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FALL 2017 ISSUE 129 • FREE SUDAN ARCHIVES L.A. WITCH DOWNTOWN BOYS MARTIN REV L7 • RIDE • SUSAN ASHTREJINKINS FLAT WORMS SUPERET AND MORE

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6 SUSAN Nathan Martel

30 DOWNTOWN BOYS EMILY TWOMBLY

10 ASHTREJINKINS Senay Kenfe

34 MARTIN REV CHRISTINA GUBALA

14 RIDE Tiffany Anders

40 FLAT WORMS NATHAN MARTEL

18 SUPERET Madison Desler

44 the steoples CHRISTINA GUBALA

22 LOJII Simon Weedn

48 EL GUINCHO RUDY DE ANDA

26 L.A. WITCH Julia Gibson

52 SUDAN ARCHIVES DAIANA FEUER

SUSAN p 6 PHOTO: ALEX THE BROWN


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susan Interview by NATHAN MARTEL PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEX THE BROWN

The world is a difficult and alienating place, but when you find people who can understand and commiserate when the walls— or the practice-space ceiling—come crashing down, it somehow makes everything more bearable. L.A. trio Susan is Jessica Owen (guitar, vocals), Beth Borwell (bass, backing vocals) and Katie Fern (drums, backing vocals) and together they’re a testament to how creativity, compassion and friendship help manage the unpredictability of life. With music split between depicting promise and disappointment, Susan has found a way to communicate the struggle and hope in being a human being in the world today. What the hell have you guys been through? All: [laughs] Beth Borwell (bass / backing vocals): Like … some shit! Listening to the records, it’s like, ‘What have these people been through to write like this?’ ‘Down the Drain,’ ‘Waffle’ … Katie Fern (drums / backing vocals): That’s a god question. Oh wow! You’re starting really strong! BB: A lot of that was written when Katie and I moved here from Austin. And we met Jessica, we were just having really shit times. KF: Yeah, the experience of moving to L.A. and feeling lost and confused. Just those things that everybody deals with and we just channeled it together … [laughs] These songs all deal with displacement, disillusionment … just a general lack of connection. KF: Totally, there’s a lot of that … I think for all of us, Susan has been a place for us to let those general life frustrations out. Right? 6

It’s just a place to voice it without it affecting our greater lives outside of the band. This is where we channel our frustrations. Jessica Owen (guitar / vocals): Like any time you’re feeling really shitty, the thing you want to do is write about it. You want to write most when you’re feeling frustrated. More than when you’re feeling really stoked on something. BB: It helps when we’re feeling in a weird spot. Like when we moved here, going through some weird shit and then finding each other. And it’s like, ‘Let’s write a song about it in a garage.’ And we had a lot of material to write about. The songs seem like they could apply just as well to people as they do to the city. Like when you use ‘he,’ it could be a metaphor to the cities you’ve left. KF: As far as gender application goes in our songs, we say ‘he’ in some songs and ‘she’ in other songs, and other times it’s more ambiguous and there isn’t a gender necessarily specified. It’s not necessarily a person or a INTERVIEW


place or anything defined. Sometimes it’s just easier to say a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ for language purposes. BB: Especially in pop music. KF: Specifically for a pop song. It just makes it easier so we aren’t ambiguous. JO: It’s not necessarily about specific people or somebody you’re going through something with either—like somebody you’re dating or a friend. But some of them are about a specific people. A lot of them are about—vaguely—all of us going through similar experiences and venting that in some kind of way. ‘Pancake’ is clearly about somebody! KF: [laughs] Actually that’s the only one that’s not! The ending is clearly addressing somebody! ‘Fuck you / I don’t need you!’ KF: But seriously! That was the first song we ever wrote! We literally gave up writing the lyrics at the end of it. [laughs] And it became, like, ‘I don’t know. Should we just say “fuck you” at the end?’ Why not? It’s universal! KF: We just ran with it! BB: That is actually the truth of that song. Which was: ‘We don’t know what to say at the end. How do we end this song?’ KF: Let’s just put a ‘fuck you’ on it … and tie it with a bow! BB: Yeah! We tried people and places but just came to the conclusion of, ‘Fuck all this shit.’ ‘Just say, “Fuck this shit! Let’s end it like that!”’ And it was the first song we ever wrote. JO: It’s called ‘Pancake’ because it’s like your first pancake—like we’ll just throw the first pancake away, the first one you ever make. But it stuck. We worked on it for so long and we ended up liking it. KF: And it used to sound so much different too! It had a one-minute interlude of … JO: It had a ‘prom song’ break down. KF: It had a break down! [laughs] Where we harmonized a lot. And we ‘ooh’d’... JO: And the talking part! KF: Jessica talked, and Beth was all, ‘Heeey’ … JO: Like Ronettes style … [laughs] KF: Like … ‘Hey, what’s up, guys … we got something to say.’ We were experimenting! What do you want?! JO: You gotta try some things! Your songs do have a dough-y dessertbreakfast theme with ‘Waffle’ and ‘Pancake.’ KF: I’m glad you picked up on that! Dessert and difficult relationships! KF: Yeah, well—the good news is we’re in better places now. Better than we were when we wrote that first record! JO: The lyrics are really starting to change from when we first wrote songs. KF: I think now … honestly, this all just an experiment for us. Figuring out what we want to write about, who we are as musicians, that type of thing. We learned how to play music together, the three of us. JO: We’re learning how to write, too. KF: Yeah, learning how to write songs together. Now we’re coming to a place where we feel like we have a little bit more direction. Not that we didn’t before, but we were just

doing what felt right and what worked. Now we are honing in on it a little bit more on this new batch of songs. BB: We’re definitely channeling more feeling through art. Trying to be more purposeful, less relationship and crisis oriented. Just life crisis now! JO: [laughs] Yeah, like moving to California crisis [for Beth and Katie]. Before it seemed more like venting. If anyone of us had an idea or a song or even a feeling, we would bring that. And we’d turn it into a song. Now I feel like we have more direction about what we want and what we want our songs to become. KF: To have more meaning behind it. Instead of just being like, ‘We’re sad and have feelings.’ Is that about where you’re at as an artist or where you’re at as a person in life? BB: I absolutely think it’s both. JO: We’re a little bit more mature. BB: We’ve grown and grown and grown. Especially grown together as artists and musicians. And at this point we’ve been playing music together for a while now, and we’ve grown up in our lives. At this point, we don’t have to write a song that says, ‘Fuck you. I hate you’. I can be a little bit more eloquent than that these days. KF: Yeah! Now we have more words that we can use! We just didn’t know what to do at the time. Just a ‘Screw it! Fuck it!’ attitude! Which was literally our first song! Doesn’t being more responsible hinder the artistic disposition a bit? KF: I can agree with you on that. To a certain degree. There’s an amount of intention that is good. But there is also an amount of intention that is bad. Some of my favorite musicians are people who actually didn’t know what they were doing when they wrote the songs they did. There are those records that you hear, that, like … your response is, ‘Wow, that is shitty. But that song is genius! It’s so simple.’ It’s because they don’t know how to play an instrument and what you hear is all that they could come up with. But it’s way cooler than something someone who is super-trained could ever come up with. Because it’s more honest? KF: Yeah! It’s more honest. So writing and making music is always an experiment. But, if you can come to a place where there is a little bit of direction, it helps. It’s always going to be the three of us having fun and being friends. You don’t hate each other yet? KF: Nope! We still like each other. Not yet! Isn’t that weird? I kinda wish we did at times! [laughs] Yeah! I want the story of ‘We got mad. And broke up! Then we got back together!’ But we don’t have that. JO: We’re all just cool with each other. BB: ‘I’m going to band practice, which means I’m going to my club with my two best friends.’ And no one can argue that because it’s band practice and it’s my time. JO: Sometimes it’s more talking than playing. But that’s OK. By allowing ourselves to do that from time to time we don’t put the pressure on ourselves to the point where we don’t want to come anymore. INTERVIEW


KF: Susan is kind of like an open therapy session. Listening to the records, I understand the cathartic nature of what is going on here. KF: Yeah! It’s a check-in. Like, ‘We are going to write about being OK today!’ You know—why not? Where does the name Susan come from? BB: Well … we didn’t think about that fact that it’s totally ungoogleable! And that it’s really hard to find us! When Katie and I were in Austin, I just became obsessed with that name. I think I know now … two Susans in my life? And I’ve met them in the past five years! Before that, I was all, ‘ I don’t know any Susans under the age of fifty! That’s a beautiful name—we have to honor the name.’ In some way. JO: Once we started to dig, we found a lot of inspirational Susans that we would post from time to time. Like an astronaut … BB: Like Susan Sontag … KF: It’s just a good name. And it has all these connotations to it! KF: Yeah! Like, ‘I’m going to go interview my aunt Susan!’ KF: The name Susan is all on Beth. We had had two band practices, and we were all, ‘We should name our band.’ Beth was all, ‘I really like the name “Susan”!’ And Jessica and I were all, ‘Cool! Done!’ And that was it! Because we’re all friends. And now we are Susan! How did this whole outfit come to be? JO: I’m from L.A. I was also going through a hard time. I had just moved to Echo Park. I was trying to make some friends. I just happened to meet Beth at a party. And she asks me if I play guitar—like, the first sentence out of her mouth. KF: Eager! BB: Yeah … a friend was all, ‘That’s Jessica— you know she plays guitar? Let me introduce you.’ And I was all, ‘Noooooo waaayyyy! I gotta find her. I get her to play music with me and Katie. We are going to get her! It’s going to be great.’ How has coming to L.A. changed your approach to music and song writing in? L.A. and Austin are different kinds of cultural hubs. KF: Austin is just way more weird and raw. People in Austin, they just kind of … vomit art out of themselves. Here it’s just more selfconscious. Art in L.A. is very purposeful. Whereas in Austin, people are just like, ‘This is what I do. And I’m drunk everyday.’ [laughs] BB: Yeah … in Austin you can get away with more. You don’t necessarily have to edit as much and people will be into it. They just love whatever anybody is making. KF: If you try at all, you’re cool. [laughs] If you barely try and then present it, people are all, ‘Wow! You made a zine!? WOW!’ BB: Austin is very positive and inclusive. As well as supportive. Here in L.A. it’s kind of shocking because it was professional—realdeal artists. It makes you rise to the occasion. It’s a total challenge. KF: It’s a change of mind frame where you learn out here people take this very seriously. That was the biggest thing. Beth and I both played in bands before that we loved and INTERVIEW

were awesome, but it was a whole other plane of seriousness versus here. Not that Susan is super-serious, but it’s totally a different vibe. Here, you’re meeting people who play in other bands, and I’m like, ‘Hey, I went to practice the other night.’ And other people [in L.A.] are ‘I went to rehearsal.’ Just using those terms makes a big difference in how you think. You’re a complete structuralist! KF: You know what I mean? It like, ‘Oh, yeah—I went to practice last night. Whatever!’ Like, ‘I drank some beers with my friends, and played guitar.’ Whereas people here are all, ‘Yeah, I went to rehearsal. I have rehearsal every Tuesday and Thursday for four hours.’ It’s a different atmosphere. Just in general. I like how you said people here are ‘purposeful’ when you probably just could have said ‘pretentious’. All: [laughs] KF: But I don’t think it’s pretension. I don’t think it is, really. It can be, sure. There are people who could be considered pretentious. But not everybody. There’s just more intention with people in LA … I keep going back to that. But it’s true. Not pretention— just more intention. It’s harder to see people. Everybody works a lot. It’s more expensive to live here. It just leads to people being more intentional in everything that you do here. We’re not teenagers anymore. But we live like them. KF: We try to! We try to live like teenagers! [laughs] Is it essential that an artist go through the experiences that they address in their art? I haven’t met any artists yet that are well adjusted. JO: [laughs] I never thought about it that way! KF: It’s really easy to draw inspiration from bad experiences. And on the other hand, it’s really hard to make something instantaneously when in a better mood. When you’re upset about something, it just comes pouring out. You just write. JO: You need a therapeutic outlet, and creativity is perfect for that. Whereas when you’re in a really good mood, there isn’t that inclination to get it out. KF: You’re just happy! And not thinking about it so much. BB: But I also think when you’re an artist, there’s this idea of being more honest. And then transcribing those feelings. Where a quote ‘well-adjusted person’ quote will have those feelings but won’t be channeling them through different mediums. They’ll have their own shit, but they are dealing with by having a martini with a girlfriend and talking about it and then forgetting about it. Where we are going to go drink Modelos and write a pop song about it. And really focus on the shitty stuff! JO: [laughs] And focus on it for a really long time! BB: Right! And now it’s forever in the world on a record! KF: Yeah! It never gets lost! It doesn’t leave your mouth and disappear. It goes out of your mouth and becomes a song that you play in front of other people.

JO: Yeah! Totally! Remember that really bad week you had four and a half years ago? Let’s talk about it! KF: Over and over and over! And then we are going to record it! BB: And it will never go away! On the way to this interview I was listening to your song ‘Never Enough,’ and I couldn’t help but think, ‘This is their Wedding Present song.’ JO: Yeah! I wanted to have some Wedding Present jangle on a song so bad! [laughs] That makes me so happy that you noticed. I really, really love how they play guitar in the Wedding Present. I was thinking, ‘This is Gedge if he were a three-piece pop band of women in L.A.’ All: [laughs] BB: Thanks for noticing, so much! [laughs] The recording techniques that Susan uses seems to put a distance between the material and the artists. The effects you use on the vocals almost create a new character in a way. JO: I feel like that every time I’m on stage because I feel uncomfortable when a lot people are looking at me. So to me it feels good to have the music feel and be big around me, instead of being way out in front. Also, I like singing, but I’m in no way a ‘pro singer,’ so the vocal manipulation helps me feel confident singing. I just like how it sounds when the music is big around the vocal. It’s a technique that seems to filter the content in a way. Kind of along the lines of what Kanye West utilized on 808s & Heartbreak. When the subject matter is difficult, it sometimes encourages an artist to address topics from a certain distance. JO: That’s interesting. I’ve never thought about that. Because ‘Never Enough’ is one of the most vulnerable songs I’ve ever written. The lyrics were tough to write, and the song was difficult to sing. KF: That’s true. And the vocals do sound different on that song. The layered vocal textures lend themselves to an emotional depth that suggests that perhaps one vocal track isn’t enough to convey what is going on internally. As though there is a need to be heard. KF: Yeah. Ok … right! And we just love harmonies! JO: Yeah—we love the fact that we are all part of a song. All of our voices matter equally in the band. KF: We’re all encouraging each other as well. BB: Yeah. It’s almost like in the vulnerable times, I’m not by myself. We have each other … even in the back-up vocals, like literally. JO: I gotcha girl! I’m backing you! BB: [laughs] I mean, I’m exposing myself and my feelings and my lyrics, but I’m not alone when I’m singing. Anytime I’ve sung alone, I keep thinking, ‘This is weird and scary.’ But with Susan, I’m singing these songs and I never feel weird and alone. Because I’m singing with these two— together. KF: We’re a good togetherness band! The content and form of a Susan song is a

push and pull between the pop structures and the topics you’re addressing. Your music has the niceties of pop but comes with an extremely acerbic tone and delivery. JO: I like the balance of it. BB: That is completely intentional. I want to make pleasing, sweet music, but not candy-saccharine pop music. I want to make something rawer in a way. JO: More realness to it. KF: Beth and I come from more punk backgrounds … JO: And I do too. Punk is an undercurrent of feeling in Susan, even though it’s dressed in pop music. KF: There is a level of directness to the way we write. JO: And we don’t strive or want to be a sweet, sugary band all the time. BB: When we are writing, we’re aware that the music is for other people. We write what we feel, yes, and since we are feeling this way, maybe a teenager will listen to Susan and identify with what we are addressing. ‘I understand that. I’m not alone.’ KF: We are writing to future teenagers! [laughs] We don’t care what our peers think about us—only the future teenagers! BB: All the music I listened to as a teen was written before I was even born. But I was like, ‘I can relate to this so much. I’m not alone. I love this person, who I don’t know and is either dead or in their sixties.’ KF: To bring up the Wedding Present again … what I always liked about them was that it seemed like you’re listening to somebody’s really long diary entry. All the lyrics are like, ‘I’m feeling all these feelings and I’m just throwing them out.’ It’s cool … it’s … JO: It’s universal. KF: And everybody has that somewhere in them. If we can capture any emotion, that’s cool! Do you as an individual have to go through the things you do on a record in order to create the songs? KF: To me, what’s interesting is when someone doesn’t go through the experience. It’s easier to cull from your own life and experiences—way easier—but I don’t think it necessarily has to be that way. BB: Some people go through the visceral event, make art out of it, and share it so someone else doesn’t have to. So they can relate to it and find some kind of therapeutic process through another’s art. KF: You don’t have to suffer through something in order to write about it or whatever. It does make it easier, though. I’ve always felt it’s way harder to write a happy song instead of a sad song. When you’re happy, what are you going to write about? ‘Today was great. The sun was shining.’ I guess what I’m saying is … Susan future goals: let’s write a happy song! JO: [laughs] But make it sound sad. KF: Yes! Write a happy song and make it sound sad! SUSAN HAVE A NEW 7” COMING OUT THIS FALL ON VOLAR. VISIT SUSAN AT FACEBOOK.COM/ SUSANISABAND. 9


ASHTREJINKINS Interview by senay kenfe Photography by dana washington

For many growing up in the southern L.A. suburb of Compton during the 80s, the local roller rink Skateland played a pivotal role in the burgeoning electro scene. It was here that the local World Class Wrecking Cru battled and mixed influential bass-heavy tunes like Cybotron’s “Clear” into favorite son Egyptian Lover’s “Egypt, Egypt.” With Motown’s move to the West Coast in the mid-70s and Japanese drum machine manufacturer Roland establishing its corporate headquarters in L.A., it was a perfect opportunity for electronic music to flourish. The TR-808 reigned supreme. And then just like that, this moment in Black electronic history in L.A. was eclipsed with the rise of gangsta rap. Arabian Prince, Uncle Jamm’s Army and others faded into obscurity. But a generation later they’re being remembered through the work of young producer AshtreJinkins. Sometimes known as Brown Irvin—depending on what label he’s working with—he’s built a following on a preternatural ability to transition from the beat scene into the electronic world that Compton once dominated. We talked to him about his upcoming album on Blackowned label Apron, the lack of presence of Black producers in today’s electronic world and more. In L.A. many people know you originally due to your presence within the beat world. Can you explain what drove you to switch gears? And what it’s like to go from playing Low End Theory to DJing at raves? What drove me to switch gears was a strong need for change. I didn’t like the climate of the beat world for a while, so I dug back into my mind and realized I was missing out on exploring another lane I always wanted to take but never fully committed to—which was house and techno music. The experience from bringing your own gear to shows and just, like, winging it live for the beat world was cool—it was nice because it was pure expression. Now that I’m doing raves, I usually pull up with two USB sticks and some records. Beat matching is a thing, but it’s also about the feeling each track gives and how it can accompany the song currently playing. I definitely think more when I play at raves than at beat shows, but my approach for both is totally freestyle. I don’t always know what I’m gonna play next. Tell me about the new album—what’s the experience of working with a British label like Apron been like? The new album is pretty much a look into a brief point in my life. It’s called Fruit In Failure because at the time I was making this album, I was messing up a lot in my personal life, so I really had to strive to make lemonade out of lemons. I’m not the type of person to let a lot get to me but when something does, it really does. I’m usually the one laughing at the bad stuff and dismissing it. [laughs] The experience on working with Apron has been a very cool process. It was really effortless when it came to getting this album together. Funkineven [a.k.a. Steve Julien] knows what he likes and wants to put out so there wasn’t 10

a tug of war on tracks. I’m very happy to be apart of the Apron crew—I’ve known about Funkineven for a long time so to be on his label not long after I’ve made my musical shift is definitely comforting. It shows me I’m on the right track. Are you a synth junkie? What’s your production setup looking like? I am a synth junkie, but if I had the funds my set-up would be much more chaotic. [laughs] I have my laptop which I use both FruityLoops 12 and Ableton 9 on, my Electribe-S MKII, my joy which is my MiniNova, and my friend is letting me borrow his MPC 1000 which is a real lifesaver for my live recording process. Who are your influences? Moodymann, Actress, Basic Channel, Green Velvet, Drexciya, Brassfoot … What does it mean to be working on your music here in Compton? To me, it’s trippy. There’s a lot of musical history in Compton without a doubt. Kendrick really put this place back on the map for the whole world. So I understand that me making house and techno out here, I REALLY got to be on my A-game with everything—even outside of music. I’ve only lived in Compton for the past five years and it has chiseled me out a lot and I’m happy about that. What’s nightlife here in L.A. like for you? How does your experience of going out affect your own music? Going out to house shows or raves is kind of like taking a shot of adrenaline. I don’t know much of what’s playing but if it’s good, it’s really good! I always come back home to make a song after a rave just to hold that feeling in a box to stare at later. [laughs] Why isn’t there a stronger presence for Black house producers here in L.A.? In

comparison to traditional strongholds such as Chicago or Detroit and New York? 
 I feel like we are still finding each other. I don’t think there are a lot of us, too. I know a few solid Black house producers out here, but I feel like we are incredibly outnumbered. Plus the way that some Black people in our generation view house and techno … [they] don’t choose to swipe away the smoke blocking the truth that we have this branch in our musical family that needs to be explored more. That is also denting the progress of more Black house producers out here in L.A. How do we change the perception within our community that electronic music is a inherently ‘white’ genre? More community-based meetings, shows and screenings saying otherwise—there’s a lot of information out there to debunk that it is inherently a ‘white’ genre. We’ve talked about the inherent blackness of electronic music here in America in regards to pioneers like Underground Resistance. Why do you think this isn’t something that we hear given much merit in today’s scene? We don’t hear it because I feel like the DJs and club promoters throwing all these big parties and raves out here in L.A. can’t really relate to Underground Resistance or their experiences. So it gets glossed over like some sort of comic strip. Like I said before, I feel like ‘we’ are incredibly outnumbered out here in L.A. That scarcity affects the environment—worldwide, apparently. It affects how some of my ethnic friends have to approach certain techno events abroad. How wild is that!? We need more Black house producers DJing at these ‘poppin’ raves that I would speak out on … but they don’t

even care because they’re out here ignoring everything and only choose to book black DJs when its relevant or cool. Things are going to change for the better—we see you and we know who you are. We are going to take this back—with interest. Can you elaborate on the impact of NTS Radio establishing a studio here in L.A.? Oh geez … how do I do that? [laughs] The impact of NTS being here in L.A. is deep and loud and big. Everyone felt it when they landed, and everyone had to adjust! They are a solid company and I am beyond happy that they are here. I’m sure I can speak for a lot of artists by saying that L.A. needed NTS. You’re a rather low profile kind of guy. How do you get the music to speak for you? Yeah—I gotta keep a low profile. It’s really good for my mental health. The mood of the song and the track title really help get my point across. [laughs] How do names shape the paths of artists— coming from someone who’s changed their name multiple times at this point or has multiple different aliases? Your name or alias can make or break you. If you have something space-y or hippie-ish you’re more than likely to be assumed to make that kind stuff for life. Just make sure whatever it is that you are happy with it and nobody can take that away from you. ASHTREJINKINS WITH VIK AND MORE ON WED., SEPT. 21, AT TOKYO BEAT, 319 E. 2ND ST. #205, DOWNTOWN. MORE INFO TBA. ASHTREJINKINS’ FRUIT IN FAILURE EP IS OUT NOW ON APRON RECORDS. VISIT BROWN IRVIN / ASHTREJINKINS AT SOUNDCLOUD. COM/THINKINJINKINS. INTERVIEW


RIDE Interview by tiffany anders illustration by ABRAHAM JAY TORRES

The quintessential shoegaze band Ride has returned twenty years after their untimely break-up with their impressive new release Weather Diaries. For fans, this album is as if the band never stopped playing—it sounds solid and mature, yet steeped in all the best qualities of the band you remember so fondly. I talked with co-founder Mark Gardener about the Ride’s return, Ride’s past and—something that no one expected to discuss in 2017—Ride’s future. I absolutely love the new album. To me, it’s like some of the best 90s Ride records without having missed all those years. When and why did you reform? Mark Gardener (guitar/vocals): It was a sort of gradual feeling that was happening. We’d all been friends for such a long time that it wasn’t like strangers coming back together. Through the years, we’ve always got together. Obviously, I went around playing quite a lot of other shows and I never got away from that question. I always got hounded by people: ‘Would Ride ever play again?’ We were completely aware of the interest on social media. Even in our absence, the people playing our music had been growing and growing. That in itself makes you realize if we played again … we’d be playing to an audience! Which would be better than coming back and playing for nobody, which wouldn’t be too much fun! That was a big spur-on, the people. And also Ride obviously ended in such a strange way. What made Ride great—like Creation Records, our label we were on—was the same thing that made it crash at some point. I think it was always gonna crash. In the interim, I was probably the one out of all of us who asked the question … maybe, in 2013, when Andy was very much still doing what he was doing. I mean, asking like, ‘What do you actually think about it?’ Like I’ve put my hat in the ring now: ‘I’ve love to do this again.’ I was the one who originally probably walked in 1996 and it was probably my duty to ask that this time. When everybody felt we’d love to do it INTERVIEW

again, it made a lot of sense, really. We were also really aware we were getting great offers from festivals—the main one was Primavera, who seem to be good at sort of sniffing out these things that could happen. And without getting morbid, as I’ve got older, you lose family … you become very aware we’re not immortal! I probably thought I was immortal when I was in my early 20s! And honestly personally it would’ve bothered me for the rest of my days if we didn’t come to play together again. That was my original family, in a way. There’s nothing like your first band. I’ve loved all the collaborations and all the work I’ve done in the industry, but nothing ever felt and would ever feel like Ride. So … lots of combined factors really! And hence come 2015 I think … I remember having a meeting with Andy saying, ‘Do you think we should just do this?’ And we did it! So what led to making a new record? As soon as we walked back in a room together to start rehearsing old stuff for the reunion tour, we started playing new things. That’s how Ride was—whenever we got in a room together, that’s how many songs came about. We’d jam and see … you create lots of new things. The chemistry was so strong the first time around and if anything it’s even more so now. We were on to it straight away, but we didn’t say anything about it to the public because we wanted to give ourselves that time to be creating a record without pressure. So we didn’t talk about that—we just played our reunion show, which we enjoyed and which was very inspirational. But always in

the background we were writing. We always knew the real reason to get back together and make it real … it’s about what you do now, not what you’ve done in the past. That was really important. From my point of view, if we were gonna come back together it wasn’t just to celebrate the past—which was nice to do for a little while! It was all about making an album, one we felt was relevant to now and to us now and the times now. That’s what real great artwork does. It’s interesting to hear your new album—it sounds so seamless. Like right where you would’ve left off. And it doesn’t sound forced. It’s like what would’ve been the next chapter. I think you’re right. It was maybe a more natural successor to a period like Going Blank Again—we definitely got a bit more out there, especially Tarantula, which was a bit of a break-up record, which wasn’t a really a good time for the band. In life you have a lot of hindsight, but it’s too late to do anything about it. But thank goodness we’ve had the benefit of hindsight and we’ve totally understood when we were enjoying it the most and when we were probably working the best between us and playing to our strengths. Which really was to me Going Blank Again—to me, this is the natural successor to that record in a way. The way we worked—obviously nothing to do with subject matter! We didn’t want to become a pastiche of what we did. Every record we made back then was so different, but it was not because we said, ‘Oh, let’s make a different

album.’ It’s just a journey. It’s just the way it worked. We were changing rapidly as people back then. And the amount of changes we’ve gone through as individuals, when you bring that together now … no one’s interested in repeating themselves. It doesn’t sound that way. You’re always afraid when you hear a band has reformed and is gonna do a record. ‘Oh no!’ I’m the same! I’m a music enthusiast as well. I totally agree with you. I don’t wanna mention names but most of the time it’s pretty awful. Face it—it doesn’t end up good! You can kid yourself quite easily in bands, but you’re not gonna kid your audience. People can hear if the chemistry’s good. A lot of people don’t get that. ‘Yeah, we’re gonna be good!’ People know. You can hear it. I just felt deep down that as soon as we came back in the room … even before we reformed, I knew the chemistry was always gonna be strong between us. For me, it was all about the challenge of coming back and making a new record. That’s what frightened me and inspired me. More so to me than even playing reunion shows. They were great and they helped us create a time and place and put some funds in our bank so we could actually make the record we wanted to make. And that’s what we’ve done. It’s got both things that are important for a reunion record: it sounds like you, but it sounds like you’ve grown. It would have been bad otherwise! It makes things more soulful, in a way. With all the stuff you’ve been through … we hadn’t been 15


