatever you saw they would make hundreds of them, and I never wanted my stuff to look like anyone else’s. I would go in the morning and give him an idea for a design and color and he would say, ‘Come back tomorrow morning and pick it up.’ I had another tailor that was local to where I grew up; they were Italians and they made my suits. I would go in, get measured, choose the material—they had colored materials which was very unusual for the U.K. They would have pink material, mauve, green ... and I would choose all these materials to have suits. But you wouldn’t just have one made—you’d have two or three in similar

style. So we were very conscious about our clothes, yes. It had to be colorful and it had to make people want to look at you. When I met my wife, I was wearing a mauve suit. I met her outside of a huge train station and she took one look at me and turned around to run away [laughs]. A guy wearing a mauve suit and what we called Cuban shoes—all our boots were handmade as well. The heels were were extended to make me look taller because I’m only 5’4”. She just didn’t want to walk down the road with me wearing an outfit like that. But that’s how we were. I was driving a white sports car as well, which was unusual. From the sports car I bought my first Aston Martin, white with tinted windows which was unusual. Everything about us was unusual. Distinctive. The attention to detail, tailoring, and custom-made stuff reminds me of things from the Mod scene. Did that have an influence on you? Or was it the entertainers you saw—the American giants who you apprenticed with? No, and we never actually collaborated on clothes. Eddy would have his outfits, my brother Lincoln would have his outfits … John was a really snappy dresser as well. Even though he was English and brought up in England he was into colors. We never really discussed it. A lot of things we would think alike, you know. In our music, in our clothes, where to go, the types of cars—we were a fiveman unit, really. A lot of bands play together but they’re not mentally or physically or anything together. But we just seemed to be the right people to be amongst each other. You were a style and music machine. I’m going to be honest—I never really admired the way American artists dressed. I was never knocked out by all that Motown stuff, no. [laughs] It didn’t really say anything, you know? London at the time was ‘anything goes.’ We grew up in the 60s and there’s never been a time like that—we believed that anything goes. In the 50s people would be ‘yes sir, no sir,’ masters and servants and all that. But in the 60s all that went out—you can be anything you wanted to be, you know? What a great time to have your band! Exactly! There’d never been a time like it before and there’s never been a time like it since. The 60s made a sort of stamp. It was a form of rebellion really. The 50s was just after the Second World War and there was a shortage of lots of different things. In England you had the teddy boys but they weren’t really saying much really. Then the Mod scene started. I had a scooter—a Lambretta—when the group first started. But that got in the way because I couldn’t afford to have that and also to pay for the stuff that we needed to perform: clothes and so on. So the scooter had to go. I never considered myself to be a Mod, but we had quite a large Mod following, actually. They liked that type of music that we were playing, and that tinge of Caribbean in it as well. The thing with life is that if something is different it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to sell, and we were not an easy band to sell. Also we were on an independent label. We ere having a hard time because your records had to be distributed by the major companies. If they’ve got a record that’s selling well they’re not going to want to sell yours because they’re not making much

money from it. So they would be pushing theirs in front of yours. Everything was a struggle. But we also built up a reputation as being a very good live performing band. A lot of movement on stage. If you watched a lot of groups from the 60s, they just stood there and didn’t move. Their mouths just about moved, their arms just about moved, but we were all over the place. People loved it. And I loved doing it. I cannot stand still and perform. I could never sit and sing a song. I’ve got to move! That’s part of the energy—even before we’d seen videos you could feel it in the music. While we were in our apprentice stage, myself and Eddy and my brother sneaked though the stage door at the Royal Albert Hall to see James Brown. When James Brown came to England people could not believe a man could move like that on stage. He got some very bad reviews—they said all he did was scream. They didn’t understand what the man was doing. The music was about feel, and his scream would be transmitting how he felt. A lot of the conservative press didn’t understand where he was coming from. But as musicians we did, and he was a great inspiration. I knew I could never move like James Brown, I could never sing like James Brown—I had to have my own style of singing. I find it very difficult to copy anyone else, so how I sing is me. I’m not trying to copy anyone. That soul influence is some of what makes the Equals’ music so unique—the way you interpreted those soul and rock influences. It’s more dynamic and exciting than so many other groups that I still like. There’s a whole ‘nother level of joy. We also dabbled in what is considered to be ska or reggae and we wrote a song called ‘Rough Rider’— —the Four Gees! That’s right. They wouldn’t put it out as the Equals because it wasn’t considered to be Equals-type material. And that song is actually based on a true story of something that happened to my brother! We were on tour in Germany and after the show you’d be invited to various places, and he got dragged off by this, uh, rather enthusiastic female. [laughs] The following morning we were having breakfast and I saw this figure come into the hotel looking somewhat … disheveled. I said ‘Whoa, what happened man?’ And he said ‘That was a rough ride…’ So we wrote ‘Rough Rider.’ [laughs] After recording it, we’d get copies and I took it home. We were still living with my parents then. And my mother who was a great fan … if it wasn’t for my mother I don’t think we would’ve managed because she had to forge contracts—which my father wouldn’t do—in order for us to be able to do certain things. She wanted us to be whatever we wanted to be. I was playing it and I didn’t realize my mother was in the house because it was quite a large house. She came in the room and she called me by my full name: ‘Dervin, the words to that song are disgusting!’ I was really embarrassed because I’d never used bad language in front of my mother and I had so much respect for her. She said, ‘It is absolutely disgusting and I don’t think you should ever play that song again!’ How did you feel when 2-Tone was happening? INTERVIEW


To me it was just another genre—other people doing their thing. Actually I quite like the interpretation of ‘Rough Rider’ by the Beat. But I’ve also heard some Equals stuff that people have covered and … it’s like some form of, you know, attack! You should be able prosecute them for it. [laughs] But we hear things different ways, and there’s no set rule that something has to be interpreted exactly that way. This is one of the reasons why we failed as a blues or a soul band because we couldn’t interpret it the way that the artists who performed it first did. What was touring Africa like? We toured Zambia a couple of times, and we wanted to tour what was then Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe, but because we were a mixed band they wouldn’t issue us a permit. In South Africa our records were not allowed to have photographs of the band on the sleeves. Actually, the South African sleeve for Unequalled Equals is a black-and-white domino. [laughs] Somebody had a great sense of humor. The shows were incredible. One we performed for the then-president of Zambia in a huge hall. But most of the gigs were open air and there were people up in trees and on walls and all sorts of places. It was great experience. But to me it was a bit embarrassing, really. As far as I’m concerned, the birthplace of a lot of modern music is Africa. If you listen to Congolese music you can see where Calypso comes from. Merengue and all that South American stuff, the Cuban stuff … the root is in Africa. So it was to me quite like … We’ve got a saying in England: ‘It’s like taking coal to Newcastle.’ Newcastle is a place in England that had coal mines, so

if you’re taking coal there, you’re taking stuff that’s probably not as good as the stuff there. But people loved it so … If they love it, what can you say? I was surprised at how successful we were there. I thought, ‘These people really know about music, these people really know how to dance.’ But it was something different and they enjoyed it. And it was a great privilege to do. It proves how great a band you were. I leave that up to others to say. We did what we did and we played it to the best of our abilities. I’m not one of these people running around shouting, ‘I’m the greatest.’ I wouldn’t say I’m the greatest vocalist. But I sing how I hear it and how I feel it. And if people love it then that gives me great satisfaction. I had no idea that neither the Equals nor you had ever performed in the U.S. before that Elbo Room show in January 2017. We were not encouraged to perform in the U.S. by our management and our record company—which was basically one man— because of the race situation you had here and the fact we were Black and white. I don’t think I could perform to a segregated audience. We played South Africa and insisted in the contract that the audience had to be mixed, and they accepted. We said otherwise we wouldn’t play. Nothing happens before its time so … there you are. I’m totally enjoying it. You have a slew of shows this year. Oh yeah—they’re gradually giving me the information but my diary is not controlled by me. [laughs] Someone sent me something that said, ‘I’ll see you in Memphis,’ and I thought ‘Memphis?’ Nobody’d mentioned Memphis to me. I made a phone call and they

said, ‘Oh, yeah, but we didn’t want to tell you just now.’ ‘OK—that’s fine.’ But yeah, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the States over the next year or two. I remember posting about the San Francisco show last November and friends of mine saying ‘When is he coming to L.A.?’ Everyone’s very, um … stoked. I love that word! I’ve never heard it before I came to San Francisco. To me ‘stoked’ meant… something to do with coal? In a coal fire or something? But I’m also working with an incredible guy—Jason Duncan. We’ve become truly great friends. What amazes me, Jason is from South Carolina and I’m from Jamaica. I’m Black and he’s white and I couldn’t ask for a nicer friend. He feels the same. So it just goes to show it can work—no matter what your race is, what your color is, you can be friends and you can unite. That’s great! And you are working on a book together? Yeah—he contacted me about about four years ago. I had a message from Eddy Grant’s office to say someone wants to write a book on the group. I’d heard that a number of times and I’d never really been interested. I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say. So I left it. And he contacted me again. And I left it. Then I became very seriously ill, in intensive care for three months with sepsis. And I managed to survive. Sepsis is a killer—it’s blood poisoning and it kills 45,000 people in the U.K. every year. It kills more people than cancer and I managed to survive that, 95% without serious injuries. I was very close to dying. [laughs] So after

that my wife said to me, ‘Listen, you need to do this. Stop avoiding it and get on with it.’ I have been married now for 48 years so whatever she says she’s normally right. So we started talking. Then Jason came over to the U.K. and I thought ‘I really like this guy.’ From then on we talk every day actually. I can’t remember how it came up about doing a gig. It wasn’t going to be an Equals gig—it was gonna be a solo gig with his band backing me. He sent me a tape and I thought, ‘This guy really knows the Equals’ music! As if he was in the band with us!’ Then when I came over to L.A. and we rehearsed for a couple of days, I thought, ‘This is really gonna happen.’ It just mushroomed from there. I’ve got a second chance after that illness, so I’d better take it. It’s like I got a great big injection up my rear, you know? Saying, ‘Listen, you can do it! You’re making people happy, you’re making yourself happy—do it!’ I’ve got no airs or graces. I don’t play the big star thing. I’ve known too many and it’s not my scene. Listen: we all feel pain, we all suffer, I’m no different from the next person. Thank you so much for talking with us. Please don’t keep saying that! Thank you for phoning me, thank you for having interest in what I do, I appreciate it. I’ll leave you with a Jamaican saying: ‘well-stoked.’ Ciao! GREEN SLIME AND CRETIN HOP PRESENT DERV GORDON (OF THE EQUALS) ON FRI., JULY 14, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $19.50-$24.50 / 18+. THEECHO.COM.


FRENCH VANILLA Interview by Daiana Feuer Photography by Jeff Fribourg

French Vanilla’s tag line is ‘Destroy All Dude Rock,’ but they are not anti-all-dudes. There are dudes, after all, in the band. What they want is inclusion for everyone, and they seek to spread a socially conscious message with affably aggressive post-punkand-disco music. Ali Day and Daniel Trautfield have been best friends since high school. Ali met Sally Spitz and Max Albeck at UCLA. Together they frequented DIY shows together, and eventually decided to make a band and perhaps change the world a little. Jeff Galvan and Oscar Santos of CoolWorldParty gave them their first show without even hearing them and—truth be told—they didn’t actually have any songs yet. Ali didn’t even know how to play guitar. Here they discuss their debut full-length, out now via Danger Collective, as well as being political, being self-conscious, and the importance of DIY spaces. You might notice the absence of drummer Max from both the photos and interview. He doesn’t like that stuff, so he doesn’t do it. Boom. Ali, tell us how you didn’t know how to play guitar when you formed the band: Ali Day (guitar/bass): I definitely didn’t have any lessons. I started playing in order to be in this band and I purposely didn’t learn traditional guitar as a way to make sure that I created a unique sound. I did learn a few songs that I liked the style of—maybe like three—and went from there. It’s mostly me making up the chords based on what I think sounds cool with the bass line and lyrics. A lot of our songs start with the bass. Sometimes I even write the bass lines. There is something to be said for not knowing as much. It makes you creative with what you’ve got. AD: I really just didn’t want a typical guitar sound. AT ALL. 44

Daniel Trautfield (sax/bass): One of the main inspirations from all genres of punk—and why we began identifying as punk in the beginning—is that ethos of content and creativity over any form of knowledge or access to gear. That was and is really important to us. How does performance art inform the band? Sally Spitz (vocals): Speaking about humor as a tool … Humor is involuntary. Sometimes people laugh when they’re uncomfortable, not just when things are funny. So we use humor to express more difficult and painful memories and ideas. With performance art, I think about people like Nina Hagen and Kate Bush, where the videos are so complex and so much a part of the world


that’s created through their music. That’s something that I want to develop. What people remember—how the legend of a band is constructed. I want to take control of that: breaking down the fourth wall, dance, thinking about movement. I work on dance, exercise and do yoga because I want to be an energetic performer. My voice is coming from my physicality so I want to be strong. I think about how I look on stage. I’m a self-conscious individual. Women are made to feel so ashamed about our bodies and I want to push back against that but at the same time I do feel embarrassed about how I look. But I’m the only person in the room that knows that. Everyone else in the room is seeing a performance. So I use art as a way to deal with my feeling and thoughts and work through that. DT: Sally and I have been talking about this a lot. Especially playing this new version of L.A. in the absence of DIY spaces. Creating energy is a whole different story. When you get on a big stage, you have to be conscious of performing. If you have fun then the audience will have fun. I can’t stand there and just play lines. But if Sally is dancing and Ali is rocking out and we’re interacting, it elevates the experience for everyone. How do you maintain a sense of community with the absence of the DIY spaces that you used to frequent? AD: A lot of the bands that we do have community with … it’s still based on past times when there were these places. But going forward it still builds community when you just play shows with other bands. It can still happen even though it’s not in an ideal space for that. DT: The community is definitely going through a hard time with all these closures. Our first entrance into the L.A. scene was through CoolWorldParty. They were throwing these amazing queer- and POCcentered dance parties and punk shows in a variety of spaces around town. We started going to those because they were great experiences and great places for people to come together. Because of closures, that sort of dissolved. But the people from that space are still sprinkled around town and coming together in occasional and interesting ways at different spots than we would have imagined. Why are DIY spaces important? DT: The one thing that resulted from these closures is that people who were taking them for granted—including myself—realized how insanely important they are. Not just for bands that already exist and play around town, but for new projects and to experiment with sound. I don’t know right now what a band like we were a couple years ago would do to figure out how to play music in a way that made sense to them without these spaces that let you figure it out on a stage. AD: And even just for like making friends. DT: The answer is really to focus on bringing back DIY spaces. AD: To have a community that was willing to support us even while we were terrible and say that we were great. We wrote four songs before our first show. And played a 4-song set? AD: Yes! At CoolWorld. INTERVIEW

Did you make it count? AD: I think so … DT: We had the most typical band’s first show where we all panicked. We played the show and we were so excited and had no idea what we were doing and were just so excited to get it done. Then we realized that nobody could tell anything that happened. AD: We just had no idea how sound worked. SS: I remember feeling so much pressure of like, ‘OK, we’re presenting ourselves for the first time and we have to say this is who we are. This is what we’re about and this is what we look like and this is how we do it.’ But then I realized we have to do that at every single show after that. What do you want the takeaway to be for people? SS: It’s changed over time. With spaces being closed down—Ghost Ship—and things that have happened in the community since we started playing, we feel more serious and also more committed to our music and wanting it to mean something. We share similar beliefs about what we want the music to say. We want people to feel comfortable. To dance and connect with our music or with other people at the show. I want people to be OK with their anger. I try to express my anger in my music in a creative way and I want people to see that. That’s something that I appreciate in other musicians—the beauty of that self-expression. I want people to think about music and our performance in a more meta sense sometimes. ‘This is the art of performance. This is façade.’ To break down barriers with audiences to where it’s more an intellectual experience of the music. Is it important to break the fourth wall between the audience and the performers? SS: We definitely noticed differences between when we’re playing stages or on the floor surrounded by people. DT: Our relationship with the audience is something we’re really trying to discover about ourselves. That requires experimentation again, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s a sense that we want people to be energized and pumped but we want to continue being our dumb, dorky, selves. That tenuousness between being like ‘WE ARE READY TO ROCK!’ and ‘We are dumb and don’t know what we’re doing …’ SS: It’s interesting when a performer is idolized and then they’re shuffled away by bodyguards. To be objectified is something that just happens. That’s part of what connects people to the music experience. You can’t help but elevate the humans on stage to a certain extent. SS: Absolutely. DT: Yeah—we’ve said before to the audience at a show that we’re nervous before playing, and while it was fun and accurate to say that, it made the audience uneasy in a way that they didn’t know how to respond to us. AD: They expect confidence. SS: They want to preserve your star power. They’re like, ‘I’m nervous! You’re supposed to make me feel not nervous!’ AD: ‘You’re supposed to know what you’re doing. Why are you on stage?!’

SS: It’s like … how much do you give away about how you’re really feeling? And how much of it is just trying to make people worship you? Become the slight superhero version of your self. AD: The best version of yourself. DT: That’s the kind of thing we’re thinking about now, how we want to deal with that process. Or maybe you want to be the villain version of yourself or the sexy version of yourself that you’re not in your regular life. DT: Totally. Some of Sally’s lyrics are authentic to her but it’s not her directly speaking—it’s sort of an invented character or version of herself speaking to the audience. SS: It’s like a space to play around and explore alternate aspects of my personality. Extremes of my personality come across well through performing my lyrics. It’s a good medium for exaggerating emotion. Is ‘Carrie’ about a real person or Stephen King’s covered-in-blood Carrie? SS: Yes! From the movie. ‘Evolution of a Friendship’ is about a real person and a real friendship, but it’s still cloudy. For the sake of the song there’s an aura around it. Other lyricists in bands that are considered ‘political’ are more direct sometimes. You can make a political statement without talking like Rage Against The Machine. SS: Right, exactly. DT: No offense to Tom and Zach. We love them. How do you accomplish a political message without hitting people over the head? AD: I think when you’re too forthright with the lyrics, it can get corny, so we try to have a little more subtlety—talking about experiences that we have that are adjacent to political statements, such as the experience of being a woman, or whatever it is without straight up saying, ‘BE A FEMINIST! ‘ SS: ‘WE ARE OPPRESSED!’ AD: ‘GET THE PICTURE!’ Which, sure— we believe all that. SS: We DO believe that. ‘Let the record show…’ AD: Make sure you publish that! SS: The action of getting up on stage as a woman and rejecting objectification and staking a claim in your own future and trying to make it as a musician—all these things are related to political stance, believing in people’s freedom and freedom of expression. ‘Anti-Aging Global Warming’—the song about the planet is pretty clear. AD: That was the last song we wrote for the album. As we go on and figure out what our voice is, it does seem we are getting more explicit. This album has a lot of our early songs, which were written when we didn’t quite know what we wanted to say or have a clear vision. But as we go on, our songs more clearly express our political beliefs. DT: That song has an element that it’s supposed to be funny, which is important to us. It’s supposed to be over-dogmatic— hyperbolized to the point of humor. It’s funny-serious. DT: We want to mix our natural tendency towards humor and darkness into the music.

SS: The lyric, ‘What’s going to happen when we run out?’ came from a conversation I had with a boss about Post-its: ‘What’s going to happen when we run out?’ He made a really big deal out of it and it was humiliating. So I took that to talk about a larger issue. How did you end up releasing this album with Danger Collective? AD: We didn’t shop it around really… because … we don’t know how to do that!? But Danger Collective asked us if we wanted to release something and we were like, great! DT: We recorded the album without specific plans to release it but the label came around and it felt like a good pairing. I actually taught [Danger Collective’s] Reed Kanter. I teach at a high school and I taught Reed like four years ago. How did Tucker Robinson enter the picture to record French Vanilla? His credits include Die Antwoord, Rihanna, and Beth Ditto—what made you decide he could capture your sound and energy? SS: He’s a dear friend of my boyfriend for years and he’s been doing recording in Los Angeles for a while and worked with pretty big artists. He also has a band and he likes French Vanilla and has seen us live. We felt we could trust him to capture our live sound and what we wanted for the album. He’s really experienced and pro. DT: We recorded three or four times with different people. They all sounded great. Again, we knew Tucker for years before we actually decided to record with him. We just realized we needed a really clean recording process—one in which there wasn’t anything being manipulated or over-produced or any experimental processes going into it. Our live sound is very straightforward. We don’t use pedals or anything like that, so it was really good to have someone who understood. We got to mix in his house with his cute dogs so it was a good vibe for the process. AD: It was simple compared to other sessions we’ve done. There was no big mixer or anything. It was all contained on the laptop. SS: We recorded in a weird warehouse in Thousand Oaks that’s a distribution center for some weird production company, but Tucker got to use it on the weekends. He set up this recording environment inside this room with anonymous gear you couldn’t touch—stacks of objects. AD: Couches and chairs. I guess they do sound and audio/visual rental. There were huge TVs and all this junk around. Sounds like a cool environment to record. Feel like you’re sneaking in a little. AD & DT: Totally. DT: These weird anonymous pockets of L.A. that you end up as both a musician and person are so random. Things happen in these unseen places. FRENCH VANILLA WITH THE VIVIDS, SISTER MANTOS AND HAWAIIAN T-SHIRT ON FRI., JUNE 16, AT ACEROGAMI, 228 W. 2ND ST., POMONA. 8:30 PM / $5 / 21+. THEGLASSHOUSE. US. FRENCH VANILLA’S SELF-TITLED LP IS OUT NOW ON DANGER COLLECTIVE. VISIT FRENCH VANILLA AT FRENCHVANILLA. BANDCAMP.COM. 47


THE SIDE EYES Interview by Tiffany Anders Photography by Ward Robinson In the spirit of classic SoCal punks like Black Flag, The Adolescents and the Bags, The Side Eyes serve up high energy spunky punk on their debut album soon to be released on the indispensable In The Red label. With songs like “I Hate Dates” and “Dead End Boys,” singer Astrid McDonald echoes the frustrations of modern dating and the modern dead end boy. (The title says it all.) They happen to be one of the hardest working bands I’ve come across in recent years—if you follow them on social media, you’ll see they consistently play shows every week. I sat down with Astrid, Kevin, Chris and Sam and chatted about their shows, favorite bands and their guilty pop culture pleasures. I want you all to go around and say your astrological sign. Chris Devine (bass): I’m a Taurus. Astrid McDonald (vocals): I’m a Pisces. Kevin Devine (guitar): I’m also a Pisces. Sam Mankinen (drums): And I’m a Leo! Let’s start with the hardest working band in Los Angeles right now—I’m very impressed by the amount of shows you play. How many shows within a month?
 SM: This month—it’s been three weeks of playing shows and we’ve already played three shows before even counting this Saturday. AM: But it used to be a lot more. Before we started we pretty much took everything and anything no matter what so we were like playing a bunch. CD: At one point—you wouldn’t have a weekend off. Playing for days in a row. AM: Some worth it, some not. CD: All worth it! AM: Well we learn something from every show, good or bad! SM: We played a double header and the second show was in a backyard in Fontana and there is this picture of Chris over here crowd-surfing and like he’s dangling his hair over everyone, it was all long. And we found out a month later he had lice that night! And he probably spread it over everybody! AM: It was a long time ago—the lice is gone! CD: We played with Redd Kross, in San Francisco and I had to sleep on the floor of the hotel so I think I got it from that—or I tried on a bunch of hats in Chinatown. AM: I think it was the hats. CD: And that was about three weeks later, that show, and the day after was when I found out my head was radiating lice. SM: And the picture comes out, and his hair is like intertwined— CD: —literally in people’s faces—and I’m like oh man, I’m sorry! If anyone got lice. It was a long time ago. KD: For me, the craziest show so far— because I’m new—was last Friday, we played in San Bernardino. At this crappy, sketchy Elks lodge. AM: The toilets were overflowing. KD: It smelled bad, there were a ton of people but it smelled horrible, the room was sweating— KD: Easily a sauna. Outside there was just dirt and a tent so kids would circle pit and the dirt would stay in it. We played last and 48

it was so loud and crazy. We were all caked in dust. I had a white shirt on and it was brown by the end of the night. But it was so fun. Who is the audience? Who are the crazy Side Eyes fans? AM: There’s a range! KD: There’s a lot of young kids. CD: We’ve gotten ten years old in the past. I was thinking ten year old little punks. I think I would have really liked it as a little kid—and as I do now. AM: The range is twelve or thirteen to like seventy. There’s a big variety. SM: It’s crazy. My favorite is when they all intertwine. You’ll look out and you’ll see like a bunch of kids going crazy. I forget where it was but we covered a Bad Brains song and this guy went to the front and he was singing every word to us. What’s your most favorite—or most influential—albums of all time? SM: It doesn’t make sense with the music that I play cuz it’s so different. I really like Blink 182’s self-titled. That’s like one of my favorite records ever. But also every Bleeding Through record ever. KD: I’m going to say the first Adolescents album cuz me and Chris discovered it in a weird way. Since we didn’t grow up here, we would play the Tony Hawk video games on PS2 when we lived in New Jersey, and they had so many early Adolescents songs, like ‘Amoeba.’ I got hooked on it from there. AM: I have so many for different reasons. When I was a kid, the most influential album for me to get me into music was the Who’s Sell Out album. My dad would like brainwash me and put it on when I was a baby. I love every single Dinosaur Jr album—every single one, old and new. I’m a mega fan. You introduced me to J [Mascis] at FYF and I was such a fan—I must have been sixteen, I couldn’t even speak! KD: Our dad isn’t into the same music as us. I remember he liked the Ramones a lot. SM: My parents were into like 80s hair metal, like Poison and Cinderella. And I like all that stuff too but where I went with music— CD: My dad is the son of an Irish immigrant. Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynrd … it’s like ‘where did this come from? SM: That’s the best part about music—you can like whatever you want! It’s just so influential in different ways. You guys are from New Jersey. How did you all meet and start this thing up?

KD: Me and Chris, we started playing guitar when I was ten, and I got a guitar, and Chris was like, ‘I want to get a guitar, I need to get a guitar,’ and then he got a guitar and I taught him. We came out here on vacation and Chris was playing at Knott’s Berry Farm—he played some game and he won a bass. And then we didn’t know what to do with it so we had to ship it home. CD: And then I had a bass! And the band was born essentially right then and there at Knott’s Berry Farm. Me playing bass, Kevin playing guitar. 
 I love that it was in California! KD: Yeah, it was! It did start in California. And then we moved out here four years later and then me and Astrid met online. AM: We met on Tinder! That’s how we met! I would never have met any of these people if it wasn’t for Tinder. It changed my life. I was going to ask you about online dating! Only cuz of the song ‘I Hate Dates.’ AM: It was like cosmic. I cannot believe I met him on Tinder. KD: I’m going to interrupt before Astrid says, ‘I liked Kevin at first.’ She told me early on, ‘I almost swiped left on you.’ AM: I was just going really fast! I saw him and I was like ‘Oh he’s cute!’ but I was like on auto-pilot and like I dragged my finger back really fast. KD: It’s OK. She let me down easy. It was meant to be! AM: I was in the groove! Denying, denying, denying. And then I saw Kevin and we literally—we hung out like a week later— KD: I was like, ‘I can pick you up, I can drive.’ ‘No, I’ll meet you at the show!’ And at the show I was like … OK, I sent my address. Like ‘The show is on Saturday, you have four days … if you think I’m going to be creepy, here’s my address, you can come stop me first!’ AM: We met at a Garden show. And we started playing music together like a week later. And then we forced Chris to be in the band—we didn’t even ask him. CD: It’s OK. At first I didn’t want to do it— KD: Chris was like, ‘I don’t like when Kevin touches my hands and tells me what to play!’ AM: I don’t think we asked him. We literally made a post because we were looking for a drummer. And we edited a picture of me, Kevin and Chris—we didn’t even ask him! And we had another drummer, Nick, for two

years, and then he left and Sam came in. KD: We met Sam through playing shows. Me and Astrid were always big fans of Melted. We went to one of their shows where they had Sam playing drums. I remember specifically Sam was sitting super high on his drum seat and he goes … his face goes all over the place, and [I was thinking] ‘That is a kick-ass drummer!’ SM: We played a show together in Santa Ana and it was a free show and you had a show that night so it was like a three-person lineup. That was the first time I met you guys. AM: We played as a three piece! SM: I had work— AM: You were stuck at work. SM: A crane broke down and I was stuck there until like really late at night. What’s your day job? SM: I’ve had a bunch. I was working at that time for a commercial air conditioning, like a warehouse guy. Running places and taking pieces to the guys on-site and stuff. Now I work little jobs here and there and I’m getting a union job and so I’m waiting for that to start and then I’ll be an engineer. I’m taking the safe route, but then I also can do this stuff at the same time. It’s nine to five, or whatever, so I’ll be good. CD: I have an eight to four thirty, and then a night job sometimes, and a couple bands. AM: You’re a busy bee. SM: It’s better than college! KD: I work at Welcome Skateboards, and I’ve worked there for three and a half years, and my boss is a huge Redd Kross fan. Right when I started he was like, ‘You gotta get into them!’ Then I see Astrid, and she was wearing a Redd Kross shirt, and I commented, ‘Oh I like that shirt,’ and she said ‘That’s my dad’s band,’ and I was like ‘The brothers with the bangs!’ So I work at a skateboard company but me and Chris used to be lifeguards too. Cool lifeguards! Not Huntington Beach, but down in Mission Viejo and Santa Margarita. Like super south Orange County. AM: They’re far. I’m technically here, in like Griffith Park, but I’m still back and forth. CD: Which is cool because we can be an L.A./OC band! So let’s talk about the record. AM: It’s crazy because we started recording it, I would say, two years ago. KD: We were recording for a tape on Burger Records initially, and we recorded four songs— INTERVIEW


CD: And we did it in an afternoon— AM: —just with Steve. Then we decided to use those on the full-length, but we didn’t record the rest until a year later. But we did all of that in one day too, so it only really took two days, but spread out over time. CD: A lot of the songs sound like we’ve been playing them forever but as we progressed that year they got faster, they got heavier, this and that, so it’s cool—you kind of see where the Side Eyes have been in the past two years. The quality sounds really good. Did Steve do it in this practice space? Everyone: Yes! KD: When we had to do over-dubs, we’d move the amp into the hallway and he’d record it out there so we could play back, so we could double up the guitar and stuff. AM: We did the vocals at his house but it was a short drive so we could fit it in a day. I wanted to talk about ‘I Hate Dates’— where that come from? I’ve never done Tinder, but I have considered it. KD: It’s good and bad. AM: I’m really an advocate for it because of my luck, but I think my luck was so random— KD: You can get unlucky too. Oh like— AM: There’s like psychos out there. What happens if you go on a creepy date? AM: It’s—that’s just the gamble you’re taking. I say give it a go! There’s no harm! That’s always been my advice. ‘I Hate Dates,’ INTERVIEW

we wrote that one of the first times we hung out. KD: We were laughing cuz we did go to the mall together. AM: ‘We don’t want to be mall date people.’ I also really like ‘Dead End Boys.’ KD: That was the first song we ever made. A lot of girls will relate to that song. AM: Yeah! I wrote the lyrics to that song before I met him—it was his melody and my lyrics. When you’re angsty your songs are angsty. You have a lot of young girl fans who have commented on the lyrics. I’m imagining being a thirteen or fourteen year old that’s really into the Side Eyes cuz there’s a girl singing about all sorts of cool shit I’m going through … except we didn’t have Tinder back then. AM: We’ve only had a few of our songs released right now, so no one got to hear the lyrics, so for the most part— —It’s just the show experience! KD: It’s cool when you see people show up and sing along. Girls go up with Astrid and they’ll be singing ‘Cat Call’. What’s a TV series that you’re obsessed with right now? AM: We love The Bachelor! KD: I was never into it and then I meet Astrid. Her whole family, like Monday nights … I was like ‘I’m not going to get into it.’ Then four weeks later, I’m on the forums online.

What are some guilty music pleasures you like? It can be teen pop, or the worst country, or it can be something totally random that’s not Side Eyes at all. AM: Everybody knows this, and I’m not even guilty about it at all. People try to put on this guilt, but I’m not guilty. Loud and proud! Jonas Brothers for life. I used to sleep on the sidewalk to meet them. I was the most devoted Jonas Brothers fan you could ever meet. I was psycho. Like psychotically obsessed with the Jonas Brothers. KD: Me and Chris experienced it because our sister was psycho-ly obsessed, and we both got to go to a Jonas Brothers show. The first time I didn’t want to, and it was like the Teen Choice awards, and they turn on the TV and pause it and Chris is on with these Jonas Brothers neon sunglasses! AM: The funny thing is I was there too! I wanted to ask about your favorite place where you find the most inspiration and joy. A diner, a beach, a record store— SM: This is the part where I include the IE, cuz there are two places. Showcase Theatre— that’s where hardcore and punk went down in Corona. One of the best venues in Southern California that shut down in 2009—one of the reasons why I play music today. And then Chain Reaction in Anaheim, an allages venue that had my favorite hardcore bands. It was like hanging out with your best friends. It was a good place to grow up and not be too old—perfect for high schoolers.

AM: I love the strip in Los Feliz of like Vermont and like Hillhurst, with House of Pies and all those places. Those were just my teenage years—seeing people and people watching and soaking it in and using those experiences later. KD: My favorite place is probably this beach in Dana Point called Strands. Me and Chris have been going there since we moved out here. We’d surf there, body surf there, do whatever … throughout ten years of living here, you can still go and have the classic California beach experience with the cliffs. AM: Now there are sharks. KD: Yeah, now in all of Orange County there is a historic shark— AM: —infestation! KD: Now the whale-watching boats are chumming cuz they’re making so much money off of the people wanting to see great whites. So they throw bait off it and now— AM: —they’re never going to leave! THE SIDE EYES WITH REDD KROSS, JFA, THE MEOW TWINS, PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN AND WHITE NIGHT ON SUN., JUNE 18, AT PUNK IS DAD AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 4 PM / $11-$13.50 / ALL AGES. THEECHO. COM. THE SIDE EYES’ ALBUM WILL BE OUT LATER THIS SUMMER ON IN THE RED. VISIT THE SIDE EYES AT FACEBOOK.COM/THESIDEEYES. 49