“It’s about what you do now, not what you’ve done in the past.” through that much when we’d made our first record. You write about what’s going on at that time. The first time you leave home, your life goes into complete freefall. And we also write about what’s going on outside of us which are pretty dark strange times—obviously it’s colored some of this record, without getting too political about things. But how can you not write about some of the stuff and try and shine some light on what’s going on? Kevin Shields said if he thought of one band that summed up shoegaze, it was Slowdive. And J Mascis—who asked the question—said, ‘If I had to define grunge it’d be Mudhoney.’ Do you have any band you think sums up shoegaze for you? For shoegaze? I’d agree and say Slowdive as well. In a way … yeah! Not in a way to put them down. I love that band and always will. It’s not a put down in any way. But I suppose maybe because it’s slower and they’re not moving around so much? The music was quite float-y in that way? It’s a tricky one! For me, they sort of transcended any definition. But I get the link. To me, it’s My Bloody Valentine. In the sense of creators, I’d say My Bloody Valentine had a big effect that on anyone that were sort of lumped in with the shoegaze movement, including ourselves. They had a big effect on us. Slowdive didn’t in that way—they were just a band I thought was really great at what they did. That’s not a really good answer, is it? I never think about things in genres. I love My Bloody Valentine, same with Cocteau Twins, Slowdive … Sigur Ros, bands like that! Icelandic—coming from somewhere completely different, but at the same time with atmospheric beautiful sounds. I never really worry if it’s this or that or the other. I loved Nirvana, I thought they were great! There’s always great bands. I mentioned krautrock earlier with Can and Neu!—just great. There’s that great song on the new album with a krautrock vibe—‘Rocket Silver Symphony,’ which I love. We always loved that whole Neu! and Can and even ‘Chelsea Girl’ started off sounding much more like a Neu! track. Which slowly got a little more rocked out with the Ride machine. Neu! have always been … it’s that hypnotic thing. You get into a trance state. That’s why I love people like Bonobo now. That’s obviously a different genre in a lot of ways, but there’s a link there. He was a fan of Ride back in the day and I love what he’s done—it’s not like what we’re doing but what I can relate to is that slightly hypnotic atmospheric thing. I love that in music! I heard a track which is interesting … I played 16

that tribute to Nick Drake with an orchestra, the Color Bars Experience—a chamber orchestra from France. A tribute to Nick Drake. I did that with Eric [Pulido] from Midlake and Erol Alkan had done a remix of that [Midlake] track ‘Roscoe’ as a Beyond The Wizards Sleeve remix. I was thinking ‘Why do I love that track so much?’ I love that song anyway, and I love the original version, but Erol’s mix takes it to another level because it captures that hypnotic thing with what the piano does. Beautiful. That hypnotic thing for me is the line I hear, rather than whatever shoegaze is. Erol recorded your album? He produced it with us. Erol is very contemporary and a major concern to me was I wanted—we all did—wanted to make a record that sounded like it was released in 2017, not 1991 or whatever. Erol was great for that. The devil’s in the details—a little more attention to beats and stuff like that. We all love electronic music. So it creeps through in a nice sort of way. We didn’t wanna do the crass dance-crossover thing that was going on with people in the 90s. But there’s something we love there in the atmosphere. I love Boards of Canada, artists like that. That definitely plays its part. It’s artfully done. I feel like lately people go a little crazy with the electronics, and that’s going to sound dated and weird in a little bit! It’s just about what’s good for the song. It could be electronic or a guitar sound or whatever. You don’t wanna worry about the rules because in some ways there are no rules. That’s what keeps it interesting. How did you feel about ‘shoegaze’? And your part in creating it? I was a bit confused by it all really. I thought what we were doing was obviously really good … Bands like the Cocteau Twins, I loved them and their music and love everything about Cocteau Twins. And I loved everything about My Bloody Valentine. We were definitely influenced by those people when we first started making music. Then there were the bands that Steve in the band kind of made us aware of … And me and Andy at school were quite into the Smiths and mainstream alternative stuff. That’s the whole mix of what we loved, and it came out like Ride. It was weird. Here, of course, it was sort of a putdown from when grunge kicked in: ‘These people aren’t grunge and going mad—they’re looking at their shoes.’ We got lumped with a few bands. It’s the classic way the English press works. They built us up so high, but you knew you’d get the knockdown. That was their way of doing it on the back of the

fact that grunge and Nirvana had come in at full pace. We were doing world tours at that point and we’d come back to England and were called ‘shoegaze’ … it was like, ‘Who really cares? That’s the English press up to it again—just as we expected!’ But bizarrely … in time, it has become a genre. To me, it’s very wide open. ‘Krautrock’ isn’t a particularly nice sort of word at describing amazing music that came out of Germany, and ‘shoegaze’ to me is kind of the same. It’s no longer specific about a location—it’s a world thing. It’s a big genre. I think what it means is a bit more experimental—it’s not just straight rock ‘n’ roll. It’s interested in sounds, atmospheres, trying to do something a bit more interesting with that format … and to me that’s alright! The whole challenge is to keep things sounding as interesting and as fresh as possible compared to those who’ve gone before. Loads of bands now say, ‘Oh, we’re shoegaze, we’re psych rock, we’re space rock …’ I dunno. Whatever you do, you know it’s gonna be put in some sort of lazy journalism thing to say it’s part of this or that … and I’m totally fine with that. But to me ultimately, Ride is Ride, and we’ll still do the music. We just make the music we make at that time. It’s Ride music! When I first heard Nowhere … I grew up in L.A. and I loved it because it sounded very California to me! To be honest … the Byrds and the Beach Boys were definitely an influence to me because that was some of the first music I was played by my uncle. You only get so much sunshine at times with Britain, so in a way you crave it! I can still picture hearing it as a teenager and really associating it with a California sound. I couldn’t relate to Britpop in the same way at all. Me too! Britpop was maybe a bit more fashionable, a bit more … people thought more about the clothes they were wearing and a bit more about flying the flag, the English invasion and all … to me that’s all well and good but it’s not really music, is it? I’d rather spend a bit more time on actually making the music interesting and good. At that point I was like, ‘Well, what is this? Oh, it’s gonna be the next British invasion?’ And of course it just fell in the ocean! There were some good things—early Oasis I thought was great. That’s the point—I don’t think we were that fashionable, and as a result, we didn’t turn over with fashion or style. It was just … stranger music, which seemed to hang in the air somewhere. And people just kept picking up on it. It’s very honest and it’s just dedicated to the music, rather than a look or a fashion.

It was very much about fashion and being audacious and that was not what was really happening in America. That’s why I think shoegaze made it over here. You’re right—there’s a lot in that. Certainly … you can theorize a lot, and I do. I do think about it! But America was great for us the first time around. It worked! That’s a great thing with America. You go down the road in some places and there are musicians everywhere— the guy playing in the local bars, the women who sing harmonies and it’s bang-on amazing. I think it’s a real tester of bands if you can do something and it can work there. I also think British bands that do get to America and get to tour, it turns them into such better bands every time—something happens. We brought something to America that wasn’t dressed up as anything other than the music we thought was interesting at this time to us, and it caught a lot of ears and a lot of attention. What America gave us back just made the band better. A lot of words and a lot of music was inspired from Americans and being on tour in America—in a way, kind of living out some of those books that we read. That cliché kind of Beat Generation books, which I did read at school and Andy did—On The Road and all that. You’re in those books! That’s really inspiring to English guys. And you know … you put English guys in the desert and lots of interesting things are gonna happen! We don’t have those things in England! That wide open … I love that about America. I love coming to America for that. That Wild West thing. When he was alive, my dad was obsessed with the westerns and the Wild West. One theme I’d say with Ride is always there is escapism—from ‘Chelsea Girl,’ with the line like, ‘Drive me up to London,’ get me out of here! That’s something we’ve always embraced. It is that slightly romantic thing of ‘Get us out of here!’ Hence the name! Exactly! It’s a name that describes movement—exactly. RIDE ON FRI., SEPT. 29, AT THE MASONIC LODGE AT HOLLYWOOD FOREVER, 6000 SANTA MONICA BLVD., HOLLYWOOD. 8 PM / SOLD OUT / ALL AGES. AND WITH WEEN, OF MONTREAL, JUANA MOLINA AND MORE ON SAT., SEPT. 30, AT THE MUSIC TASTES GOOD FESTIVAL, MARINA GREEN PARK, LONG BEACH. $75-$400 / NOON / ALL AGES. MORE INFORMATION AT MTGLB.CO. RIDE’S THE WEATHER DIARIES IS OUT NOW ON WICHITA. VISIT RIDE AT RIDEOX4.NET. INTERVIEW


SUPERET INTERVIEW BY MADISON DESLER PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBI DEL GRANDE

Taking cues from heroes like Bowie, Eno, and Byrne, Superet have the vision and the electrifying stage presence to inspire blearyeyed, arms-outstretched devotion—much like the downtown church from which they lifted their cryptic name. Prophetic, dystopian, and dedicated to a razor-sharp aesthetic that’s more urgent New York than laid-back L.A., Superet have distinguished themselves with ease, leaving those who’ve seen the shows or streamed their music wondering who they are. Until now they’ve been shrouded in mystery, with a public bio states only that ‘Superet is a band.’ But this is the first time Matt Blitzer, Alex Fischel, Sam KS, Patrick Kelly, and Isaac Tamburino have sat for an interview, explaining where they come from, who they listen to, and why they are definitely not tweeting about Nature Valley. You’re very mysterious. There’s not a lot of info out there, but everyone who went to those DREAMCAR shows you opened is asking, ‘Who are these guys?’ ‘When is the album coming out?’ Is that a conscious choice that you made—to hold back on that stuff? Alex Fischel (keys): No—we’d love for people to know. Obviously that’s the goal. It’s just worked out that way. We had to get things going fast because the DREAMCAR tour came up. We had to release the music we did very quickly—we don’t have the infrastructure to let people know who we are. So let’s lift the mystery. If Superet had a Tinder profile, what would the bio say? Sam KS (drums): Woah. That’s a great question [pause]. ‘From the future. Here for you when the world ends. Expect a phone call.’ Who in the band is the biggest diva? AF: Probably me or Matt. Patrick Kelly (bass): Definitely one of those two. I would probably say Alex. AF: Come on. PK: You don’t think so? Isaac Tamburino (guitar/keys/percussion): You offered yourself up! AF: Yeah, but now it hurts hearing it. PK: That’s diva in itself. SKS: Alex is more of the troll. Matt is more of the diva. Matt has a vocal steam mask, and organic powders that he takes before a show.

Who’s the dad? All: Sam! Wow—unanimous. Why’s that? AF: He’s a responsible guy. PK: Yeah, he’s on it. Constantly. AF: We can designate a driver, but Sam will still not drink because he knows that designated driver is probably going to fuck it up. SKS: That’s true. And I’m usually the person that’s like, ‘We need to leave right now,’ and everyone’s like, ‘Chill.’ We usually get there on time, but someone needs to stress. Matt Blitzer (vox/guitar): He always manages to get the parking spot in front of the venue. Maximized efficiency is his motto. SKS: I love maximized efficiency. When we’re on tour, everyone will just drop their crap in the middle of the floor when we load into the venue. I will usually immediately set my drums up on the floor in front of the stage while everyone else goes and eats or whatever, and then I’ll find them and set up my drums again on the stage. [laughs] So Superet formed last Valentine’s Day? MB: Officially, yeah. We met in college, though. We were all there for our orientation day. Alex and Sam were the first two people that I saw. Alex was wearing a leather jacket with a fur lining and a dangly crystal earring. And Sam was wearing a plaid shirt with cats embroidered onto it or something. I was like, ‘Who are these guys?’ Then a couple of 19


weeks later they approached me like, ‘Hey. We should start playing music together. We’re gonna take you out to dinner at In-N-Out.’ Supposedly they saw that I had a Telecaster guitar and were like, ‘This guy seems like he means business.’ We went out to dinner, then I met Pat shortly afterwards. PK: They were like, ‘Who’s the cool guy in the North Face with the fretless bass?’ SKS: A square cell-phone, also. MB: And then Isaac is Sam’s cousin, and that’s how we all met. Everyone was off doing different projects, but then you all came back together last year. Why? What made you want to refocus on this band with these people? MB: It was just about time. I mean … we played music together in college and never took it seriously. After we graduated, a few years went by, and—around Valentine’s—I had a lot written and decided it was time to take things seriously. Everyone was more freed up, and we got together and put a name to the thing, and started playing shows. And ‘Superet’ is from the side of a church? MB: Just a few days before Valentine’s ... AF: It all comes back to Valentine’s. MB: I was driving right up the street at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, seeing some Beethoven symphonies. On the way was this neon church with a neon Jesus that said ‘Superet Church of Light, blah blah blah.’ We went back to take pictures, and I thought the name sounded cool. Then it wound up coming full circle when I looked up what it meant. It’s Latin: ‘May he overflow,’ ‘may he survive,’ ‘may he surmount,’ all about transcending into a new thing. That was very fitting with the rebirth of this thing we started when we were in college. Then the church also started messaging us on Facebook like, ‘You can’t use that as the name of the band.’ SKS: We were like, ‘It’s literally a word. You don’t own it.’ How did the tour with DREAMCAR happen? That started before you guys even released any music. MB: It did. I was in a dark closet at this weird sex party in West Hollywood, and David Havoc was like, tied up. He was looking at me, and I was looking at him. It was really dark. He was whispering. ‘Do you want to tour?’ And I was like, ‘Woah, that’s Davey Havoc of AFI. Alright.’ It really wasn’t that interesting of a story at all, but … you should use that. All the responses you’ve gotten so far, whether it’s through YouTube comments, stuff on your Instagram, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. SKS: Do we have YouTube comments?! Oh, there’s lots of YouTube comments! Everyone’s raving. ‘Saw you guys with DREAMCAR—you guys are so good!’ SKS: I will say, the people who came out to see DREAMCAR, and then saw us because of that … these people were so excited to be seeing live music. When we play a lot of shows in L.A., people are never outwardly enthusiastic. These are people that are so nice and come up to us after shows, and are genuinely so excited to have heard us. Passionate, really want to talk, and usually say something along the lines of, ‘I think you guys 20

are gonna be so great. I’m so happy I got to see you at this stage.’ And they also want to buy CDs which I think is interesting because … no one ever buys music. AF: No one ever fucking buys music. I’ve seen people on Instagram say that they bought our two singles [‘Pay It Later’ and ‘Who Is This Guy?’] on iTunes. Which is like, what?! SKS: We also were like, ‘We don’t have any music for you to buy physically, but you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music,’ and they went, ‘Aw, bummer.’ PK: I think it’s cool how many people are coming from other states, too. We met people after the L.A. shows that were like, ‘Yeah, we saw you in Chicago, we saw you in wherever.’ They’ll come. They’ll come to all the shows. Something about that music … all their fans are really passionate. MB: We played at the Observatory, and two nights at the Fonda. There were people at all three. Someone posted on our thing, ‘I’ve seen you guys eight times.’ AF: That’s like, every show we’ve ever done. So those two singles … you’ve released videos for both of them, and both of those videos are centered around screens. Is there something behind that? Is this a voyeuristic thing? A comment on technology? MB: I hadn’t even really put that together, that there were so many screens. Both those videos were made very quickly, and on iPhones, and we did them ourselves. AF: Don’t tell anybody. MB: I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room when I got an e-mail saying, ‘We have to shoot this video in the next week.’ So the idea was … ‘I’m in a waiting room, so let’s just create a space that’s sort of a waiting room for this song to live in.’ Neither of them were really supposed to be videos as much as they were supposed to be visual components that could go and be seen. That’s why they’re so static. I think we’re going to continue to keep that throughout the EP. It’s a good look to just have this slow, subtle interesting video. And it’s also way cheaper. SKS: For the camera to not move. MB: For the camera to not move and have something that just has a vibe. So as far as screens and being like relevant to technology, I always liked one-shot videos and one-shot scenes. It’s cool to spend time looking at different areas of what’s happening when the camera is staying still the whole time. The first single, ‘Pay It Later’ seems to be about self-destructive tendencies—maybe darker instincts. MB: Oh man, we’re talking lyrics. SKS: We’re talking words. MB: Any of the songs that are on this EP are exaggerated versions of very basic things that happen from day to day. Writing the lyrics to a lot of these songs was just … Any time something simple would come up that anybody would face or have a difficult time understanding ... for me, it’s easy to use songwriting as a space to blow things way out of proportion. Just to shake a feeling off. That song is about vices, about confusion with yourself—about anything that’s troubling to anyone as they’re going through their twenties. Substance using or whatever. Then again, all of that is very

much an exaggeration of what may or may not have been happening at the time. I wrote the song three or four years ago. When I saw you at the Fonda, the last song of your set [‘Half Life’] … the line that stuck out was, ‘return to the original mind.’ MB: That whole thing is…[speaking to Alex] you’re gonna laugh at me. AF: No, I won’t. MB: That whole thing is a play on a Jack Kerouac poem. It’s called, ‘The Last Hotel.’ [they all start laughing] SKS: [directly into the mic] That’s, ‘Jack… Kerouac.’ MB: It’s an abbreviated version of what’s happening in that poem. ‘Half Life’ is about being split between two ways of life. That song was one of the first we started playing together. Like, ‘Wow, something cool is happening here.’ We’ve been playing that for— SKS: —seven years maybe? MB: A very long time. We’ve played a million different versions of it. IT: The part you’re talking about wasn’t even in there. MB: That part at the end was something that didn’t really come until we started playing as Superet. The words are, ‘Return this hand to my father / Return these shoes to the shoemaker / And this mind this restless mind / Return it to the womb.’ Jack Kerouac, he was a Buddhist, he was not into materialism … I think it’s just [about] a shedding of all things material, and understanding where you came from and what you might have to say, how you may interpret the world, and things around you. But then again ... you’re looking into it a lot deeper than I was. AF: I like that song because it feels like a statement about coming back together. It’s especially poetic because we’ve been playing it for so long, and the lyrics are what they are. It’s a return to the original mind. A return to this thing that we’ve been collectively working on, and kind of lost track of, and here we are now, presenting it. SKS: All the other songs of the set are the same exact length every time we play them, and we have a very specific arrangement. That song … the end of it is different every time. There’s loose guidelines we adhere to when we play it, but whatever happens when Matt goes into the audience [and] whatever we do musically is a product of us as a group. We always do something different, which is exciting. The question everyone’s asking—when is the album coming out? AF: We’re working on that. We’re figuring out when we’re going to record right now. It’s not all done. We have an EP worth of material that we’re slowly releasing. I do feel like since we recorded that stuff, we’ve shifted directions and focused the sound a little bit more. A lot of the newer stuff we haven’t recorded yet, and we have to get to it. Figure out where, and when, and with who. We’re gonna hopefully start in September, and then be done soon after that. It’s on the way. What’s the worst way someone has described your music? Either their comparison was was off, or they mentioned someone you absolutely do not want to sound like. I have some examples if that helps. SKS: Oh yeah—that would be great.

‘It was as if Jack White had penned his own version of Costello Music by The Fratellis.’ SKS: Yeah … that’s probably not right. That’s inaccurate. We do use guitars in our music, though. [laughs] IT: I read that, and I remember thinking, ‘The Fratellis? Really?’ ‘I thought of T. Rex, Sweet, The Killers, and even Adam Ant.’ PK: It started really good. MB: The other night, this guy was backstage at the Fonda, and he was, like, ‘Who’s comparing you to Brandon Flowers?! Who’s comparing you to Brandon Flowers?!’ That was the first thing he said, and I was like, ‘I don’t know! You? What are you talking about?!’ ‘Vocals reminiscent of bands like Phoenix and Passion Pit,’ and then they compare ‘Pay It Later’ to the Strokes. SKS: I don’t mind the Strokes. I don’t think that song is like the Strokes at all. But I like the Strokes. AF: I can never get past that band name to be honest. MB: It’s disgusting. SKS: Those were great! Great research! Great research. Has anyone said anything worse? SKS: Especially when we’re opening for a band that’s nothing like us, the people that want to come up and give you a compliment often will say a very wrong thing. MB: That’s what I was going to say. They’re coming from a good place. SKS: They’re comparing it to something that they love, but that’s just absolutely not the place that we’re coming from. Someone did give Isaac a great burn after the Observatory show. IT: We’ve gotta do this now? SKS: It wasn’t a musical comparison, but it was a very drunk dad. He was like, ‘This guy’s got the fucking dance moves of a dad at a rock concert in 1986.’ IT: I dance a lot on stage. I like to dance. And I’ve got my one dance move. So I guess that was a good comparison. AF: I never told you guys this, but a friend texted me saying, ‘All in on Superet, especially ‘Who Is This Guy.’ There’re some Suburban Lawns vibes, bass line is the freaking jam. Play on, playa. Insanely rippin’ drum fills.’ SKS: Sick. MB: I was going to mention Suburban Lawns. They’re from Cal Arts, too. What did everyone study at Cal Arts? AF: Music Technology. SKS: Patrick was the only bass player, I was the only drummer, and Matt was the only guitar player our year in the undergraduate jazz program. So we were immediately all forced to play music together. IT: I did the Musical Arts program which was like a really loose, performance and composition thing. I have a lot of qualms. AF: Who graduated? Raise your hand if you graduated. SKS: I graduated! Pat finagled it. PK: I graduated like, four months ago. SKS: Matt did walk at graduation. MB: Guys, guys, guys, guys. Come on. SKS: Matt was there. End of story. Everyone walked. AF: And I watched you guys walk. INTERVIEW


What records or artists have had the most influence on the sound of Superet? AF: We all lived together for a while so we all went through the same phases at the same time. Somebody would get into something, then we all would follow them down that rabbit hole. SKS: It would be like, one record for two weeks at a time. Then we’d move on together. PK: Then someone goes and buys the next album from that artist of whatever. AF: Most recently, I feel like we all got into Gary Numan pretty hard. MB: I feel like there’s this thing that I’ve been discovering lately that there’s this weird off-branch of post-punk … like, weird disco music. Bands like ESG or Delta 5. There’s this strange disco thing we’ve been doing. IT: Like an anti-disco. MB: It’s post-punk disco. Then there’s obviously Bowie, Eno, David Byrne, Roxy Music, Talking Heads. Go-to Karaoke song. IT: ‘Born To Run.’ Springsteen. AF: Mine’s ‘With Or Without You.’ SKS: I’ll only do it if they have this very specific version—it’s a club remix of ‘My Heart Will Go On.’ It has an epic drop and it always gets the party started. AF: How do you know if they have it? SKS: Usually the binder will say ‘My Heart Will Go On (Club Remix)’ and I know I’m good to go. You were there! We did it in Hawaii! On New Year’s! MB: Mine is ‘What A Fool Believes.’ Challenging. But also really fun. SKS: Challenging? What you need to know about Matt is he’s always working. [laughs] Pat, what do you got, dog? PK: Karaoke? No one wants to hear me sing karaoke. Not me. The only time I’ve ever done it, my sister dragged me in at her wedding. So I couldn’t say no. It was my huge Midwest family. No one plays music, so they’re like, ‘You’re a musician! You can sing!’ And I can’t. At all. So they make me come in and sing ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe. SKS: Wait! I’ve never heard this story! PK: I did male and female parts, the whistling. But I can’t whistle any better than I can sing. AF: No way. How did you never tell us this? PK: Because I was still shell-shocked. Is it a blessing or a curse to be a band in L.A. right now? MB: For us it’s a blessing. That goes into what we were just saying. We’ve taken such a left turn from what everybody else seems to be up to right now that it’s almost like we have a clear path to experiment and do whatever we want to do. SKS: Also a market where there are eyes. Like … we can do this [interview], which you can’t really do in a lot of other cities. MB: Yeah—we don’t want to fall into a scene. We’re not looking for a scene to get into and have a certain type of audience come and see us. We’ll go play songs with DREAMCAR, where the lead singer is from AFI and the band is No Doubt. Or we’ll go and play with our friends from college— whatever. We want everybody to feel like they can come and see Superet. And not feel like they’re not fitting into a scene. We’re trying really hard to be trailblazers in that INTERVIEW

sense. Even though that’s a very ambitious thing to say for such a small band, but that’s where at least my head’s at. Is there any way that living in L.A. has influenced either the music that you guys make? Or how you make that music? MB: If anything, I think we’re kind of trying to go against the grain of what is happening in the music scene that we’re surrounded by. Not really intentionally, but it’s the way it’s ended up working out. The things that we like to do are a little bit more abrasive, a little bit more intense—performance-wise—than a lot of the things that I see happening in L.A. right now. Not to talk down on anything anyone else is doing, it’s just ... I’m not really that interested in playing slide guitar and being very low-key. Not that that stuff isn’t beautiful—it’s just not what we want to do. As far as how L.A. has influenced us, maybe it’s in that way. We wanted to do something different from what we see happening. SKS: One of the best ways to illustrate that is … usually when we play a show in L.A., we have this thing called ‘the L.A. gap.’ Which is like ... the ten feet in front of the stage where everyone refuses to stand. It’s always like a perfect arc. If that’s there, the first thing Matt says is ‘Let’s close the L.A. gap.’ MB: It’s interesting because I feel like L.A.— as an audience—has a tendency to be very arms-folded, looking around, ‘I’m here to see and be seen.’ But it’s almost like the mob mentality, where if I get into the crowd or I’m making a fool of myself on stage, it frees people up to feel like they can enjoy themselves more. I see a lot of concerts at clubs in L.A. where people are so stiff and tight. All it really takes is whoever’s on stage to do something drastic or put themselves out there to make everybody in the audience feel like they’re involved in something exciting and cool. What’s the worst thing about modern music culture? AF: Social media. Hands down. It’s so phony. You have to say all this stuff, and use this hashtag for this person, and everyone wants you to tweet at them, and if you’re doing this show you have to mention that or this. SKS: You also need to do it. AF: It degrades the art. I hope that’s not pretentious. IT: It’s a distraction. AF: No one signed up to play music to also be tweeting, like, ‘Hey thank you for the shoutout, Nature Valley granola bars. Can’t wait to play your stage at SXSW with Doritos.’ PK: I read a thing recently that Trent Reznor said that I thought was so spot on. It was like, ‘Social media in music takes all the mystery out of musicians.’ You can’t have that mythical hero that’s on the poster on your wall because you know … like Alex said, that they eat whatever kind of protein bar, everything about them. MB: I agree with you… But— AF: There it is. MB: —I also think that there’s a lot of room to be able to attach an aesthetic to a band, like ourselves, that doesn’t have any play anywhere, and be able to show people things that you’re interested in image-wise. The way that you promote yourself, the way that you might campaign a song, or put something

out, and the way that we’re allowing our small audience to see what we’re doing … you can create an allure. There can be a mysterious aspect to social media. I will never … I will never do a ‘Thanks for the Nature Valley.’ AF: I love how we keep using Nature Valley. SKS: This is going on the books, so you can for sure call us out in the future if we ever do this. MB: I will never do that! I won’t do it. I still think that as a platform, it’s a double-edged sword. There is room to be able to do things that are interesting through social media. SKS: I feel like the social media thing, as far as making music in modern times goes, and the drawbacks of it … part of the social media thing is also that people aren’t necessarily going to concerts to see music and have fun. And to let go of their everyday life. When I was a teenager and we would go to some fucking rock concert—like when we saw Dan Deacon at the Troubadour—we went and no one gave a fuck. We were going so hard and everyone was having so much fun. AF: I was covered in vegetable oil. SKS: Yeah, we were covered in vegetable oil because that’s how we got tickets. He was like, ‘If you get vegetable oil for our bus, I’ll get you into the show.’ But we had the best time and everyone was there to have fun. No one had their phone out. That’s something we try to do at our shows that’s a struggle in this day and age. Get people to let go—keep their phone in their pocket and just have a great time. Do you guys find that—as far as phones go at concerts—middle-aged people are the worst? IT: Yes. Because they bring their iPads, too! SKS: Yes. However, it depends what you’re seeing. Like when Kanye played at FYF, there wasn’t a single person that wasn’t watching the concert through their phone. No one goes to a Kanye concert to have the experience of being at a concert. They go to get the fucking sick vid, and say, ‘Look at this, I was there.’ Which is a huge bummer. So social media is a useful tool, but you don’t want to feel like you have to do it. MB: We want to use it how we want to use it. AF: So many people are just looking to go viral, and are telling us, ‘You need to do something with this hashtag, because x band did it and look at how their followers blew up.’ MB: No, that’s bullshit. AF: What band—that’s not like a huge pop artist—what band became successful because of their use of a hashtag? Or like, because they had a cool Instagram? We play music—that’s what we do. IT: I think that instead of calling it a good tool to use, if we think about it as another way to make something cool … We can make an aesthetic through this, we can make it some kind of art form—well, less pretentious than that—but do something like that. It makes it more interesting to use. SKS: Also, please join us at the Doritos Locos Taco Stage at Echo Park Rising [laughs]. IT: Doritos X Nature Valley stage. What’s the best thing about modern music culture? SKS: Technology is at a place where people can make pretty much anything they’re

hearing in their head. That’s really exciting. If you want to make something sound a certain way, there’s not a lot of limitations. [There’s a band in the lobby. The drummer putting his kit together starts playing.] IT: Like I’m hearing drums in my head right now ... MB: It is pretty fucking cool. I’ve got a little studio set up at my place, he’s got a little studio set up at his place, he’s got one … I can start working on something at home, put it on a hard drive or shoot it through the internet to him, and he can do a little thing on it, and then we can take it, reload it at his place, lay down drums on it. The remote quality that we can have in the recording process is definitely something that no one’s ever had before. At least not with this much access. It is very cool. It also provides a lot of people who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing same tools. [The drums get louder.] SKS: Damn—we should play a show here. What is the mission with Superet? What do you want for yourselves, and what do you want for people listening to the music? MB: We want to leave a mark. We take ourselves very seriously. We want to make music that we’re proud of, that we can touch people with. We want to be able to play a lot of shows where people can go, and continue to have the good response like the people that have seen us play thus far. Like what we were talking about. There’s been a lot of people that have said, ‘We want more,’ and we want to give them more. This is not going to be a short blip in our musical history. We’re really passionate, and we have a lot more work to do. We’re not just here to jump into a scene. We want to be out there playing for everyone, and everyone is invited, and we have a lot of work to do. People should expect to keep hearing about us for a long time, because we are going to relentlessly be creating. There’s really nothing more than that. We just want to reach as many people as we possibly can, and we want to turn as many people as we possibly can on to what we’re doing because we love it, and we want to share everything that we’re doing. Reach as many people as possible, while tastefully using social media. MB: Right. Exactly. AF: Fuck Nature Valley, dude. PK: Honestly, Nature Valley is great. I would be happy to get Nature Valley. IT: And I will definitely eat Doritos. SKS: Just don’t expect us to give them a shoutout. MB: I would love it if the headline of this article was like, ‘Superet: They’re Not Going Anywhere, But They Hate Nature Valley.’ Anything we didn’t touch on? PK: We’re best friends. SKS: Yeah—by the way, we’re great friends. SUPERET IN RESIDENCY EVERY MONDAY IN NOVEMBER AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. THEECHO.COM FOR MORE INFO. SUPERET’S SINGLES ‘PAY IT LATER’ AND ‘WHO IS THIS GUY’ ARE AVAILABLE NOW FROM SUPERET. VISIT SUPERET AT FACEBOOK.COM/ SUPERETISCOMING. 21


lOJII Interview by SIMON WEEDN PHOTOGRAPHY BY THEO JEMISON

Tri-state area rapper lojii grew up bouncing around both urban and rural communities in the Northeast, spent some time in Los Angeles and Long Beach not too long ago, and then headed back East once again. But although lojii’s location at any given time might be hard to predict—he was in Atlanta for this interview—his ability and ambition as an MC remain constant. Earlier this year, a summer’s worth of work came to fruition when Oregon record label Fresh Selects released Due Rent, an incredible hip-hop album by lojii and Philadelphia-to-L.A. transplant and multi-instrumentalist producer Swarvy, who was interviewed in L.A. RECORD 124. Like the title says, it was created specifically to help make rent, and thanks to Swarvy’s uniquely sophisticated beats, the album gives lojii and his effortless flow the full-length treatment he deserves. The catalyst for Due Rent was your friend and producer Swarvy fronting you some cash so you could pay your rent for that month—and that moment inspired the album? That whole thing was the only reason why that album came into fruition. At the time, we were making music together just to have music. I’ve been working on a solo album of mine for a couple of years and it’s finally going to come out this fall. He was helping me make some shit that would maybe go on that when I hit this hard two months. One month in particular, I was a few hundred dollars short on my rent because a freelance gig that was gonna cover it fell through at the last minute. Swarvy was like, ‘Fuck! Why don’t we make a tape, man? We could easily make a tape and make what you need!’ And I said, ‘Bruh! It takes time to make a tape! I need the rent in a week!’ Then he basically proposed, ‘How about I front you the money, we make this tape, we sell it, then you pay me back with the sales from the tape? After you pay me back we can split the rest down the middle.’ And I was like, ‘Shit! You are a real person! You are a real friend! That’s fucking crazy! Fuck it! Let’s do it!’ From that, Due Rent was born. How do you and Swarvy work together? Did he play beats for you and you’d write to them right there, or did you show up with rhymes that you fit to what he was creating? The first couple of times we were kickin’ it and getting to know each other, those songs ended up on Due Rent and not on my solo record just because they fit so perfectly with Due Rent. Those first few sessions for the first two songs on Side B, I just went in there and watched him make those in front of me—he played every instrument on them, no samples, and composed and 22

arranged them right there. I just started writing to them as he was making them. When we decided to do the full-on tape, he said, ‘Man, we ain’t got time to sit and come up with a bunch of shit.’ He would have whole sessions of beats where there would be ten beats or ten compositions in the same Ableton file. Swarvy makes beats every day—he’s one of the most prolific creators I’ve ever met, period. He started dumping these Ableton sessions on me and said, ‘Go through these, pick some shit you think fits with your vibe, and then make it and we’ll organize it into a tape.’ And then that’s what happened. Was it helpful to have a set theme? Yeah—my music is about my life and my life in recent years has been a lot of a broke-hearted struggle. So it was pretty easy because I was just talking about my real life. I wasn’t trying to be super conceptual—I was trying to be super real. It’s beautiful because a lot of the songs did just get started by the notebook-full-of-rhymes formula. I had so many bits and pieces of verses compiled throughout different phones and notebooks that for some songs it was kind of like collaging different pieces I wrote together. For other songs, I would get completely inspired and make a new song on the spot or over a few days. There was a myriad of ways I was channeling the music, but it all came together real cohesive. That was dope! Does music help you connect with people? Yeah man! For a long time, I was just working on this first solo project that’s about to drop in the fall and not really releasing anything, but I was always doing shows. In fact, I sort of became obsessed with doing shows for a while because I was obsessed with becoming a dope live rapper

because so many rappers suck live now. It’s like … I’m not putting in all of this work to make these good studio versions of these songs and then go in front of people in real life and be awful. I hate that! It’s made me not want to listen to artists anymore. So there was long period of not releasing anything, just performing live and trying shit out live. And because of that most of my network and people that I call family in the Los Angeles area came from live shows. It’s definitely a huge connection thing for me. As far as my songs, this is the first time in recent years where I’ve gotten to see if people really connect with what I’m talkin’ about on a personal level when they really get time to sit, play my music, replay it, and really dig into it. So far a lot of people have reached out and said some really heartfelt things—there’s people who have reached out and said that Due Rent has changed their life or that Due Rent is helping them through dark times. One dude told me that Due Rent is helping him be a better father. For me, that’s the point—to communicate and create an experience for whoever is listening and the person channeling it. Those are beautiful sentiments. I feel like a lot of artists don’t really think or care about how their music is connecting with people. Rap is just a commodity now. A lot of rap is just about material shit, which is fun when you’re in the club, but I can’t be on the bus going through a fucked-up day and then listen to how rich some other guy is. It’s interesting to me that mainstream hiphop veered into promoting consumption. I may sound a bit like an old man telling kids to get off my lawn, but it doesn’t seem so long ago that artists like Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, and Tupac were dominating the charts.

I hear you bro. It’s just the sad state of being in capitalism. That’s really what it is. It’s just reflecting the society it was born in. Rap culture was made to flex in the face of poverty. That’s all they’re really doing, so they’re actually being true to the culture when you think about it. For me personally—and I’m not just talking about rap—I need music in general that helps me through my days, so that’s what I’ve set out to make. With this terrible administration in the White House, do you think social consciousness is coming back into style? I think it’s already back in fashion right now. When you look at all of the most popular artists they’re all throwing in the ‘wokeness’ almost as a gimmick now. All of a sudden Beyonce is conveniently coming out with this super-woke album, Lemonade, which I think is a really dope album, personally. Kendrick Lamar is one of the biggest rappers out now. Jay-Z just made an album where he’s basically reflecting on himself being a patriarch and a misogynist and trying to come to terms with it. So I think it is in fashion. Everyone is doing it and being encouraged to do it. It’s teetering on the edge of being a gimmick, but I’d rather that be the gimmick than what it’s been since the bling-bling era started. One thing I’ve admired older artists for was their activism. Tupac was as much an activist as he was an artist, and I see folks like Chance The Rapper doing amazing things for their communities. Do you think activism is going to return as well? It’s definitely what I’m hoping to see and it’s what I’m doing. For my solo album that’s coming out in the fall, the first single I let out is called ‘No Ebola’ and it gained a lot of traction online and gave me my first little taste of buzz. That song is very INTERVIEW


much about being Black in this crazy-ass very racist society that we live in—standing up against those forces and being powerful and beautiful regardless. Because a lot of people resonated with the artwork I used which was done by my friend Ivan Forde, a brilliant, Black, Afro-futurist artist, I put it on t-shirts and donated half of the profits to an organization in Sierra Leone and Liberia that is helping people recover from the Ebola crisis. And I’ve been coming up with a lot of ideas for merch that is geared toward social causes. Because if you listen to my music, a lot of it is about shit going on in society, the world, and me, so I’m trying to reflect that with what I do outside of the music. That’s what I’m doing personally, and it would be nice if the larger culture starts reflecting that more too. You’re about to take a big road trip. What’s your favorite road trip music? My daily soundtrack changes all the time. I grew up around music: my father is a musician and a lot of peeps in my family are musicians, so I was exposed to so many genres from an early age. So it shifts quite a bit. Lately, I’ve been on this more modern funk/neo-soul wave and listening to Georgia Anne Muldrow, Sa-Ra, and Erykah Badutype vibes. My dad had a weird upbringing too, so he got exposed to a lot of different kinds of music in his own ways. That’s a whole different story, though—if someone ever makes a biopic about him they can ask him about it. He’s not a really a rap or hiphop kind of dude, though—he was more into jazz, a lot of funk, and he even loves a lot of folk and old blues music. That was the stuff I was mostly around. Then in the 90s he got really into trip-hop and … I’m not really sure how to explain it. Lounge music—the Brand New Heavies type of stuff. He was more of an instrumentalmusic type of dude is what I’m trying to say. I was around all that. So when it came to rap and hip-hop, he wasn’t really into it unless it was sampling the kind of vibes he was into. He was more into groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets because they had a lot of jazz influence in their music. That’s how I got introduced to the hip-hop sphere—through cats like them. Digable Planets was the first rap I ever heard period, so I started off weird as hell already. What about Digable Planets spoke to you at such a young age? It had all of the flavors of the stuff that my dad listened to that seemed weird to me as a little kid, but it brought in more bouncy and followable—I think I just made that word up—vibes. I could just bounce to that shit. You can’t really bounce to Miles Davis. I mean, maybe you can bounce to some of that early bop shit, now that I’m older and know where to find it. Back then though, I was just a little kid, I wanted to bounce, and Digable Planets was the bounciest shit he was playin’ so I fell in love with it. From there, I was just listening to whatever was on the radio. I think the first rap CD I ever bought was Big Willie Style from Will Smith which was very Philly of me. It’s a classic! 24

You know! I was just following those vibes. When I was moving around with my mom, we’d end up in some weird-ass towns so I was getting exposed to all types of shit from that too. I lived in this one town—North Brunswick—and there was a bunch of white boys that were always playing all of that nu-metal stuff like Korn, Limp Bizkit and all that type of shit. I’m mixed too, so I’ve got some white family and all of my cousins were deep into punk and showed me bands like the Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, and G.B.H. I was just riding the wave and listening to so much music as a little kid, but what kept calling me back was rap. I was listening to all of that shit on the radio like Jay-Z and DMX, and then the early 2000s hit and so I started hearing Nelly, Missy Elliott and Timbaland. By no means do I quote Will Smith as a lasting influence, but he was probably the first cat that made me want to rap and start playing around with rhyming when I was six or seven. I think the reason he was so inspiring to me back then was because I was only six or seven. Going back to it now … I’m not bumpin’ any of that shit. If Will Smith was the beginning, at what point did you start to get serious? When I was eight and in elementary school we had to fill out this little thing with all of these questions for the teachers to try and get to know us better. For the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I wrote, ‘Rapper.’ So I guess I always wanted to be one, but at the time I was a little kid just saying that shit. I thought it was dope. I don’t think I took it seriously until high school, but I was always writing rhymes to myself and rapping with friends around the neighborhood. What did taking it seriously mean? I started trying to find someone to record me—that way I could have recordings I could show people. Until then, I was just free-styling on the block or with friends around. It was fun and I was in the culture, but I wasn’t sitting around dreaming of becoming a rapper. As I got older though and started spending more time with it … I was never the type to keep a diary so my raps became my diary. As I grew, it became more and more personal for me. It felt like I had to—I had to make that music because it’s a part of my life, it’s how I express myself, it’s how I talk about the world around me, and it’s how I come to grips with the world around me. Even to this day, I don’t do it because I’m trying to be a superstar or some shit like that. If some type of fame or clout comes that would be fine, but even if I could get to live comfortably and be able to make music forever without having to worry about anything else that would be highly appreciated. I never got in this to be some type of star or nothing like that—I do it because it’s a deep part of me now. LOJII’S LOFEYE WILL BE AVAILABLE THIS FALL FROM YOUNGBLOODS. LOJII AND SWARVY’S DUE RENT IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM FRESH SELECTS. VISIT LOJII AT SOUNDCLOUD.COM/LOFILOJII.


L.A. WITCH Interview by JULIA GIBSON Photography by BEN RICE POSTER BY JUN OHNUKI AND BEN RICE

L.A. WITCH’s hotly anticipated self-titled debut album is almost here, and it’s been worth the wait. The psychedelic garage-rock trio delivers a set of dark, gritty, and haunting songs that are just much at home in the 1960s as they are in 2017. We caught up with Sade Sanchez, Irita Pai, and Ellie English to talk about the trials of touring, horror films, and the best arcade in Los Angeles. I was creeping around on your Tumblr and saw a picture of the three of you and your tour manager at the Winchester Mystery House. Did you guys get to go on a tour? Sade Sanchez (guitar + vocals): Yeah we did! Irita Pai (bass): It was so hot. SS: It’s an old-ass house. It’s funny because we’ve driven by it for years—since we started touring—and we’re all like, ‘When are we gonna go!?’ It was probably one of the coolest houses that we’ve ever been in. There’s a really crazy story behind it and super interesting, really beautiful architecture. Very goth-y. Lots of thirteens and spiders everywhere. It was epic. You have to go. You guys are major road-warriors—you tour a lot! Ellie English (drums): It never stops. SS: No denying we are the road warriors. Is it taxing? SS: It’s both really hard and really easy; really fun and really miserable … IP: Extremes of happiness and misery. EE: You just have to give yourself to the road. As soon as you accept it, you’re fine. SS: Anytime something is going bad or we’re pissed or bummed or something fucked up happens, we always say, ‘Well, this is the life we chose.’ We can say no—we don’t have to do this. It’s always worth it, no matter what kind of weird, fucked-up shit you go through. At the end of it all, you’re like, ‘Damn, that was really cool, and I wouldn’t have gotten to do that otherwise.’ All the places we’ve been and all the people we’ve met … it’s pretty tight. You’re not a normal person if you’re touring.

EE: Yeah, everything is not regular. I was going to say ‘irregular’ but that sounded like I was talking about periods. [laughs] Everything is irregular. How did you decide that right now was the right time to take a break from touring and record your debut album? SS: We’ve always wanted to do it, and we’ve made a few attempts, but recording was just a whole different process. We were really limited on funds, and we got signed to a really cool DIY label and they helped us out. We were finally here at the right time, and the opportunity came up to record at the studio. IP: We actually recorded the album before we even signed to Suicide Squeeze. Hurley had approached us about recording at their studio. SS: We recorded between tours. I think we were unhappy with a lot of the past sessions we had done. We would record something, and then we would go on the road and we would come back and listen to it and it would sound different because we had been playing these songs for so long that they just evolved in their own way. Now we’ve finished it and we’re putting it out with Suicide Squeeze and we’ve got this really cool vinyl and we’re super excited that it’s finally a real thing. The vinyl is pink, right? SS: Yeah! We wanted to do glow in the dark vinyl but apparently it’s not the best quality. IP: Glitter too. Glitter’s terrible for sound quality. What gear do each of you use? How does that help refine your sound, both in the studio and otherwise? 27


“At least it’s not like your guitar tech took too much acid and broke your bass into pieces.” SS: I’m always wondering why people don’t ask us about this. We love talking about our gear. I’ve been playing this vintage 1968 Vox Viper. It was one of my dream guitars. I loved that a lot of influences of mine played one, like Ian Curtis or Brian Jones or Anton Newcombe. They are so cool because they have all these built-in effects. These guitars came out in the 1960s so the effects were aimed towards that psychedelic weird music. I would get pedals that were supposed to replicate these sounds, and I thought it sounded close to it, but when I got the Vox … nothing comes close to the actual effects of the guitar. I really like a lot of treble-y surf-y feel, a lot of fuzz, and a lot of reverb. If I had to choose one effect … I could not go without any reverb. EE: I don’t really use the same gear every tour. Every time I record I use a different drum set too. My favorite drum set I’ve gotten to play on—which wasn’t mine—was a C&C kit. I like Pork Pie—they’re consistent. I tour with a Gretsch Catalina Club set because it’s small, so it fits in the van. The bass drum for the Catalina is very light and slides around, so I converted a floor tom into a bass drum. IP: I play a Fender Mustang—it’s a short scale bass. I have flatwound strings, which are different from standard round strings. So you chose the name L.A. Witch because the word ‘witch’ conjures up the image of a powerful woman. Which powerful women do you look up to? SS: Kim Gordon, Gwen Stefani, Patti Smith, Ronnie Spector … there’s so many. Courtney Love! We grew up in the 90s. PJ Harvey! Did you see PJ Harvey last time she played in L.A.? SS: No, but I did see Nick Cave. It was one of my top five favorite shows. You should go to a Nick Cave show. It’s … spiritual. IP: Kim Gordon is why I picked up bass. Did you ever get to see Sonic Youth? IP: No, that would have been amazing. But Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo are both playing Desert Daze this year. And L.A. Witch is playing Desert Daze too? IP: Yeah we are! We’ve done it four years in a row. It’s like we’re a part of their family now. SS: There’s a lot of festivals happening now, but I feel like Desert Daze is one of those that is kind of perfect. People go there to see music—not like Coachella, which has turned into a fashion show. It’s not as crazy as other festivals. Is it different playing festivals vs. playing one-off shows? SS: Oh yeah! IP: They’re so much fun. SS: A lot of the time you’re on a festival lineup with your friends, so all of your friends are there. You usually have a few days off so its not like one show after another. You get the chance to actually chill and watch bands INTERVIEW

that you like, and you get to lose your mind, whatever your drug of choice is. You can’t really take acid when you’re on the road. I mean you can, but … IP: It’s better when you’re at a festival. It’s the only place that’s really meant for that. EE: It’s set up for you to do drugs. It’s like, ‘Hey, come sit by this weird swing that we built! Come play in the mud!’ And you’re like, ‘Okay, I think I’ll do that.’ SS: We saw that happening at Levitation— like people rubbing mud on each other’s faces. I’m glad we never got that fucked up. We did some weird shit, but not that weird. You’re getting ready to play Burger Invasion in Hamburg, Germany. Have you been to Germany before? IP: We’ve played there. SS: It’s super cool. EE: Danke! SS: We’ve gone to Europe two times now. Road warriors! IP: Yeah, a lot is is happening to you. EE: Every day is so packed. SS: There’s so much new information to take in. It’s definitely hard to remember everything that’s happened, which is why taking photos is really good. EE: Sometimes you get photos back and you’re like, ‘I don’t remember taking this. I don’t remember doing that. What’s going on?’ SS: It’s a cool way to keep a journal. We’re actually making a zine this year of all the photos we’ve taken. It’s our first zine, and we all really love film. What is it that attracts you to film? SS: It’s just got a warmth to it. It’s such a physical thing. IP: It looks different. The way that it captures things are more true to life than a digital photo. SS: For some reason it makes it more memorable. IP: When you develop them weeks later, months later—whenever you have money— you remember things. It’s like a little time capsule. SS: I took this photo one time of [Irita] and her boyfriend playing an arcade game, and for some reason, the photo came out with her boyfriend’s head on top of her boobs. IP: That’s what our baby will look like. Are you into arcades? Which one is the best? SS: I love Family Arcade. It’s so good. IP: We’ve done shoots there. They’ll yell at you if you take pictures. SS: I just love all of the weird lights, and I love that it’s in a weird spot, and how every time I go there’s no one there. They have all the old games. They’ve got vending machines for snacks. It’s kind of perfect. I love any arcade that has Galaga. IP: I love Galaga! It’s my favorite. It’s so cheap!

It’s not like Mortal Kombat, where you just mash the buttons and hope it works. SS: [laughs] Yeah—like trying to come up with combos and you’re just pushing all the buttons together. For 90s kids, the arcade at the mall was the coolest place. SS: We’re so lucky—we were the last to get arcades. Now everyone just has apps on their phone. But I love Trivia Crack. A lot of the time we can’t be on our phones on tour though because we don’t have reception. I have to tell you about this other game: Trivia Crack is great but you have to wait for a turn, which sucks … Oh, QuizUp! I played it so much that I became number one in the country. Find me on QuizUp guys! Try and beat me! Do you think there’s a lot to be excited about right now when it comes to music in L.A.? SS: It’s hard to say. For me personally, it’s been challenging to find things that I feel excited about. When do find things I’m excited about, I’m super stoked. When I was a kid, everything was exciting. Everything that was on the radio I thought was cool—I had every album. Now—and I don’t know what it is—maybe it’s the way we listen to music? But it doesn’t feel the same. I’m not saying that there’s not cool shit happening … maybe I just don’t know about it. Maybe I’m too detached because we’re always traveling. It’s a weird time right now, I think. A word that I keep seeing used to describe your music and lyrics is ‘ominous.’ What do you think of that? SS: I definitely think that word can describe us. Nothing that we do is intentional, as far as creating music. We have a wide variety of influences, and whatever they are at the time, that’s just naturally what comes out in our music and lyrics. Anything in particular? SS: Horror films. Sci-fi. EE: I don’t like scary stuff. I can’t watch. SS: I love scary stuff! IP: We’ve watched a few together, on the road, and I always feel bad because Ellie is always like .. [covers eyes in fear] SS: My plan was to slowly build her immunity. EE: It just caused more damage. SS: We fucked up. We made her watch The Babadook. EE: I only watched the first 20 minutes. SS: She couldn’t sleep for two days after that. EE: I Googled™ the ending while they were watching because I had to know what was going to happen, and I was still scared. IP: It’s still really good! EE: I prefer documentaries. Or cartoons. What about books? SS: I’m still working on Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands by Will Carruthers from

Spacemen 3. I love reading books about other artists and bands because it’s super relatable. Sometimes you’re reading about something while it’s happening to you on the road, and it helps you out. It’s like a weird guide. IP: I do the same thing! I’m reading Get in the Van by Henry Rollins. It gives you perspective. They lost a trailer once, I think. They saw it sinking into a river. Anything that happens on the road … at least it’s not that bad. SS: At least it’s not like your guitar tech took too much acid and broke your bass into pieces. Now that the album is ready to go, what’s up next for L.A. WITCH? IP: We’re excited to have our record out. It’s been a long time coming. It’s also a little scary. SS: I’m so scared. Are people going to hate it? We just released a new version of ‘Drive Your Car’ and someone went on our Facebook and commented ‘Nope. I like the original version more.’ I was just like, ‘I do too, but who cares about your opinion!’ We always joke like … what if we answered our fans with how we actually felt? People start to demand things of you, like, ‘why didn’t you play this song and that show!’ and I’m just like, ‘I’m just a human being!’ People don’t really think of you … IP: As a person! SS: Yeah! And when we were a smaller band, that didn’t really happen to us. It was just our friends and shit. Now it’s a growing thing online. EE: Cyberbullying. SS: There’s haters! But I think it’s more the interaction where it doesn’t feel like a personal thing and so people don’t realize that they’re talking to, you know … a girl that’s just trying to fucking play music! Just trying to follow her dreams. EE: Sometimes they probably think we’re not going to see it or something. Like there’s some kind of blockage and its not going to get to us. But like … we see it. SS: Maybe they think the Facebook page is our label’s, or maybe it’s our manager answering … no, it’s us. It’s like, does Metallica check their own Facebook? I don’t know. IP: They’re all crying over it. Lars is just crying the whole time, before bed. L.A. WITCH WITH SPIRITUALIZED, UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS AND MANY MORE ON SUN., OCT. 15, AT DESERT DAZE FESTIVAL AT THE INSTITUTE OF MENTAL PHYSICS, 59700 Twentynine Palms HWY., JOSHUA TREE. $75-$899 / ALL AGES. DESERTDAZE.ORG. L.A. WITCH’S SELF-TITLED LP IS OUT NOW ON SUICIDE SQUEEZE. VISIT L.A. WITCH AT LAWITCHES.BANDCAMP.COM. 29


DOWNTOWN BOYS Interview by emily twombly illustration by juliette toma

When I first saw Downtown Boys, I thought to myself, “Is this what it felt like to see X-Ray Spex?” They exude an commitment and ferocity that is absolutely intoxicating. Victoria Ruiz’s vocals hit hard and the band delivers a rare kind of energy thanks to driving guitars and an slashing horn section. Their newest Cost Of Living is out now on Sub Pop and we spoke only a few days after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia—so it felt fitting to be talking about the state of our country with a band that fights for the rights of marginalized people every time they perform. Cost of Living was produced by Guy Picciotto of Fugazi and Rites of Spring— how did that influence the way it sounds? Norlan Olivo (drums): I think for one Guy was really super easy and helpful. By the end of it, we all kinda saw him as a friend of ours, or even like a punk father figure in a lot of ways. Fugazi and definitely a lot of the projects Guy has been involved with have a similar tone to our music, and so someone who’s done this amazing work—especially in the ‘punk genre’ or whatever—it was definitely helpful to have him on board. Just to have an experienced eye. And helping us with things we’d probably have overlooked if he hadn’t had him there—he has a tremendous amount of experience doing this stuff. Victoria Ruiz (vocals): Mary asked Allison Wolfe about producing us—from Bratmobile—and Allison was unavailable so Mary was like, ‘Who would you recommend?’ And she recommended Guy Picciotto and we asked him. And he said ‘no’ at first! But we pretended like we didn’t know he had said no—that was very late in the game. We’re just very grateful it was Guy. What are the themes of the record? Obviously it’s heavily influenced by what’s going on in our country right now and our government—but are there artworks or books or something else that inspired you when writing? VR: There are a lot of things that were inspirational for the record. Obviously, all the songs were written before the election. They’re speaking to the power dynamics and the disease that caused this current symptom of the president. ‘Promissory Note’ has a really big influence a lot from ‘I Won’t Light Myself 30