SEXTILE Interview by Vanessa Gonzalez Photography by Alex the Brown L.A.’s Sextile hammer out relentless and uncompromising postpunk with a gothic command of negative space and vintage synthesizers sparking and arcing lightning at the edges. It’s darkness without melodrama and inspiration without hesitation all the way through the ten precision-machined tracks that make up their razor-sharp new Albeit Living, the annihilating sequel to their notable 2015 album A Thousand Hands. They speak here about making it work no matter what. I was looking at the Kickstarter for your tour with Soft Moon, and I was impressed by how modest the estimates for your needs were. $15 a day on food and $60 for a hotel room is tough. Brady Keehn (vocals/guitar): You’d be surprised man—Melissa on Priceline.com wheels and deals. She’s a genius at it. Melissa Scaduto (vocals/drums): I’m a straight hustler for that shit. My old band used to call me Scam-duto instead of Scaduto. This whole house I furnished with free Craigslist. Everything’s free. I grew up with a really poor hustling mom, so I learned. Eddie Weubben (synthesizer/guitar): I didn’t even know the Kickstarter had dollar amounts for day to day. MS: Our label dude did that. I actually think what’s realistic for a hotel room daily, on an average ... like, I’ll try to get us four-star places for like $70 cuz I don’t want our gear to get stolen. To me, it’s worth it on Priceline to throw an extra $15 on it to get a parking garage. And we’ll be more comfortable, so it’s like … fuck it. But we generally buy our own food. But that tour, we lived hard. We didn’t sleep in hotels. We used every cent to just go. What other money saving tips do you have for touring bands? MS: I live for the idea of saving money. I always just try and figure, ‘How can I get what I want while saving the most amount of money?’ I go so low though, you know? Rather than buying a bottle of water I’ll just ask for a cup of water. It’s just little things like that go so far. And if you give yourself $10 a day, it’s really possible. And honestly, thank god for food stamps. On our first tour, I broke everyone’s balls about getting food stamps before we left. And it came in sooooo handy. EW: They picked me up from the welfare office to go on tour. MS: Just give me a topic and I’ll tell you how to save money. BK: If the green room’s stacked, make sure you pack! MS: If there’s a case of water, there’s hummus, there’s red pepper, and if there’s a fridge where we’re staying because of that extra $15 that we kicked on Priceline, we take that food and we have a little breakfast. Also, if you see the maid’s cart, steal all the coffee. I only buy what’s on sale and I generally only buy it with food stamps. That way I’m literally not spending a dollar except in thrift stores and on 50

cigarettes. That’s the only thing I want that’s actually going to cost money. EW: And if you need any impromptu swimming trunks, she knows where all the thrift stores are. MS: Everyday we go to a thrift store on tour. I’m a treasure hunter. I look at reviews of all the neighboring thrift stores. Like the whole route on the whole way. I’m pretty obsessed with thrifting. You’ve turned it into a business? You’re doing the flea markets? MS: Yeah, I have been for a while. When my leg went out at Amoeba, I couldn’t work there anymore. I was like, ‘Alright, what else can I do?’ I was already selling on Etsy, then I started selling on Melrose and I made in one day what I would have made all month, working like 40 hours a week. But I needed a job like Amoeba for a while to ground me so I wasn’t bartending cuz that was my hustle for a long time. I don’t feel like we actually gave any actual tips on the saving money. If the green room is stacked, you better pack! MS: Oh yeah, that’s a good one. How was SXSW this year? BK: I think we played the best show we’ve ever had. James Chance and the Contortions had to drop out so we had to cover for them ... MS: I thought everybody would be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Like if I go to see the Contortions and I see these young kids that are not the Contortions, I’d be like … but that show was awesome. I felt the energy and the vibe of the audience way more than I ever have. It was also the first time that old dudes actually came up to me and told me I was a good drummer. Dudes never come up to me. They’ll come up to [the guys in the band] and tell them that the band is great and say nothing to me—won’t even acknowledge me. BK: It doesn’t happen as much as it used to. MS: Of course it doesn’t—it’s gotten better— but that’s what I’m talking about. The turning point was literally from that show. I started feeling like dudes now say something to me. It’s just that for the longest time I’ve felt … I dunno, burned by men in general. I’ve walked into the Smell and they thought [former guitarist Sammy Warren] was in the band and I wasn’t. This was before he was in the band. They were like, ‘Um, hold up—are you with them?’ And I was like, ‘I’m in the band.’ EW: They let Sammy walk right by …


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MS: And then stopped me while we were together because they assume I’m just the girl with the band. And I was like, ‘This is the Smell.’ It’s just real. EW: You guys want to touch on the good stuff that came out of South by ... like… BK: Oh, well—we got a U.S. booking agent from Flower Booking. Oh, congrats! So how does the new album feel different to you guys than the first? MS: To me, this record sounds more like the band—and when a band changes and grows into something else, like a bigger idea. Keep in mind that with that first record, we literally played one show and then we’re approached to record. It was … rushed. While we were recording it, we played our second show. The songs were thrown together and when we played our first show we were all playing different instruments. We even had two different people in the band that are no longer in the band … and it had a different name, too. It wasn’t even the same band. We were fortunate to put that out right away but I feel like in a weird way this is our first record. EW: The second record all around feels really good. We’ve gotten way more comfortable, we’ve really put a lot more into it, and then life has gotten pretty good all around, you know? So the energy, the fun just of us gelling on it and just having a good time ... You recorded the first album quickly? MS: I think over a couple weeks. Brady locked himself in a cabin and did the majority of it ... then [he] called me and Eddie to help. BK: It took two weeks to record, but I had been writing songs for months prior and we had been playing them together … So you fleshed them out live? BK: Exactly. I’d write some stuff and then Eddie would come over and he’d write some stuff and then Melissa would write something and we’d make demos and then we’d bring practice them and they’d become even bigger. Then Eddie would be adding synth lines that I didn’t think about when I was writing or [Melissa] would be like, ‘No, this part’s cheesy! Let’s do something else here!’ and adding her own fills. I never really had lyrics until we recorded. At most of our shows I was saying a bunch of gibberish. MS: You still do. BK: Not anymore! MS: I swear to God, you sing it the same. It’s a mumble of the melody. I feel like that’s kind of commonplace—like every band does that. Do you record the mumbling, listen to the mumble and then create lyrics from what you perceive in the mumble? BK: Yes—all the time. I caught that from Brian Eno. He would record gibberish and then listen back and record the lyrics. MS: Wu-Tang did the same thing Looking over your Twitter, I noticed a lot of Eno retweets. MS: I looked at our Twitter once and I was like, ‘Brady, you need to take some of this shit down or choose what you’re posting.’ Our Twitter presence to me was unacceptable. BK: I post the Oblique Strategy of the day, or I just like pictures of Brian Eno. He’s the only person I follow on there so all I get is Brian Eno updates and I’m like … cool. Do you use Oblique Strategies in your writing process? INTERVIEW

BK: Like a half-assed version—my own version where I’ll be like, ‘OK, guys, we’re only playing things in one note and everybody’s gotta play a different rhythm.’ That’s how we came up with that song ‘Sterilized.’ On the new album, what is ‘Who Killed Six’ about? BK: I’m kind of opposed to telling people what songs are about. It ruins that person’s connection to them and how they relate to it—if they listened to the lyrics and they relate to something that happened in their life, and then the artist comes in and says, ‘Actually it’s about fucking pizza,’ then… MS: That’s not true because most people don’t read interviews. It’s cool when that person finds out because no one would expect it. BK: It takes away the magic or the mystery. It’s like when you read a book and you think about the imagery in your head. It’s your imagination—and then you go see it as a movie and it’s terrible because that’s not the way you saw it. EW: I can see both sides. Me personally, I want to know what everything’s about. When I find out, the mystery is not ruined—I feel very excited. Give something to the nerds who are searching out the interviews. BK: OK—when I wrote the demo, my Poly 6 had died. It was one of the first synthesizers that I got and it was dear to my heart. I wanted to intertwine the dying of electronics into what I felt was happening in society or what I’m seeing around me go on, so it was like ... death by slow corrosion is a mystery, so like corroding metals and all that stuff ... power hungry circuits are beginning to feed, it’s fuckin’ weird-ass shit … [laughing] Is the album title Albeit Living a Circle X reference? MS: Yes. How’d you know that? Fuck—is everyone going to know that? I thought ‘Albeit Living’ would sound cool, but also because some of the themes Brady talked about that are supposed to be within those songs ... I thought that title made sense. Brady’s lyrics about the power hungry circuits remind me of Albeit Living’s opening lines: ‘No, it’s not amazing that the scum should rise to the surface. Obviously the top is no place to be.’ It feels so pertinent wih the current political landscape. Was it meant as political commentary? MS: Yes, that’s basically what it’s in reference to. I thought it fit as political commentary also, you know? It was both. It made sense for everything at the time, and I thought if anyone got the reference, that would be fucking cool. Even these guys didn’t know who Circle X was, and I was like, ‘they’re kind of a weird obscure band’ so it made sense. It’s awesome that you know who they are. I was doing my research—I didn’t know who Circle X was, but it was interesting reading about them, and then hearing that song was like, ‘Fuck, that’s heavy.’ MS: Also Albeit Living didn’t sound bad off the bat. It’s just one of those titles that ... you know, some you have to question, or some you like. Melissa, in a 2015 interview that you said you were trying to start a scene here— MS: Oh, really? [laughing] I said that? I wonder what context ... Maybe meaning to

find the right fit. When I first got here, my only exposure to L.A. was the garage rock scene. Little did I know there were a bunch of bands playing that we are now friends with. I still hope more people will start bands. It’s the one thing that I don’t actually understand— people who will actively go to shows and talk shit on Facebook about bands they don’t like. People are so comfortable to talk shit on the internet. It’s hilarious because it’s a way to be confrontational about all of the things that you’re pissed about without having to be present and saying it to somebody. I think, ‘I get it, but you should go start your own band. Rather than talking shit on Facebook, you could be playing guitar and figuring things out.’ It’s a bummer because these kids have a computer, and with a computer, not only can you make your own music, you can make a video, you can send it around to everybody … and if it’s good, it will get put out. We live in such a crazy world that the actual opportunity to make art is easier than ever. Even though we as artists make less than ever. I guess it’s laziness no matter how you slice it. With all the tools being readily available … you choose what you want to do. Melissa and Brady, what was the transition from New York to L.A. like? MS: I felt like I wasn’t really in the city for the first year because I was in Pasadena in sober living, so it was like being removed. I wasn’t allowed to really be in a band either. I had to listen to everything they told me to do like I was a little kid. It was like breaking down the old self that I was, trying to keep the good things that were there, and remove all the negative shit and restart again. Did you put yourself there? MS: Yeah, it was voluntary. I didn’t get arrested and get forced there, but it was my first time ever being given an opportunity to get sober, too, so I took it because I was desperate. But luckily I met Eddie through all of that. EW: I was at another sober living down the street. MS: It was really what I needed in my life then, and I’m so grateful for it. I really think that self-help goes a long way. You live a certain way and think a certain way for so long, and you can put yourself in a rotten place where you think and act all broken. I think it really helped me out. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play music anymore—I thought moving to L.A. meant I wasn’t going to go to shows. That was a huge bummer for me to swallow. But then Brady moved here—even though he was really far away, and for two people with no cars it was rough. We’d take the train to see each other. We recorded that first record in Brady’s sober living. We all really tried and reflected positivity on one another and put one foot in front of the other and took a leap of faith. Starting this band is what helped me stay sober from hard drugs and alcohol and continues to be a part of it—it made me see what was possible to do when you’re not clouded by stupid-ass shit all the time. And then meeting other people that wanted to better themselves. That goes so far. Now I feel super transitioned into this place. Brady, what was your transition like? BK: I had come to L.A. after three months in rehab, really. It was my first time being

here, and I ended up in Culver City. It really sucked. I had no clue what was cool, I had no clue who was who. The only person I knew was Melissa and the people I knew in sober living, but they didn’t know what was what cuz they were a bunch of bros. It was a pretty regimented place. I’d gone to military school for the first two years of high school, and then I’d gotten kicked out and went to Catholic school. So it was very regimented when I got to sober living—of course I fucking hated it. I ended up relapsing and and then realizing, ‘What the fuck am I doing in a new city shooting dope? This is not what I want.’ So I decided to change sober livings and I went to a place in Studio City where they gave me a lot of free rein. I still don’t know anything, I’m trying to meet people ... it was kind of rough. But I finally got a demo out to Sammy, who sent it to Michael Stock, and he gave us our first show. I had all these songs demo’d and I wanted to make them fuller so I got Melissa and Eddie to join the band. It wasn’t even Sextile—it was a different project, but we ended up getting signed to Felte at our first show at the Echo, which is super cool. Then we went in and recorded it the way the band was at the time. I got the recordings back and it sounded so much like a rock record. I was like, ‘This isn’t what I wanted at all!’ We ended up changing everybody around, and in this sober living in Studio City—in this back cabin—I ended up recording an entire record and writing a bunch of new songs and getting it going and everything. That’s the first record. And that’s where Sextile started. You pounded open a lot of cosmic doors. It might seem like, ‘They got signed after their first show…’ but you really put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into getting there. BK: Yeah—we didn’t have a practice space before that first show. We were having to pay hourly for practice, meet by bus, I was hauling my guitar, my pedals, maybe microphones if we were trying to record ... or find somebody with a car to be able to take us if we had to take the drums. It was really crazy. I’ve been playing for ten years, Eddie’s been playing all of his life, and Melissa’s been playing all of her life and recording and she’s the biggest record nerd ever and taught me everything I know about music. This is the furthest that anything we’ve ever done has gone, which is cool. Is it challenging to stay sober while living the life of a rock band and having all those temptations constantly present? BK: Not anymore. Not for me. MS: I think your brain will trick you, naturally, when you see a bunch of people doing this one thing, that you’re supposed to be doing that thing, too. There’s this weird first thought that comes up like, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to be doing that thing.’ But then the second thought is like, ‘No fucking way, there’s no way I would.’ They always say, ‘You’re not responsible for your first thought, you’re responsible for your second.’ I think that that makes a lot of sense. SEXTILE’S ALBEIT LIVING IS OUT FRI., JULY 14, ON FELTE. VISIT SEXTILE AT SEXTILE.BANDCAMP.COM. 53


KAMAIYAH Interview by Ben Salmon Illustration by Joe McGarry

It’s not quite accurate to say Kamaiyah came from out of nowhere over the past year to become hip-hop’s next big thing, but it’s not that far off, either. While the Oakland born-and-raised MC was on the radar when she dropped her exhilarating debut mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto, in March of 2016, she was hardly a household name. Since then, however, Ghetto has stacked up a whole bunch of glowing reviews, and Kamaiyah has held her own alongside Drake and YG on the hit single “Why You Always Hatin?” Plus, she spent the winter crisscrossing the country (and often stealing the show) as part of YG’s “Fuck Donald Trump” tour. It’s easy to hear why people love the lady with the vintage brick-sized cell phone: A Good Night in the Ghetto is a sun-kissed soundtrack for good times, powered by sparkling synths, skittering beats, 90s R&B influence and a party-friendly vibe. By committing to her singular vision and going against the grain, Kamaiyah separated herself from the darkness and drama of so much hip-hop these days. Now, she’s preparing her second act—expected to drop in June—and gearing up for full world domination this summer. She plays Friday, July 21, at FYF Fest in Exposition Park. This interview was conducted the morning of Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kamaiyah’s hometown Golden State Warriors. Where are you at and what are you up to? I’m at home, getting ready to go to the studio to talk shit at YG and watch this game. He’s a Warriors hater and I ain’t fuckin’ with Cleveland. The Warriors play in Oakland so fuck that. Are you a Warriors fan? I’m a Lakers fan. That’s the irony of this. Because the Warriors have been doing good I’m kinda like teetering. But I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. I just admire the way they play. Are you originally from Oakland? How’d you become a Lakers fan? Yup. Born and raised in Oakland. When I used to play NBA Jam with my brother when I was a kid, I used to always like Derek Fisher when he’d be on fire, so that’s how it kinda started. Ah, right. Give me Derek Fisher over Steph Curry any day. No comment. [laughs] It’s been about 15 months since you put out A Good Night in the Ghetto, and I’m curious how you view it now with the perspective of time and everything that’s happened since then? It’s extremely humbling. Because when I put that project out, at that time I was more nervous than anything because I didn’t know if it was going to transcend or not and be digested appropriately because of where I’m coming from [and] the production. I was like ‘I don’t know if they’re gonna understand this.’ And I was really, really nervous. But once I saw the comments on HotNewHipHop.com and people actually liking it on there­—because they’re fucking tough as shit—I was like, ‘Oh, this may actually work. They like my shit on here and they don’t like nothin’.’ That’s interesting to hear you say that. It’s not every day you hear a rapper admit to being nervous about releasing music. It’s usually the opposite. That’s just somebody overly being cocky. As an artist we’re always nervous because you want the people to love your project and your music as much as you do but you don’t know if they’re gonna understand it INTERVIEW

in its entirety. So when people say that it’s cockiness and ego. That essence is always still there in your gut about, ‘Oh my God, is it gonna be accepted?’ A Good Night in the Ghetto has such a distinctive sound, considering it came out in 2016. It has a real throwback ‘90s feel. Where does that come from? I make the kind of music that I wanna listen to. So I don’t wanna listen to current hip-hop. I prefer to listen to like 90s hiphop and R&B, and the 70s stuff like the Gap Band, the S.O.S. Band, Earth Wind & Fire and stuff like that. And it comes out through my music. Did the fact that your stuff sounded different from so much current hip-hop contribute to your nervousness about releasing it? Nah—I feel like it was more the West Coast essence because I’m from Oakland. We typically get the shit end of the stick when it comes to the music industry. And the West Coast in general gets the shit end of the stick, so I’m like, ‘I don’t know if they’re gonna fuck with it or not.’ Oakland seems to turn out lots of rappers who are highly influential but never quite break through into superstardom. Why do you think that is? I don’t know. It’s just like a stigma where people just don’t accept it. Are you shooting to be a superstar or are you happy with what you’ve achieved? Are you OK with underground status? Nah, I’m a fuckin’ mega-star. I wanna be accepted as a mega-star. I’m not gonna accept anything less than what I deserve because I know my potential and what I’m supposed to be. That got me here and it’s only another level so I just gotta keep going and not stop. I know my worth. Me saying that I just wanna be right here would be me settling, and I ain’t settling for nothing. Can you tell me about your neighborhood and how you started rapping? I grew up literally in the middle of Oakland, on a street called High Street. Smack dab in the middle between East Oakland and