On Fire To Keep You Warm.’ That’s from a conference about people of color dealing with sexual assault and speaking to this idea about often people of color—and especially women of color—that have power and a platform are deemed to do these impossible tasks of both like fronting the message and being the back end of the movement or a message, something that’s literally impossible. They’re often asked to be like the first responder but also be the last one sitting in the room waiting for the last person to leave. These expectations are put on you by toxic masculinity and by misogyny and capitalism and racism. I think it’s also speaking on having to deal with power and with ability. You are still given these giant demands by white fragility, by white feminism, by white supremacy, and the album has a lot of wanting to break down these types of narratives—wanting to break down any type of narrative that there is one answer, that there is one way to do things, and really speaking to the spectrum of emotions and realities between the perfect and the evil, which is where all of humanity lies. Other influences … ‘A Wall’ is inspired by the poem ‘Affirmation’ by Assata Shakur, and is also inspired by this kind of demand we wanna put on people. Like when they see other people and they’re so quick to judge or so quick to hate on them, we hope that people are seeing themselves as well and thinking about that collective power. And we were inspired to have a pretty literal message against borders. ‘Somos Chulas’ is inspired by Nina Simone’s ‘I Ain’t Got No’ and Gloria E. Anzaldúa—the verses are all about what we fly with and what we can’t seem to secure. And all the things we end up flying with are

things like our veins, our head, our heart, our fingers, and the things we can’t seem to secure are things like money and land and ticket. Did you feel like you needed to compromise anything to put out an album like this on Sub Pop? VR: Not a single value has been compromised. If anything, Sub Pop Records has been far more supportive in helping us grow as artists and as people with a message than a lot of the gremlins in the punk scene that are mad we are refusing to fit into the punk rock box. Do you feel your fans’ expectations of you are higher because you put yourself out there as this political band? There are all these ‘rules’ that go along with that in a lot of people’s minds. How do you respond to criticism if they think you ‘sold out’ or whatever? VR: Remembering that before you can really feel or even be respectful or compassionate to anyone else’s rules, you have to accept them as your own rules. And so the definitions that other people have of selling out or other people have of negotiating our message or our politics … it’s like, ‘Do we agree with those definitions? Or what they’re putting out there?’ As long as you haven’t sold yourself, you’ve never sold out. And we’ve never done that. Really, remembering that we can’t love anyone else til we love ourselves first … in order to do that, we’re gonna have to believe in what we’re doing. And I don’t think we’ve ever not believed in it. And also … we think those rules are coming from the desire that we all have to be able to grasp on to any sort of morality where we can say, ‘This is right! This is wrong! This is good! This is bad!’ We desire that morality so much because then we

don’t have to think critically about power— we don’t have to think critically about what’s actually going on in the world. And remembering that we’re not here to prioritize dogmatic principles—we’re here to prioritize fighting for power, and fighting against things that are happening in our status quo. How do you determine what shows are right for you to play? Is there a time where you’d draw the line—if this fest or this show goes against your values? You did that protest against South By when they were threatening to report musicians to ICE. Joe DeGeorge (saxophone): It’s like what we were talking about before—it’s getting a different platform for this message. Venues are different tools to reach different people. Bringing our band into different spaces and shaking them up a little bit like we could do at SXSW … by participating in some of these big festivals we get an opportunity to critique them in a way we wouldn’t get if we just abstained. That’s what’s at play in deciding whether or not to play things. I mean at this point we’ve already set a precedent where we play other festivals, like SXSW and Coachella. I love your live show, and I love that Victoria talks so much about your values. I think that’s wonderful. Do you ever feel— at the smaller shows—that you’re kind of preaching to the choir? VR: No—I think a lot of white artists that end up getting to play to all-white people who never have to talk about their whiteness are preaching to the choir. I think a lot of white artists that get to talk about political things but never to have to feel it viscerally, and that’s why they talk about it and then get lauded for it and put on pedestals … I think INTERVIEW


that they preach to the choir. I have never felt that way. I think in moments where I do feel that way ‌ we always push ourselves and our message but then be like, ‘Alright, clearly people get this—let’s move further.’ Honestly, it’s really uncomfortable when someone’s coming to your show and they wanna hear ‘She’s brown! She’s smart!’ and they wanna hear our message against Donald Trump—they get that—but then they hear something else that maybe they weren’t ready for and you can kind of see it in the crowd ‌ and then it’s like, ‘Aw, man, it woulda been so easy just to leave it at that and have a good night and go home.’ But we constantly push ourselves to not preach to the choir. And ‘preaching to the choir’ is also thinking that that group of people is gonna be able to defend you and protect you and you’re able to defend and protect each other, and that’s great now. There are so many attacks from so many different angles—especially right now, even to people who we’re fully on the same page, it becomes a moment of catharsis and a moment of ‘Oh, wow, outside of this show, I don’t feel like getting up in the morning’ or ‘I feel like the giant elephant in the room and simultaneously invisible in spaces’ ‌ hopefully this was a moment of catharsis. I think if we wanted to preach to the choir, if we wanted to feel comfortable and good about ourselves, and if we only ever wanted to feel affirmations from this band, we would be setting a lot of rules for the shows that we play and we’d only play very specific places. We wouldn’t be like putting ourselves out on a limb like we have this spring, and we’d probably be feeling a lot more comfortable than we are right now. That’s really commendable to be expanding your message out of your comfort zone. It’s probably the only way we’re going to get a message out to a larger audience. Do you have any advice—especially after the events in Charlottesville—for people feeling hopeless or lost or who wanna do something but they don’t know where to start? Mary Regalado (bass): I just got off of a work call about this with my other job. Remember the other side of white supremacy and fascism, it’s quite monolithic. They are crystal clear in what they believe in and what they want. On our side, we have this blessing and a curse—I think right now more than ever it’s a blessing—of such a diversity of tactics and of so many people from so many places that really felt the impact of Charlottesville and have this incredible desire to think about how to show up. Especially for brown people, we have to remember we’re always gonna get really angry and pissed-off at white people for making this country what it is and making it such a violent place. But we have each other and we can figure out how to support each other. For brown people we can really think about how to support our Black brothers and if we prioritize that, that will be more powerful than trying to give in to the other side’s desire to divide and conquer us. We really have the potential—more futures, more infinite space to try and navigate and fight in than they do. If we can figure out how to pressure them into a bottle and screw it closed and throw 32

them down into the ocean, we can do that. That’s a big one. Also right now more than ever we need to realize that violence is a tactic and we can’t give in to the neoliberal belief that violence is something that should always be a moral issue—that violence can’t be a tactic. And we saw it. We saw people fighting back, taking space, being violent to the white supremacist line and it had an impact. What are your goals for the next year as a band? As people? JDG: Our tour’s taking us around the states, going to Europe in October ‌ I hope we get a new van! Joey DeFrancesco (guitar): It’s hard to think of things too far beyond that. Everyone— ourselves included—are under so many attacks right now that it’s hard to think about surviving what we’re doing. I think we’re trying to just take it a day at a time. NO: In reference to the Charlottesville situation ‌ it is a fight for people of color to partake in, but this is also a fight that I feel like white people who are supposed to be our allies or who are not quote-unquote racist have to take the lead. And it’s gonna take those white people standing up for the people of color that they quote-unquote love and care about for things to change. That’s gonna take white people using their privilege to fight the precedent that’s in the world and calling out not just the people that are on Facebook or on Twitter or in Charlottesville that are easy to call out—but call out their relatives, or call out their friends and their co-workers who they know are racist, and who they know have these views. It’s gonna be hard but that’s what has to happen. That’s what has to start to happen for things to change. This is not just on people of color or Black people— we’ve been fighting forever. We’re tired. If the majority in this country is white and there are white people in this country who believe we should be treated equally, then those white people have to stand up and fight too! That’s just a reality. If you denounce fascism and denounce these Nazis, get out there and fight and really protect us! VR: Charlottesville’s everywhere! JDG: Neutrality’s just not a real thing. Inaction has consequences and is enabling the white supremacist ideology. NO: If you’re out there and you’re white and you’re seeing a person of color getting fucking absolutely mauled by police like in the streets getting beat up for no apparent reason and you don’t stop them, then you killed that person too! And that’s what white people have to understand. That’s just the reality. DOWNTOWN BOYS PLAY WITH ZEBRA KATZ, MECCA V A AND THE MOVEMENT MOVEMENT, SHANI CROW, DAMON LOCKS AND MORE ON SAT., SEPT. 23, AT SUMMER HAPPENINGS AT THE BROAD: BASQUIAT AT THE BROAD, 221 S. GRAND AVE., DOWNTOWN. 8:30 PM / $25-$30 / ALL AGES. THEBROAD. ORG. DOWNTOWN BOYS’ COST OF LIVING IS OUT NOW ON SUB POP. VISIT DOWNTOWN BOYS AT DOWNTOWNBOYS.BANDCAMP. COM.

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MARTIN REV Interview by christina gubala illustration by felipe flores Martin Rev is simultaneously a link to a bygone zeitgeist and a pioneer of the present. The legacy of his work as one half of the confrontational punk act Suicide extends to the most unexpected places—R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, and countless synth-pop bands have cited them as an influence and turned them in some kind of godfather figures in American music. After a sold-out solo show at Zebulon that drew musical cognoscenti from all demographics and a successful Cinefamily celebration of Suicide Live—a sight to behold, to say the very least—the prospect of asking Martin Rev something meaningful was daunting. However, as Wayne Shorter has been known to emphasize, it’s not about the music—it’s about the person. The warm, wise Mr. Rev was generous with his time and with his memories. His latest record Demolition 9 was underway before the passing of his former bandmate Alan Vega, but listening to the album through the lens of mourning makes for moments of uncanny sense. This life-long New York denizen wore his trademark shades and a Captain America t-shirt—with the sleeves cut off—to our interview at the Standard Hollywood, offering a glimmer of hope in a world that feels increasingly overrun by the cruelest among us. He is not only a link to punk in its most primal state, but also to the tradition of artistic resistance in the era of Nixon and the Vietnam war. His music transmits his own language of protest—its a crucial reminder and a much needed encouragement for these times, or for any times at all. As I understand it, you studied piano as a child? Yes. It’s something I had to learn. Everybody in the family played something. There was just four of us. My brother and I were given lessons. It was something we had to do. When I wanted to quit a year or two later—because it was getting in the way of my playing baseball and hanging out with my friends when the week was over—I was told, ‘You can’t quit. You’re 11, 12 now—you can’t make that decision until you’re 15.’ And to me that was like … forever, between 12 and 15. It’s all about the ratios! When you’re 12, three years is like a fourth of your life. It is! The amount of growth and everything physically … In less than a year I was already grateful and thanking them that they kept me doing that. My brother at the time was studying more popular music, and he was doing the boogie-woogie thing, and when I heard that—and I knew how to read that—I took that and just began playing. I started improvising, playing boogie-woogie stuff, figuring things out. And then taking songs that I was listening to all the time, all the rock stuff, and figuring those out. And now I was doing my own playing. And plus getting the facility—the fact I had learned all that and was still learning gave me even more facility. The only classical composer that I only kind of felt something for then—that I had to play—was Debussy. Also my favorite. And still is. Absolute? There’s a few. But he’s definitely still one I come back to. The Suite Bergamasque is transcendent in a way that music rarely is. It’s so modern. All the modern jazz guys too are so influenced … this harmonic innovation was very much in the forefront of Herbie and Bill Evans and, you know, Miles. That was the next stage. ‘Kind of Blue’ came out of … the way Debussy was voicing stuff just like that when he did it, and Ravel. I was playing maybe one piece out of the ‘Children’s Corner’ or something like that. But already it was so visual and descriptive. But I didn’t attach to it that much. I didn’t get up from a INTERVIEW

lesson and say, ‘I gotta hear Debussy!’ I would listen to Stravinksy and I remember the first time it came on the radio—I knew there was stuff there that I had to learn for myself. I had many times fell asleep—like in the middle of ‘Firebird’—because they’re so long. But I was starting very earnestly to hear what’s happening there. And it continued to this day. I just listen and study. I noticed a lot of the influence on Stigmata. I’m sure that’s an easy parallel to draw. And that leads me to my next question. In an older interview you mentioned Alan used to wear a giant white cross around his neck, and of course you were on the album cover in a cross position. Tell me about Catholicism—how it has influenced you and how you internalize it as an ethos rather than an aesthetic. It was very different for Alan and myself. I didn’t have any real affinity for Catholicism at all. My first impression is of Catholicism is being horrified. Going to friends’ homes and seeing pictures of Jesus on the wall— crucifixion pictures. That was scary stuff. I didn’t know where that was coming from because I wasn’t brought up that way. So Stigmata, to me, was more of continuing the thread for me of the tradition of music and the musical history, which is like the history of art. You can’t separate it from the history of the church and the history of religious art or religious music. So much of the music that is totally the great music—not the great religious music, though it is great religious music … the church was the only institution to preserve and foster and promote music and art, so that became the place for hundreds of years— They were the bankrollers. Yeah, and the ones that gave you a wall to paint on, like Michelangelo. And when you painted, sure, you painted the scenes that they … you know. When you had a gig like that, when you had a gig for the church, you wrote for the masses and for the weekly services and all the different times of the day, different formats, weekend stuff, like what all the scutata is for. So that to me was always totally

one with any study of music at all. Stigmata was just a reflection of that for me. The titles. Did you ever have to study Latin? I had studied Latin in high school maybe for a year. I wouldn’t say I was in any way thrilled with it or mastered it. It’s hard to stick with it. Yeah. Well, I came back to it about four years ago, I really started from page one. And I do that now—I dig it, study it once a week, continuing along with a textbook ... cuz I dig it. It took a while for me to figure out what that grammar is about — Declensions. Yes, declensions. That’s why I had to go back to page one of the grammar. I was like that with languages anyway. Just go back, schoolaged grammar. Start on page one, chapter one. You said that was only four years ago— Stigmata was 2008? That’s true! I don’t know if it was longer. At that time I don’t think I was studying it that way, but I was always influenced by music—all the pieces like the Stabat Maters and whatnot and the titles were always in my head. Right when I realized I wanted to play vocals throughout the music I kind of had that lightbulb go off, as far as the direction. I just heard Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater and I think I heard Pergolesi’s, but all those titles were always there and I could look them up easily. These titles were so frequent in the history of music. I studied French, and that came back pretty quickly, and from there I studied Italian from a textbook, and after French and Italian, you kind of got the idea of the Latin language. But you see Italian and Latin, you see a little French, that they all came out of it … but you’re like, ‘Wait…’ You’re seeing the grandaddy, which had a very different way of operating. A very different way of operating. I was a classics major in school and all I can remember is ‘Carthago delenda est.’ Latin is such a singular endeavor, and yet it’s not because Latin underlies so many of the things we employ daily. I’m curious as to what leads so many people to it.

For me it was always challenging. That’s the way I always approached music. I realized if I heard something I really liked, I wanted to do it. I was told I was like that when I was a kid. I used to like to dance a lot. When I saw a new dance, I’d stand on the side, and watch it. And then at some point, I’d just come and do it. That’s the way I’ve always been with music. So when I first heard … rock of course came easier as an instrumentalist. Once I knew that’s what I wanted to do, I started playing my own—improvising. And I heard jazz, what at that time was already modern jazz. I said, ‘That is cool! That is hip stuff! I gotta be able to do that!’ Jazz isn’t something that you can just do the next day as an instrumentalist. Especially as a keyboardist. In terms of harmony—to study harmony. Not to mention the people who were practicing at that time were such upperechelon musicians. To even attempt it, you’d have to really have confidence — Yeah! That was the intelligentsia of the day. That was like the cream of the crop. Like modern art after 300 years in the 1600s. Classical music wasn’t as sophisticated as any time after Bach, but then you got to Stravinsky and Debussy and then to Schoenberg, those are very intellectual. Schoenberg was the height of intellectualism, writing harmony textbooks. But Bach was too, in his own way. For what I wanted from it, I always wanted to distill it. I tend to be a distiller, and I think that’s what I did with rock. Rock was easier because it was native to me—because I grew up on it. So it was what I was doing naturally and based on what I could afford, instrumentally, and whatnot. I was distilling it down to where it worked for me. What worked for me was visceral because that’s what I’d been listening to since I was a baby. When I hit the right frequency and just broke it down to just the rawness of it—that’s what I always heard because I was brought up on really, the beginnings of rock. So classical and jazz are really music of not my time. You mentioned that you’ve always been someone to put eyes on something, get curious about it, and then internalize it and 35


try to re-manifest. If you get an idea in your head for a new album or for a new artistic endeavor, how do you feed the curiosity? If you pique your interest, what do you research? What do you engage in? You asked me about Latin, and it was the same thing with Latin. ‘This is tough, it’s the Latin language—I gotta find out what makes this work.’ I guess my approach is to put color on a canvas. Start with a blank canvas. It comes from a certain idea, a very simple idea, a musical idea. Just my own like … how do you pronounce that, debarré? When a dancer goes back to class—the principal dancer who is so totally the star and getting all the reception the night before, the next morning, she’s at the barre at 6 in the morning doing the same simple pliés and things like everybody else. That’s what it’s about. Like Martha Graham said—this is where the progress is made. Not the performance. I’m doing that basically every day when I’m not touring, and I get ideas out of that by exercises. I work on my own exercises I made up over the years, and just continuing progress forever, for years, because I just keep going around the keys. So I get ideas from that. Or ideas from something I heard, a concept maybe. Always the easiest place for me and the most enjoyable for me is starting something on a blank canvas. I just do anything based on an idea and you’re not editing now or making those kinds analytical decisions, so it’s all fun and games. It’s like just opening cans of paint, like Jackson Pollack, and pouring them on, you know? And that’s great. That’s fun. And then you come back the next day. I tend to leave things. I might do two or three like that at time easily, starting out. I might do two or three ideas and then I don’t even try to edit it or see what I have that closely until maybe a day or two later. Sometimes I go around to twenty or thirty pieces like that and then I come back. When they’re less familiar to you. Yeah. And then I hear what I have and I hear usually—’Yeah, OK, that was fun, but now it’s work time. Now this sounds off, this could be better here …’ At this point, it’s all just following your ear. The ear tells you what you like and what you don’t like. And what could sound better. It usually does or it doesn’t but you gotta try. It’s trial and error. And it’s the ear saying, ‘That’s not quite right.’ ‘That could be better here or there.’ ‘Do this.’ It’s a very simple thing. I realize how … it’s like somebody’s eye who’s a visual artist. Two people will put things in totally different places. And I think that the culmination of it all, the end product of it all, is a dossier of decisions. So that’s what it is. Even more so maybe this last record because Stigmata seemed to have more of a unifying feel … but this last one, especially, although they all are, it’s a culmination of all those decisions made on the musical matter. On the material. It reminded me of channel surfing— channel surfing through the subconscious. The way the tracks were sequenced really spoke to that because you would follow ‘Creation’ with ‘Toy’ and then ‘Pieta.’ A one-two punch of something innocent and then something vaguely religious and weighty. That’s a cool observation—yeah. 36

I appreciate that you would include things alongside one another. That really speaks to the human existence these days. Did you feel like you had that kind of flexibility in Suicide? Or did you have a different focus when you were making music? We had flexibility but it was a different kind of degree of special—the format was pretty much fixed, like a ship in a bottle. Everything was a song—everything would be a vocal and an instrumental song. And everything was a timbre and the spacing—vocal-wise—was Alan’s, you know, area. Totally. And the way the instrumental section, you might say … what was done instrumentally, with that or on it or against it … most of us worked together or against. However we phrased anything, our sense of arrangement, what we were doing, was totally open-ended—but it was his personality and mine. In other words, if he felt the need—which he did later sometimes— for a whole different arrangement of the group or whatnot, or if I did suggest to him certain things like whispering and that led to something that he attached to … If I really wanted to change vocals in a whole different way with music or with a different music, that would mean I would do that separately. Or he would do what he did separately. So there were limitations like with anything. It could give you a lot of room within those limitations, and at the same time, give you ideas. And sometimes you fulfilled that outside, which we both did. By the way, I’m sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry that I hadn’t said that until this point, and I’m sure that it’s this grief that I imagine you’re living through now. In the wake of losing him, how do you feel about Suicide’s music without him present? Have things changed for you? They may have, but I’m not that aware of how or if they have. But for quite a long time, we’ve both been doing individual things. Suicide has been working live maybe once or twice a year, sometimes three. It wasn’t like the predominant factor in our artistic or musical lives, although it was always there and there were always offers to do things. And we were very selective for various reasons, Alan maybe even more so. How he felt about traveling, how he felt personally, healthwise. And so I, in a way, have just been continuing—and I think he was too, and also as a visual artist, a thread that was pretty concentrated for quite some time—on our own ideas. On our own solo work, you might say, for lack of a better term. The loss of any one that close, of course—I’ve lost a lot of people in the past couple of years. Once you lose the closest person to you, if you get through that, I’ve found … coming after, it’s a little easier. Once the wound has been cut that deep— —yeah. And people that really have such a dramatic effect on your life, which is usually your partner-in0life, your wife, your live-in, your girlfriend, your lover—that doesn’t just affect you personally and consciously and subconsciously and all the apprehensions and things that might be attached and haven’t even worked out yet, but it really changes the total arrangement of your life. If you’ve been living with someone, say, for thirty years, as some people do, and that partner goes, and

you’re not necessarily the kind of person … some people have a lot of friends, they’re a couple but they have tons of friends or they work every day. Some people, usually where artists are concerned, are much more solo. They’re loners. So they have their partner. But like many couples, they don’t cultivate friends. They’ve grown out of it. They don’t need to go meeting with this couple and that couple. They have each other. They eat together and they live together and they sleep together and they get up together. Their life is together. So when you take that person out of your life, it’s not just like … ‘Oh, I have good memories.’ I have great memories of Alan and I. He was older, and he had certain amount of experience in life, in certain aspects, that I learned from. Or he could just be a friend. If I was going through something he could always have something to add to it that I could say, ‘Oh, that’s a good way of looking at it.’ Perspective from his travels. From his travels. So of course you’re startled at first because now I don’t have … that kind of guide anymore. But he hadn’t been a guide for many years because we grew up. We both kept growing and I grew up enough to the point where there was a different dynamic. I understand that at one point your wife made music with you. She played drums with Suicide. I asked her to. To come down one night. Essentially because I felt that our relationship was at a certain critical point at that particular time. I thought being together, in a group setting, where I was most of the time, might solve …. a classic mistake in way. We were very young. I was younger than her. But she had been a musician since she was a young girl, and a great artist and such a sensibility—she knew so much about music. She had listened to so much. From rock to classical. She was the kind of person if she heard a piece by Bach or by Beethoven—her favorites were more Germanic than French—she could hear one interpretation from another. So she would have been fine as a drummer but it just wasn’t in the cards and in her lifetime … but she did! We experienced music together totally. And we listened together all the time. We met at the Village Vanguard when Thelonius Monk was playing. And that really glued us together too because we both immediately said, ‘Oh he’s your favorite? He’s my favorite too.’ I said he’s kind of like a daddy to me at the time. And she said, ‘He’s always like a father to me.’ She loved him. He used to come down there, play three or four times a year, and I’d be down there a lot, especially when he played. And I’d get in for free. And I walked in one night and she was working. She was in transition between going to the coast and saving some money during the summer, working the Vanguard as a cocktail waitress. And we met that way, both at Monk playing. It lasted a long time. It was a major part of my life, obviously. If you’re involved in a band like Suicide, and you’re having bottles thrown at you, and crowds attacking you … that sounds like something that could strain a romantic relationship. How did you balance being in a publicly loathed punk situation and being in a marriage and in a domestic life?

In my case, Mari was so much more in the vanguard even, in many ways, then Alan even. Suicide she understood right away. She was already so … She was a woman of mixed race. Brought up in America even earlier than I was, and a brilliant, brilliant woman. Independent, and a fighter who had to survive having children too, outside of marriage. What she had heard and what she had experienced, and the education she had—very well-educated, through all that, on her own. The only thing that could ever put a strain on our relationship was if I was doing something that wasn’t totally genuine, no matter what the response was. She wasn’t crazy about in the early days … if somebody came down to write about us, maybe I’d walk off and I’d leave the sound blasting, and she’d maybe say, ‘We alienated a possibility again.’ She was a practical woman of the home. But no—that wouldn’t put a strain on us, thankfully. She was an artist too, in the same sensibility. We both basically didn’t have any money and were bringing up kids. But it was a real foundation. She was an artist too. What was her medium? She was a musician first. And then by the time I met her it was all visual. Painting. Like Alan. Exactly. Painting, painting on glass later, incredibly jewelry making, she got into and developed a really personal style. She was a renaissance woman. She loved all kinds of disciplines. Science and art. She always had a vision of science and art combined. She studied like crazy. She kept going back to school all her life. She kept learning new crafts, disciplines, combining them with what she had. She just never felt … motivated enough as she was, she never felt strong enough to go out in the world and face the rejection. She was very tender inside. And the thing about going out into the world is that you’re not just exposing your art—you’re exposing it to capitalism, to a capitalist concept. That’s right. Exactly. And she was such a rebel. From her family, she broke away very early, from all those values because they were so middle class-oriented and materialist. That’s why she left home very early. She wasn’t really finding any community at all until she discovered the Beat Generation. She was like the next generation. She was like the child of the Harlem Renaissance. Like the Harlem Renaissance was basically over, and she was the next generation of that, and like from Langston Hughes, the generation before. She was born in New York in the 50s, and discovering those minds in the 50s and then the Beat Generation, she had a sense of a community, at least, around her. That it wasn’t just her, and she wasn’t alone with that frame of mind. Do you feel the influence of Black culture as you were creating on the periphery? I’ve noticed elements of the blues and funk in your solo project. Oh yeah. I don’t think you could live in America any time—at least in the second half of the middle of the twentieth century and up til now—without the influence of Black music. Everything in America—especially as a musician, the Beats came out of Black INTERVIEW


music, the abstract expressionists … not totally, Kandinsky came out of Europe too. Certainly in America, the inspiration and the license to go further and be a little freer, in all the art —to everyone—to dance a little freer, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, to the choreographers, it all came out of jazz. And then of course, rock as it’s been described, as the child and the grandchild of blues and gospel. And growing up in New York, and the radio with urban rhythm and blues, which was so much Black and the groups—the kids from the street. Irish—the combinations—Italians especially. Combining with the Black music, gangs on the street, the vocal gangs singing on the corners, which it really was, sometimes integrating and mixing, sometimes separate. And trends that came down the line that I lived through. Disco. Funk. And everything.… You spend the majority of your life in New York. How do you feel about the way the city has changed? I’m lucky because I maintained something from early on that was kind of like a lowincome community situation. It was actually sub-code for many years, many years before I got there. Recently it was well-renovated. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the place... I would have had to probably had left many years ago. It’s got such a history, and thankfully some of it I experienced the tail end of. And also my personal history is so embedded in it, so it has a lot for me from the past that it gives it a richness. Not that I think that I have to walk around thinking about the past, but it makes it very full, even though it’s not as full as it was. When I first moved back into Manhattan, it was probably the most exciting day of my life because all the great artists were there in all the mediums—especially music. And so many were living on the Lower East Side, which was where I moved to. But it’s not a place that gives fertile ground anymore for artists to start from scratch in terms of their dreams and being able to get a place to live… … to try and make it and feed yourself … …to develop long term. I’m sure some kind of do now, but the arts have changed too since that time, so it’s a reflection of that. Same thing with Paris. Before New York became the center of the arts, it was Paris for like 100 years or some time. Since you’re such a singular entity and you’re so focused on trying to listen to what you create and trusting your own taste … when you step outside of that, how do you consume music? Do you listen to records? Do you download? What do you let in? What do I let in? Well, anything. I have the radio going. It’s my main source when I’m doing everything else. When I’m not playing or recording. So scanning stations, which is often all you do because with the radio it’s just so … barren. So many commercials. Even on public radio, to me, it’s still commercials: ‘Our sponsor is this, our support is that.’ But I’ll be surprised. I’ll go through classical, go through jazz, the rock stations, and a lot of times something will hit my ear that I wasn’t expecting to hear and I like that. It will hit something off of something close to what I am working on at the time. There could be some piece or composer that I’ve known for a long time, or a group, but right there in that moment … or otherwise, I’ll just put on my INTERVIEW

own stuff. I’ll throw on my own CDs or I’ll catch something and think, ‘I want to hear this right now’ and I’ll get it right away online just to hear it for reference. It’s all a learning process. When I listen to stuff that I love so much, something sweet … you know, just sugar on top of cake on top of cherries on top of sugar, there’s gotta be a reason. Because otherwise it’s too sweet. I can sometimes get something out of that too … find a way of working with it vocally or something so it gives me an idea. But that’s really it. The rest of the time, I’m actively engaged in my things so I’m not listening to anything. Is there music from your past that you created—or that someone else made—that you can’t listen to anymore? No. There’s nothing that I ever dug as a kid that I don’t like now. It holds up for me. And everything that you’ve made too? It doesn’t feel too emotional for you? I’d love to hear it! And it does feel emotional. It can be emotional because the music is emotional, and it has a built in emotionality with the fact that you experienced it at a certain time in life, but I don’t mind that. It just adds to it. It’s got to be there in the music too. I mean, if it’s just about the memory it doesn’t do it for me. But the stuff I’ve liked, for some reason it was not the trivial stuff. The novelty songs, the chipmunk Christmas songs … no. I was very selective then, and the stuff that I selected for myself that I really liked still holds up like crazy. Same thing with jazz and classical music. I always knew instinctively that Monk was great, that Coltrane was great, that Miles was great, and other people were lesser great. I didn’t need anyone to ever tell me that, and I didn’t get attached to anyone that was less than great—I recognized who they were. So when I listen to Coltrane today, he’s just as great or greater than the others. And I’m very thankful for the fact that all that exists. That it existed then, and that it exists now. And that we still have access to it in the way that we do now too. There are so many options for music consumption. Yeah! And so much stuff that’s really good, it’s still—for me—not meaningful enough. It’s not truthful enough. I hear the industry in it, I hear the production, and the artist can be more unique than other artists in that world, but it’s still so much a part of the industry at a certain time. When I hear something I dug originally, it still holds up. There’s no decoration of superficiality. There’s no camouflage of production. It’s just right there, which was always what worked for me. And I think that’s what works for me, at best … or at least, I recognize that’s what I come back to as a performer too, and as a musician, without even really realizing it. And that’s probably why I was never that formularized or commercial in that world because it just didn’t work for me. What about the songs that people have covered that you created as part of Suicide? Do you feel like anyone really nailed it? Yeah! They all sound different to me. Nobody’s nailed it, and that’s fine. Everyone’s had their own, if it’s Neneh Cherry or Bruce Springsteen or the Cars… I love Neneh. I’m glad she’s the first one you mentioned because I was going to bring her up too.