North Oakland and all that. I started rapping because when I was younger I saw Bow Wow on TV and he was a kid and he was rapping. And I was like, ‘I wanna do this. If he can do it I can do it.’ So I sat down one day and wrote a rap and when it made sense I never stopped. Did you have any Oakland rappers you listened to or that you think influenced the music you make today? I was more of a TLC fan, a Missy [Elliott] fan, listening to like Aaliyah. Back in the day they had a channel called The Bop and we’d watch Cash Money videos and that type of stuff. But your parents don’t really want you to listen to like Too $hort and them because of the type of shit they be saying, so I’d listen but I didn’t understand in its entirety what was being said at the time. Now that I’m older I have an appreciation for that stuff, but when I was younger I was more like a Disney kid or a pop type. I wasn’t really into the hardcore gangster shit. Over and over again, A Good Night in the Ghetto has been described as perfect party music. Where’s that vibe come from? At that time I was just going through a lot and I wanted to party and I was partying so it came out in the music. That’s all it was. I was telling stories of my life at that time. You were the only female MC rolling with a bunch of guys on the ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ tour. Is that something that registers with you or is it no big deal? Other people care about it more than me because I feel like I’m just here to do my shit and go home. That’s just it. I think it gets more attention because when you see it and you see that I hold my own, it’s something that’s commendable and people respect that. Like, ‘There’s only one girl among all these guys and she’s getting a great reception.’ So it makes you admire it. It’s a focal point. Do you think about the effect you may have on young girls or women who might see you as a role model? Oh yeah. I advocate that women need to be independent and strong. That’s why I try

to carry myself in a certain nature, and not show my ass and stuff like that. I feel like the world is not training women to be women anymore. So somebody has to come out and be the yin to the yang, you know what I’m saying? My whole thing is to be the opposite of everything else. Period. That’s my whole thing. It’s like, ‘You gonna do this? Alright, fuck that I’m gonna do this.’ That’s just my whole mode. Yes! That’s an awesome attitude. Yeah—that’s just the way my mind is because I see how people respect people when they’re a certain way and I always wanted to be respected. I demand respect. And I feel like young women have to have confidence in themselves because I don’t feel like there’s a standard being set for them. You gotta have somebody telling them, ‘You can love yourself. You can build yourself up and know your worth. That ain’t gonna make you less of a woman.’ What are the roots of that mindset for you? Can you trace that back to someone in your life or something that happened when you were young? The irony of all of this is that I kinda raised myself because my parents were both doing whatever they were doing. And I used to always hang with boys and I used to hear how they talked about girls when they were a certain way and I told myself, “I never want anyone to talk about me like that.” And that’s what made me who I am. I don’t wanna be talked about like that. I don’t wanna be the girl that people are sitting around in a room disrespecting. I want you to respect me. So I made sure I always carried myself in a way that I would be respected. KAMAIYAH WITH MISSY ELLIOT, FRANK OCEAN, NINE INCH NAILS, AND MORE ON JULY 21-23 AT EXPOSITION PARK, 700 EXPOSITION PARK DR, LOS ANGELES. MORE INFO AT FYFFEST.COM. VISIT KAMAIYAH AT WWW.SOUNDCLOUND.COM/ KAMAIYAH. 55


GOSPELBEACH Interview by Chris Kissel Illustration by Matt Adams For almost 30 years, Brent Rademaker has been a presence in L.A. music, and his influence—infused with the legacy of country rock like Gram Parsons and Gene Clark—looms large over local artists as diverse as Ariel Pink, the Allah-Las, and Ryan Adams. Among his credits: founding the storied ‘90s indie rock band Further with his brother Darren; leading early-‘00s psychedelic country band Beachwood Sparks; and, in recent years, fronting GospelbeacH, whose music has drifted from rustic American Beauty-inspired rock to cozy late-‘70s AOR-inspired pop. GospelbeacH’s newest Another Sumer of Love is a warm collection of tunes about coming home, with nods to Tom Petty and Jackson Browne. On a sunny April afternoon, Rademaker sits on a rock in a strange little park that runs right down the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood—literally through the middle of the road. Cars woosh by on either side; the Troubadour sits solemnly across the road, reflection of another more distant storied past. Rademaker wears sunglasses and a denim jacket, and a button with a modified Pepsi logo that reads ‘LSD.’ Here the man whose band once sang ’Your money tree won’t give you any shade’ talks about success, his deep love of music, and the significant trials behind him. He looks across the street and meets the Troubadour’s gaze as our interview begins. Brent Rademaker (vocals/guitar): I have a feeling Gram Parsons would go in there and get drunk and get kicked out. Whereas the Eagles were like, ‘Hey man, calm down—let’s not get kicked out.’ And that’s why they made it so big. They did their coke and all that but— —they just wanted to get by. Yeah, man. And I’m not—there was a time in my life where I was a total fuck-up, you know, into drugs and getting thrown out of places, but for the most part I’m on the nice guy side. I think it’s funny that first of all I’m still here, and second of all we can walk by the Troubadour and know that all that shit happened right there. Yeah, and you’d never know it looking at this neighborhood now. It’s like looking at a strip mall nail salon and saying, ‘Jim Morrison wrote ’The End’ in there.’’ It’s preserved but it can’t last. Just look at the Doheny Room next to it. It can’t last. But I can relate this to what we’re doing because all those bands [faced the question of], ‘Are you trying to piss people off or are you trying to turn them on?’ And I’m in the really-tryingto-turn-them-on phase. I’ve listened to Another Summer of Love a few times and it’s such a comfortable experience, which I mean in the most complimentary of ways. It feels like putting on an old shoe.  It’s not supposed to be off-putting, and it’s not supposed to be melancholy. It’s funny … I wrote 22 songs between the two GospelbeacH albums, and in all 15 to 20 years of Beachwood Sparks I had maybe nine songs. And they were all pretty melancholy. You think they’re happy when you’re listening to them but they’re all really sad. I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to make other people happy, and I wanted to try to make myself happy, and make people feel that vibe that you’re talking about—that it’s not offputting. The only uncomfortable feeling you might get is if you think, ‘What is the point of this shit?’ Because the songs aren’t angry or sad? I used to write songs in Further that were very [Lou] Barlow-esque. The more I could 56

hurt somebody—or be hurted—the more I wanted to write about it. And people loved ‘em, like ‘California Bummer’ and songs like that. But when I met [my wife] Kathleen, I said, ‘I’m not going to write any songs about you until we’re together for awhile.’ Now that it’s coming up on ten years, I’m like, ‘OK, here are the songs.’ And they just came out, and it was really cool. And that comes back to the title Another Summer of Love. I realized the album is about the idea of ‘home,’ and reckoning with the idea of feeling comfortable. ‘You’re Already Home’ is where you reassure yourself that it’s OK to feel like you’ve come home. But ‘City Limits’ feels like the flip side of that— getting frustrated by the city where you live, and then getting restless. I do remember feeling that feeling of … I remember about 12 years ago, when I was really having a super hard time, my parents and my brother tried everything to really help me. But they finally cut me off. For six months I couldn’t call home or go home. And for the first three months, I didn’t care. And then I got in a truck and went to Florida. I went home. I totally realized for the first time how important that was. Maybe because of the way we grew up. And then I wanted to create my own home. That’s another thing— between my wife and I, we wanted to find our own place. That’s all through the record. We bought a house in Florida that I never could write a song about because we had to sell it in a short sale. But we moved back out here, and we bought a place in the desert. A cabin on five acres. And that’s a place that we’ve been working on, and feeling like we could build into a place where we could live forever. The thing about that song ‘City Limits’ is … it’s funny because that’s the one song that doesn’t really have to do with love. It just has to do with me and my music and just how L.A. happens to be our home. One of the guys in Beachwood Sparks is from Orange County and he used to tell me, ‘Man, I could never live in Los Angeles.’ I used to just go along with that and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, it sucks here.’ But I don’t think that anymore. I love it so much.

I was wondering where you settled on that. I detected in that song a weariness—or a regretfulness—about hanging around too long. Yeah, because I didn’t make it. At least compared to other people that I know. For other people, if they heard me say that, they’d say, ‘Fuck you. Why are you complaining? You get to do this and that.’ But just in all the effort and the time and everything we put into it, I really didn’t make it. But that’s OK. You didn’t get rich and famous, but you have all the great records you made. I mean yeah—I try to tell people this all the time. I met a kid from Portland the other day. He was cool. I had a coffee with him and his wife on the way to work. They really loved GospelbeacH and Beachwood Sparks and just wanted to talk. And … I don’t know. I mean, it’s funny. I tried to tell them that I know people personally who have had hit records, but they can’t even get what I have. There’s something to be said for that. My advice to them was keep doing what you love and make sure you don’t do anything different. I remember one guy in the 90s—it was probably 1991, and I was PA-ing on a video, which was a great job. I was shooting videos all the time, and sometimes there were some cool bands, you know what I mean? I got to work with some bands from the 80s I loved who were still doing their thing. But this was a metal video, which were really fun. I met this guy on set, and he was like, ‘What kind of music do you like?’ ‘I don’t know—what kind of music do you like?’ ‘Oh, well, I like Lenny Kravitz and Jesus Jones.’ ‘OK, where do you live?’ ‘Over on Fountain.’ I said, ‘OK, I live over on Orange Grove, real close—why don’t you come over?’ And I turned him on to [My Bloody Valentine’s] Loveless and [Dinosaur Jr.’s]  Green Mind and the essentials— [Nirvana’s] Bleach. And after that, he made himself a little alterna-band, cut his hair, started wearing striped sweaters. And they got a big record deal and had, like, a hit on MTV. But I know that guy now—he’s still my friend—and he couldn’t get a gig at a coffee shop. And he was in a ‘buzz band.’

When you’re young and you’re in a band, you get this idea that the only way in the world you’ll ever be happy is if your band blows up. I think there’s something reassuring when you discover later on that you can be happy in other ways—perhaps much happier. It’s great to have a band that’s popular, but... But how popular do you want to be? When Further opened for Pavement at the Palace, I could have quit then. But we kept going, and now GospelbeacH is playing Green Man Fest in Wales with Julian Cope and Ride and the Allah-Las and Ryan Adams and bands that I know and like and that … I could say right there, ‘Wow, look, I made it.’ We’re not headlining it, but we’re playing it, and we didn’t ask them—they asked us. So that’s cool—but you’re right. People don’t realize that. I was listening to an interview with Carl Newman, A.C. Newman—we knew him, he used to let Beachwood stay at his apartment in Vancouver when he was in Zumpano. I don’t think the New Pornographers were a band, or if they were, we didn’t know about ‘em yet. But he was getting interviewed the other night on World Cafe, and I could hear something in his voice. He said, ‘I don’t understand that I have to do this for money now.’ You know? I’m not a huge rock star and I work for my money, and I don’t even know if people can sustain something like that for money. I mean … I can only think of people I know. They’re always on the road. And that’s cool because playing is fun. But you’re supporting a family and you can’t be there? I don’t know if I want to do that. I did a lot of touring but I never had anybody behind, so I never had to leave a family. I don’t have any kids. So I don’t know. Success is happiness. When I listened to the mix [of Another Summer of Love] for the first time, the sky lit up. It was ‘California Fantasy,’ the song where I’m just wanted to write a theme song for how I feel about my life in California. It was the election, and it was everything … everything that was going on. And I got this feeling listening to it, and I thought, ‘Someone else is going to get this feeling.’ They’re not going to see exactly what I’m seeing, but they’re going to listen to this INTERVIEW


and hear more than just some chords and production and singing. They’re going to get it. They have to. It’s not going to be a lot of people, but if it’s just one—or a couple, and it alters their perception of reality, whether they’re musicians or not—that’s success. I felt like ‘California Fantasy’ was about refusing to buy into the myth of California as a magical fantasy land. When you do an interview with a journalist from Spain, there’s always a question about, ‘Do you believe in the myth of California?’ I’m like, ‘What does that even mean?’ It’s like the question ‘What is psychedelia?’ I could do a search of all the email interviews I’ve done, and there’s always a question about that. I know the Allah-Las get it all the time. Beachwood got it. I still get it. I was trying to set it straight. [California] is kind of exactly like it is in Tampa, Florida. It’s just about you, man! You’re gonna get wasted, listen to your tunes, you’re gonna be out in the desert. Don’t buy into that commercial on TV that says, ‘Come to California, we love it!’ and they’re surfing and hot air ballooning and skiing and snowboarding and there’s Hollywood lights. That’s not why I came here. It’s kind of Buddhist—the happiness has to be inside you. It’s major like that. That’s the only thing. I couldn’t have made this record or these songs—I couldn’t have faked some happy feeling. That’s why the first album [Pacific Surf Line] is more of a statement on that type of music. Pacific Surf Line is more country rock, folk rock—you know, the way the album cover looks. The stories aren’t true. It was compared to the Grateful Dead. So much. Oh my God, I’m so tired of that because we’re not like that. We don’t jam. The new Dead culture is like a guy with a red Solo cup and socks and sandals. That culture to me has been sold out, that jam band culture. So the new album—first of all, I wanted it to be happy, to be rock ‘n’ roll. I didn’t want it to be 60s at all, and if it was 70s, I wanted it to be pushing into the 80s. Not new wave, but... There’s a power-pop Tom Petty vibe.  That’s the cool thing about [producer] Jason [Soda]. I wanted to do Rockpile, Petty, and he wanted to just work with what we have, production-wise. We’re already in their world, and he really talked some sense into me about not making a pastiche production. And I was so happy. Because at first I was listening to it and I was like, ‘No, it doesn’t sound enough like Big Star. It doesn’t sound enough like Squeeze. It doesn’t sound enough like 20/20—listen to that snare!’ And he said, ‘No. This is what our drummer sounded like. This is what we sound like.’ I was like, ‘OK, fine,’ and it was so great. I mixed all the Beachwood records—I was there, I heard the tape, every time. So many times, it was like, ‘OK, roll it back, turn up the bass.’ For this record, I wasn’t there. I got to listen to it as a fan. And my attempts to really date it … luckily, we didn’t go down that road. I wouldn’t have been happy. When the first GospelbeacH record came out, people talked about it like it was a supergroup record—I mean, with Neal Casal on board especially, it had that vibe. But this record feels more like a statement from you. 58

It’s a major departure. Because Pacific Surf Line was communal in the studio. Neal sang on every song—that voice is pretty recognizable. But then we played shows without him afterward, and the new album … going into it, he wasn’t going to be on it. He couldn’t do it. We tried, we waited, there was just no way. We were actually going to have him come in and overdub at the end. With Pacific Surf Line, he was there from the get go. I’d walk in with a song, start playing the chords, and he’d go, ‘Oh, cool,’ and start playing. That’s why you hear on that one song, ‘Neal, start it!’ Because he was there. But with the new album, it wasn’t going to be like that. I wanted to forge my own concept anyway. [It was] John [Niemanns]—the keyboard player who wasn’t on the first album—and [Jason] and I. Jason and I partnered off. The band that was playing the shows after the first album kind of split up. One guy quit, one guy moved away. So we said, ‘We’re gonna make this new album kind of like Petty and Mike Campbell would.’ Because you know … the Heartbreakers didn’t play on all that shit. They had session guys come in to do it. Yeah. We thought we’d do it like that because that’s our template. Sonically, it was gonna be that way. But not lyrically. Because Tom Petty sings so much about being this kind of scorned guy. Getting revenge. Getting back at people. Exactly. In the early days, whether it was a chick or whatever. And I’m not like that. But ‘I Won’t Back Down’—that’s kind of a theme I want to work on in the next record, standing up to the limits that you put on yourself. Because I spent so many years doubting myself and being self-deprecating—you feel like it gets you lots of friends, but once you get old, it plays on your psyche. You can actually get depressed. Which I didn’t know I suffered from. My mom had it, and we lost my mom last year to suicide. And I have dealt with suicide attempts in the past. Hard stuff—really gnarly stuff. But I never learned how to get over it, even with therapy and rehab and all that stuff. I honestly believe that I just found a way to get over it on my own, and that was to stand up to limits you put on yourself. There’s a great Beach Boys song that Carl Wilson sings: ‘Long Promised Road,’ from Surf’s Up. That is my theme song. What was the concept for Another Summer of Love? When we went to make this album, we said, ‘How do we want to make this?’ I literally said, ‘Let’s pretend that we made that first record in 1975, and we were a holdout—some band that was playing the Troubadour, got signed to Asylum, as so many bands did, and put out an album that flopped. And the record company said, ‘OK, you have one more chance. But we need you to compete with Cheap Trick. They’re so hot right now.’ And pretend we said, ‘Yeah, but we’re really more country rock.’ ‘Well, they used to be, too. Go do it.’ The Cars used to have a folk rock band. That was the fantasy we created. We have a label now [Alive Naturalsound] that we’re signed to, and they want to sell records. They want to make great art, but they do want to sell records. We decided we wanted to make a rock record that would have gotten on rock radio in 1978. And that was the vibe, you

know. Greg Shaw [late founder of Alive parent Bomp!] was one of the first people to put out anything by Beachwood, and he was another person who loomed heavy on this album. He made that music popular—that powerpop-but-maybe-a-little-country. I think he would have approved. The label loved it. The biggest compliment you can get from your record company is, ‘I listen to the record every day.’ And [Alive co-owner] Patrick [Boissel], through all our limitations as a band—we can’t go out and play all the time; we’re old— he doesn’t have a lot of money to make the packaging, the gatefold, because we don’t sell enough records. But God bless him, he told me he listens to the new album every day. He didn’t say that about the first album. I mean, you could quit then! I wanted to ask you about something, if you don’t mind—about the 90s. Oh yeah! It was the best time ever. I wrote about [Summer Hits frontman] Rex Thompson last year, after he died. I interviewed your brother [Summer Hits guitarist Darren Rademaker] for it, and a few other people. I honestly didn’t know anything about Rex before that. He left when you were young. It could have been a great movie, you know. Further and Summer Hits were so unsung. We were zealous. We were there for that scene. We had a pretty good following. We were on Creation Records, but if you asked someone about us, they don’t know who we are. Do you know what I mean? Was it because it didn’t fit with the zeitgeist of the time? Well, we were dicks. And we were really into drugs. We weren’t junkies but we were speed freaks and acid and ecstasy freaks. What blew my mind when I was learning about Rex was this idea that you guys in the 90s with Further and the Summer Hits … when everyone else was listening to Nirvana you were— —we were listening to Matthew’s Southern Comfort. Yeah. Rex invented that. And now, when you look at something as dumb as Coachella fashion and the Fleet Foxes and the floppy hats or whatever, what you all did is in that fabric of that. The boho 60s-and-70s cultural influence that seemed to dominate the last ten years—I realized you were all in some way responsible for that, for the cultural landscape now. That fact that you see that makes me happy. Because I want to go on the top of a mountain and shout it. Rex and Darren and me—there was a chemistry there. Rex got stuff from us, and we got so much from him. When we met him, he was very 60s, and he had a Prince Valiant haircut. We had these Florida thrift store finds, 70s t-shirts and Vans and the desert boots. We had this rock ‘n’ roll background, and punk and new wave, and Rex—man, he went so deep. It was beyond. There was this term, ‘Springfield mods.’ They read somwhere that back in England, the mods started listening to Buffalo Springfield. They started trading speed for acid. Rex followed suit. We were all doing so much speed, and we looked like whatever that makes you want to look like. Our shoes might have been a little dirtier, or whatever. But then everyone started taking a lot of acid and ecstasy and freaking out, and

thinking about how to dress and stylize your music. There was so much distortion—even the Summer Hits was buried in distortion. But if you listen to the songs and the lyrics, it’s flower power and it’s love and it’s California. Beaches and Canyons. Everything that we’re singing about now. And Rex was the closest thing I know to a guru. He loved Darren and me—he’d let us get away with… like, that hole in my shoe. [points to a hole in his shoe.] That would really irk him. But he’d go, ‘Hm, well … the zig-zags, they’re kind of cool.’ Also I’d tell him, ‘Well, I’m at work right now.’ But anyway, the night that the Summer Hits opened for Sebadoh—we keep bringing up Sebadoh, because it was the honesty in Lou’s songs that taught me to not be afraid. To not be afraid to sing about yourself? Oh, I used to write songs about numbers and colors and eyes in the ‘80s. You know what I mean? But Lou made it so I could sing about myself. So the Summer Hits were opening for Sebadoh at the Roxy, which is a big deal for me because Sebadoh was my favorite band. The Summer Hits are on my label—I have the singles and I’m putting them out. I think I even had a Sebadoh full length at the time I was going to be selling at the show. So the Summer Hits show up, and their fucking 517 boot cuts, desert boots, cowboy shirts, buckles—it was like everybody’s flannels were over. It was like, ‘Man, that’s so rad!’ I was so blown away by it. Rex used to give me clothes, but that night changed everything. All of us in Beachwood were there. That was 1996, and six months later we were starting Beachwood Sparks. Beachwood Sparks were basically going to be the mix tapes that Rex made, especially one tape Find the Sun. That was the one. That was the one. We wanted to sound like that. What was on it? That tape was so long. Man, it was Matthew’s Southern Comfort ‘When She Smiles,’ which was the main song. This band Argosy, which became Supertramp, had a song on there, ‘Imagine.’ There was a song called ‘Mascot’ that sounded like CCR a bit. There was a song by the Byrds. There was a band that sounded like the Dead. There were all these bands that sounded like other bands, and that also sound like what I’m still doing now. So it continues to reverberate. Yeah. My memory’s a little shot. I mean, if you put that tape on I would know all the words. All this was going down in Echo Park? That’s where you guys lived? Well, it was a triangle between some of our friends who lived on the West Side, Silver Lake and Echo Park, and our house in Burbank on Sparks Street. That was headquarters. And then we bought a house by the reservoir in Silver Lake, right across from Spaceland. We used to do our residencies there. That was so sick, because we played there every Monday, and there would be a line down to 7-11. Afterwards, the whole crowd would come up to the house, which was like this Brady Bunch tri-level house. Right next to John C. Reilly’s house. He was actually really cool about it. John C. Reilly? Yeah. I mean, he doesn’t live there now. He’s moved up. Though he was pretty big then, too. He was super nice, man. He never complained about the noise. I saw him in INTERVIEW


an elevator in San Francisco when we were playing that festival they have in the park. [Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.] I said, ‘Hey, man, I used to live right next to you,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, Beachwood, yeah!’ ‘Man, I’m so sorry, I just want to apologize.’ He goes, ‘Man, we rarely heard you.’ ‘You have got to be kidding me!’ There used to be 200 people in that house. And Rex would be holding court, out there on the patio. Everybody would be there—I mean, the kid from E.T., Murph from Dinosaur Jr., Evan Dando ... They would all be there, and Rex would probably be holding the drugs that everyone was waiting for. But he had a great way of making you wait for your line while telling you a story that was going to really blow your mind and help you. Is that L.A. recognizable anywhere now? [Long pause.] No. It’s totally different. It was another time. It’s probably the same way these dudes [gestures to the Troubadour] think about the late 60s sometimes. It would be like if Chris Hillman suddenly showed up. He’d be like, ‘What the fuck?’ It was a different time. But it was crazy, and it was so fun. Nobody knew what we were doing, but there were people around. I can’t help but think Rex would really like the new GospelbeacH record. I hate to say that. I know that’s weird. But he heard the last one and he thought it was cool. I mean, he loved that—he’d know where it was coming from, you know? He could see right through your intentions. Exactly. He loved that kind of music—FM rock. It’s a style, and it’s not just all about Styx and Foreigner and REO Speedwagon. I mean, I love those groups because I have to. Growing up, it’s what I knew. It would be like someone who grew up in the 90s saying they didn’t like Nirvana or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That’s when I grew up, and I can’t deny the effect of a band like Radiohead. Exactly. I listen to that music so much still. I’m still discovering 80s REO Speedwagon and … man, I never knew. They were really cool, man. Their songs were amazing. Do you think good songs are timeless? I think so, man. I mean, c’mon! ‘Keep On Lovin’ You’ or ‘Time For Me to Fly’—if Gene Clark sang that song, you’d be like, ‘Fuck, that’s amazing!’ But because it was some guy who doesn’t look that cool ... That’s what made the bands that made it in the 90s so big—the songs. Even Radiohead. The only shit by them I ever liked was the bends, and that’s all about the songs. And production, and a really nice sound. That was really good. They must miss that. I don’t understand why people get weird when they get older. I’m getting so normal. People get restless. I just don’t know what they have to prove. Why does Lindsey Buckingham have to try something avant-garde? Why can’t he just sing something pretty and cool? That’s where I’m at. I just feel like for those who care about me—which isn’t that many people—and for me especially, can I do what I like? But it’s always been like that. I felt like when some bands from England—Orange Juice especially, and Felt, and even Joy Division—reading the articles and listening to their music, I felt like maybe if we knew them, we would be friends, even though we were in Florida. It wasn’t like, ‘If I see KISS, I just want to touch the cape.’ INTERVIEW

Is this the first album you’ve made that was really just based around you—your singing and your songwriting? Well, both these GospelbeacH albums would be kind of like all my songs, even though I cowrote most of these songs with Trevor [Beld Jimenez] from Tall Tales and Silver Lining. One of the things that made this record really different was I wanted to challenge myself. Come up with ideas of how I was going to make it. Trevor, I met him and his band Tall Tales and Silver Lining and I thought, ‘Man, this guy has got such great energy.’ These songs sound like Jackson Browne and Tom Petty, and he was really into that shit. We became really good friends, and I asked him to play a gig with us, and after the gig we were talking, and I told him, ‘Hey, I have this song, and I was working on it, and why don’t you come over and help me work on it in the desert?’ I had started writing the day we heard about my mom, and it was slow and sad. The spark came from her. But instead of writing a song about your mother’s death that’s sad, why not take the inspiration in the chords and make it about what you want it to be about? I wanted it to be about our house in the desert, and I wanted the music to be about rock, straight ahead. I wanted it to be about to be on the radio, on 96 YNF, the Rock of Tampa Bay. So Trevor came over and I played it for him, and he immediately just sang the next verse. That’s ‘In the Desert’? Yeah. I have a hard time finishing things—I’m a procrastinator. I told him, ‘Come over again, dude.’ He comes over and we start writing. Some songs, he’d come over and write a verse, help me finish. Some songs, I was like, ‘Look, I have this idea—what do you think?’ We would write it on the spot. I’ve never done that before. Usually, it’s ‘I have this song, help me finish it.’ This was setting out to write— even though they were my songs—setting out to really write with somebody. Early Lennon/McCartney style. Yeah, man. Or like the way Chris Bell and Alex Chilton might have worked. Or Tony James and Billy Idol. Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, you know? Where they’re really chipping away at melodies together. Yes. My brother and I used to do that years ago, with Further. I’d bring him a song and hum a melody, and he would come up with lyrics. So I did that, and that’s another thing that makes this record different, and I think it makes it better. It’s not the Brent show. The album doesn’t feel that way to you? No. It says ‘Songs by Brent Rademaker and Trevor Beld Jimenez.’ And it’s produced by Jason Soda, who plays all the guitar on it. Even my parts … he would grab the guitar from me and say, ‘Fuck it, dude, you’re not playing it right.’ And John, the keyboard player, is all over it. I wanted more, actually, but Jason said, ‘Maybe on the next one.’ [laughs.] So it really is a collaborative record. And look at all the people who came down— not, like, famous people. But Pat [Sansone] from Wilco came down, he has the band the Autumn Defense too, with [Wilco bassist] John Stirratt. They sound like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Pat came down and played on ‘In the Desert.’ Do you like Wilco?

They’re another band that I didn’t really know at the time, but I love them now so much. Being There—I wish this new record had that kind of vibe. Do you know what I mean? Not like the new Wilco, because they’re so weird. I don’t know why they have to be so weird. I love Nels Cline, but I don’t think it’s really working for them. Yeah! If we had an avant-garde guitarist with us, it wouldn’t work. But I heard ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind)’ on the radio the other day. What a great tune. I remember that song, and I didn’t used to like it, but I love it now. The old Wilco songs are kinda growers. Yeah, they’re great. ‘Box Full of Letters.’ They were probably thinking the same thing I’m thinking now, back then. I’m thinking very Midwestern on this, even though it’s a West Coast record. Contrary to what everyone says. I can’t believe people will even dare to mention the Flying Burrito Brothers to me. There isn’t one song like that. I was surprised when I heard it, honestly. Not that I didn’t think you had the capacity for it, but it’s so in the mold of late-70s pop rock—it’s not what I was expecting. In Further, I had a song I brought to practice … we recorded it, it didn’t make an album, and it didn’t have a title. My brother called it ‘Petty Core.’ He said it sounded like Tom Petty, and that’s a good thing. We ended up selling it to that TV show My So-Called Life, and made money off it. You met Tom Petty, right? Yeah—when I worked on the video for ‘Wildflowers.’ That’s a hell of a record. Oh, man. It’s sick. The one thing I do like when people listen to Another Summer of Love is … not everyone says it sounds like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but people say it sounds like 90s Petty, and that really makes me happy because that Heartbreakers sound from ‘Refugee’ and ‘Need to Know’—it’s just so signature. But the other sound is not—it’s about them straightening things out. Did Tom Petty hear ‘Petty Core’? When I worked on that video, I brought him the CD—the My So-Called Life soundtrack. And I brought him a copy of Grime is Golden, one of the Further albums. He was so nice. He took the CDs and I took a picture with him. I still post it every year on his birthday. What do you think about now in terms of your own musical legacy? I’m still holding out for the fact that I could break the mold. I don’t want to be successful, I don’t care about the money. But I want people to know about the scene we came from. I want people to know about Rex. I want them to know about the music I love. I want them to know about the label that would take a chance to put our records out. I want them to know about Greg Shaw and Bomp! because Alive [Naturalsound]—we don’t fit on that label. They’re a blues, punk label. Ever since they discovered the Black Keys, that’s their niche. Heavy blues shit, which I don’t like—it hurts my ears. But we fit perfectly with all the Plimsouls and Jack Lee and all the reissues they do. A lot of people say to me, ‘Don’t you miss Sub Pop?’ I mean, Sub Pop’s fucking cool. But I did as much for Sub Pop as they did for us.

Sub Pop was a label in transition when Beachwood came around. When you have the head of A&R saying that we are the flagship band for the new sound of the label—that makes me happy. Because back then it was a dream to be on that label. They were putting out all the best shit, and it wasn’t just the grunge—all that Singles Club shit. They really were visionaries. Such visionaries. And just because Alive isn’t a ‘cool’ label like Omnivore—people always ask me what we’re doing [with them], and I say, ‘They believe in me.’ Everyone wants you to be on Matador or Drag City or whatever’s cool. And I’m, like, ‘They don’t want me anymore. This is the label that wants me, and they’re fucking cool.’ That’s what happened with Sub Pop, isn’t it? They were the right label at the right time, and it seemed to work for everybody. We turned down major labels to do that. We wouldn’t have been around a year. We would have been one of those bands, like the Thrills or something, that you just don’t see anymore. But we still play. You’re doing Beachwood shows this summer, right? Just two. When was the last time you guys played? I think it was at the Josh Schwartz benefit. That was 2014. I think that was the last time we played. It’s hard. We tried to practice the other day. I mean, Beachwood has a thing, a sound. Farmer Dave [Scher] is totally integral, and he’s going through a lot right now. It’s different. With GospelbeacH, I play with these guys who are older. The drummer’s like, ‘Pay me $100 every time I come to a show.’ I’m like, ‘That’s new for me, but you’re good, so I’ll do it.’ We just turn it on and go. Ben Reddell from the Grand Ole Echo is our bass player. The guy is a fucking country aficionado. He knows everything about country music—real country music. But the Beachwood lineup has stayed pretty static? Yeah, Beachwood is just the four of us. We had a thing where we had Neal and everybody, but we’re just trying these two shows as a four piece. We want to give people a little taste of 2000. Right before 9/11, we were poised to really be big. Shit, we were selling out the Troubadour, man. We didn’t even have a record out. But then something happened. I don’t even know what happened. What do you think happened? It’s kind of a hard luck story, to be honest. We were talking the other day after practice, and I said, ‘Hey, why did we break up the first time?’ And someone else said, ‘Well, we thought you wanted to break up.’ And I said, ‘No, I just got addicted to heroin.’ ‘Why’d you do that?’ ‘I don’t know. I thought you guys hated me.’ And they said, ‘No, I just wanted to move to Seattle,’ or whatever. You know, after a tour, everyone hates each other. We had done this long U.S. and European tour, and we quit. It was really successful, and finally we made money. It was fun. People were at the shows. My God, it was like a dream come true. We played London and Kevin Shields and J Spaceman were backstage eating our food. I was so stoked. I know GospelbeacH will 59


never do that, but I don’t think enough people have seen us and heard us. I talk to people all the time who are like, ‘Hey, what are you up to?’ I mean, fuck, I have two albums out. They just don’t know. I don’t think we’ll ever be that again. But, I think there’s a big chance for people to hear it and like it. Speaking of Sub Pop, I thought [Beachwood Sparks’ 2012 album] The Tarnished Gold was the best Beachwood record. I love that record so much. It should have been huge, man. I love them all, but that one has a special place for me. Well, you know, now we get to have it forever. It still sells, and we make money off it. You know, it’s so funny, I was watching Fargo—do you ever watch that show? The new season is awesome. It’s got Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and she’s all grown up. You know, we had that song in that movie. ‘By Your Side,’ the Sade cover. That’s what made us even with Sub Pop. We owed Sub Pop so much money until that came out. People bought [the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack] just for that song. So we got even with them, and then we did The Tarnished Gold. Never in the history of rock ‘n’ roll has a band made a record for a label and not come out in debt, and made money right off the bat. Oh my God. We got the statement and it wasn’t in the red. You owed them a lot before that? I made a record for Sub Pop in the mid-2000s [Frausdots’ Couture, Couture, Couture] but it was right in the middle of my nightmare. It was going to be an homage to the bands I was talking about … what they call postpunk now. I kind of fucked it up. I still get statements. I still owe them money on that. And I didn’t even tour, and it only cost $5,000 to make. I don’t know where all the money went to. I think it was one trip to CMJ we went on. Ha. I swear to God, we all stayed at these nice hotels, and I was scoring smack—I had never done this in my life, but I was a hardcore junkie, and really close to death a bunch of times. I am so lucky to be here. I’m not kidding, And I only tell this for people to know that there is life beyond this. This happened when I was in my late 30s. I was as hardcore as you can get. I have really gnarly stories. Stories you could make a movie of, easily. We went to New York for CMJ—we played a pretty good show, actually—but I remember being so close to getting busted in the park buying smack. I think it was the last straw with Sub Pop. I remember calling them and saying, ‘I need $500 for the drummer for the studio!’ And they were like, ‘OK, we’ll FedEx it.’ The money was obviously for drugs. So the guy said, ‘Hey, I just sent Brent $500 for the Frausdots project,’ and someone told him, ‘Wait a minute, that’s all paid—they’re not even in the studio.’ The drummer calls Sub Pop and says, ‘Hey, Brent said he was going to pay me for these studio sessions and he never paid me.’ And that was the last straw. I didn’t talk to them for years, until we did The Tarnished Gold. They had had it with me. I saw [Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan] Poneman at South by Southwest once, and I said to him, ‘Hey man, how come you didn’t promote my record?’ I was so fucked up. And 60

he said, ‘Because you didn’t tour.’ I was like, ‘Oh, sorry, I just feel like you guys abandoned me.’ He just said, ‘No.’ He totally dissed me, and he was doing what he should have. It made me go home, and that was one of the things that made me really think about what I was doing. Before that, everybody was so nice to me. Would you tell me one crazy story, at least? This one is hardcore. I feel like this could be a scene out of a movie. So if you’re a junkie, you have all these needles. I had a girlfriend who was germaphobic. She’s the one who taught me not to use your needles over and over. So, I have four Hefty construction bags of used needles. Not like they’re poking out … they’re broken off. It’s the syringes. All full of the stuff that could put you in jail. And I’m driving around with four of those in a car with no tags that a speed dealer gave me because he wanted to manage Frausdots. He was this scary guy in Highland Park who lived in this scary part of the neighborhood that’s nice now, but didn’t used to be nice. I went over there, and he said, ‘I’m going to get you off heroin. Smoke this.’ And he hands me a big glass pipe. First he hit it, and I couldn’t even see him with the smoke. Smoking speed. That’s the scariest thing ever. But I did it. And he said, ‘Take this car.’ The ignition was all hanging out. He said, ‘Oh, you don’t need the key—just use a screwdriver.’ So I’m driving around in that car with four bags of needles, looking for a needle exchange. And I’m scared that the cops are scoping out the needle exchange. And you were high on speed? I was high on everything. I’d been awake for days, totally smacked out of my mind. And living in the grimmest situation. Grim. But surprisingly, no one was stopping me. That was the weirdest thing. I’m driving around with the bags, and I drive away from the needle exchange because I’m so scared the cops are going to bust me because I’m paranoid. I’m looking for a place to dump the needles. I end up somewhere kind of in Lincoln Heights, maybe. I pull over to what I think was an industrial area, and it’s like 10 in the morning. I run and I throw the bag in the dumpster. It’s a really nice garbage can. I close it, and I look up and I’m at an elementary school. I just went, ‘Oh!’ I got in my car and took off like, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead. They’re gonna find me.’ They’re going to dust the dumpster for fingerprints or something. Someone’s going to open it and say, ‘What the fuck is this!’ and look at the camera. These days, I never would have gotten away with that. Anyway, I was thinking of that story. That was the lowest of the low. That was in 2004. 2004 and 2005 and the end of 2003—those two-and-a-half years were bad years. But they have a lot to do with what’s going on now. It’s not just about addiction. I learned so much about being a person and being in a band and being in a relationship. It broke me down to nothing. Instead of being this insufferable guy on tour, like, ‘You didn’t help load the van, you fucking asshole!’ I was pretty insufferable in this self-righteous way in the past. In my relationships, too. Even though I meant well and had the right intentions, I know it could be kind of hard on the people around me, and I didn’t realize it. Even in the studio, I’d be like, ‘No, it’s gotta sound like Tom Petty!’ It doesn’t. I mean, it already does sound like