I was very surprised when she did. It was a surprise when the Cars first championed us, it was a surprise when Springsteen did, and so many covers … I think Pearl Jam did one… nobody’s nailed it to me, but the problem is … Well, it’s not a problem, but we’re a different age now. When Beethoven wrote a piano sonata, it was on paper, so there was no defining way of playing it because we don’t have Beethoven. And if we had the defining interpretation like we have of Coltrane playing Coltrane … Coltrane nailed Coltrane. We can hear the defining version. So to me, for my sensibility, Suicide nailed ‘Ghost Rider’ because … well, maybe not, but to me, that’s why I did it that way. Nobody’s gonna do that and the best people don’t even try. Neneh Cherry didn’t sound like she was trying to nail ‘Dream Baby Dream.’ She did it in her own way, and that’s all fine. It’s all complimentary, so many people doing what you’re doing. Both Stigmata and Demolition 9 were created just prior to you experiencing tragedies—going through these personal losses. Did you hear the records differently after enduring that? Stigmata was pretty much done while Mari was still here, and didn’t come out until after. I didn’t hear the record differently, but I understood where some people who wrote about it attached it to the fact. Chris Needs was interviewing me on the phone about it and asked me somehow what I was going through around the time of the record, and I may have mentioned it was one of the toughest times of my life, and being curious, as Chris is—he goes very in depth with everything— that moved him quite a bit. He brought that into his review of the record. And then it was considered kind of an absolute that I wrote that as a memorial piece to my wife. Right, and the mythology spiraled from there. Yeah—but of course it was done before. She listened to it one time. We were in Montreal and I went and left to do some shows, and I left her the tape because I knew … in a way I wanted her to hear it too because I felt very proud of it, but it was very close to the finished product. And she made a list. When I came back, she had written notes on every track. [laughs] But Demolition 9, I had done a lot of it, a good amount of it, while Alan was still here. And just maybe a lot … I let it sit. I came back to it because it looked like it was coming out and we had a label for it, so I revisited and started editing again. That happens a lot of times. If I feel like I’ve brought something up to a demo stage, which can take years … well, it depends on the record. Stigmata was a lot faster. But I’ll let it sit because I go onto other things. The editing goes so far until I can say, ‘OK, now I can live with it as a demo. I can let someone else hear it.’ How do you know when you’ve reached that moment? Yeah, I can hear it. I just hear it. I’m talking about when I’ve done all the improvements. I went into the zone of fixing it, you might say. Like when you study tai chi in a zone. You do that for three segments and then there are three segments of corrections, they call it, right? Tai chi corrections. So you’re editing your form with whoever is the instructor. And you do that for a year at least. It’s the same

thing with music. You do the corrections until you’re not hearing any more corrections on those particular pieces at that time. You may not be totally thrilled with them, but you’re thrilled enough because if you’re not, you’ll take them out and put them in another folder or throw them away. So in situations where you’ll have a demo and you hear, ‘You need a new record, Rev.’ You’ll always hear that from agents, and when it reaches that place I can say, ‘OK, if you have a label, I have a demo.’ That’s because I saturated that correction up to that time. So it sits for maybe three, four, five, six ... whatever time it takes, sometimes. I’m not going to keep listening to it. Now it’s time for them to catch up—for the label to catch up. For someone to say they either want to do something with it or not. Because I have already moved on to new material. Then when they hear it and they say, ‘This is cool, I would like to put this out,’ I go back to it and say, ‘Yeah, now this is going to come out.’ I go back to it and I hear it and think, ‘Oh shit, this thing needs a lot of work!’ Four, five, six months later and I’m hearing a whole new series of corrections because it’s had time and I’ve had time. But usually I go faster than that. With Demolition 9, I did it right up to the time when Craig said, ‘You’ve got to turn in the master.’ Like the day is Wednesday, and I say, ‘OK, if you can hold it until Friday because I just found a few things …’ I took it right down to the line. You just know. It’s your ear. My last question, and I’m a little shy but I think I have to ask. Cocaine was present in everyone’s life in the 70s and 80s it seems— was drug use ever a factor in your life? Did it ever cause any problems? Or regrets? Luckily, I don’t have any regrets and it never became a problem, thankfully, for me. I was fortunate because knowing I wanted to be a musician and that I was going to be a musician no matter what—I had no doubts about it—I considered the risk. You know, I’m only 10 or 11 years old, but that was always in the forefront of my mind and my life habits. I knew a lot of people, even before—not just musicians, people I was growing up with— who could go off on tangents, sometimes irretrievably. I always had a sense of where the limits were for me, and I had the blinders on in a certain way ... I was seeing peripherally, but I knew the next day I wanted to get back to that stuff I was working on. While drugs seemed ... well, especially certain ones that supposedly expanded the mind—living in the 60s—seemed like a great way to experiment with playing music, anything that might take your life into its own hands and control your life … to me very early on, that had warning signals. Red lights going off as far as how far you go. I knew what I was into, and it was going to take a long time, and I really dug it, and it took physical energy too, and I was lucky to have that. I wasn’t as desperate as many people were. I experimented plenty, but I always came back in because of that discipline. Remember, we talked about the barre? The next day I’ve got to be at the barre. MARTIN REV’S DEMOLITION 9 IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM ATLAS REALISATIONS. 37


FLAT WORMS Interview by NATHAN MARtel Photography by jeff fribourg

Flat Worms—Will Ivy, Justin Sullivan, Tim Hellman—are a substantial force to counteract the dark, leaden days we now confront. With the roar of an avalanche, the crushing power of a tidal wave, the sharp glacial crack at the edge of a continental shelf, this trio invokes a colossal sound on their Castle Face debut, due out October 20. It’s a call to arms, an embrace of the kind of conflict that produces change within and without. If punk was ever dead, Flat Worms have revived it. The need for art and music today is greater than ever, and the blueprint is in the form of this here band: Flat Worms. What makes Flat Worms a uniquely Southern Californian band? I feel as though Flat Worms couldn’t exist anywhere but here—there’s an embodiment of something about L.A. permeating the music you make. Will Ivy (guitar/vocals): That’s cool. Personally speaking, a lot of my lyrics and the content of our songs is inspired by the environment where we are creating. L.A., to me, is this amazing space where, it’s almost … it’s booming and growing so rapidly but also at the same time, it’s crumbling. It’s very old infrastructure everywhere. Bridges are being torn down because they are no longer safe or there is no longer any utility in them, yet it’s exploding and gentrifying all around you, seemingly at all times. I’ve lived here for six years now, and most of that time it was in the midst of a vicious drought. It’s been interesting for me to be in the utopia—this gilded utopia, basically—and I would venture to say our music in turn embodies its environment because it’s inspired by it. Tim Hellman (bass): I like that we sound Southern Californian, although none of us are from here. I find that kinda cool. Sometimes you need an outsider to provide a perspective. Justin Sullivan (drums): Yeah. And there is a good scene here, and a lot of bands and artists we like a lot. When you’re immersed INTERVIEW

in a scene like that it helps. You develop a kind of regional thing. At the same time, there seems to be a creeping exhaustion with the environment —an undertow to your work. WI: Definitely. It’s an unbelievable time to be alive. Everyday you wake up to a barrage of horrendous bullshit going on. None of us—even ten years ago—could have anticipated that we’d be at war with white supremacy. And the medium of punk is a perfect channel to express these angry exhausted feelings ... which a lot of us are feeling right now. I hope it has that sort of exhaustion regarding modern life and all that accompanies that—all that we are dealt on a daily basis. Whether it be nuclear death or Nazis. TH: Two big Ns right there! Nuclear death and Nazis. JS: And to add a caveat that even if we could have anticipated it, it seems there is more of a light on these things going on. It’s shocking. It’s still shocking. There probably were people who could anticipate the level of racism still around but it’s still sort of jarring, and you’re still constantly orienting yourself to battle against what that means. I love that Will’s lyrics are really apocalyptic, and the sound does its best to mirror that. It’s a mood that is fitting for what is transpiring today.

WI: To me, everyday when we wake up, we are confronted by the fact that we might be at war with a foreign country, or the planet will expire, and all the resources will be gone, or we will kill each other in the streets. So the music is a call to that exhaustion on all those fronts, and even more really. TH: Shit’s crazy. The music that Flat Worms produce— especially the bass lines—is full of panic and turmoil. That’s the sheer physical experience of the music, really. TH: I can see that happening in what I’m playing, sure. JS: It’s a true pleasure to play drums along with Tim’s bass. He’s an incredible bass player. It’s a joy. WI: I’ve learned a lot from Tim, just in working with him. He spends so much time practicing, developing what he does … his work ethic is second to none. JS: The practice ethic has been an inspiration. He’s brought out the best in me. TH: Shucks! WI: He is a true talent. And he’s modest! TH: I was born in raised in a town called Modesto. Which translates to modesty. Flat Worms probably needed to happen in this climate we’re in now. It could be argued this band couldn’t happen at any other point in time. You’re very much a band for now and of now.

TH: It’s a time to be angry. It’s probably a good time for punk and hardcore music. People are pretty unhappy with things. WI: At the time when Trump was elected, we were all disappointed and upset by the results—but as a result, I was writing these songs, and I came away with a sense of empowerment. I think it’s important people continue, day by day, even though it’s exhausting, to make their art, do their work, whatever it might be. To express themselves through their hearts, at any costs and to not relent. Because spreading your art and your potential in the most earnest way that you can—that’s for everyone, and it’s so desperately what we need right now. TH: You gotta find something to get through the day. JS: I don’t think it’s the duty of people who make art to directly address what is going on necessarily. It’s not a box that needs to be checked. There are plenty of artists and musicians who aren’t overtly political right now. It’s not a requirement for me to value what somebody is contributing, but I think that it has merit. I tap into it when it does [have political overtones]. So artists who may not have that content or sound could be participating in resistance in other ways. Whether it’s benefit shows or special releases or something like that. For me, the only thing I’ve been feeling 41


is this somewhat minimalization of art or wackiness or weirdness in a local scene when [these political machinations] happen. You can still participate through a benefit show that only raises a few hundred dollars. TH: And that’s something. It’s a contribution. JS: I think contributing in some tangible way is more important. There is this lifegiving force when you have a community of people making things, in any kind of capacity, even when those things aren’t directly contributing to a resistance effort. It’s still enhancing a culture or a community that is standing in opposition. I’m just trying to point out that it isn’t inherent that everybody be in a punk band or necessarily addressing what is going on. But right now, I’m gravitating toward like-minded people. Even if their sound or aesthetic isn’t the same as what we do. WI: I was just recently at LACMA, and I was really drawn in by the Hans Richter film that they have there. In the description, it explained that he was trying to create a language that was free from nationalistic ties. So it consisted only of shapes, animated shapes. What we are doing, the energy, the content of the lyrics, or the way it sounds, I hope that it resonates in a way that’s needed right now—that gives people some sort of relief or inspiration or whatever it might be. Especially in a way that is above language, or above any nation, or even above Southern California. Hopefully in a way that art is suppose to do. The way art is supposed to life us up in these hard times. The music you create could be speaking to an experience that informs the daily life in America—the frustration of being a citizen in a system that undermines our humanity. JS: It comes back to that sense that the center can’t hold. Like there is a fissure going on—that hopefully on some level there will be a course correction. I honestly believe things will get better. TH: They’ve got to! JS: But you’re just making a document—the arc of history bends toward progress, right. That’s the quote, right? [A paraphrase of Theodore Parker’s quote, ‘The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’— NM] It’s partially that weird foreboding sense of something apocalyptic. And I just thought of this [motioning to Will] which could be a bad thing, if I don’t think it out … but your singing is more deadpan. You’re not shouting. That deadpan thing has that sense of exhaustion over these very dramatic themes. Which is good. It creates a certain tension that works well. WI: In a funny, unexpected outcome, the singing—even the way that everything materialized in this band—feels more natural than anything that I’ve done in the past. And maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe this is the way it’s suppose to be. It reflects the way that I feel. Or reflects my current environment or something. As a person creating art at a certain time … my favorite art is the document that is of and reflecting its surroundings. And I want to contribute and be a part of that. 42

TH: Totally. That’s what we do this for. WI: I wouldn’t want to be in a nostalgic 60s band. I mean, I like 60s music, but that’s not the decade I’m living in. TH: Something that reflects regionalism and the time you’re living in is more interesting to me then anything or any other art. After thinking about this a bit, Flat Worms kind of have a—to make a literary analogy—Bukowski kind of feeling to their character. A raw, stripped down essence. Nothing overwrought. A desire to speak plainly yet with style that is all your own. WI: One band I thought is really awesome and that I have revisited recently is Sleaford Mods. They’re very, very minimal—just drum and bass loops, basically. TH: Run through a Dell laptop. It’s pretty great. WI: Yeah! And the singer is just intense. And in that way, it’s like punk poetry. And I’ve always been inspired by things like that. Like Patti Smith and Mark E. Smith. I think a lot of music hides behind its aesthetic. Bands that I love, like with the Fall, I’m drawn in by his crazy brain basically. Same with Patti Smith. TH: Yeah—you’re in Mark E. Smith’s world. I don’t know what Flat Worms world is … WI: If you can do it minimally and effectively, then all the better. JS: I’m really interested in having as little overhead as possible in all things when making a band. Not that I think that doing that has inherently higher value, but I just find it more interesting. I love the idea of maximizing the effect with as little resources as possible. I just find it interesting. Again, it’s not some DIY flag-waving thing. I like solving the puzzle. Having limits, to me, is super interesting to work within. JS: There’s just something to removing as much as possible and working within those limits. WI: In the process of making our record, it was a total unique experience to me. We tracked everything in one day. Mixed everything in one day. And then it was done. We play a lot together, we were in town, and we were prepared. With all that there was something so fitting to the project—being super economical. The idea was, ‘Put it to tape, document it the way that it is …’ TH: And it just felt really natural. We set out to do it in that amount of time. WI: Yeah! It just happened like that. TH: We had four days booked and got it all done in one. WI: Instead of adding layers and layers of stuff that really wasn’t a part of it, we just streamlined it. JS: I just really like any kind of music or band where I can feel like there is some thought into what is going on. That can cross over many genres. And for us, the concept is just like … not as stripped-down as possible, but just removing all the overhead from the process whenever we can. What about chemistry between those creating the music? Some bands have a sort of a forced relationship. Flat Worms seems to be a natural artistic fit.

JS: Just through touring and talking to people when you’re in their town … they tell me about trying to begin bands, and the total hardest part to me is to find the people to play with. Even if it’s doing a solo thing. Finding like-minded people who share your vision. It’s really difficult to find people who are committed in the same way, or who are committed in the same way but also have principles, or a punk ethic or some kind of DIY ethic. It’s a real sweet spot to find people who are serious—serious about what it takes to do a band—and who are also not psychopaths. Who aren’t flakes or whatever … It’s really hard. To go back a little bit, our old bands played together … WI: We went on tour together. JS: So the Babies and Wet Illustrated [one of Will and Tim’s earlier bands] did a show during the day and the Babies had a show later that night, and Wet Illustrated came out to hang out at our show, and I was all ‘I love these guys!’ I thought it was the coolest thing. So when I heard Tim and Will were starting a punk band, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want in with you guys. I want to be in a punk band—with you guys!’ And again, to a degree, I knew it would work. Because of how like-minded we are about operating as a band. WI: I would definitely say our chemistry has carried us. We create in short periods. In short bursts where everybody is in town and we’re available to get together, and we write really spontaneously, and quickly. Which has served us well. Otherwise, we’d probably get together and hit a wall and not want to continue. The fact that we are all really good friends has made this project something I look forward to. Again, it has served us. JS: And I’ll add, we’ve even talked about it … like you’re in a band and you play songs you don’t really like because it would be too awkward to voice that opinion, and these songs work their way onto an album, and you’re feeling like, ‘I don’t really like that song, but so-and-so, that’s the only song they wrote, so I’ll feel bad if I state my opinion about it, so let’s get them a shot.’ And on and on. There have only been rare times in Flat Worms when I’ve felt that. Usually, we feel the same way, and we’ll be like, ‘Yeah, this song isn’t happening.’ It doesn’t come up often, but to even be able to have that discussion is really cool. WI: It’s the democracy! As I understand it, we have Swell Maps to thank for Flat Worms? Will: Yeah! Before we started the band I was driving around listening to Swell Maps one day and I text Tim, actually on a whim, saying, ‘We should start a rock ‘n’ roll band.’ I had been playing in some poppier projects before this. And his response was, ‘Yeah! We should try it.’ From there we started to write songs. Justin heard we were giving it a shot and he expressed interest in being involved in it. And it sort of happened. You each have other projects that you are working on—what purpose is Flat Worms serving for each of you? Justin: I just really like the concept of a band. Really, every aspect of it. I really like

the idea. Starting a band from scratch is a really fun and exciting thing to be involved in. I really love it and we each have done it our whole lives. I’m just excited about the idea of creating something from scratch. And I love the band model, in a manner of speaking. I love the whole process. TH: I hadn’t been in a band in a long time plus I really like the people involved so … I was all, ‘Let’s do it.’ I missed playing in a band with Will. I missed playing in a band with Justin. So all of that together really helped make it happen. WI: It’s not like I had a void that only this band could fill. I feel that we’re all very creative people, and we’re constantly trying to fulfill the desire to create and write. Obviously … making this type of music, there seems to be a calling for us to do it at this time. And it’s taken on legs of its own. For me, it’s my only focus right now. Does the creative process suffer due to commitments you have to other bands? WI: I would say this is the most fluid creative process I’ve ever been a part of. JS: That almost seems like the easy part to me. It’s funny—there are times where I’ll think to myself, ‘I love being in a band. I hate being in a band.’ Because—I think we’d all agree— the thing about being in a band and having this democratic kind of ideal to the degree where everything has to be agreed upon … it can be beautiful, but it can also make everything take longer. I like that process, I like engaging in it. There’s something really charming about that. It’s cool to tap into that—especially in this band. WI: I was just thinking about this the other day because we just received our vinyl. Being a musician, there are so many steps and people involved along the way. Between writing a song and its manifestation physically. It takes someone to record it in the way you imagine it. It goes into a physical medium—it takes someone to mix it, master it, and there are so many people involved in what is just an initial idea that you have. I’ve found it to be interesting. JS: To me, the creative process is the joy. When we are all together in a room writing a song, that has to be—to some degree— easy. Otherwise, why do it? It has to be natural. But then all the other stuff is kinda work. We were just in a text chain about how to meet up to do this! Lastly, where does the name Flat Worms come from? TH: I was in a band called Wet Illustrated, and we were going between two names— Wet Illustrated and Flat Worms. We decided on Wet Illustrated for that band. So I chose Flat Worms for this one. WI: We’ve mentioned to certain people and they are all ‘How revolting!’ or something. But actually if you look at pictures of flatworms, they can be really beautiful and psychedelic. And I like the notion that it invites the idea of … don’t judge a book by its cover. FLAT WORMS WILL TOUR EUROPE WITH TY SEGALL THIS FALL. FLAT WORMS’ SELF-TITLED LP IS OUT OCT 20 ON CASTLE FACE. INTERVIEW


THE STEOPLES Interview by CHRISTINA GUBALA Photography by STEFANO GALLI

There is a conversational chemistry between Yeofi Andoh and Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker that makes the seamlessness of their debut full length record, Six Rocks, all the more obvious. The fraternal artistic respect between them has given way to the Steoples, a project first manifested back in 2004 on ReyesWhittaker’s debut record as GB. Six Rocks is lush, steeped in melancholy and flecked with hope, not so much a statement on today’s fraught era but rather a wider survey of life’s complications, reflections, and conclusions. I had the good fortune of conducting this interview on the LP’s official release date in a North Hollywood cafe where Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson 5 served as a celebratory conversational soundtrack. Yeofi and Gabe are rich with reverence and knowledge of music history, and as their album makes clear, genre is no concern. The Steoples’ Six Rocks is available via Stones Throw. You first started collaborating in 2004 and it seems like it’s been kind of a loose collaboration ever since. How do you bring the Steoples back into the world? Is it something that’s always there and you can connect and work on it? Or is it something that’s been a long time in the making and now 2017 is the year for it to flourish? Yeofi Andoh: I’d say it’s pretty loose. We make music because we enjoy making music without necessarily designs on even releasing it. It wasn’t like, ‘OK, we’re going to make a record to release it.’ We’ll make some music and we’ll see, you know? Or actually … the ‘we’ll see’ part didn’t even come. We’ll just make some music. Is that right … pretty much? Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker: I’d say that’s accurate. There are moments when we’ll feel that maybe there’s a theme in the air or something like that that feels like an album or a specific project coming together but most times it’s just part of the conversation in life that’s happening. Whatever is going on in life informs how we approach our music. 44

YA: And a lot of our friendship is not only musical—it’s philosophical. We sit around and shoot the shit. So when a particular urgent topic keeps coming around we’ll collaborate in the musical realm as well and it seems to kind of carry over. I don’t think we ever do anything specifically; however, just before we signed to Stones Throw we were feeling like we should share some of the stuff that we were doing over the years and we kind of put our voice on it. Next thing I know Gabe is saying that Stones Throw wants to release some stuff. To me it’s a very weighty, very emotional, very philosophical record. Was your coming back together a consequence of the bizarre and intense political climate we’re living in now? YA: Not necessarily specifically but how can you avoid it’s influence? Ambiently all the movement in the world right now influences anyone who’s a creative artist—who has any degree of sensitivity. But yeah, it wasn’t per se political. My position on politics is … it’s not the forum… I stopped being interested in politics quite awhile ago. Not because I don’t think there are some important things INTERVIEW


which can be—or should be aimed to be— achieved but I don’t particularly believe that it’s the vehicle for change. I think it keeps things in place. A vehicle for endless cycles. A vehicle for perpetuation. YA: Exactly. It’s showing you one thing and then as soon as you get used to it or understand that, change it up—but really you change it back to what it was before. It’s a con. It’s fascinating watching it our cultural nostalgia cycles. Like watching people nostalgic for Bush-era things because they relate to it. It’s galling to me because I feel like we can learn a lot more from the 70s—from Richard Pryor standup!—than we can from anything that happened in 2001 and beyond. I’ll direct the same question to Gabe but I kind of regret using the term ‘political.’ I suppose ‘cultural’? GRW: That’s definitely a part of the conversation always when it comes time to put our heads together for music. We always touch on the musical climate and the space available for our unique perspective. I felt that was in the air at the time we were talking about turning this into an album. There seemed to be an open space for another unique vantage point, which I think our music offers—or that’s what I hope for it to offer. Not necessarily that we’re aiming to be different. YA: Culturally there’s a lot of homogenized stuff at the moment. There’s a lot of samey-ness and I’m not sure if it’s catering to that one-size-fits-all mentality but whole genres seem to be melting together. Which is not necessarily bad but what’s being said is … there’s not enough different reference points, I think. GRW: I personally appreciate a unique perspective—especially one that rings of the truth. But the truth is malleable. It’s a malleable thing. I don’t want to look at it like, ‘Oh, our perspective is the one that’s needed in music’ or anything like that. No—but it is a unique perspective and it’s as valid as any and we have fun doing it. YA: And ‘truth’ inasmuch as any authentic position of expression can be appreciated as the truth. It’s not a definitive truth, but it can be authentically expressing oneself. That’s what we try to do and I think a lot of the focus of … not all artists but a lot of the mainstream artists isn’t necessarily holding … I’m not trying to be critical or judgmental but I feel the authentic position doesn’t seem to be prioritized. Rather, it’s what fits in. GRW: Or what can sell. YA: I think that’s the cultural moment that we’re on—back to your original question. We’re in that kind of culture where everyone is just trying to fit in and there’s not enough array of different voices and perspectives. Hopefully ours is something that gives a counterpoint. I know what you mean by a truth in your voice because I think everyone’s truth is exactly that—it’s their truth and it’s completely subjective to the beholder. But that’s what’s fascinating about 46

listening to an album that I consider to be as honest as this one, especially lyrically. It feels like a shared truth and a shared perspective coming from two different people. I read about your backgrounds and your musical expression and it seems like you come from different places, but it’s resulted in something that seems so seamless that I can’t really tell who’s playing what and when. It fees like a complete idea. One of the tracks that spoke to me the most—and to your point about labels constantly trying to shove you into a box or promoters constantly trying to shove you into a box and call you part of the beat scene or neo-soul or some variation thereof—is ‘We Like the Dark.’ This track on your record … is it a reference to this? Both of you reference the fact that retail is not the goal and capitalism is not the goal with your artistic expression. YA: To a degree, you know? To a degree. The dark can be used as a metaphor. One perspective is that lyrically I was using a bit of it from actually purely the darkness and silence as a refuge, as a place of peace and rejuvenation. Frankly I’m struggling because I’m trying to remember what I wrote. As soon as I’ve written it, I don’t necessarily remember it. So you’re the sole lyricist? You don’t collaborate with the lyrical themes or anything? YA: No. GRW: Only to the extent that some come out of conversations. YA: You named that track. This is how that track came about. Gabe had a piece of music and he called it ‘We Like the Dark’ so I riffed off that. Sometimes I’ll change the title and augment it with other things but this one I liked. It was inspirational. In modern life you tend to think of everything having to be fluffy and love and all that, whereas from my perspective, real love embraces everything. It embraces the whole picture. You’re not missing anything. That’s what a balance is. ‘We Like the Dark’ is championing the side that doesn’t ever get spoke of, really. The other side. YA: The other side. Exactly. In an effort to, again, put forward another perspective. A valid perspective and one which I think in society is now out of bounds because we don’t deal with things wholistically. We don’t deal with the wide spectrum of the good, the bad, the ugly and the light and the dark. People shy away from the dark but the dark is a very valid place to grow. If you’re neglecting the dark, there’s no way to live an honest life. Yes, people are pointed toward positivity constantly but by the capitalist machine—by the endless propaganda that we are fed via advertisements and this promise of endless possibility. But sadness is also so beautiful and so rich and it counterbalances happiness so perfectly. YA: I think modern life … If there’s not a slightly melancholic response to it, then you’re numbing a side of you. There is the beauty that is a relief from the

sadness. We all try and shun the shit that we’re uncomfortable with and we’re only uncomfortable with it because we’re not exposed to it. Other cultures embrace grief and they learn how to transmit it through celebration. We don’t have any of that. GRW: And embracing, as well, the unknown, rather than feeling like what we have figured out and what is known is all that’s reliable. That’s kind of what that song is about as well. We like the space of not knowing because that’s where anything new comes from. YA: Completely. How can you limit what you don’t know by holding preconceived ideas about the unknown? The unknown is open, you know what I mean? It’s frightening for some folks but we like the dark. We like the unknown. We like being surprised by life and what comes up from that. GRW: And we better—because that’s the nature of it anyway. YA: There is no security. You mention the in-between spaces, the unknown, the liminal spaces—that makes me think of the wolf tones that were employed by Debussy. And I think the first time I ever really spoke with you was when you bought a Leo Ornstein record from the online record store I used to run. After listening to Ornstein and after listening to this record, I see many patterns in the chromatic realm. Do you find yourself trying to manifest certain themes, musically? Do you use musical theory to express that? GRW: No to both. I just find it fascinating all the directions that people have gone and can go with music. I wish I had more of a background in theory to an extent, but having the unique background I have has provided this space and the atmosphere to create music the way that I create it. There are no regrets there but I definitely respect how deep theory can go. But I also like the sense of wonder of making music from a space of not using theory. Uncharted territory. GRW: Yeah. I like otherworldly sounding things. That’s what brought me to the synthesizer and why I started using electronics. A lot of the starting places for when Yeofi and I make music—and particularly the songs on this album—will come from a weird loop that is unsuspected. I’ll create a loop-based piece of music and then he’ll loop pieces of my loop-based piece of music so it turns into something else entirely. Then he might send it back my way to do even more. There’s no rhyme or reason necessarily … so no, I don’t try to aim to fulfill specific theoretical goals necessarily. But I have. Like when I did the Frankie Reyes record, which was my way of paying homage to my ancestry. The Boleros record? GRW: Yeah. I like things that are themed, you know? And quirky. But I also like— again—the dark. I like the unknown when it comes to making music. I don’t like to go in with too many preconceived notions. You mentioned your background. How did you first come to make music?