Tom Petty! [laughs] I think those two years taught me a lot about my life. It’s not that grateful-to-be-alive kind of thing because I’ve had that—I’ve lived so many years where I didn’t care if I lived or died. I don’t know why, I just didn’t even face it, and it was really irresponsible because there’s something more to life than your own life. Drugs can numb you to reality, too, to the point of not caring if you die. Right. And feeling that I made it through that and feeling pretty clear-headed and going into this project and feeling like it’s worthwhile—I like it. I hope people dig it. I dig it. I’m glad you picked out the thing about home because it’s true. It was the one thing after all that that I found that … that’s where it really is, man. There’s a song that didn’t make the album called ‘Home is Where the Heart Beats.’ There are two songs that are going to be on a 7”—‘Dreaming’ and ‘Change of Heart’—and they’re going to be mail order only, for the Bomp! people. And then there’s a Neal Casal cover—since he couldn’t be on the album, we decided to play one of his songs that Ryan Adams used to cover. I was listening to Ryan Adams’ new album and thinking it was forging a similar FM kind of thing too. I can see the similarity for sure. Which is cool, you can see that. So I wanted to do a Neal Casal song but in the style of Ryan Adams. So we’re saving that for something special. And then there’s another song that’s all about what you were talking about. It sings about down south, it talks about being out here. Home is where the heart beats, you know. Have you met Ryan Adams? I actually talked to him online recently. He came to a Beachwood show [once], back in the early 2000s. He asked us to be his band. We said, ‘Maybe!’ It sounded great. We thought, ‘Oh, man, this is going to be great. We’re going to be like The Band, we’ll back up him like Dylan, and we’ll open as Beachwood.’ But there was a stipulation, and Ryan doesn’t know to this day [that it was the reason Beachwood didn’t tour with him]—because his feelings were really hurt—that we had to play acoustic to open. Beachwood couldn’t rock. We had to play acoustic and then be electric for him. That was the stipulation? That was what we were told. So we said no. All these years he was going around saying—or thinking—that we just dissed him. The other day I wrote him on Instagram and said, ‘I really love your new record.’ And he goes, ‘Ah, yeah, man, that night at the Mercury Lounge, or whatever, that really stung.’ And, I said, ‘No, dude, it’s fine. Man, you should have talked to me!’ He talked to the other guys. And I didn’t get the story straight—I thought they dissed him at the show. But my memory’s so bad, I forgot that we all said that we would do it until we found out we had to play acoustic. So I didn’t even tell him that, I just said, ‘Oh, water under the bridge, dude.’ And he said, ‘Maybe my enthusiasm came off weird.’ I told him it wouldn’t have worked out, and that he won out because he got Neal Casal. Meaning we were all pretty crazy but Neal is so chill and a superior musician. But it’s cool to know that people who are successful and famous still want something else. And he thought we were the modern day Grateful Dead, which is cool.

And who knows—maybe you wouldn’t be making the music you’re making now if it had gone down. I can’t say enough about how centered and comfortable Another Summer of Love sounds. I like the feeling of the old shoe. But you know, at this point, that’s what this music is. I have this cool sweater that my sister in law gave me, and everyone always has to touch it. I wear it to all the festivals and it holds you like that. That’s the record. The chord progressions and the sound of the guitar, the major sevenths and the lyrics, and that beat. It doesn’t tear your head off, and it doesn’t make you float. It’s right in the comfort zone. I dig that music so much. I’d do anything to go back in time, and be like … be who I am, in that scene. Out here. You know? Even when we came out here in the 80s, we were living that. When Darren and I got signed to Geffen they said, ‘These guys are a throwback to the Troubadour scene, they play Byrds covers.’ We’ve always been associated with that. If you watch the movie Dazed and Confused, that was my high school life, my junior high life. That’s why some of this music that came out in 80 and 81, like Hard Promises—I didn’t burn out on it then. I worked in a van shop, customizing vans, and it was like, ‘This is the new one from Petty,’ and you’d hear ‘Here Comes My Girl,’ or ‘Woman in Love.’ I’d be like, ‘I don’t know if I love this song or I hate it, it’s so great.’ The station that played it was so cool, they played Cheap Trick and they’d play Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, and then they’d play the Records’ ‘Starry Eyes.’ Radio was amazing then. It was fucking the best. That’s why these old timers write [songs like] ‘Radio Days’ or ‘Raised on Radio.’ I was born in the 60s. But we already did our big 60s trip, you know what I mean? I’m not into the 60s right now. I love the peace and love, but some of the music, I just don’t feel comfortable playing it. It’s just me. But people will think, ‘You’re crazy, because making a 70s record in 2017 is…’ Not really that different. Right. And I called it ‘Another Summer of Love.’ I just had to make sure that the guy doing the artwork—I said, ‘Please, nothing psychedelic.’ Because it doesn’t mean that. Look at the girl on the cover. To me, it seems so literal. Every summer could be a summer of love. Think about being a kid in the summer— you go on vacation, you fall in love. It never changes until you get married, but actually it still stays the same, because you can still go on vacations and … It’s like a great song. It never gets old, you just discover new things about it. Love doesn’t age.  GOSPELBEACH WITH THE EASY LEAVES, PAIGE CALICO AND MAYEUX AND BROUSSARD ON SUN., JUNE 18, AT THE GRAND OLE ECHO AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 3 PM / $5 / ALL AGES. THEECHO. COM. AND ON WED., JUNE 21, AT DESERT NIGHTS AT THE STANDARD HOTEL, 8300 SUNSET BLVD., WEST HOLLYWOOD. STANDARDHOTELS. COM. GOSPELBEACH’S ANOTHER SUMMER OF LOVE IS OUT FRI., JUNE 16, ON ALIVE NATURALSOUND. VISIT GOSPELBEACH AT FACEBOOK.COM/ GOSPELBEACHBAND. INTERVIEW


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ALBUM REVIEWS

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COMICS Curated by Tom Child

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MAP Where to find L.A. RECORD

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LIVE PHOTOS Edited by Debi Del Grande

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WAYBACK MACHINE Reissues by Ron Garmon

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THE INTERPRETER: JOSIAH STEINBRICK Curated by Chris Ziegler NEW ORDER at THE SANTA BARBARA BOWL by DEBI DEL GRANDE


ALBUM REVIEWS a classic genre, The Broken Hearts establish themselves as interested in evolving their sound and pushing things forward. —Simon Weedn

THE BROKEN HEARTS Lost in Little Tokyo Lolipop

Only six months after his ‘80sstyle pop rock release Point Of No Return, Lollipop Records mover and shaker Wyatt Blair has returned with his friend and collaborator Louis Filliger as the Broken Hearts to deliver a fresh set of tunes on their debut album, Lost In Little Tokyo. Though the new record sees Blair returning to the lush sounds of psychedelic rock and roll, he hasn’t quite shaken the 80s off entirely and the results are solid. Where Point Of No Return wore its influence on its sleeve— in bright neon-flourescent letters—the inspirations behind Lost In Little Tokyo appear a bit more subtle. Instead of channeling chorused guitar tones and Phil Collins-inspired drum samples, the Broken Hearts seem to take their cues more from the great Jeff Lynne produced albums of the 80s; mixing the epic vastness of late 70s arena rock with sensuous dripping-wet atmospheric production. In its greatest moments, Lost In Little Tokyo sounds like the best examples of 80s output from a legendary classic rock artist, and really the only weakness in the album comes when the record goes all-in on 80s clichés. Songs like “Point Of No Return” and “Wings Of Angels” push a little too hard into synthwave and power balladry in a way that isn’t necessarily bad, but sounds a bit removed from the rest of the record. With Lost In Little Tokyo, the Broken Hearts create something bigger and more expansive in both sound and vision than nearly any of their Southern California psych rock peers. Instead of clinging to recreating the most pure version of 62

with the acoustic “Dichotomy” and expanding from this point. There’s even a suite on the record, which is a welcome surprise. But I can’t get away from the emotional component: a search seems to be taking place, perhaps seeking of catharsis and release, which seems to manifest in the meanderings of “Dead Weight”, the penultimate number on the album. Dichotomy Desaturated is a journey through the heart of a lonely hunter, in pursuit of clarity as well as agency. —Nathan Martel

builds like the best of any song the Cold War Kids have written. After this many years it’s hard to understand how the Cold War Kids are still putting out songs with such strong hooks and lyrics. This a testament to the band’s ongoing dedication to finding new life in their sound. —Daniel Sweetland

DIAMOND ORTIZ Baby Lotion EP Needle to the Groove

CFM

Dichotomy Desaturated In The Red Charlie Moothart has returned with his second solo record for In The Red. Most everybody knows Charlie as being in various bands with a certain much-loved L.A. garage-psych artist, but CFM is Charlie’s and Charlie’s alone. On Dichotomy Desaturated, Charlie seems to be channeling a feeling I can only describe as weariness. In no way is this to suggest that this album is unfocused and boring; it is suggesting that Charlie might have had it with the human condition, or—more directly—people. This disillusionment has folded itself into the music Charlie is creating here. There seems to be a dislocation from others that has served as a focus to make this work of art more whole in some respects. This album expands the sound a bit for a CFM record, beginning

COLLAPSING SCENERY COLD WAR KIDS L.A. Divine Capitol Records

Cold War Kids are at it again and this time around the band has stripped it back to basics— the album feels like a good mix of all the things they’ve come up with over the years. There are gorgeous and beautifully soaring tracks here, like “Can We Hang On” and “L.A. River,” but there are also some of those classic Cold War jangle-and-stomp vibes, like on the outstanding “No Reason to Run.” It’s a pounding anthemic song that lifts up and

ALBUM REVIEW SUBMISSIONS

L.A. RECORD invites all local musicians to send music for review­—anything from unreleased MP3s and demos to finished full albums. Send digital to fortherecord@ larecord.com and physical to:

P.O. Box 21729 Long Beach, CA 90801 If you are in a band and would like to advertise your release in L.A. RECORD, email advertise@larecord.com

“Straight World Problems” 12” self-released

Collapsing Scenery—like Zappa’s quote about opening the theatre curtain to reveal the brick wall behind?—turn in six unsettled versions of this disco-not-disco song about how the new thing is too often just the same old thing, which is too often wasn’t even a good thing to begin with. There’s a little Talking Heads here and some Arthur Russell in the melodies, but there’s an idiosyncratic darkness and detachment, too—it’s purposefully off-key when it could easily be too smooth and deliberately distant when it could easily be too cloying. Musically, you can come from LCD Soundsystem but Scenery deploy deeper dissatisfaction when they ask why a true future is so late in arriving: “A new era is upon us, so why’s it feel just like the straight world?” As for remixes: Oliver dials up the pop aspects, Tom of England’s “Trouble With Dub” mix gets into a menacing Dennis Bovell space—recommended—and Chris Holmes and Certain Creatures turn in divergent but bracing celebrations of noise. The closing Henri mix is a motorik race to the horizon with a cinematic final minute—it ends so suddenly but what doesn’t? —Chris Ziegler

If there’s ever a Pootie Tang II, Diamond Ortiz has his soundtrack audition tape ready. The playful Baby Lotion EP, a Record Store Day exclusive from Needle to the Groove Records, is all dolled up in Martin Lawrence’s signature typeface and boasting a tracklist full of freakiness. “Girl U Nastee”, “Reeki Reeki” and “Ima Rock Yo World” make Mr. Diamond’s salacious intentions clear, but with a jocular exaggeration that renders them joyful, celebrating antecedents like cosplay. In the second track, “Courvoisier”, Bel Biv Devoe are name-checked over a trick from the Zapp and Roger playbook. The self-aware cheekiness laced throughout the EP makes the campy delivery charming, winking with every giggling girl, sampled moan and lick-lipping robot voice. “Freak Nasty & Classy” is hilariously romantic, as Ortiz promises foot rubs and celebrates his lady love. On the interlude, Jamie Foxx’s mid-coital bible verses from 1997’s Bootie Call pop in for a laugh and give way to more lusty promises from the focused Ortiz. The EP is a syrupy missive to and for all the lovers out there, as soft and smooth as its namesake. —Christina Gubala

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DRÆMINGS self-titled self-released

DRÆMINGS’ self-titled EP tells the story of a band setting out on their own: after breaking with Sumerian Records, the band returned to indie status and unified as a band. Out of this rebirth came a collection of songs that are both dark and danceable and explore what it means to find your voice and use it. Thorson’s driving and thrumming bass is a high point throughout the album, especially on “Fire in Hell.” Christopher Vick’s ‘80s goth guitar tone reigns supreme on “Holy Land,” a catchy anthem against fascism. Nathaniel Meeks’ drumming unifies the sound, and shines on “Great Escape.” The 6-song EP shows the range of singer Kimi Recor’s vocals: from bounding energy on “Great Escape” to soft whispers and distorted wails on “Drowning World,” her voice is commanding and memorable long after listening. When she sings, “this is our home” on “Holy Land” Recor might as well be staking her claim in the scene; this group is carving a space for themselves in Los Angeles, and hopefully we’ll soon be hearing a lot more of what DRÆMINGS has to say. —Julia Gibson

this become such a bad phrase?!) is a thread running through this album. There exists an urgency to assert themselves as individuals in the minefield that is late capitalism—the need and desire to be acknowledged on their own terms drives the compulsive feel of each track. But look—this album is damn fun as well. It’s almost as though the notions of identity politics invite one to dance; the exhaustion, acuteness and confusion of being a human being makes one want to act out in a certain way, and French Vanilla provides the soundtrack. This album reminds use it’s OK to be human, flawed, fun, bewildered and the like. Yet, that needn’t be the source of alienation. French Vanilla makes one to feel like dancing while reading Simone de Beauvoir, which is probably the best way to spend a Friday night these days anyway. —Nathan Martel

self-titled Danger Collective Should it had ever happened that New York No Wave (think James Chance or ESG) ever hooked up with Olympia, Washington, in the early 90’s, the child would that would have resulted would be French Vanilla. To be clear, this is no bastardized version of these two aesthetic poles—French Vanilla is uniquely their own and have crafted a identity that’s nowhere near derivative. Speaking of identity, the narrative of self-defining identity politics (when did ALBUM REVIEWS

audience, asking for raised fists “if you stand against police brutality, racism, government oppression…” In this light, we can see the album’s title as something of a double entendre: a vitriolic indictment of modern America, as well as a classic hip-hop “world takeover” bid. It’s one of the smartest dichotomies this year—this may be their debut, but Ho99o9’s contemporaries already have some catching up to do. —Zach Bilson

JADE JACKSON Gilded ANTI-

HO99O9

United States of Horror Caroline

GOLD STAR

Big Blue Autumn Tone Records

FRENCH VANILLA

of the best songs on the album. Big Blue is accomplished, polished and edited without ever getting close to an ounce of the soul or humanity being pressed out of it. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel romantic, bold, bohemian (“If Ever You’re Lonesome” may be the most tender bootycall song of all time), and ready to live a life unattached—in spite of Rabenreither’s explicit warning in “It’s Not Easy.” “It’s not easy when you’re always on your own,” he sings, addressing the loneliness and heartache that too often come from a shambolic existence. “It ain’t easy when you’re always on the run.” —Madison Desler

Though the title Big Blue may or may not be a nod to the Big Pink of The Band’s legend and lore, Marlon Rabenreither’s style of folky, romantic songwriting— with the slightest tilt of the hat to country music—owes more to Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, than Robbie Robertson and the boys. Tracks like “Come With Me” and “Analisa Knows” mightily echo Ryan Adams’ particular brand of alt-country Americana where affecting, harmonicaaccented melodies mingle with little worlds where the people are all drifters who find solace in each other for an evening or two. Another influence comes out to play on songs like “The Strangler,” and “St. Vincent De Paul’s,” which you can practically envision Bob Dylan performing. Riddle-like couplets (“We were never lovers / We were more than friends), and the very “Girl From The North Country” sentiment of “If you see my baby tell her she’s on my mind” make “Deptford High St.” the most obvious bow—and one

L.A.-via-NJ duo Ho99o9 might not be the first to fuse punk and rap, but they’re certainly the best at doing each to its own gleeful extreme. Their debut LP, United States of Horror, is all about extremes: extreme heaviness, extreme braggadocio, extremely low fidelity—think “busted PA at a buckwild Halloween party.” Rapper/producers theOGM and Eaddy, then, would be the dudes who grab the aux and spin Thee Oh Sees, Future and Slayer backto-back, which isn’t far off from the neck-snapping late-album run of “City Rejects” -> ”Hydrolics” -> ”New Jersey Devil.” As far as direct influences, however, the pair are quick to mention Rob Zombie, with whom they share not only a penchant for classic horror flicks, but for paying open tribute to both high and low culture—“Street Power” pits John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween theme against grimy 808s, while “Knuckle Up”’s slithering electropunk breaks into a mosh-ready chorus of “Let the bodies hit the floor!” Like Zombie’s films, USoH thrives on the infectious energy of artists who still wear their fandom proudly on their sleeves. But this doesn’t exclude them from getting serious—the thrashing title track includes an address to an imagined