GRW: I played a little bit of piano as a young kid for maybe a year and became fascinated with music that way, but my parents couldn’t afford more lessons for me. So I ventured away from it and went more in the direction of buying records and studying other people’s music and became fascinated from an archival perspective on music. I’ve been buying records since I was maybe twelve or so. Then I got a computer in high school and used that to start looping pieces of the records I had. Just playing with music however I could. It started with making beats. But I knew straight away that I didn’t really identify as a beat maker, necessarily—even though I can’t say I was more than that. YA: You were there in the beginning—for that whole scene. GRW: We weren’t thinking about it in that way. It wasn’t framed that way. I feel like it became something that, like … Everything now in the quote-unquote beat world is post-Dilla and it’s kind of on the shoulders of Dilla, but we were fascinated as peers of Dilla by how he was creating new musical compositions with the way he was using samples, you know? And he was listening to stuff—just from the conversations I had with him—in a way that I could appreciate as more than just a beat maker, meaning someone trying to make something for people to rap to or something like that. We were trying to create with whatever tools we had at the time. We were trying to create songs or pieces or whatever you want to call it. Compositions. GRW: Compositions. Take it as seriously or not as you want—it doesn’t really matter. But it was true to us. YA: How did you hook up with Sound in Color? GRW: Are you familiar with Sound in Color? The record label? This guy Jon Ancheta was the guy who was like the creative founder of this label and brought together a bunch of us beat makers that were, again, all thinking about beats but in terms of a compositional sense—mostly from the greater L.A. area but some from Northern California as well. Like Ruckazoid, Exile, Mumbles … there’s a handful of us that were focused on this instrumental bass music. That’s my background. I could have just stayed there but Yeofi was hearing how to take that into new places as total songs. That’s my history also as a record collector—I have still always been most fascinated with good songs above all. Again, I did speak on liking quirky-sounding things and oddball stuff but above it all, I like the good songs that bring everybody together. Of all genres. I feel like Yeofi heard something in what I was doing and was able to take that more in that direction. YA: I remember when we were doing the Sound in Color thing, I think you proposed the beat … but I also had some other stuff that you had and there was this one guitar loop you had that particularly spoke to me. That was the foundation of ‘Love is the End.’ INTERVIEW


GRW: That’s how all of our songs have come about. I’ll initially have an idea… YA: And I’ll hear a song. I can hear it as soon as I have the feeling. Once I know the feeling is there then a song is about to come. GRW: Most times that happens with pieces that I’m not intending for you to work on. You’ll hear something else that I’ve done and you’ll expand on it. Yeofi, you grew up in England and came to the United States in 1992 and have been in Los Angeles since 1994. YA: I did go back to England a couple of times a year since but I love the sun and L.A. allows me to make music and be in the sunshine, you know? You try growing up in England—you’re spending twenty-odd years in England in the gray and wet and you’d appreciate this shit too. And Gabe? GRW: I was born in the midwest. I was born in Ohio. But I grew up here. I’ve been here since I was two or three. I actually lived in Taos, New Mexico, for about a total of two years and I came back in 2013. I was living off the grid in an Earthship out there. How was that transition for you? GRW: It’s been very dichotomous for me. There’s a lot of contrast but it’s been good because I did miss some of the social interaction when I was there. It made me miss L.A. for mostly social reasons. There is something about being here that inspires creativity in a way that being over there didn’t … although it inspired creativity in another way. Two different experiences. It wasn’t necessarily too dramatic reacclimating because I grew up here … but I did miss it and I do miss it still sometimes. I like being here. Since you’ve returned, you’ve put out the ambient tape on Leaving Records and the Boleros Valses Y Mas. Does this connec to Stones Throw’s interest in the Steoples? GRW: Definitely. The Leaving Records tape was totally separate from the Frankie Reyes Boleros thing in terms of my connection with Stones Throw. Peanut Butter Wolf just happened to be present when I played Boleros for the first time live and said, ‘Hey, I want to put that out.’ At the same time I was already in conversation with Matthew about putting out the Healing Tones tape so yeah—after linking up with Chris I told him, ‘You know, I have these other things I’m doing …’ including Steoples. I played him some stuff and he loved that. Yeofi, I was reading about how your father was a musician—not by trade but because he loved it—in cèilidh bands although he was from Ghana. What kind of atmosphere did you grow up with musically? YA: I didn’t ever hear my father play traditional Ghanaian music of the era, which would possibly be highlife. That was popular at the time—he did have quite a lot of highlife in his collection. My dad really did bring the music into my life. He listened a lot to the Black American stuff that was going on. He was big into Odetta, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte. He was also into classical music as well. Maybe more of the standard stuff—the INTERVIEW

Mozart and the Brahms and the Bach and Tchaikovsky. We used to go on vacations to Scotland and he became friendly with a pub owner who had played in a cèilidh band and they were actually pretty dope. As a kid, I remember there was a vibe going on—they would play these gigs for hours and as a kid they seemed to go for fucking ever. Looking back on it, it’s interesting to see this one West African sitting there in the middle of these bearded Scots, you know? Getting down. But that was where I saw my dad the happiest, I think. Maybe that kind of resonated with me. I saw him free. He moved in the 50s to England into a fairly repressive environment for him. He was a political journalist and he actually had to flee Ghana. He wrote against Nkrumah just as he was turning corrupt and losing it. His friend disappeared in the night so he came to England and he had a hard time because he didn’t have the same status that he had. He was just seen as another Black man in England and couldn’t get a proper job in his field. So when he played music he came alive. As a kid seeing that … there’s some resonance there. So this West African was playing with these Scottish musicians and I saw that. My mother was a pretty traditional English Liverpudlian lass, you know? She played a little bit of piano and sang a bit but she kind of joined in rather than she was a musical influence, I’d say. I grew up in a small English village so I kind of grew up with a lot of my dad’s influence—but also rock music. That was pretty much how I came up. You’ve mentioned David Bowie as a major influence. YA: Oh yeah—Bowie was my first musical hero for sure. Looking back on it, not only his originality and his musicality … but he seemed to marry that contradiction of being an outsider who was loved. I felt … being a Black kid in a fucking pretty much white environment with three Black people, me, my dad and my sister, I think Bowie represented something of the alien in a situation being embraced. That was always appealing to me. Bowie, yeah. What a contribution he made. Gabe, I’m curious about your origins and the origin of music in your life. I saw you mention Charles Mingus as an early influence and of course Duke Ellington and jazz being present a lot. GRW: My parents were definitely both music lovers. My mother and father split when I was pretty young. I was about four or five so I didn’t grow up with my father but when he was in high school he put out a record with his friends where he was playing guitar. It was a doo-wop record. It goes for a little bit of money now. It’s a pretty good song, actually, for some kids. My musical inspiration came more from my stepfather’s record collection. He had a pretty wide variety of records—a lot of Blue Note and other jazz, the R&B of the day and of his day. All types of stuff, really. My mom was a pretty diverse person so musically her interests were pretty much in all genres. So I heard a little bit of everything. Grabbing records from their collection and playing them whenever I wanted was my primary

musical inspiration. I mean, my first records were records they bought for me when I was a little kid. The first record my mom bought for me was probably a Phil Collins record. Face Value? GRW: It was actually. But the dope thing about it was that the drum machine he uses—a Roland CR-78—became something I used on things later. I remember being a little kid and being interested in the texture of that and the texture of the sequential circuit synthesizers he was using, which may or may not have informed some of my process later … but I was super into it as a kid. Now it’s not like I ever feel like putting on that record but … You can’t say the seed wasn’t planted. GRW: Yeah, you know what I mean? YA: Phil, man. You can’t fuck with Phil. GRW: But I’d say my first primary musical influence was probably Prince more than anybody for a combination of, again, texturally the musical instruments he was using, the synthesizers, the drum machines, rhythmically a lot of what he was doing, the songwriting … again, back to coming up with good songs. And as somebody who was standing as his own individual self. Not that I think what I’m doing sounds anything like what he was doing—I don’t think that’s how inspiration should work. Hopefully somebody inspires you to be more of yourself, rather than fill their shoes. YA: Exactly. The problem right now is people trying to ape what they know and what’s been working before. GRW: That’s back to what I was saying about the beat scene and Dilla. That is an unfortunate trend. YA: People are missing that inspiration is an energetic transfer almost, from Prince or even Michael Jackson. You can’t deny that it was an energetic transfer that inspired people. And from Bowie. Everyone we lost last year. YA: Yeah, everyone we lost last year. That was a crazy ass year. I thought I was maxed out in terms of melting down until George Michael died on Christmas. That was absolutely devastating. YA: I remember I was in London when Wham! and all that shit was going on. He was always at the clubs, the Hippodrome— there was a whole fucking crazy ass scene. GRW: A great songwriter. YA: Yeah, he really was. You hear, like, ‘Careless Whisper’ which he wrote when he was, like, 15. The first song he ever wrote apparently, or so the legend goes. I want to ask about portmanteaus and wordplay because I notice a lot of them in your lyricism. ‘Steoples’—it’s not quite a portmanteau but I’m going to use that because I couldn’t come up with another term for it. It’s both a tribal and a religious word. Also now when I read the word ‘steeple,’ it looks incorrect to me. YA: The actual conceptual foundation of Steoples was taking the notion of the steeple of the church as a symbol of the union with spirit and people. Basically pointing towards the church … The actual physical steeple is not necessary for a real union. You, the people, are your own steeples. That’s how

that spelling comes about. Another thing that I noticed that you referenced earlier is the idea balance. The record cover is a stark black-and-white contrast. You’ll have a bright almost-Five Stairsteps-sounding song come in but then you’re talking about how endless possibilities become much more limited. It’s this idea balance between dark and light, the dichotomy of black and white being cut down the middle—that’s the song ‘Real Enough to Be’ to me. YA: For that one, it’s a philosophical riff on the way we’re presented in modern life with the idea of all these possibilities. You could do this or you could do that. This could happen or that could happen. But in actuality … is that really the truth? Or is only ‘what is meant to be’ the only thing that’s ever really available. GRW: What evidence is there for the ‘could haves’ or the ‘should haves’ or any of that being even accessible ever? YA: The only reality is the reality that actually gets real enough to be. The rest is just mind play. It’s challenging that notion of all these endless possibilities—not in a way to demoralize one but as a way to surrender to the truth of the nature of what ‘is,’ you know? GRW: To relax into it. YA: Yeah, to relax into it—because if you just go with it, it’s fairly joyful. Only when you really resist the point of view—because you have an idea that you want it to be something else—is it a problem. If you kind of get into the flow… I’m not saying it’s an aimless flow. Just follow your heart. Do what you feel you should do always. That’s your passionate position. Surrender the outcome because you don’t know. There are so many variables that go into what happens in any given moment. Only a small fraction are in your control and even that control is maybe an illusion. GRW: And if you don’t do what you feel passionate about, you weren’t meant to do that at that moment. So that’s fine anyway. You can relax into that. The motivation for doing what you want to do is just what’s most fun. YA: Enjoy your life. Enjoy this moment. For me, there isn’t the black-and-white you’re talking about, the right and wrong. I don’t believe in right and wrong, necessarily. I think there are actions that you can cause… I’m always against harming anyone else or anything that can cause problems, but the nature of life is that it does what it does. I truly believe everything that happens— even the abhorrent stuff—is the only thing that could have happened because the rest is concept. What actually manifests is the only concrete shit. So that’s ‘Real Enough to Be.’ It’s challenging these endless possibilities and it is an invitation to just be with what is and find the joy in it because in every picture there’s dark. And also … it’s not necessarily having to focus on the light but to have the whole picture. It’s a balance. THE STEOPLES’ SIX ROCKS IS OUT NOW ON STONES THROW. VISIT THE STEOPLES AT THESTEOPLES. COM. 47


el guincho Interview by rudy de anda illustration by makan negahban TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH BY RUDY DE ANDA

Pablo Diaz Reixa—a.k.a. “El Guincho”—is an internationally recognized musician but a mysterious and elusive character, too. Born in the Canary Islands off of the coast of Spain, he has always taken a self-made “blue collar” approach to his fantastically exploratory artistic career. On the heels of Hiperasia, his first release in over 4 years and after a rare and more recent tour throughout the U.S.—as well as a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Music Video—we tracked him down for a phone conversation from his home in beautiful Barcelona. Your most recent release was the Michael Dior mixtape, coming very soon after the release of Hiperasia. A stand out track for me was ‘Pegada Al White.’ I like it too—popular track. Very good for a party atmosphere. Are you talking trash about a woman on that song? It’s definetly a song directed to someone, but in general it’s for all the haters. Here in Barcelona a lot of people will recognize me when I’m out eating dinner or at a bar. Many people will come up to me and give me their unsoloicited opinions on my music and I don’t even know who these people are! That song was referring to a young lady at a bar who came up to me and started sewin’ off about my new record Hiperasia. She told me she was a die-hard fan and she hated the new record. She started insulting me. I thought it was incredible. It’s such a funny situation life grants you. I loved it as a theme for a song. That same night I wrote the whole song. The chorus goes ‘No te preocupes …’ [Don’t worry…] You keep talking shit and you think it’s gonna harm me—instead I turned it around and made a song I think sounds pretty good. I can relate—I’ve had similar situations! [laughs] Yeah—just have to let the haters know everything’s gonna be alright. You haven’t been to L.A. in a long time— years. It seems you haven’t had too much contact with the U.S. the last few years. Yeah, it’s been forever. Like six years. Not even to visit. I would come over a lot back in 2007, 08, 09 … I then returned twice during the release of Pop Negro in 2012. So yes—at least five years have passed. 48

Is that a coincidence? Or on purpose? Totally purposeful—my mom was diagnosed with cancer in late 2012, so I moved back home to the Canary Islands for three years. I was taking care of her until ultmately she passed away. During that time I was taking mixing engineer classes and doing production for other artists. The El Guincho took a backseat. I was only really focusing on producing and taking care of my mom. She passed in 2015 and I moved back to Barcelona to work on new El Guincho material and I realized that maybe Barcelona was not the right location to do it. I had already recorded my first album Alegranza there so I decided to move to Madrid. Once there I built a studio from scratch. So yes—between my mother’s death and writing new material, it’s safe to say I have not had time to think about visiting the states. My biggest condolences to you and your family. My father passed away in December 2012 so I feel you, man. Famly first—and life seems to always change your course. Totally, man—these are the things in life that shape you and test you. I did not come fom a wealthy family. Since I was young, I’ve always had to figure things out financially. I was Djing and working hard. You know these tragic things happen all of a sudden and all you can really do is try to be a better person and cope and grow with the situation. I like relating with blue collar musicians. I think it’s reflected in the music. So let me get this straight: Hiperasia took a drastic change after you visited a Chinese megaswap meet in Madrid?

I had a bunch of songs when I moved to Madrid. I built a studio with help from the label. It was a beat-down shitty spot at first. The label told me if I fixed it up, it was all mine. I’d never built a studio from the ground up before so it was very intense and challenging for me. I liked the challenge. To honor that fact, I decided to start recording from scratch instead of fixing the other songs I had worked on previously in Barcelona. I randomly went with my producer to this swap meet and I said this is it! Such a convulsive colorfully loud and vibrant neon place—I wanted to write a record that matched the look of that place. I wanted to write a record to mess with people and bother my fans—to re-establish myself as an artist. Like a rebel? Yes! That’s who I am. I’ve lived that way my whole life. It’s funny when people pigeonhole me as this happy-go-lucky tropical guy from an island. But if you really pay attention to the lyrics you can easily see that those lyrics are not happy, that they are lyrics witten by a motherfucker rebellious type persona. I know Hiperasia was gonna be difficult for people. I really thought it was important for people to be able to hear this work, to show them this new minimal reduced approach as well as this new philosophy that I’ve acquired. I think you achieved it. I commend how spontaneous you were when it came down to deciding the theme of the record. It’s important to be spontaneous and you’re not always gonna please everyone. Yeah—a lot of my family, friends and musician colleagues were definetly bummed at first. They’d been waiting forever for some new music from me. They were like …

‘WTF?’ A year later and a lot of those same people have come around, especially with the current music scene going on this year. They seem to be understanding it more. It’s been more appreciated. I was not intending for it to be this big hit—I’ve been finding more satisfaction when people really have to dig into the songs. Do you like the new Kendrick Lamar record DAMN.? I think it’s incredible—amazing production. Very different from past records, less funk and more minimal. He’s opening peoples minds. To do such a radically extreme nuanced prodction like that in a mainstream setting and have it be that successful is admirable. It’s an album that does a lot of good for the state of music regardless if you’re a fan of Kendrick or not. On your album Pop Negro you tracked a specific mixing engineer who worked on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Yes—Jon Gass. I’m very proud of Pop Negro. It opened up a lot of doors. My label at the time did not ;ike it. They wanted another Alegranza—they wanted me to take the throne of the chillwave scene. I wanted to do the opposite. They did not understand my Spanish pop songs. To bring Jon Gass on was a controversial decision. He was not a popular mixing engineer at that time and was very expensive. So the label had a hard time coughing up the dough to hire him on. In the end, the album was very succesful against all speculation. Now years later it has carved out its place in time. I like the idea of jumping from scene to scene, genre to genre—I think it’s a good strategy. INTERVIEW


With all the great music in the world, I think it’s actually harder to stick to one genre rather than to accept change. I’m always searching for new music. Whether it’s a young teenage musician or a record that came out forty years ago, you’re always gonna find something new … and if you are not finding anything, it’s because you are not looking hard enough! Do you think there is recognition of your music here in the U.S.? Do you care? I used to be able to fill a thousand person room in the states. Obviously a lot of time has passed so I don’t expect that kind of draw now. Let me tell you, though … in general I do have the luxury and privilege of going all over the globe and playing shows knowing that at least 300 people will show up, and not many musicians can say that. I have musician friends in Spain that could draw 2,000 people there but send them to Portugal or anywhere else and there would be nowhere near that. But of course I care! If you’re making the trip across the pond … all the jetlag, interviews, soundcheck are a lot to do for no reason or if you did not care. You do it cuz you’re demonstrating your appreciation for your audience and you’re traveling to these places where they really want to see you. That’s not why I make music—I don’t make music in hopes there will be 500,000 people at my show one day. I make music cuz that’s what I know how to do. Apart from that I haven’t relied on the El Guincho project economically. So I’m able to have 100% creative freedom.

I’m familiar with your production for the band Los Punsetes—can you tell me a about other projects you’re working on? I recently produced some tracks with Björk for her new album Biophilia—doing some programming. That was a beautiful experience. No big deal! [laughs] I do a lot of ghostwriting. I love collaborating with different artists and—apart from being monetarily compensated—the goal is to learn from it on a personal level. Is your collaboration with Julieta Venegas a cover song? Yes—a song by a 50s cuban group Trio Matamoros. One of the things that sets you apart is your music videos. They’re very epic, unique and intense—spectacular productions. I definitely place a huge amount of importance on music videos. That’s why I only have a few out. Especially in this day and age with the internet, every song has a video, half the time shot on someone’s cell phone camera in one day. To me videos have to be iconic. I don’t care about the number of views as long as every view that was reached blew people away and makes you stand out. Instead of a saturated visual onslaught of photos and videos, I’d rather have two or three things out and set a standard. We were just nominated for a Latin Grammy for the video for ‘Comix’ so I’d say it’s working out. I feel like ‘Comix’ marked an era in Spain—like there’s a big movement of hip-hop subculture in the current music scene.

There’s a huge wave right now … not necessarily hip-hop but just ‘urban,’ for me similar to the Dominican Republic or Colombia. It’s like a fusion. It’s on the fringe—maybe some soul harmonies, trap, dance hall and a lot of pop hooks. This has been going on since like 2014 in my opinion—shame that it has not transcended to other places like the U.K. or the U.S. For example … my generation was able to cross over like Delorean or John Talabot. We were able to say, ‘Hey, we are here and we have the same quality and level of music as anyone else.’ It’s only a matter of time. Things are very saturated but in the end people will discover it. Our music here has its own salsa. Salsa is very important. You’ll notice L.A. will be very chill. I have a lot of friends in L.A. I connect with the city a lot. The language, the people. Canary Islanders are descendents of Latin immigrants and that is a strong connection we share with a place like Los Angeles. Your team is UD Las Palmas? Yes, since I was a kid. I actually grew up playing on their youth squads and went to their academy. A lot of my childhood friends are currently on the 1st division team which is a special feeling. I feel very tied in. They’re currently in first division in Spain. Yes—it’s generated a lot of pride in Tenerife where I’m from. I wish them the best—they play a very visually appealing style of futbol. Jogo bonito? Yes—we are known to have a certain style of play that brings a lot of color to the league.

What’s your plan after tour? Going with the flow—mixing, producing. Writing new songs. Maybe as El Guincho, maybe not. In some fashion it’ll involve music—‘Vamo!’ It’s my life! I wasn’t much of a reggaeton fan before listening to your new record. There’s a heavily reggaeton-influenced there. I love it, production-wise. The lyrics could be questionable and the people will have their pre-judgement, but I think it’s one of the most forward-moving genres in the last ten years. Indie guitar rock music has generally not really changed in the last twenty years. It’s futuristic music—finding the innovation so it’s not boring or cliche. Look at Death Grips—they are being innovative and finding new sounds but at the end of the day they are still a punk band to me. Still a very hardcore attitude. Like N.W.A.? Exactly—no matter what genre you can always find a way to flip it on its head and turn it around and innovate it. My last note for you is the word ‘patience’—your music symbolizes that word very strongly, I think. Totally—for the listener, in one sitting you can’t decipher a song. It’s always gonna take you a few sittings with a piece of music to notice all the nuances and details if the artist really did his job. EL GUINCHO’S HIPERASIA IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM EVERLASTING RECORDS. VISIT EL GUINCHO AT ELGUINCHO.COM.


sudan archives Interview by DAIANA FEUER Photography by THEO JEMISON

This self-proclaimed former ‘goody two shoes’ talks about learning violin by playing along at church. After a rebellious streak, she left Ohio for a new life with good weather and more people in Los Angeles. A chance encounter at a show with Stones Throw A&R and Leaving Records owner Matthewdavid eventually turned into a record deal. But if it weren’t for a singing and dancing fiddle group from Canada she saw perform in the 4th grade, Sudan Archives might have never become a singing and dancing violinist. She realized this while describing her self-titled debut EP on Stones Throw and divulging a short version of her life. What’s the story behind the fiddle group that inspired you to pick up violin? Around that time I was living in Wyoming [Ohio], this small Jewish community outside of Cincinnati. In fourth grade a group of fiddlers called Barrage came. They played folk tunes and dance and sing at the same time. Now that I’m saying it, that kind of inspired the whole thing of what I do now. When I saw them I was like, ‘Oh my God, I want to do exactly what they’re doing.’ And now I realize I am, in my own way. They were singing, they had the Britney Spears microphones, and dancing and playing violin. How did you develop your playing style? So I started playing violin but a year or two later I had to switch schools. I’ve been to like six different schools and none of them had orchestra or they were just starting. I already had some basic training, so I was so bored. They were like, ‘This is a bow; this is how you hold a violin.’ I knew those things already and I was ready to learn how to read music and stuff. I was behind but ahead at the same time. So I started playing in church more. My mom pushed me to do it. She said, ‘You don’t need to learn how to read violin to play violin for the people. Everyone up there does it by ear.’ So I started to play in church more and she was right. I just started to hear things and mimic it on the violin just

by messing around trying to find the tune— even though I wasn’t good at reading music or the best violinist. I didn’t know how to do all the shifty positions or go all the way up the fingerboard. I was more like a fiddler where you stay in first position and do a lot of repetitive licks but very, very fast. That helped me develop my own style. If it wasn’t for church I wouldn’t be where I am now. That made me be more creative. Did you take anything spiritual away from playing in the church? Maybe. My music has some mystic qualities or spiritual qualities in a way. Maybe it comes from that place—of making music from the soul. How did moving around like that affect you? Did it make you feel like an outsider? I just remember being in high school and all these girls were graduating, crying, being like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve known you since we were three years old.’ I just couldn’t really say the same. It was only my second year and I was graduating. That makes you feel like an outcast. I didn’t really have a chance to build relationships with other teenagers. I felt like people knew me but no one really did in a way because I was always in and out. Moving around has something to do with me feeling un-relatable sometimes. Maybe that’s why I became a solo musician. If I had a lot of 53


“I was just ready to do whatever I want.” friends, we would’ve started a band and been making music together. Maybe we would’ve even moved out to L.A. together in the end. What led up to finally leaving Ohio? I was being rebellious. I was more like a goody two-shoes in high school. When I graduated early I just started going out, sneaking out, saying I was working the night shift at McDonalds but going out with my exboyfriend instead … started smoking weed, skipping curfew, stuff like that. My parents even kicked me out. After that, how did you feel confident telling them you were moving to L.A.? I felt like, ‘I have to keep pushing or else I will be a failure.’ Eventually parents understand, right? I felt like if I could just break through and prove something to them, maybe they would figure it out: ‘OK, she has a good head on her shoulders. She’s just different.’ A lot of my family still lives where they grew up. They stayed there. Moving across the country is crazy to them. I just wanted to leave Ohio to get out of the snow and see some good weather and go to school. That’s all I wanted. And that’s all I thought that I would’ve accomplished by this time. Instead I got a record deal but I’m still trying to finish school! When did you decide to go to L.A.? I had a plan of moving out. I was working two jobs. I was saving up for a plane ticket. I decided to leave when I felt like maybe I could just go to school in L.A. and I would make more connections musically out there perhaps. I wanted something different. I was tired of being in Ohio. I wanted to travel and be responsible, take care of myself and not live with my parents anymore. Going to L.A. was my first plane ride. I visited once and then came right back for good. I just remember seeing the trees, the palm trees—that just stood out to me. How was that first plane ride? It was exciting and I was just ready to do whatever I want. Take care of myself, not have curfews, find a job. I was spontaneous about it and optimistic. I wasn’t sad or anything. But after I’d lived here for a couple months I was sad sometimes because I was getting a little homesick. I had made a friend on Instagram named Fatima. Her hair was really cool, like Erykah Badu’s, and she was from Ghana and she was a fashion designer. And we became really close. She said if I ever came out to L.A., I could stay with her until I found a place. So I just moved in with her. Then I found a place to stay in Highland Park with my friend Cat500, who I met on Soundcloud and then we became penpals. Internet friends becoming real friends! Yeah—she asked me to play a dublab set and then we just became friends. I remember a lot of people saying, ‘Wow, you’re playing dublab?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really know what it is but my friend invited me!’ 54

Everything here was still very new to me. One of her friends moved out and she had an extra room, and I’ve been there ever since. How did you end up at Low End Theory and fortuitously meet Matthewdavid? I didn’t know about any music events. My ex at the time was always going to events and took me to Low End Theory. I remember being there, meeting Maththewdavid, just talking to him one on one, and he asked me, ‘So … do you make music?’ ‘Yeah, I’m a violinist…’ and he was really interested that I was incorporating electronics: ‘You should send me some music sometime.’ I was really shy at the time. It probably took me a year to even send him anything. I just wasn’t ready to show anyone my stuff. But I finally did when I was planning on putting out an EP on my Bandcamp. I was asking him if he would engineer it because I heard he was really good at that. And he was like … blown away and wanted to put it out. Then Chris Manak heard it and wanted to put it on Stones Throw. What part of the EP was done in the studio? I would make my songs in my bedroom and come with the production laid out, but they would help make them sonically sound the way I wanted them to—texturize, make the compression and equalizing everything, making it all sound really big. I re-recorded most of the vocals there but certain songs we didn’t really touch. Matthewdavid would just pump it up and make the bass lines bang the way I want. I’m a producer but I’m still learning the engineering techniques. Sometimes I want to do something and I don’t know how. I’m still learning on that end and I’m super grateful to be working with Matthewdavid because he’s a sonic scientist! How did you source the sounds for your songs? I made most of them in GarageBand. I like their drums. They sound kinda bad in a good way—I don’t know if that makes sense. I used that and made my own percussion just in the microphone with my fingers. ‘Golden City’ is just me stomping on the ground and we made the beat. I was just hitting the ground and clapping and then I added the GarageBand drums to pump it up. It’s a mixture of what I can find in my bedroom that makes a cool sound and making cheap drum sounds fit in where they can. I really like those sounds. It gives me a 90s sound. It would be cool to get a vintage drum machine though. Or an app? I bet there is an app. I love apps. I feel like I’ve run through all the apps. I want to try to step it up and get gear so I can play it live. Has technology ever failed you live? I used to perform with my acoustic violin a lot more but sometimes the vibrations cause

feedback. One time there was this loud sound and I didn’t know where it was coming from and it was so stressful. You don’t want to stop and say ‘Cut the music, I’m done.’ I just went through and finished the set. But this type of thing also was an inspiration to my music production. On ‘Paid’ it sounds like the aux cord is fucking up but it’s purposely done because I like the way it sounds. I’m trying to embrace that and maybe make it a good thing. Was there a learning curve figuring out your performance setup? Sometimes I wish I could multiply myself and cue my tracks from the SP and make them sound the way I want to and have another person sing and have another person play the violin. But I’m figuring out the method and how to achieve it in a small room or in a big room. In a small room I would do live looping with violin. But in a place like Low End Theory I would play my tracks because I know they’re going to bang, you know? Where did the name Sudan come from? I was always interested in African history and clothing. My mom thought Sudan was just a pretty sounding name. She called me her hippie child and said, ‘How about instead of calling yourself Tokyo Moon, you call yourself Sudan Moon?’ Because I was going to call myself Tokyo Moon. I just really wanted to go to Tokyo. Instead you got to go to Africa and film a video. That was a dream come true. To be able to go there and also to teach children what I do—how to make music—and then shoot a music video … it was too much goodness in one thing. Teaching was a main point of the trip and we shot footage and we’re going to make a documentary about the whole experience. I’ve been volunteering for Taiwo Fund for a few years. It’s a non-profit that provides education to low-income families. Our first project was to get a bus for this school in Ghana. For a donation perk I made a collaboration CD of the kids playing music with Los Angeles artists. For the second opportunity I was given the chance to do a workshop, and wanted to do a three-day electronic music production class. We raised money, flew out there, and Stones Throw flew out Eric Coleman to shoot the whole thing and do a video. I loved it there. It was my first trip out of the country trip too. It was so much goodness. What did you take away from that experience? Stay true to you. Staying true means keep it simple and stay rooted. It was inspiring to see the way people live out there. Traffic is so cool because even though you have to wait a long time to get to where you wanna go, there’s people walking around with stuff on their heads so you can go shopping and be in traffic

at the same time. Waking up and hearing someone sing a melodic word that’s supposed to mean something. It’s all so simple. Life doesn’t have to be complicated. How does simplicity apply to your music? When it comes to writing, I just journal and don’t think about it becoming a song. Then I make a beat, I just take my notes, start singing and press record. If I like it, I keep it. I won’t try to make it ‘more’ anything. Also when it comes to hooks I like repeating things—it’s a style, and I stay true to that. It’s how I feel. I repeat something until it becomes a trance or meditative state feeling. When I moved to L.A. I started researching music from Sudan and Ghana. In northern Ghana they play this one-stringed violin that goes back to stone-age time. The fact that they just picked up a gourd, snake skin, covered it, nailed it, attached horse hair and then made a bow of horse hair all by themselves really inspired me to complete an album by myself. They just used the tools they had to make instruments and play them. I can do the same thing with what I have. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have enough. But you can use whatever is around you. Where did electronics and beat music come into the picture? I remember in Ohio going to a bar in Clifton and seeing people with SP-404s and playing their beats. That sparked me getting one myself. Francis Bebey really inspired me to incorporate the electronic music and violin. There’s this song ‘Forest Nativity’ that’s really chill and meditative and calms you down by what he’s saying. He fuses West African instruments and electronic music and I thought I could do my take on that. He’s also an ethnomusicologist and he wrote a whole book about African string instruments and learned a lot from that. He was a pioneer to African electronic music. That definitely affected my production style. How do electronic sounds relate to the natural world? I think it just depends on who is manipulating the sound. Some electronic music, you’re not supposed to feel ‘in a natural element’ … you’re just supposed to fucking bang your head and go crazy or some shit. Like EDM, that’s very it’s-own-lane. But if you’re trying to make textured, natural electronic music, it just depends on the manipulator. It’s more of an approach. Did you find what you were looking for when you came to L.A.? Now I feel more responsible and mature. That’s kind of what I wanted out of the whole thing. So I’m happy. SUDAN ARCHIVES’ SELF-TITLED EP IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM STONES THROW. VISIT SUDAN ARCHIVES AT SUDANARCHIVES.BANDCAMP.COM. INTERVIEW


56 ALBUM REVIEWS Edited by Kristina Benson and Chris Ziegler 58 THE INTERPRETER: Alison Rosenfeld Curated by Kristina Benson 61 WAYBACK MACHINE Reissues by Ron Garmon 64 MAP Where to Find L.A. RECORD

67 One reporter’s opinion Reviews by chris ziegler 69 COMICS Curated by Tom Child 70 LIVE PHOTOS Edited by Debi Del Grande 72 L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD Interview by Tiffany Anders THEE OH SEES at FYF FEST ALBUM REVIEW P 63 PHOTO: STEPHANIE PORT


ALBUM REVIEWS BENEDEK Bene’s World Leaving

ANGELS DUST The Great Depression EP Hit + Run L.A.-via-S.D. duo Angels Dust may call the desert home, but their cobwebbed, funereal music seems better fit for the hills of, say, Transylvania. The Great Depression, their third release for Hit + Run, is both their darkest and prettiest yet, with Flavia Ciampi’s voice floating like a friendly ghost through producer David Lampley’s haunted house of cadaverous trip-hop. Spooky comparisons aside, “skeletal” may be the best way to describe Lampley’s beats—the sparseness of his bare kicks and snares add urgency to Ciampi’s mournful sighs. Occasionally a stray harp or piano will pop up, like on the waltz pastiche “Barren”, but always decayed and slightly out of tune, like an old photograph left in the attic for decades. Fans of London’s Tri Angle Records will find a lot to like here–like that label’s halcyon days of Clams Casino and How To Dress Well, The Great Depression takes a smattering of familiar elements and twists them beyond recognition, using lo-fi trappings as an aesthetic advantage. “Pure”, in particular, is ambient r&b at its dirtiest, with Ciampi floating just beyond intelligibility while static churns and 808s boom beneath her. It’s addictive, but hard to sing along to, and groovy, but too spaced out to nod your head. It’s a record best silently absorbed. The duo are something of a rare catch live, so until that changes, a quiet night and a lit candle will have to do. —Zach Bilson

ALBUM REVIEW SUBMISSIONS 56

ARIEL PINK Dedicated to Bobby Jameson Mexican Summer Ariel Pink’s musical dexterity has always been his most interesting and inspired trait. On his eleventh studio album, Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, Pink threads figure eights on roller skates, chews gum, and spins a basketball on his index finger all at the same time—and looks fashionably good doing it. Equal parts funky, beautiful, and fragile, the songs on Bobby Jameson zig-zag from Berlin-era Bowie bangers to paisley Undergroundinspired earworms to decaying swooning crooning pop. “Another Weekend” is a late-summer latenight love letter to lost weekends, while the swirling “Feels Like Heaven” is an insouciant jangly pop song a la 80s L.A. scene legends the Plimsouls and the Dream Syndicate. Pink doesn’t forget his peaches & cream funk roots with “Death Patrol” and “Santa’s In The Closet”—although the latter song could easily work as a b-side for something off Bowie’s Low. The most intriguing musicians—Bowie, Prince, and Beck among them—effortlessly balance the artsy-fartsy, melodic, and the ironic, and Ariel Pink’s work indicates that he wants to be thought of as among those artists. Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is his most accessible album to date, but accessible without compromise— like the artists listed above, it’s ambition makes it that much more pop. —Kegan Pierce Simons

BANNY GROVE Cars In Control EP Nicey Music Despite only being fifteen minutes long, Banny Grove’s new EP, Cars in Control, is boiling over with decades worth of disparate musical influences. Vocalist Louise Chicoine bounces between imitating the velvety melodrama of Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s ABBA leads (“The Manger”) and the halfsung rambling of Life Without Buildings’ Sue Tompkins (on the title track). This is all done against guitarist and keyboardist Peter Nichols’ constantly mutating backdrops, in which no sonic stone is left unturned. Nichols mines everything from club-primed beats to scratchy ‘80s synths to the Rugrats theme soundfont, resulting in genrehopping so agitated it makes Beck seem like Huey Lewis. Cars in Control is also a political record, but not in the conventional sense; instead, contemporary topical takedowns are eschewed in favor of a wholesome Seussical sense of morality. “Trash Truck” is narrated by a mole person living beneath a garbage-covered dystopia, while the title track is a vague endorsement of renewable energy. Banny Grove reach the height of their musical and lyrical powers on closing track “Dogs FM,” a satire of media bias that’s as catchy as it funny: “Dogs are so cool! / They say just what they mean / And they never have a secret agenda.” It can only get weirder from here. — Morgan Troper

BELL SYSTEM (a.k.a. Gap Dream) Toll Free Zones or Basic Billing Plan self-released There’s a scene in 24 Hour Party People where a DJ spins to a near empty dance floor in the newly opened Hacienda. It perfectly captures how different a club looks and feels when the lights go up and how spatially radical the music sounds when the room is devoid of sweat and heat. Maybe it’s no accident then, that the techno side project of Gap Dream’s Gabe Fulvimar, Bell System, took its name from defunct landline conglomerate Ma Bell, and named its Bandcamp album Toll Free Zones. Phone calls sound and mean something different now, and ‘toll free’ isn’t a thing anymore. A departure from the usual campy and infectious pop of Gap Dream, Bell System harkens back to ecstasyfueled raves of the ’90s, a bite-sized EP of block rockin’ beats. Most of the tracks fall around 100 b.p.m. which allows you to both space out and come down. An album for the night of or the morning after. —Kegan Pierce Simons

Benedek built his name on boogie, expertly recreating the kind of smooth, synthed-out sound that you can hear thumping through Funkmosphere. But the producer and accomplished multiinstrumentalist has always been a bit more experimental, bringing boogie to the likes of house, hiphop, and jazz fusion. “On My Way” opens Bene’s World with buoyant, tropical house, a song that sounds something like staring through crystal clear water at sunset. Benedek channels a lot of synth history on this record—you can hear traces of forgotten vibers like Leon Lowman right alongside those more baroque boogie compositions. Single “Castle 2 Castle” hits with trunk-rattling bass, a driving, focused song that could’ve been a killer club tune in the 90s—and perhaps still can be one now, too. “Ocean Park” winds up into a surprise synth sax solo only to dissolve back into the smooth dance beat. “Afterglo” steers toward that neon sound that seems only to come from an entire night spent hitting the streets. Unlike his debut work (which featured occasional guests like Dâm-Funk and Groundislava), Bene’s World is by comparison a solitary affair. But his is a clear vision. This is Bene’s World, after all, so just sink into the slow-motion dream that is closer “Sonatime.” —Miles Clements

CHELSEA WOLF Hiss Spun Sargent House

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 L.A. RECORD, 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 ALBUM REVIEWS


Full disclosure: I believe that musically, Chelsea Wolfe can do no wrong. And to be fair, she hasn’t given me any reason to think otherwise. She’s equally able to write magical stark folk songs as she is dark, electronic-laced metal, and she’s a powerhouse in her live shows, transforming all of her songs into their heaviest iterations. Hiss Spun preserves that heaviness— armed with apocalyptic percussion and distorted guitar tones, Wolfe ventures further into metal territory than she ever has, even calling on Old Man Gloom’s Aaron Turner to provide traditional growls on “Vex,” the album’s second single, where Wolfe’s own voice offers a gorgeous and delicate counterpart to the doomy instrumentation. Highlights include “16 Psyche,” the lead single whose desperate chorus is not likely to leave your head soon after you hear it; “The Culling,” an eerie, agonized slowburn; and “Twin Fawn,” a driving and melodic illustration of the album’s major themes. Lyrically, Wolfe invokes images of natural purity and beauty—like fawns, roses, and the moon—and juxtaposes them with visions of crawling skin, broken glass, claws, fangs, and madness. “Show me what’s underneath, show me your bruises,” Wolfe pleads on “Two Spirit.” On Hiss Spun, nothing stays pure and simple for long. —Julia Gibson

minutes long, many in Spanish— because it’s here to stay. Tracks veer from the catchy chorus of “Work It Out” to the tripped out flute breakdown on “Elotero Spaceman,” with guitarist David Pacheco’s shapeshifter vocals creeping throughout—he takes on the role of a reverb-laden sonidero for “Camisa Al Reves” and morphs into a growling garageband frontman in “Muevela.” Thee Commons are best known now for making music that gets people bopping, moshing and dancing to cumbia all at the same show—a sound that could have only originated with L.A.’s nextgeneration of Chicano rockers. Paleta $onora all but acknowledges this—on a song called “Selena’s Butt,” no less!—when Pacheco softly sings: “Ni de aqui, ni de alla, pero aqui nos vamos a quedar / Tocando musica sin paredes / Nunca vamos a parar.” [“Not from here, not from there, but here we’re going to stay. We play music without walls. We’re never going to stop.”] —Sarah Bennett

newfound clarity suits him well. His anticon. cohorts Deradoorian and Baths contribute guest vocals as well, on atmospheric bangers “Spark” and “Wisp,” respectively. Deradoorian’s cut is the kind of narcotic-but-anxious slow jam often put out by Night Slugs, while former Hamilton High classmate Baths takes a more offbeat approach: “Keep your voices down…” he repeats over a pulsing house track, eventually dissolving into wordless harmony as D33J slices up his sighs and spreads them like butter. “Rot,” D33J’s collaboration with Shlohmo and Soundcloud sensation Corbin, is one of the most gleefully terrifying tracks you’ll hear all year, a nightmarish blend of fireside acoustic guitar, Corbin’s tortured moans, and codeine-soaked bass, capped off by a computerized sludge-metal coda. Corbin’s debut Mourn is produced entirely by Shlohmo and D33J himself, and is set to drop just days before Death Valley Oasis. It seems like Santos will be seeing a lot of action this fall, and we’ll be getting a lot of D33J. Fair trade. —Zachary Bilson

that could easily be interpreted as a more working-class Spiritualized hybrid—they’ve even added lush synths—without compromising that untouchable Dream Syndicate “it” thing. Wynn is one of those rare deadpan poets whose voice still drips warm emotion with every word—he may be the one of the last blue-eyed L.A. jivers alive today. There is equal part lightness and weight right out of the gates with “Filter Me Through You” setting the tone for the journey where you want to get right into your car and just drive—a driving record, no doubt, where you want to soak up the mystery of where you’re going rather than having any set destination. You’ll realize how perfect this analogy is once you hear the lines “Hands clutched rigid on the steering wheel / Whiskey underneath the seat, carefully concealed” on “80 West.” Adventure fever begins to set in during “The Circle” which calls to mind Minneapolis Twin/ Tone punk scorch. The title track is an 11-minute funk-and-feedback jam that peaks the albums cinematic quality–maybe this is where you stop at that liquor store and soak up the desolation out in the middle of nowhere, which is exactly where you want to be. —Gabriel Hart

DZANG 3G Dzang Records D33J Death Valley Oasis anticon

THEE COMMONS Paleta $onora Cosmica East L.A.’s Thee Commons‘ early songs from 2012 established them as a three-piece punk band with classic rock ‘n’ roll roots, but through eight subsequent EPs they’ve folded in everything from clave-tapping cumbia rhythms to psychedelic chicha riffs to noodly surf rock melodies and more, a concoction that’s simultaneously nostalgic and a transmission from the inevitable pan-Latin future. Their latest, Paleta $onora, begs you to stop trying to make sense of it all and just enjoy the mezcla—refined here on sixteen propulsive songs, all under three ALBUM REVIEWS

complementing the next while avoiding the overly dated cliches that damage many bands whose music draws on a retro aesthetic. I’d set this album next to the type of stuff Joel Jerome was doing on the early dios records, as well as some of Jerome’s solo material. While much of the album is quite downbeat and dreamlike—such as the amazing opening song “Dead Grass,” rooted in an organ melody and choir vocals that are almost church-like—Lovelis was wise to mix in a few more pop-influenced tracks, such as “Mystery Boys” or “Nervous Suspicion”—it’s just the right amount of ups and downs to make the entire ride enjoyable. Lovelis is proving to be just as strong a producer as he is a songwriter—I’m very much looking forward to what he has in store for the future. —Zachary Jensen

THE DREAM SYNDICATE
 Death Valley Oasis may be D33J’s How Did I Find Myself debut LP, but by no means is Here?
 DUSTIN LOVELIS Djavan Santos a “new artist.” A AntiBeen Hit Before member of Shlohmo’s WEDIDIT collective/label, Santos has built up After 29 years of a highly prolific, Porch Party / a repertoire of EPs on the storied boundary-pushing, genre- Friendship Fever anticon. label, as well as lending his synth-laden instrumental hip-hop to everyone from Shlo himself to new-school rap stars like Tory Lanez and Lil’ Yachty. But rather than a collection of beats, Death Valley Oasis is a deep dive into D33J’s dark, romantic soundworld, sifting through fragments of hazy r&b, dub techno, and ambient pop, all polished to sublime beauty. “Endless Fall” and “Plateau” are hazy club waltzes with Santos crooning over pulverizing kick drums and delicate guitar—a disorienting mixture at first, but it’s held together by D33J’s voice. This is the most confident he’s ever sounded on his own tunes, and the

defying solo career, Steve Wynn didn’t have to give us another Dream Syndicate album. But he just did–with original member Dennis Duck and longtime bassist Mark Walton (and is that original member Kendra Smith singing lead on “Kendra’s Dream?), How Did I Find Myself Here? is a huge surprise to those of us who obsessively covet their 1982 debut The Days Of Wine and Roses, an album that didn’t sound like anything else around then and still holds its place today. Sonically speaking, How Did I Find Myself Here? is the most gigantic Dream Syndicate album to date–a beautifully layered, euphoric feedback wonderland

When a listener thinks about music, they may not think about the production—but for better or worse, producers can have just as much influence on how an album sounds. (Phil Spector’s signature sound marks every albums he touched.) And sometimes when musicians wants to get closer to their vision, they need to do it themselves. That’s just what Dustin Lovelis did for his self-produced Been Hit Before. Here Lovelis has composed and produced a 10-track collection of songs that blend elements of folk, indie and a little 60s psychedelia to great effect. The songs are ephemeral but timeless, each

On 3G—an aptly chillwaveera tech reference—film score composer Adam Gunther’s vignettes read like an internal monologue, characteristically cinematic yet eerily personal. Gunther’s third release under the name Dzang, 3G is a day-in-themind ride-along with a composer whose antecedents include house, trip-hop, R&B, soulful jazz and krautrock. Guest vocalists like Maria Minerva, Olivia Kaplan and Maxim Ludwig appear as memories, ghosts, the voices in his head, or as the external forces that make it nearly impossible to be alone in one’s own silence. DonChristian’s voice opens the album like a sunbeam through a prism, harmonized daybreak on an optimistic Dzang canvas. The second track “C’mon” finds Maria Minerva pleading listlessly, “You say that we’re done, that you’re moving on … now baby, c’mon,” a breakup track that shifts the momentum as quickly as breakup memories can cloud a sunny morning. It’s snap mood changes like this that paint a vivid picture of the maelstrom of the 57


THE INTERPRETER

ALISON ROSENFELD Curated by Kristina Benson Photography by Funaki Music supervisor Alison Rosenfeld is the co-founder of Slow Dance at the Melody Lounge, an extremely romantic night she DJs with Nyiko Beguin and John Moses on the first Thursday of every month at the Melody Lounge in Chinatown. Here she shares some selections thta are guaranteed to get a dancefloor moving ... slowly. LINDA JONES HYPNOTIZED (LOMA, 1967) “This song I found through the Art Laboe Connection—Art LaBoe is still on the air. He does a show five nights per week that’s syndicated and then he does a different one on Sundays. The one that’s on weeknights is like five hours long. This guy is over 90 years old, and he does a show where he gets people to call in and request songs or do a shout-out to somebody: ‘Hey, just wanted to dedicate “Hypnotized” by Linda Jones to my boo, Charlie! Sending him love and kisses!’ It’s super cute! This guy’s been DJing for like 70 years, and he’s got a star on the walk of fame—I think he’s like the last real radio DJ out there. The record is called Hypnotized and that’s also my favorite song on the record. It was given to me as a gift because I talk about this song all the time. It’s in really good shape—probably better shape than if I bought it for myself!”

“This one I bought from the dollar bin at Sick City Records on Sunset. I feel like a lot of my records are from the dollar bin. This one I bought basically when I first met my current boyfriend—he co-founded Slow Dance with me. I pulled it out and he was like, ‘Oh, get that.’ There’s this really romantic song called ‘So Good’ and it’s sort of become our song. The Whispers are known for the song ‘And the Beat Goes On.’ Will Smith sampled it. It’s a fun, cheesy song, but this one I think is really emotional.”

THE FLAMINGOS FLAMINGOS SERENADE (END, 1959)

“The song I like is not ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ … but sometimes when I play ‘Where Or When,’ the song I like to play, I get requests for ‘I Only Have Eyes For You,’ and I can be like, ‘Oh yeah, I have that—I can play it.’ It’s fun when people come up to us and are into it. Especially older people who are like, ‘Oh, man, this is really bringing me back.’ The Flamingos are like … any song they put out would be perfect for Slow Dance.”

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE THE WORST OF … (RCA, 1970)

“The song I picked is called ‘Today.’ I really like this song because it sounds mysterious, the way it starts. It’s this little repetitive simple guitar line—it’s played by Jerry Garcia. It feels really full of emotion, and then comes this really simple tamborine, and then the vocals come in. At first I thought it was a sad break-up song but then I looked into the lyrics and I was like, ‘No, this is like a very emotional love song.’ There’s something about the lyrics that just like … get me. It’s just the most plain you could tell somebody that you love them: ‘I’m so full of love I could burst apart and start to cry.’”

CLOE MARTIN “LIFE RACE” (geneva, 1974)

EDDIE KENDRICKS SLICK (TAMLA, 1977)

“This one I actually don’t know that much about. It’s released on Geneva Records, which is this Detroit label, and they released about 20 records all during the 70s, mostly 7”s—soul and stuff like that. I don’t have too many 45s. My dad is a big 45s collector. I love the 45s I have but because I DJ so much, I find it a lot easier to DJ with LPs.”

“The song is called ‘Intimate Friends.’ I think that’s one of the most beautiful songs of all time. Eddie Kendricks was one of the cofounders of the Temptations—their singer for a couple years before going off and starting his solo career. We’ve definitely had people slow dance [at Slow Dance]. We say that if we’ve seen people making out on the dance floor that it’s been a really successful night. That happens more than you would think.”

SAMANTHA SANG EMOTION (PRIVATE STOCK, 1978) “This song ‘Emotion’ is probably one of my most played songs at Slow Dance. It was written by Barry and Robin Gibb—it sounds like a Bee Gees song. The last time I played this at Slow Dance, Peanut Butter Wolf came up to me like, ‘I love this song!’ I was like ‘Oh my gosh, Peanut Butter Wolf likes my record!’ It’s a song that I kind of can’t get enough of. I have a weird love-hate relationship with disco. A lot of it is really cheesy and formulaic. But this one—it defies all the generalizations. There’s something really truly romantic about it.”

RARE SILK AMERICAN EYES (PALO ALTO, 1985) “This song I actually found on Discover Weekly on Spotify®. I used to think that it was cheating but every week, I listen and it’s like things I know and then total deep cuts like this one—‘Storm.’ It’s a vocal jazz group. I think the singers are two sisters, which is always fun when it’s like in the family. It’s kind of minimal. Just two voices harmonizing, and a lot of percussion. And it’s got this instrument—I feel like it’s oboe? It’s got this amazing solo in the middle. It’s very intimate.”

BOBBY CALDWELL CARRY ON (POLYDOR, 1982) “This song is sort of soulful—in the world of Hall and Oates. This record cover is really cool, but you can see him silhouetted here. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but his identity remains hidden for most of his career. He didn’t have his picture on his records—it’s more silhouettes with him. Everybody assumed that he was a Black singer. He’s just a scrawny white guy. He just did a project with Mayer Hawthorne and Jack Flash. He had a big single when he first started his career called ‘What You Won’t Do For Love.’ It’s a really great song but I don’t think it’s aged as well as ‘Carry On.’ But I feel like he never really matched the success that the first single got and then he kind of faded away, which is a bummer.” INTERPRETER

THE WHISPERS SO GOOD (SOLAR, 1984)

JERRY JEFF WALKER FIVE YEARS GONE (atco records, 1969)

“A friend put ‘About Her Eyes’ on a mix. It was such a stand-out. I immediately went back and listened to it again. He’s an iconic Texas country artist and honestly at Slow Dance … there’s a lot of doo-wop, 70s soul and 90s R&B, but I feel like we don’t play that much country, so this is a rare gem. This is a straight country ballad—piano and guitar and voice. And it’s got this cool guitar line that’s very melodic, and the record that I have, I don’t know if it’s just my copy— I think it is?— it’s very pale and washed out on the front. I feel like that’s how the songs sounds … very dreamy.”

HOMESHAKE MIDNIGHT SNACK (SINDERLYN, 2015) “This is my only recent one, but people play like vapor-wave at Slow Dance—it’s not just oldies. It’s this guy who used to be in Mac DeMarco’s band, and then he quit in like 2014 to focus on Homeshake. ‘Give It To Me’ definitely is the standout. It’s kind of sexy and romantic but it’s also really weird and melodic … but it’s also beat-driven. It’s all things at once!”