Lucinda Williams, Neko Case and Hope Sandoval are some of the heroines of Americana, and now Jade Jackson has come to the scene with a heavy heart, some broken-down songs, and small town charm. With the help of Amy Watkins (Nickle Creek) on a number of songs and some gorgeous backing tracks from her band of fellow small-town kids, Jackson has put together an album of folky and Americana-tinged country that seems destined to be a hit. But don’t be fooled by the acoustic guitars and pretty vocals because she also gets angsty and angry: “I grew up my father’s daughter / he said don’t take no shit from no one ...” is a brutal and blunt opening to an album of heartbreakingly open and honest songs about life and love and the things we all know. Produced by Mike Ness. the album has an underlying aggressiveness but also humble and understated storytelling. It’s a solid collection of stories and images of a time and place a little outside of the modern era. —Daniel Sweetland

KEVIN MORBY City Music Dead Oceans

When I first heard the colossal nineminute song “Harlem River” by Kevin Morby—the title track to his 2013 debut release—I was instantly absorbed by the music. The song was long, winding, melodic, and downbeat; it built up this feeling of a summer of cool where one was invincible and anything was possible. It was the kind of song that calls you back to a time in your life that may or may not have existed. It evoked nostalgia in its purest form. Over the years Morby has time and again released albums as well as surprise singles that have done similar work with encapsulating feelings and emotions of society on a larger scale. (Note his recent single “Beautiful Strangers.”) 2017 finds Morby releasing his newest LP, City Music, and captures more of that gripping nostalgia he is known for, but also expands into different themes and territories. While the songs tap into more of the pain of nostalgia, this album plays with both sides of the coin. The songs aim to express the experiences Morby has come upon through all the cities he has ever loved, and the loneliness of the city and the connection it can bring as well. The album opens up with the heavy and slow keyboard based track “Come To Me Now” that (as usual) is driven by Morby’s deep and soulful vocals. At times the music and his voice quiver as he sings about the kind of love that is so deep that it can be overwhelming, something you chase that echoes through the rest of your life. The track “Aboard My Train” is an ode to the time in one’s life where you first get to explore the bigger picture of your little world—in this case riding the N.Y. subway system and adventuring through the city. The song gives elegy to the simplicity of childhood: even if there are major problems in your life, you are not always so cognizant of them yet, so there is still opportunity to try to find beauty. Just as quickly as the album builds you up it can bring you back down with songs like “Dry Your Eyes” a soulful blues type song with slow and simple harmonic guitar riffs and brush stick drumming. There are backup singers humming sorrowfully and the closing bridge of the song features a heart-wrenching guitar solo that slowly fades away as quickly as it came. Rounding out the amazing tracks on this album are the songs “Night Time,” which tells of the voyeuristic and lonely feeling of missed connections and emptiness that the city can evoke 63


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★ NEW THIS ISSUE!


when you are looking out through your window, and the closing track “Downtown Lights” which is a downbeat narrative about losing a loved one. Par for the course: this album is a revelation musically and another reason to become an instant fan of this man’s music. —Zachary Jensen

guy Echo Park girls are hoping to see at the dark end of the bar—not that they would have much of a shot. If he’s anything like his songs, he’ll be cutting out—back on the road soon enough. —Madison Desler

MONIQUEA Blackwavefunk MoFunk Records

LITRONIX KOREY DANE Chamber Girls Innovative Leisure

“Hard times/Everyone lies/Love dies,” Long Beach troubadour Korey Dane sings in the track “Hard Times.” Sounds pretty bleak, but the song itself comes off as more of a celebration—an understanding and acceptance that the lows in life are just as important as the highs, and essential to the human experience that Dane likes to explore. With the Gram Parsons guitars of “Heart Out West” and his heavylidded, aged-whiskey delivery on songs like “Jay & The Coyote” and “Half Asleep,” Dane is continuing to burrow into his own place in the Americana sphere. He’s striving for the unpretentious American poetry of mid-period Springsteen or John Prine and sometimes gets close with winners like “Swinging for the cheap seats / While you show the world your front teeth” in “Always,” or the guy who’s “lookin’ like a man with a $100 plan” in “The Knife Got Gold.” The well-treaded mythos of America—the rambler, the wanderer, a full tank of gas and a desert highway—are inescapable here. Each song conjures up images of golden light from the setting sun, shimmering blacktop, Dane and a pretty brunette sitting in a charmingly run-down roadside eatery— lens flares abound. Yet it never feels put-on. The music—largely recorded live — eems to flow from Dane. It’s who he is. The E-Street organ on “Charlie Handsome” helps make it a standout, while the rust-covered guitar solo and Jeff Buckley-esque vocals on “Down In A Hole” may make the slow shuffle the best song on the album. With his understated good looks, honey voice, and poet’s heart, Dane is the

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Pump the Gas Porch Party Records Kevin Litrow’s subversive synthpop project Litronix has been kicking around for years now, and his debut LP Pump the Gas is not only worth the wait, but a product of it. Written and recorded over the four years Litrow spent living above a gas station at the corner of Venice & Lincoln, its tales of West L.A. slackers, bums, and self-righteous hippies will be as familiar to Angelenos as our semiweekly stops at fuel stations. Lead single “Are You New Age?” kicks the album off with soothing pads and ramshackle drum machines, Litrow suggesting to “Throw a party, practice happiness!” It isn’t until later that his sardonic selfhelp caricature comes into full view: “I don’t recall, what’s your name? / 5-HTP, Tryptophan!” It isn’t all condescension, of course —while “Good Life” has Litrow bemoaning “waking up inside a world that parties all day long,” he concedes he’s “healthy as can be—love surrounds my soul!” The track’s stretched-out krautrock groove is assisted by producer Avi Buffalo, who has been recording and performing with the band for a couple of years now. Seen as a duo, it might be tempting to compare Litronix to lo-fi pioneers Suicide, though Litrow and Buffalo’s fondness for dueling guitar solos (“New Roads”) and angelic falsetto runs (“Hole in the Wall”) suggest an alternate reality where Rev and Vega eventually joined the ranks of the new wave giants they influenced. Where Pump the Gas’s infectious experiments end up taking Litrow remains to be seen—at the very least, hopefully away from Venice & Lincoln. —Zach Bilson

The electric purple fingernails gracing the cover of Moniquea’s sophomore release from MoFunk records are enchantingly foreboding, as there is a purple sheen to Blackwavefunk that scintillates. Moniquea’s message to her audience is delivered immediately—the first track “Checkin’ Out” features nearly effect-free vocals setting the tone with, “Take me as I am or else I’m checkin’ out.” She does not suffer fools, made clear on tracks like “Check Your Sources” and “Famous”, and the genius production surrounding her is held to her standard accordingly. As Mo oscillates from punctuated urgency to sultry melisma to a Nenah Cherry-esque flow, she heats up every breakdown thrown her way by producers and label mates XL Middleton, Eddy Funkster and Turquoise Summers. She has distilled the finest elements of late ‘80s/early ‘90s where-R&B-meets-top-40-radio and crafted eight earworms that flirt with new wave flavors. She weaves through the phases of relationships lyrically, worrying about how a fresh crush is destined to break her heart, struggling to realign a relationship that has run out of steam, letting loose and letting her love come down. Blackwavefunk is distinctly Moniquea, yet infused with her knowledge and appreciation of godmothers Chaka, Whitney and Janet, making for fine-ass summer party music. —Christina Gubala

NITE JEWEL Real High Gloriette

“I’m afraid of losing sense of who I am,” Ramona Gonzalez—a.k.a. Nite Jewel—croons in the opening track of her latest release, Real High. Her fears are unfounded; with Real High, she has arguably created her most authentic work yet. While Nite Jewel’s 2015 album Liquid Cool was a stripped down departure from her pop album One Second of Cool, Real High stylistically finds the perfect balance between the two previous releases, fusing full, slick pop production with an eclectic sound. With help from collaborators including Julia Holder and DâmFunk, Gonzalez has created a set of songs that are extremely catchy, eerily seductive, and undeniably cool. Her breathless voice dances over hooky synths and slick drum beats, and injects each track with vulnerability through lyrics that try to understand her relationship to herself and to others. The tracks are diverse: between the chill futuristic ambiance of the title track, the retro pop danceability of “2 Good 2 Be True” and the delicate yearning of “Obsession,” the album stays true to the late 90’s R&B/electro/funk fusion sound that she does so well, and remains fresh the whole way through. —Julia Gibson

sweet middle ground on his most recent full length Nothing At All. This album shows off the more nostalgic and sentimental side of the crooner and it works to great effect. There is a longing and sorrow that is prevalent throughout the album. Some tracks play with this longing directly, such as the title track that is ode to soaring lounge songs with string and horn players rising to a crescendo as Bergman sings about “the awful tears” associated with heartache and knowing “nothing at all”. Other songs play with the sorrow a little more subtly; “California My Lover” can be taken as an ode to sunshine state until you place it in reference to all the other songs that weave a tale of lost love and heartache—at that point the song becomes a love letter to a lost love as Bergman as relocated to the East Coast for a time. As usual Bergman is a man who excels at weighty songs and the highlight on the album for me would have to be “Bored by the Changes and Living”. The song is a great example of what Bergman does best – sing. At the heart of his talents Bergman is a storyteller and a weaver of emotions and the song does exactly that. As usual Bergman has created another musical gem that is a necessary addition to any record collection. —Zachary Jensen

PAUL BERGMAN PINKY PINKY Nothing At All self-released Paul Bergman is a musician I’ve come to appreciate for the timelessness that his sound evokes. He could just have easily been found making music in the 1950s as he is today. That is not to say his music is revivalist; more so his music is just steeped in the deep roots and traditions of rock and Americana. While his debut album 1 carried a dark and brooding heaviness backed by the toughness behind the rasp of Bergman’s voice that nodded to the man in black, the follow up EP Romantic Thoughts played with the opposite spectrum and included some pop elements that harkened back to Phil Spector-era music. Through his experimentation and exploration, Bergman seems to have come to a

self-titled EP Innovative Leisure

It’s always been said that rock and roll is truly for the young. If that’s the case, the three youngsters in Pinky Pinky still have plenty of time to raise hell. On their debut EP, Anastasia Sanchez, Isabelle Fields, and Eva Chambers prove that they may be super young, but they’re also timelessly cool—the sonic equivalent of rolling up in an old El Camino wearing matching jackets. They kick things off with the satisfying garage crunch and Ty Segall heaviness of “Ram Jam,”guaranteed to get heads banging across the Los Angeles Basin. Then comes “Hot Under The Habit” which starts out sounding like an idling muscle car, then cruises down lamp-lit ALBUM REVIEWS


streets and dark alleys looking for Catholic-guilt-causing action. “She married God and made me too / but devil I can’t stop thinking about you,” Sanchez sings, minting a new classic of rock and roll revolt. With just four songs they show impressive versatility, more than some wellestablished L.A. acts have displayed across multiple albums, let alone on their maiden voyage. The contrast between the spooky “Spiders” and the sweet, fuzzy sunshine of “The Nest” drives this home the best. The former combines 60s girl group drama with the spine-chilling question “What did it do to my face?!” while the latter is a breezy cover of a little-known Jeannie Piersol song. Pinky Pinky sticks pretty close to her version, swapping the weirdly mixed sitar for a Growlers-style guitar riff, but keeping the charming Brady Bunch backing vocals at the end. It’s a simple song, the best kind for delivering worn but salient notions like, “Your frightened parents / They might put you down / They might try to say you’re bad / So do not be the way they want you to / Their graceless ways are all too sad.” It’s an enternally youthful mantra, by a band that would be cool in any era. Long live rock. Long live Pinky Pinky. ­—Madison Desler

REARRANGED FACE A Refaced Ranger Mock Records

Rearranged Face provides the landscape for just that: a rearranging of ideas regarding music and its potential. This album is distinct in its approach to creating and challenging the aesthetic models we come to from when engaging music. Mark Lee and company have touched a nerve—no, they have burrowed into the nerve and set up a home. This album is a hurricane of sound and concepts, forming a passionate delivery system of art rock with undertones of (if you dig deep enough) pop and post-punk notions. The listener is choked with a whirl and torment of sound, creating a dissonant palette that is unlike anything else

ALBUM REVIEWS

Dion

Kickin’ Child Norton One normally thinks of unreleased albums by major artists as containing some kind of raw uncompromising vision or similar commercial antimatter, but this unearthed LP shows such ain’t always the case. By the early Sixties, upperlevel music execs grew unalterably convinced that rock ‘n’ roll had no staying power and its young fans would soon slide back into a kind of mildly updated Forties pop as they grew older and less energetic. Yes, I know this sounds appallingly dumb, but such was Big Think of corporate capitalism even in its palmiest Mad Men days. This wisenheimer brainstorm was quite obvious to listeners spinning the radio dial in the ‘60s and ‘70s and indeed furnished much of the premise for the 1978-82 cult TV comedy WKRP in Cincinnati. So when, in 1962, Columbia went looking for their first rock artist, they signed the great Dion DiMucci, prop and mainstay of rocker hit machine Dion & the Belmonts and made of him a vector for this species of Cold War era social engineering. The same label then sinking millions into inflicting second-rate Sinatras like Bobby Vinton and Andy Williams upon the LP-buying public tried to run DiMucci through the same mill until the star chucked it and fought back. The culmination of this struggle was this 1965 unreleased LP, a collection of prototype psych and country-rock tunes of the kind that would start moving shiploads of merchandise just a year or so later for acts like the Byrds and the Turtles. Recorded with his then-band the Wanderers and helmed by Bob Dylan’s producer Tom Wilson, , these fifteen songs, rightfully deemed “the first true album Dion ever made,” were part of a deal DiMucci made with the label to record whatever he wanted, but the only problem was the label only wanted standards and singles. Rocked up in the convincing manner of the Animals, this set sounds so obviously hypercommercial today that the listener can’t help damning Columbia honcho “Sing Along with Mitch” Miller all over again as a Trump-sized blockhead whom Columbia’s board of directors would’ve done well to chuck down an elevator shaft. Highlights include the snide title song, the snottily bluesy “Two Ton Feather,” the proto-Velvets “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There” (all written or co-written by Dion) and the peerlessly romantic cover of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” It adds up, as critics have noted, to the logical bridge between “Runaround Sue” and the 1969 smash

“Abraham, Martin & John” only that ignores the astonishing versatility on display here. This set adds immensely to Dion’s already formidable legend and is hereby recommended. Another public service from Norton Records.

The Creation Action Painting Numero

I’ve waited years for an artifact like this to hit my desk and there such a one sits there bricklike now. In order to appreciate what a comprehensive two-disc retrospective of the Creation means to obsessives like me, you’d have to imagine what it was like discovering the Who’s 1960s-era singles comp Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy at the height of the punk rock era and realizing it sounded better than the Sex Pistols. The result was my late Seventies sounded a lot like other people’s mid Sixties and you may imagine my joy when confronted by their rival potentates of Maximum R&B. Originally known as the Mark Four, they toured extensively and recorded several lowselling singles, included here. Bassist John Dalton replaced Pete Quaife in the Kinks and the band reformed as the Creation. Swinging London pop magnate Shel Talmy took a hand, a few A and B sides and an LP were issued and their singles made them a major live draw in West Germany and Scandinavia before the band dissolved. By the time anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of them, they were very long gone indeed. The twenty-three original Creations songs, for anyone with ears attuned to this era’s experimental music, are uniquely bracing and forceful examples of how much unironic fun art damage can be. It helps that there are almost no then-current topical references in the songs, with hints of things beyond their self-contained sonic universe coming as intertextual background noise in the Blues Boom satire of “Can I Join Your Band” and the Op Art giddiness of “Painter Man,” which, at # on the U.K. Pop chart, became the

band’s biggest hit. I still can’t believe no Eighties punk or new wave act ever rode “Biff, Bang, Pow” to glory and its cheeky lyrical combativeness so well suits a Nazi-punching era that I expect it to be adopted as a revolutionary anthem yet. Tracks on the first disc are arranged for peak wallop, with the hulking and ominous “Makin’ Time” opening proceedings and the real brain-wipers like “Tom Tom,” “The Girls Are Naked,” and “I Am the Walker”spaced for nth-degree leverage over both the listener’s libido and their sense of history on the most poleaxed “How could I not know about shit this awesome?” level. The Creation disintegrated, rose again briefly with future Stone Ron Wood on guitar, then crashed in 1968, after which the band’s post-mortem cult built slowly. They are my candidate for First Great Short-Run Rock Band, but there would be more and soon. One of the great reissue projects of recent years and most welcome.

Jean Jacques Perrey Moog Indigo Vanguard

As one half of Perrey and Kingsley, experimental musician Jean Jacques Perrey recorded The In Sound from Way Out (1966), now considered one of the first electronic LPs. A synth and tape loop pioneer, Perrey began regularly cranking out albums under his own name with this well-remembered, heavily sampled, frequently ripped-off 1970 joint on Vanguard and it was only a matter of time until some enterprising label reissued this on something like the slab of 180-gram vinyl flipped to my door courtesy of FedEx. It’s really a workout for my stereo, which is of much the same vintage as the original issue of this record. Any synth musician or fan absolutely needs this, both as historical reference and for the irresistible fun of Perrey’s crazily inventive passes at soul, polka, and Rimsky-Korsakov. “Cat in the Night” is soundtrack jazz at its most rousing, but the whole of Side A is so satisfying as a whole it took me three passes to flip the platter over, where may be found the antic “Gossipo Perpetuo” and the Beethoven-inspired “The Elephant Never Forgets,” the latter used by a high-profile Televisa sitcom for several years without permission. Oddly enough, the finale, “Passport to the Future,” sounds a lot like Joe Meek’s “Telstar.” Even them outer space was getting crowded.

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how there these days. What you’re listening to here is the intersection of confusion and confidence, this band knows how to create music that could soundtrack in dystopian dream. Coloring and augmenting the collapse through a vortex of charm and playfulness that points to the absurdity of the world (and art worlds!) in which we find ourselves. Had Duchamp recorded an album, it’d probably be this particular one. The anti-aesthetic employed here is so effective, that can’t help but sit and listen to this piece over and over again. It so unsettling it feels like home; so acute that it can’t be ignored; so insistent that it pulses with awareness and consideration. Once= one is infected with the disease of Rearranged Face, you can never be cured. And you shouldn’t want to be. —Nathan Martel

SEXTILE Albeit Living Felte

If you check out their Facebook page, you’ll see that Sextile describes their band’s sound as “primitive post-punk from outer space.” From that description alone, you may surmise that their latest release, Albeit Living, is a frenetic and unique musical ride: and you would be right. True to their name, all the musical aspects of Sextile work together brilliantly, blending the best of the genres they pull from and amplifying each other to form an awesome sound. The band pulls from the sounds of angular post-punk on “Das Cat,” incorporates elements of straight ahead 70’s punk on “Mental,” nods to psychedelic garage influences on “Who Killed Six” and blends in some dark wave on “Ripped.” Despite these varied influences, the record, released on felte, remains unified and complex, never disjointed. From start to finish, Albeit Living is a shock to the system. The album kicks off with the synth-heavy track “One of These” and doesn’t let up through the final dark industrial track “AVC,” proving that Sextile is a band with unstoppable energy and immense versatility. —Julia Gibson 68

STEADY HOLIDAY

TELEPHONE LOVERS

After breaking out with her wellreceived solo debut Under The Influence as Steady Holiday last year, it would not be unreasonable for Dre Babinski to take a break before putting out new material. In reality though, Babinski has bigger plans and as much creativity flowing through her to take a break. In turn, at the end of 2016, Babinski set off to create as many songs as she could in a very short time span; the results were the five-track EP Terrors and they are all hauntingly phenomenal to say the least. Steady Holiday’s music is a melding of sounds that would be difficult to pin down directly, but play with old and new elements similar to the UK band Broadcast, though with a much broader vocal range and to a different effect. The title track— which has a wonderfully campy monster-movie music video—has a 50s cinematic feel to it with light and airy string instruments playing behind the melodic guitar, drum beat, and ominous effects. While the song itself sounds playful, it is a strong examination of the xenophobia plaguing the world— because as much as people say they care about refugees they still spend a lot of time “making sure you stay on the side of the line.” This juxtaposition between the serious and light works wonderfully and reflects insight against the rhetoric that we see in the media regarding such issues. The track “More Than One Way” has a similar cinematic quality while it seems to play with some classical baroque elements with an electronic update. Rounding out the EP is a cell-phone recorded track, the lovely ballad “Language I Speak” which touches on the feelings of not feeling understood and connected in life yet at the same time not being grounded enough to plant roots. For a release that was created in such a short time span— or in any amount of time, for that matter—this stands to be one of the best releases of the year. —Zachary Jensen

There isn’t necessarily anything new about the sounds that Telephone Lovers are exploring on their selftitled debut. Yet when a band plays good old-fashioned, no bells-andwhistles, late-70s power-pop rock and roll with passion and soul, it sounds just as fresh and exhilarating as it ever did. With obvious nods to the punk rawness and intensity of bands like the Dead Boys and the Ramones, the power-pop hooks of the Nerves, and the glammy guitar stylings of the Sweet, the New York Dolls and David Bowie, Telephone Lovers pack in all the heartfelt riffs, thumping rhythms, and instantly sing-along-able vocals one might ever want. Songs like “Downtown Girl,” “Little Bit O’ Money,” and “Turn It Around” are absolute rumblers that should drive any person with a set of ears and appetite for this type of music wild. Though the tunes are simple and straightforward, it’s easy to hear that a lot of care and consideration went into crafting each song. Most importantly, the record sounds incredibly honest and genuine, so much so that it should come packaged with an old leather jacket, a pack of Lucky Strikes and a cold Coors. In a genre where authenticity is king, it’s easy to tell from these recordings that Telephone Lovers are playing from the heart—and playing as hard as they can. —Simon Weedn

Terror EP Infinite Best

self-titled Disconnected

I remember growing up preSpotify and Bandcamp when you had to learn about a band by taking a risk on a record that looked interesting at the store, or by seeing an opening band that floored you after grabbing last minute tickets for a show at Warehouse Music. (When shows did not sell out the second they went on sale!) It’s rare to come across a band in a personal way like that anymore, so when I heard of Teleskopes by randomly meeting the bassist/vocalist Fox Fagan at a bar, it was a nice call back to those days. Teleskopes is an L.A.=based three-piece that has a sound that can best be described as a blend between heavy rock that kicks hard and never lets up and dreamy drone-y shoegaze that builds to atmospheric levels. Their debut EP Stereocilia, recorded at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606, is a great six-song introduction to the band. Opening track “Crystal Clear” builds up slowly with a very Kevin Shields-like drone and subtle ambient guitar melody, breaking into a solid drum beat and melodic guitar riff that carry the hazy vocals through the song. The highlight is the track “Rich Kid Blues” that starts with an ominously guitar riff that wails in just the right ways and breaks into an insanely satisfying bridge towards the end. The vocals are just as lofty, reminiscent of Thom Yorke and working really well for the song. Over all this is a strong EP from a newer band and I am looking forward to hearing more from them in the future. ­—Zachary Jensen

VAGUESS Guilt Ring Sinderlyn

TEleskopes Stereocilia Still Water Recordings

VAGUESS (pronounced Vegas) is the brainchild of Vinny Maurillo, who also fronts Fernando & The Teenage Narcs, and say, what a child is this album! Hailing from the depths of Costa Mesa, VAGUESS finds itself part of the tradition of great California punk, in the lineage of The Dils or Middle Class. The album resonates with a spirit

of prideful outsiderness, the result being a playful yet blistering take on these very themes. The vitality of the music displays the absurdity of class, addiction and just plain being broke. The point seems to be a sprint to anarchic romanticism. And really, isn’t that the very point of music and art in general? Vinny’s lyrics go from family members going through transition (literally, and to comedic effect!) to religious cult tendencies to being a broke person in broken relationships. And the torment in his voice vacillates from weariness to glee, or so it seems to this writer. VAGUESS, as a friend once explained to me, is the perfect embodiment of the old becoming new again. The rage, bliss, humor and discontent as palpable as a punch in the face. ­—Nathan Martel

VEX RUFFIN Conveyor Stones Throw

This is described as the “definitive statement” from Stones Throw’s resolutely iconoclastic Vex Ruffin, and that’s pretty correct: Conveyor is a bleary blurry loop-the-loop that loads its title with meaning and delivers without delay or damage, just like an optimally functioning conveyor should. It’s got a very 1981 NYC vibe—Fab Five Freddy is even on the standout “The Balance,” which comes stumbling into the too-bright dawn after a night in Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern”—but it’s got a lot of 1979 UK in it, too, like the alien bass of Jah Wobble on Metal Box and the warped tape manipulations of This Heat. (The dessicated dub of Keith Hudson isn’t far away, either.) Here Vex finds a perfect space for his spaced-out vocals and delirious dub dynamic and sample selection: Conveyor was born between dusk and dawn, when exhaustion exaggerates every sound you feel like the last person on the planet with a light still on. The final track honors the title nicely: a conveyor moves you, a conveyor communicates meaning, and a conveyor runs until work is finally done. —Chris Ziegler ALBUM REVIEWS


COMICS Curated by Tom Child

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COMICS

LILA ASH | @lila__ash

JOHN TOTTENHAM


LIVE PHOTOS SPRING 2017 The Growlers March 2017 The House of Blues Anaheim

Jeff Rosenstock March 2017 The Regent

MAXIMILIAN HO

Of Montreal April 2017 The Teragram

ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE

JOEY TOBIN

Omar Souleyman May 2017 The Echoplex

STEPHANIE PORT

Noveller April 2017 The Echoplex SAMANTHA SATURDAY

STEPHANIE PORT

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DEBI DEL GRANDE

LIVE PHOTOS


Girlpool May 2017 The Teragram

Meishi Smile May 2017 The Hi Hat

Joey Tobin

MAXIMILIAN HO

The Side Eyes May 2017 The Echo

Sleigh Bells March 2017 The El Rey

MAXIMILIAN HO

Warm Drag March 2017 The Echo STEPHANIE PORT

Ho99o99 May 2017 The Echoplex

LEX VOIGHT

LIVE PHOTOS

MAXIMILIAN HO

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THE INTERPRETER

JOSIAH STEINBRICK Curated by Chris Ziegler Photography by Stefano Galli

Josiah Steinbrick is a composer and versatile instrumentalist who’s produced for Devendra Banhart and Cate Le Bon and recorded with White Fence and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as the director of his own transportive Banana collective, which put out its first release on Leaving in January. He’ll be starting a Banana-related project this summer on his own label, future home for his first collection of solo work. He’s also a deep collector of diverse (and sometimes mysterious) releases like these below, which together make their own unique map of the world. PIT PICCINELLI, FRED GALES, WALTER MAIOLI AMAZONIA 6891 (SOUND REPORTERS, 1981) “This is an area I’ve been exploring with my own music for a bit—it’s pseudo-ethno minimalism, described on the album as sounds from the jungle, natural objects, echoes and waves. It’s three Italian sound artists using field recordings and synthesziers to create their own Amazonian jungle trip. It’s not song music at all—it’s quite abstract, and it really creates this vivid place. I listen to it while running and it immediately always takes me on my own adventure.”

KEN MOORE, TO COME INTO BEING CS (anVil creations, 1981)

“Ken Moore is one of those American cassette culture sorta guys— he was releasing like five tapes a year for a couple years. I think he started in 1980 and had about seven years of home recording for these things. They’re all over the place compositionally, and this one I love because of the synth stuff: there’s Arp and Moog, acoustic piano, modified percussion, bells and triangles and cymbals. It’s a fantastic mixture of avant-garde modern classical and weird synthesizer music. He has literally dozens of releases. They’re elusive but very cool.”

FREDERIC RZEWSKI, ATTICA / COMING TOGETHER / LES MOUTONS DE PANURGE (OPUS ONE, 1977)

“I’m a massive fan and I think this is his masterpiece. He has some of the best players in the business: Alvin Curran, Jon Gibson. ‘Coming Together’ takes up an entire side of the album. I love this record, and none of this has been re-released! Ensemble-wise, this was super-influential—it changed the way I think about ensemble music. I used that for Banana. The concept is … ‘Coming Together’ and ‘Attica’ are readings of prison letters from Attica—the main one in ‘Coming Together’ is from the inmate who actually started the riots and died in a riot six months before this was released. It features this pulsing track—maybe a bit of a Moondog vibe? Imagine a Moondog piece, but very theatrical, too. The reader is an actor and at times you wish someone else had done it—but then at other times you’re like, ‘Nope—it’s perfect.’ I used to listen to this on runs a lot. I remember running through Austin, Texas, once and having a near-religious experience—just feeling the pulse and the intensity of the music. It’s a super hypnotic piece.” INTERPRETER

SHINING LOTUS, MOUNTAIN MAGIC CS (SHINING LOTUS PRODUCTIONS, 1986)

“I got turned on to this by Matthewdavid—he had it on at his house and I was like, ‘What is this?!’ ‘Oh, it’s super deep—I found it at the Glendale Goodwill.’ I think it was a life-changing album for him. It really put him deeper into the modern new age world he’s curating and creating. So I of couse have been on the lookout for anything this guy’s done. I’ve found three so far: this, Ocean Moods 2 and Forest Walk. This is a pastoral syntheszier music—much more of an anthropological feel than a cosmic feel. A very naturalist vibe. Just classic private strange American music.”

LARRY POLANSKY, WORKS FOR PERFORMERS AND LIVE INTERACTIVE COMPUTER CS (Frog peak, 1986)

“Larry Polansky was a big part of that Mills College scene—I think his wife or girlfriend is Jody Diamond, who designed these tapes and who was very involved in the Berkeley gamelan world. Both contributed a lot to the world of art music. I don’t know where to start on how great this is! There’s loads of computer music, free jazz, a lot of Fluxus artists involved, this fantastic computer piece that breaks into Hebrew that Jody sings … Phil Niblock recorded some of it in New York in 1988, some pieces have Anthony Braxton on sax, there’s a lot with Daniel Goode … it’s one of those tip-of-theiceberg things.”

TODD BARTON AND URSULA K. LE GUIN, MUSIC AND POETRY OF THE KESH CS (Valley 1985) “This tape came as a promo with the first printing of the book Always Coming Home. The book features a people known as the Kesh, and this is the music and poetry of the Kesh, composed by Todd Barton. Barton is an Oregon guy who made really great records and did a lot of play and book soundtrack. I feel his back catalog should be explored very heavily soon—everything I have by him is great and he worked very prolifically. This is great made-up folk in a madeup language—again in a pastoral minimalist theme, a mixture of pastoral and modern classical. That can be touched upon by German synth artists or British artists—it’s kind of a universal thing.”

HILDEGARD WESTERKAMP, FANTASIE FOR HORNS I AND II CS (inside the soundscape, 1986) “Probably one of my favorite finds from last year—I found it through one of the guys who used to work at Other Music who has a great Instagram called @driftinglament. He’s got impeccable taste—he posts a lot of concrete poetry and actual poetry. He posted this and I tracked it down. It’s treated horns and nature recordings. On the inside it says: ‘Sound sources for this piece are taken from the acoustic environment … [including] factory and boat horns from Vancouver and the surrounding area, horns Canadians hear in daily life.’ One part was completed in 1978 as a composition in its own right, and then solo horn was added later to make a new piece. One is on one side, and one is on the other.” 73


NIGERIA YOUNG BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ISLAM, LED BY ALHAJI R. O. AKANBIE, IJO NYBROSIS LP (LANRE ADEPOJU, 197X) “I found this at Record Recycler a long time ago—I found loads of weird shit at that shop! There is zero info on the internet about this record. It’s unGoogleable. But it’s great! All these people singing and the instrumentation is super minimal—metallic thumb piano and drums, really groovy. Like funky gospel music in the most minimal way. It’s not a field recording. The artwork is classic Nigerian high life style where every record looks like it’s gonna be the best record ever made—sometimes it’s just party music and that’s fine, but in this situation it was actually extremely fruitful! It sounds like M.I.A. in a way—really great and chant-y.”

EPLF MASS ORGANIZATION EUROPE, BOLOGNA 87 CS (UnKnoWn laBel, 1987) “This is from a big protest conference they had when Eritrea was fighting for its independence. I got this in a box of amazing Ethiopian and Eritrean tapes with loads of really great music and really strange stuff—kids records, strange folk, pop stuff and classic Ethiopian groups. But this tape might be the craziest of all. Out of all the tapes I got, this had the most uninteresting cover. Just a conference room. It looks like a lecture. Then a couple songs in there’s this ripping funk track! It’s got a groove I can’t explain—anything you’d ever wanna hear in African funk happens. My jaw dropped on the floor when I heard it. Great female vocals, call and answer vocals … I have no idea where the fuck you’d find this. You can’t Google anything. But it’s fucking great!”

VELJO TORMIS, TEEME MUUSIKAT II (MELODIA, 1977)

“Like the Estonian Carl Orff—it’s Estonian children’s classical. It’s an eight-part 7” series with basically the best Estonian composers working within this range—kind of sacred choral minimalist music in the vein of Arvo Pärt or Orff. I actually incorporated a section from one of the other releases in one of the Banana records—a clarinet melody that we improvised with.”

VARIOUS, NEW ARTIST CATALOG NO. 4 CS (TRA, 1983)

“The magazine is great—focused on fashion, painting, visual art and music—but it also comes with a tape with a bunch of artists on it. It has the only recording of Satoshi Ashikawa aside from his Still Way release, which is one of Japan’s great minimal ambient records. He died a month before this was published—really young, he was 23 years old. He was working with Eno/Harold Budd soundscapes, and I think he’s the reason for a lot of the worship in Japan of that sort of thing. This contains the only piece he recorded otherwise—a home demo. This is all Japanese except for the random Wire side project P’o, which is from their record. Everything else is unreleased, and a few pieces are really great and two of them are absolutely fantastic and by artists who did nothing else ever. One was the photographer who had a lot to do with the art direction of this mag and the other I know nothing about—he was a performance artist who does a beautiful percussion piece that was part of his art show. If you can track this down, it’s well worth it. It’s a document of 1983 Japan—does it get any better?”

VARIOUS, MUSIQUE DU BURUNDI LP (OCORA, 1968)

“Absolutely beautiful, and probably mainly known as the source for the proto-sample on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Jungle Line.’ There’s also a vocal piece that incorporates some medieval vocal techniques—back and forth polyrhythms, really beautiful. For a field recording it sounds insane. Ocora is well-documented as being really ahead of the game with recording techniques and how they did field recordings. This record is by no means obscure, but it’s a very important record to me.”

LINO CAPRA VACCINA, ANTICO ADAGIO LP (NÖ, 1978)

“This record means as much to me as Midori Takata’s Through the Looking Glass, which I didn’t pick just because it got a reissue recently so it’s very much on peoples’ radar. It was reissued with another record of outtakes that are so beautiful. It’s one of my favorite records: vibrophone, marimba, gong, a little violin and oboe … I can’t really describe it besides being absolutely perfect minimal percussion music.”


L.A. RECORD 128  

ILL CAMILLE - TARA JANE O'NEILL - SO MANY WIZARDS - AT THE DRIVE-IN by DJ NOBODY aka ELVIN ESTELA - SEXTILE - FRENCH VANILLA - KAMAIYAH - MA...

L.A. RECORD 128  

ILL CAMILLE - TARA JANE O'NEILL - SO MANY WIZARDS - AT THE DRIVE-IN by DJ NOBODY aka ELVIN ESTELA - SEXTILE - FRENCH VANILLA - KAMAIYAH - MA...

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