JOE CUBA THE BEST OF / LO MEJOR DE (TICO, 1972)

“I bought this when I DJed the Beat Swap Meet that they did in China Town. Joe Cuba is from Puerto Rico and he’s the father of Latin boogaloo. ‘I’m Insane’ starts out with Joe Cuba talking over some music, and then it goes into this very beautiful slow ballad. It’s got a very beautiful slow melody, and it sounds romantic and late night, and something you could salsa to … very slowly. My only complaint about this song is that it’s two minutes long, which is way too short! It needs to be longer.” 59


21st century’s emotional day to day. Nothing is ever too somber nor celebratory, but each track is subtly infused with a touch of zeitgeist-y malaise. Unexpected saxophone solos, jazz drums, and electric pianos join synthesized textures in the unified mission of conjuring to life the world within Dzang’s pacific coast daydreams and haunted worries. The piano elegance of “Top Heavy” takes a serious approach to glam, quickly followed by “Whachu Do,” in which the pitch-shifted nagging question, “Whachu do with your life?” pulses on repeat over a pensive beat. Gunther employs repetition throughout the album both lyrically and musically to evoke the sense of both momentum and stasis—while Olivia Kaplan chants “I know you’re in love with me” on the album’s first single, she doesn’t change her tone or delivery, and there develops an intensity that swells until the listener is convinced and converted. —Christina Gubala

from the innovation and wild inspiration of jazz and placed it in conversation with the beats found at Low End Theory. All of the songs on the album are quite short—the majority close to two minutes flat—and this allows the album to work as a single seamless ethereal experience in sound. One of Moments’ highlights is the track “Side Step,” where computergenerated mechanical sounds work with the simple yet effective piano track and the signature shaker and drum beats that are as much hip-hop as they are jazz. This musical experimentation is all done to great effect—some songs lean more towards jazzy melodies while others push into pure beatmaking prowess, but they all flow effortlessly together. —Zachary Jensen

ESGAR Memory Hit + Run ELUSIVE Moments Dome of Doom Artists of every genre have always made use of what they have on hand to create their works of art—if they could not afford paint or canvases, they would make it from whatever raw materials were readily and cheaply available. The same applies for music. While not entirely in the same vein, the musician Elusive does some interesting things with electronic beats in order to create a sound that is entirely unexpected and surprising in all the right ways. On Moments we find Elusive using samples, glitches, beats, and keyboard sounds in order to create a sort of glitchedout futuristic lounge jazz. The album opens with the track “intuition” as crackle from an old vinyl record bleeds into bell chimes, shakers, bass sounds, and disjointed keys of an electronic keyboard—imagine a place where artists like John Coltrane and Teebs meet. Elusive draws 60

Oxnard-based underground electronic/beat producer Esgar’s new release Memory is a significant departure from his prior trippy and bass-heavy instrumental music. Whereas his 2013 selftitled release was comprised of swaggering dub sounds, this 8-song album is an unsettling foray into ambient/drone territory with songs that will produce the best kind of anxiety, like watching a really good thriller. It’s fitting that he describes the songs as “scenes” on his Bandcamp page: Memory is an immersive aural experience. It kicks off with “Overthrow,” a doomy song featuring hallucinatory, cyclical droning. Heavy bass vibrates throughout the tracks, while high-pitched sounds skitter on top of the dark noise on tunes like “Initiate” and “Awake.” While this collection is incredibly experimental, Esgar achieves moments of real beauty, like the slow-burning, building intensity in “Develop.” He’s always testing the boundaries of electronica, and Memory is a demonstration of Esgar’s shapeshifting creativity. —Julia Gibson

FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS
 Brain Telephone Permanent

FLAT WORMS self-titled Castle Face Sometimes there are records that can potentially change the fabric of the culture in some meaningful way. On their self-titled album, Flat Worms have discovered this formula for change. The album is a buzzsaw—it’s relentless. Look, I wanted to be objective in this review, but this album just won’t allow it. I try to have integrity when it comes to writing a review and I try to not inject myself into the writing, but I’m going to violate that principle with this album … I’m going to Vonnegut this shit. I can’t get it out of my head. There are some things— very few and far between—I believe in, God not being one of them, but Flat Worms have created something I can truly and unequivocally get behind. I listened to it eight times in a row, deep into the night—a night where I learned that there can be truth beyond only the mere comprehension of my meager existence. This record holds a weight that can’t be conveyed in print—it’s something that needs to be experienced. It’s music that could shift personal paradigms. It’s inescapable, like that book or movie that becomes inextricably linked to your identity. It’s bleak and hopeful in the same breath. That’s what art is and should strive to be. Will Ivy, Justin Sullivan and Tim Hellman have found the very essence of their band. I do not make this statement lightly or with any kind of irony. This record is wound around a thread of tautness that connects each song—it’s almost a concept album about the frustrations of the human condition today. —Nathan Martel

One wonderw how many 60s psych-punk revivals there need to be in our lifetime. On one hand, it’s endearing to see a young band like Frankie and the Witch Fingers deep in their worship of classic bands like 13th Floor Elevators and the Velvet Underground— influences that the band cites— with the un-jaded zeal that comes with new discovery. But scenes get stale when the bands not only begin to sound indistinguishable from each other, but when they’re actually more influenced by the later revival scenes that got stale for the same reason. The mark is so often missed—the original 60s bands were brimming with personality and influenced more by their own criminal records (where is the danger?), their favorite subversive literature (where are the poets?), and earthshaking current events. There’s no shortage of earth-shaking events now–so where is the emotional transcendence in response? The good news is that Frankie and the Witch Fingers are so studied in their take on Back To The Grave comp rock that their new album Brain Telephone is still a hell of a lot of fun. (Is FUN the new F-word? Fuck it.) Within the borders of these ten tracks of snotty, reverbheavy, tremolo-soaked tantrums, Frankie and the gang have strategically bookended the album with their two strongest tunes–the album’s opening title track and the closer “Mother’s Mirror,” where they prove they have the most interesting capabilities when they allow these songs to stretch out a bit. “Jamming” is a slippery slope when it comes to 60s inspired psych, but FATWF show that they understand taste and scope, employing flute and unorthodox production techniques that make these particular songs shine and add more retro-active depth to all the “Psychotic Reaction” rave-ups in between. —Gabriel Hart

FRANKIE ROSE Cage Tropical Slumberland It has been four years since Frankie Rose released her third solo album, Herein Wild, and for her, that’s an eternity. This is, after all, a woman who spent most of the late 2000s and early 2010s cranking out record after record with indie-rock bands like Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. And even once she struck out on her own, she released three Frankie Rose albums in the span of three years. So why the gap? Turns out Rose moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and lost her way, ending up “short on sleep, funds and optimism,” she says. She has since moved back East, but she got something great out of the experience: Cage Tropical, an airtight batch of icy, synth-driven songs that radiate all the qualities that made Rose’s 2012 effort Interstellar so special. “Love In Rockets” is a lovely, moonlit pop tune bathed in echo. “Dyson Sphere” features a rubbery bass line and a lushly layered chorus. “Trouble” runs on the motorik beat, with Rose’s vocals shrouded in effects that lend texture, but don’t obscure her knack for addictive melody. “Dancing Down the Hall” blossoms from a wash of digital drones and tones into a gentle mystic ballad. Later, spindly guitars and pastel keyboards shimmer and soar through “Game To Play” and “Red Museum,” and so on and so on. With production help from expert atmospheric alchemists Jorge Elbrecht and Dave Harrington, Rose has created a pretty little soundworld of pillow-soft New Wave on Cage Tropical. It’s well worth the wait. —Ben Salmon

GARRETT Private Life Music From Memory Garrett, it’s said, came from the inside of his own mind. That’s according to his Amsterdambased label Music From Memory, which is known for unearthing ALBUM REVIEWS


and re-releasing the finest (unjustly) lost synth gems. Is Garrett one of those forgotten, prolific producers? Well ... maybe, maybe not. Garrett is probably—as in very strongly rumored to be—adolescentfunkster-to-boogie-legend DâmFunk, whose middle name is also Garrett. It’s assumed by fans so far that this is in fact something more like “Dâm-Funk’s Private Life,” a record that’s exploratory and hypnotic and yet, of course, still funky. “Apocalyptic Sunrise” races forward on what sort of sounds like cult-classic German duo Software’s computer chirps set in rapid motion. Beneath that quick pulse, synths rise and fall in warm swells. “Slow Motion” is just that, a prolific piece of spacey bedroom boogie that echoes the cosmic lonerfunk of Napoleon Cherry before it launches into energetic synth

solos. The surprise stunner is “Angel Reflections,” a 12-minute ascent into a swirling, ambient stream of synths that’s something like the electronic equivalent of spiritual jazz. “Home” bounces with a more familiar Dâm-Funkian boogie before giving way to the percussive and final “The End Theme.” Garrett’s Private Life is a rich one, deep and varied and worthy. And if you listen to it, you’ll understand his secrets. – Miles Clements

GUANTANAMO BAYWATCH Desert Center Suicide Squeeze Surf music usually conjures up images of bikini-clad teeny wahinis, tiki lounges, and, you know—an actual body of water. The desert where you first farted in front of your girlfriend (True story, ask frontman Jason Powell) doesn’t typically come up as inspiration for a record of Ventures-esque thrashers. Then again, Guantanamo Baywatch isn’t your typical surf band. Take the grunge-tinged “Blame Myself,” a self-loathing ballad caught between Golden Oldies and Weezer, or the giddy “Video” which turns a rubber-band bass riff from Chevelle Wiseman and Chris Scott’s galloping drums into the best song you’ve ever heard

about sex tapes. With the soulful “Neglect” they even take on on 60s R&B, spelling out “N-E-GL-E-C-double-T” until they’ve crafted their own version of the Beatles’ “You’re Going To Lose That Girl.” Those looking to live out their own Endless Summer will be satisfied by the five (yes, five!) instrumental tracks, the best of which are the menacing “The Scavenger” and the sure-to-createa-mosh-pit “Area 69.” Both sound thrilling and dangerous, like bigwave surfing, or the sight of a shark fin slicing through glassy water. But no matter how harrowing things get, Powell’s guitar always comes in to save the day and ride, ride, ride the wild surf—with plenty of “Miserlou” warble. Offkilter, kitschy, and nothing but salty, greasy fun, Desert Center is kinda like the scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where he desperately grooves to “Tequila” in a biker bar.

It’s surreal, atomic age fun that’ll make every eye-patched Satan’s Helper dance. —Madison Desler

HAPPY HOLLOWS Concordia self-released If Happy Hollows’ 2014 album Amethyst was the beginning of the band’s movement away from the 90s rock style that

LINK WRAY

arthur alexander

self-titled Light in the Attic

self-titled Omnivore

Long after the hits dried up for this king of rockabilly guitar, Link Wray retired to a studio converted from a chicken shack in rural Maryland and continued to record. His 1971 self-titled comeback on Polydor not only failed to galvanize fans of “Rumble” and “RawHide,” but failed to hit the commercial mark during country-rock’s chart heyday. Not surprising—this record was about two decades ahead of its time, as evidenced by opener “La De Da,” a crude populist stomper about the oft-promised Square Deal for the Common Man with one of those nine-miles-long Elton John glory-roll fadeouts. Link’s voice sounds shot and doesn’t improve much over these eleven songs. “Take Me Home Jesus” is similarly unironic and juiced with hallelujah choruses and the amiable “Juke Box Mama” is intermittently catchy as it wanders. “Rise and Fall of Jimmie Stokes” is a gem, “Crowbar” is unpretentious and bluesy and “Black River Swamp” puts me in mind of a half-price Van Morrison. Finale “Tail Dragger” is a beauty, with Wray’s crunchy guitar wisely taking the fore. Social protest, gospel, roots rock and Jesus-hippie sentiments are scrambled together with the sluggish pacing of a Billy Jack movie. Fans of “authenticity” will dig this hugely but others will file it among the curios of this wonderfully strange era.

Too little soul music of this era crosses my desk these days so this reissue of a key late work in the slender catalog of the first-wave originator Arthur Alexander is a special delight. Born in Sheffield, Alabama, Alexander wasn’t in the record business very long before his “You Better Move On” hit on the R&B charts in 1961 and wound up covered by a long list of industry heavies. More R&B hits followed, along with more megabuck covers of his songs. Despite the distinction of having compositions recorded by the Beatles, the Stones and Bob Dylan, Alexander never got the kind of accolades he deserved and his career had stalled out well before this 1972 showcase from Warner Bros. Alexander had been missing from active recording for for a few crucial years but seizes the moment with surprising agility from the opening track “I’m Coming Home,” offhandedly throwing down a small masterpiece of Southern chickenshack funk. The rest of the LP is a stylistic tour de force, with the singer taking on country (“It Hurts to Want It So Bad,” “Down the Back Roads”), cheating songs (“Go Home Girl”), prison songs (the magnificent “Rainbow Road”), calypso pastiche (“Call Me in Tahiti”), and gospel (“Thank God He Came”) but the casual listener will likely be struck hardest by his pass at Dennis Linde’s “Burning Love,” later Elvis Presley’s last major hit. Bonus tracks include singles and B-sides just as gorgeous but equally lackluster as commercial properties. As singer, Alexander was no honeytongued Al Green, giggling Joe Tex, or ultrasmooth Marvin Gaye, but you can feel a big man’s restraint and dignity flexing beneath the showman’s polish and this spacious unpretentiousness is perhaps the best thing about this set. Alas, the record got no radio traction and Warners, then something of a R&B graveyard anyway, couldn’t sell it. The liners hint at a drug problem but simple lack of appreciation was probably enough to make Alexander quit music later in the decade to drive a bus. He died of a heart attack in 1993 in the middle of another comeback attempt. 61

THE RASPBERRIES Pop Art Live Omnivore The brief prominence and fast disintegration of the Raspberries in no way hindered the rise of each of their four albums to enduring cult status. Indeed, noise from fans and legatees of these Cleveland power-pop originators grows louder as the long-term influence of the subgenre they helped invent becomes ever more apparent. Everyone from Bruce to R.E.M. to the Replacements to Guns N’ Roses claim them as models and each of these worthies in turn influenced many more. Formed out of two other bands as a Cleveland “supergroup” of sorts, original members ALBUM REVIEWS

Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Jim Bonfanti, and Dave Smalley set about manufacturing bestselling Beatle-y pop goo out of locally available materials. A demo ignited a bidding war and the quartet signed to Capitol, the Beatles’ U.S. label. “Go All the Way” went to no. 5 Billboard, lesser hits followed, Bryson and Bonfanti left after Side Three and a revised lineup learning heavily on the angel-voiced Carmen cracked the Top Twenty one last time with the still-enchanting “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” off the final LP Starting Over. Carmen went on to a measure of solo glory that did nothing to efface memory of his old band. Residual bitterness among bandmates was slow to heal and chances of a reunion of all original members were thought remote until it actually happened at the Cleveland House of Blues in 2004. This 2xCD 3xLP set doesn’t disappoint. A high-energy rave-up from opening to encore, the show starts with “I Wanna Be With You” plus a juicy cover of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” just to show they mean business. The setlist is crammed with covers, romantic ballads, and exquisite versions of familiar tunes given new muscle through surprisingly forceful playing. Bonfanti should be classed among rock’s great drummers and he absolutely kills it here. This is without doubt one of the all-time great reunion gigs and sounds nearly miraculous—it’s high-energy teen music played by men in late middle-age. After a show-stopping pass at “I Can Remember,” Carmen is heard to muse “That was something ambitious for a bunch of twenty-two year olds, wasn’t it?” No kidding!


powered 2013’s Spells, their latest Concordia is confirmation that they have landed firmly in synthpop territory. From the 8-bit accents throughout “Palms” to the disco beat on “Meteors,” Happy Hollows aren’t afraid to push the limits of their now-evolved style. “Decide” and “Way Home” are expansive and atmospheric; songs like “Feel the Moon” recall the moment in the 80s when new wave guitar tones reigned supreme and it’s hard not to move your feet when listening to the catchy “Astrid” and slightly darker “Silent Partner.” While most of the songs on Concordia are likely to ignite a spontaneous dance party, the band does offer some tender moments, like the sweet and sparse title track. The powerful vocals standout throughout: Sarah Negahdari channels Karen O’s erratic, dramatic style, which gives the songs a potent shot of raw emotion and contrasts nicely with Dan Marcellus’ steady drumming, Charlie Mahoney’s disciplined synth and Matthew Fry’s playful guitar melodies. Overall, Concordia is a solid collection of ethereal synth-pop songs, and it seems like Happy Hollows has found their niche— at least for now —Julia Gibson

HIGH FUNCTIONING FLESH Culture Cut Dais High Functioning Flesh may have one of the most unsettling band names in all of Los Angeles at the moment, but something about it makes the duo’s brand of gritty dance-y industrial and EBMinfluenced electro-punk all the more alluring. The band’s most recent Culture Cut moves beyond the more angular lo-fi style of their first two records toward tones and sounds that are fuller and more polished but no less striking and sharp. From the first few seconds of curiously manipulated vocals, High Functioning Flesh grab the listener by the lapels and hold on tight. The beats are driving and 62

energetic while vocalist Susan Subtract sounds as grave and guttural as ever. The result is an incredibly well produced, darkas-midnight dance record that’s as chic as it is abrasive. High Functioning Flesh succeeds and then some at invoking a world of dimly lit clubs and dusky warehouses, black leather and heavy mascara, and sweaty dance floors powered by relentless beats. If they remade The Lost Boys and set it in the heart of L.A., you can bet Culture Cut would be coming through loud and clear on those vampires’ stereo. —Simon Weedn

the poisonous American pie. But the album comes to an unexpected climax during its second to last track, “Few Days.” A collage of voicemail, starting with her father’s weakened voice and then a slew of family members offering condolences, buries the listener in the sounds of grieving. “Renewed,” the album’s poignant last track, find Camille examining the advice her father left her: “You’ll be just fine.” Camille’s genuflection to her heritage—from her grandfather Spider who instilled in her a love of music to the village that raised her—makes Heirloom an aptly titled and thoroughly enjoyable masterpiece. —Christina Gubala

ILL CAMILLE Heirloom Jakarta

JESUS SONS Tres Ill Camille’s most recent release— Mock an album four years in the making—wastes no time in the shallow end. She’s got too much to say, and too much impact to make with her confessional poetry. From the first through the sixteenth cut, there isn’t a hollow moment nor a squandered second. Camille examines her life in 360 degrees, delivering her personal philosophies with a laid-back wisdom that radiates peace and confidence, even when she’s at her hardest. Her flow radiates through a cushion of field recordings of neighborhood scenes and chattering in the parking lot with her girls, sound bites from 1976’s Emma Mae, a choir of angelic voices laced through sensual, sumptuous beats and synthetic Rhodes sparkles, ghostly jazz flutes, staccato trumpets and reverbsoaked guitar musings—and all the she’s confident and seemingly at peace with the tumult life has thrown her way. Early in the record, her focus is on the hustle and getting her money right, finding a way to evoke trust and commitment in the post-promise romantic landscape that plagues millennial life, on getting through to black men who think black women are strong enough to not need them—as well as estrogenbrain, aging, and refusing to eat

Jesus Sons return with a batch of the character-driven classic rock that defines their discography. On this, their third album—appropriately titled Tres—the subject matter is dark and portentous, but with a charm that sets these songs on the brink of cheerful self-destruction. If you’re about to explode, why not go out with a bang? That’s what this album represents—the desire to make one’s presence deeply felt. And the stories told here are rich in texture and charisma, with a certain quality of … slacker nobility, or detachment with integrity, a suspicion of of everyday living and a thorough rejection of the status quo. Bassist Eric Lake offers dynamic vocals, while the band is rounded out with Grady Kinnoin on pedal steel, Shaughnessy Starr on drums and harmonica and Shannon Dean and Bert Hoover on guitar. Tres also takes a contrarian stance toward music these days—this doesn’t have much to do with folk or indie, nor is it like anything else produced in the Los Angeles area. (Tres was recorded and produced in Boyle Heights by Jason Soda.) With the rambling next-bar-stool-over narrative these songs deliver, it’s only fitting to order another beer and sit back and listen. —Nathan Martel

JOEL JEROME / COSMIC BEARS Cosmic Bear Jamboree Elite / Light In The Attic For years Joel Jerome has worked hard building one of the most diverse bodies of work of any of his peers, as well as developing a reputation for being as much of a visionary with a guitar and a microphone as as at the console of his locally famous Abbey Road West studio. So it should come as no surprise that Jerome and his most recent ensemble, The Cosmic Bears, have released one of their most beautiful, exquisite pieces of psychedelic rock & roll yet with their new LP. Recorded after just three rehearsals, the record captures a band that sounds incredibly fresh and vibrant, as well as way more together—and in step with one another—than one might expect from such a short amount of practice. Really, that off-the-cuff atmosphere creates a sense of heightened intimacy, with performances so personal and warm that it almost feels like you’re in Joel’s smoky studio, sitting right next to the band as they lay down take after mesmerizing take of hazy guitar-heavy psych—and then joining in for high fives after every song. Jamboree will dazzle and captivate you whether you’ve been listening to Joel and his bands for a long time (maybe all the way back to dios) or whether you’re new to the party—either way, you’re welcome to come right in and join them. —Simon Weedn

With a name like L.A. Witch, you already have a pretty good idea of the music you’re about to hear: something black, something sexy, a soundtrack to the forbidden. With their self-titled debut, this badass L.A. trio uses reverb-soaked guitars, narcoticized vocals, and delightfully seedy subject matter to cast their spell over nine heady tracks mixing 60s garage, trippy psych, and Sabbath-style sludge. On songs like “Brian” and “You Love Nothing,” Sade Sanchez’s hypnotic voice floats in on a cloud of pink smoke, while Irita Pai’s bass seems to be coming to you from underwater. Everything feels dreamily lethargic, with the fuzzy heat-shimmer edges that come with L.A.’s summer swelter—or from some good drugs. This does create the precarious sensation that all the songs are blurring together, but the extra twang added to Sanchez’s guitar on “Untitled” and the driving, get-up-and-go of “Feel Alright” cut through the washes of sound and echo with just a moment of clarity. The album opener, “Kill My Baby Tonight,” is worth the price of admission. Sanchez’s disconnected vocals warn you that when she sings, “I’m gonna hurt my baby tonight,” and you better believe her. This track is the best at conjuring up images of L.A.’s underbelly, especially the sleazy counterculture that lives on inside dive bars and on the backs of motorcycles—the Manson Family, the Hell’s Angels, and the Valley Of The Dolls are all lurking inside that reverb. So if you’re driving around town and want to make running errands feel a lot cooler, pop on “Good Guys” or “Baby In Blue Jeans.” L.A. Witch will do the trick. —Madison Desler

MIDNIGHT SISTER Saturn Over Sunset Jagjaguwar

L.A. WITCH self-titled Suicide Squeeze

Midnight Sister’s new full-length album, Saturn Over Sunset, is a playful and interesting album by San Fernando Valley duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzia, who take their inspiration from the neon lights, late night ALBUM REVIEWS


diners and eccentric wanderers along Sunset Boulevard. The first standout is “Leave You,” a dizzying psychedelic track that makes the perfect soundscape for leaving a bar at last call on Friday night and watching the lights and city shapes flit by outside the passenger window. “Blue Cigar” is an insanely catchy dance track that could be the theme to an artsy sitcom, while most of the album invokes dreamy images of circus sideshows and smoky speakeasies. Some tracks—like “So Young” and “Clown—are a bit more sparse and intimate, and the soft gentle waltz of “The Drought” delivers a refreshingly cinematic moment. Collectively, Saturn is colorful and creative and full of amusing twists. (Midnight Sister’s music videos display the same magical and bizarre kind of humor—watch the “Blue Cigar” video for ballerinas, clowns, and dancing sombreros.) Altogether, Midnight Sister celebrate both the beautiful and the strange. —Geneva Trelease

catchy finger-snaps and made to feel like an avalanche moving in reverse—a slow, scintillating ascent that enshrines her vocal melody. Some of Nite Jewel’s lushest, silkiest production arrives towards the end of the EP, with the inclusion of cuts from a recently released 12” for Italians Do It Better. And throughout, lyrical themes of relationships— of being bogged down by the past or exasperated by self-serving instincts, morphing as they always do—are underscored by the production work of Gonzalez’s husband and longtime Nite Jewel contributor, Cole MGN. The pieces that comprise this epilogue provide not only a satisfying listen, but offer fascinating additional clues to the creative process of an artist constantly refining her art. —Christina Gubala

Real Low, the companion piece to Nite Jewel’s recent Gloriette release Real High, is a collection of b-sides, alternate mixes, and previously unreleased deep cuts from tours past. Nearly every critical discussion of High has made a justifiable connection to 1993’s Janet, and indeed, Ms. Jackson’s presence is woven into many of these extra tracks. There is a looseness, however, that allows the tracks to stand as individual excerpts of her creative mind, rather than form an inevitable album narrative. “So Sick,” a song that Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzales began tinkering with at shows between 2013-2014, and “Never Show”, a cut composed while she was simultaneously developing a film score, show a glimpse into the process of narrowing Real High into the aesthetically airtight final version. The alternate take of High’s “The Answer” is stripped of its sleek, ALBUM REVIEWS

Montebello-born producer Nosaj Thing has turned out to be one of the most consistent Low End Theory alumni, regularly cranking out pristine records perfect for both passive and active listening. Parallels—his fourth LP, and third for current home Innovative Leisure and his own imprint Timetable—pushes him to the fringes of both ends, featuring his heaviest head-nodders to date as well as dabbling in fluid ambient music. Jason Chung’s music has always had an ethereal quality– even his debut Drift, um, drifted along more effortlessly than any of his beatmaking peers–but weightless tracks like “IGYC” and “Nowhere” feel like confident new territory, with delicate synth pads and looping vocals supplanted by bristling field recordings instead of kick drums. Chung’s recent interest in transcendental meditation could be at work here, although he’s still capable of commanding the dance floor with tracks like “U G,” a slice of thumping house not far off from his Timetable signee Gerry Read. And there’s plenty of room to play in the gray area between extremes–

SHANNON LAY
 Living Water
 Mare/Woodsist

RAMONDA HAMMER Destroyers EP New Professor

Orc Castle Face

Parallels Innovative Leisure

Dwyer and his goons are right down in the circle pit, giving out as much energy as they expect to receive in return. —Zachary Bilson

\

OH SEES

NOSAJ THING


NITE JEWEL Real Low Gloriette

his low-key pop experiments are more gorgeous than ever, with Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino making a return appearance for the fidgety “How We Do”. “Don’t say my name with respect / Quit telling your friends that you work with me / Let me tune into your frequency” she breathes, a perfect mix of hazy romanticism and subtle forcefulness–in other words, exactly what Nosaj Thing does best. —Zachary Bilson

John Dwyer is an expert in subversion. Right as his Thee Oh Sees project nears a decade under one name—and hits the peak of their popularity—he shortens it to Oh Sees. But despite the leaner moniker, their new album Orc is anything but strippeddown, instead jam-packed with the breakneck beats, scuzzy riffs, and delay-soaked “Whoo!”s we’ve come to know and love. Opener “The Static God” charges out of the gate with guns blazing, its anxious riffs piling up only to be toppled down by a soothing harmony in the chorus. Then once the back-and-forth reaches a seasick tipping point, the track dissolves into sunbaked ambience– after more than twenty years in music, Dwyer still has new tricks up his sleeve. They’ve also pushed the twin-drummer approach they perfected on last year’s A Weird Exits / An Odd Entrances to new extremes. “Animated Violence” opens up the space between Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone’s off-beat hits, adding another translucent layer of psychedelia to Oh Sees’ hallucinogenic soup. And sprawling closer “Raw Optics” diverges from raucous punk into jazzy solo-trading, eventually syncing back up with a marching band-style riff-off. Even at their most intense, there’s a mischevious sense of fun in Oh Sees’ work that helps it feel like it’s being offered to us, rather than thrown in our faces. Unlike a metal band scowling over a thrashing crowd,

L.A.’s Ramonda Hammer demonstrates a sound both familiar and unique on their new Destroyers EP, matching the grunge-y guitar-driven sound of the indie 90s to the feel of the tumultuous, intensely stress-inducing present. This quartet delivers killer hooks and powerful chord progressions that come tempered and strengthened with moody, complex lyrics. Vocalist Devin Davis’ writing is blunt and biting, revealing intertwining a complicated but very relatable set of emotions— like humorous indifference, haughty contempt and lonely disillusionment. “Destroyers” starts with the words “my dreams are selfish as hell” and builds to a commanding chorus where Davis wails, “I could destroy you my friend / I’ve won it now.” The track is a perfect introduction, showcasing the power and confidence of the band. On following track “Bender,” Davis asks a series of tense questions, examining a personal state of self-destruction—just as the album title implies. By the end of the song, she attempts to reassure herself: “I swear I deserve good things / I swear.” “Too Much Too Recently” takes a gentler, darker tone but highlights Ramonda Hammer’s versatility. Drums and guitar gradually build beneath slow and sensitive verses, culminating in an explosion of sound and emotion. Fans of Speedy Ortiz, Bully, and Sleater-Kinney will appreciate the originality and grit of Destroyers, which starts with self-assured recklessness, levels out into a familiar kind of anxiety, and finally leaves listeners with a satisfying set of grungy nostalgia. —Geneva Trelease

Living Water, the new solo LP from Feels guitarist Shannon Lay. evokes the sun-stippled, melody-drenched folk-pop of Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins without ever seeming anachronistic. As its title suggests, Living Water is a fluid and spacious record, opting for sparse, dynamic arrangements that contrast heavily with Feels’ fuzzy punk. This makes the details that much sweeter—the squealing violin on opening track “Home” alternates between complimenting and sparring with Lay’s vocal melody, while the lite-shred of “Coast” alludes to a chaos bubbling beneath the poppy surface. Lay’s sudden and sly detours into weirdness bring to mind Nick Drake—a major touchstone for every singersongwriter-ly fingerpicker, no doubt, but an artist who rarely makes it into the RIYLs. Like Drake’s Pink Moon, Living Water’s best songs are the most intimate ones: The less-than-two-minute vignette “Orange Tree” and lowkey “Landslide” crib “Always Room” expertly showcase Lay’s elastic melodic sense, while “The Moons Detriment” sees the songwriter approach and nearly best her influences. Despite being 14 tracks long and almost entirely acoustic, Living Water is never repetitive. You don’t need bells and whistles when the songs are this good. —Morgan Troper

THE STEOPLES Six Rocks Stones Throw 63


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L.A. RECORD is currently distributed to 300 locations across the greater L.A to San Pedro through Long Beach and Orange County, as well as in Hollyw Highland Park and more. Unfortunately, we do not have the space to list eve but here are some of the key spots where you can get a copy of L.A. RECOR business listed in future issues as a key distribution location, contact us at


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The first full-length album from the Steoples, a collaborative genredefying project by Gabriel Reyes Whittaker and Yeofi Andoh, balances surreal melancholy with hope as it weaves lyrical narratives through its viscerally vivid sound. Digital skitters, smoky synthesized lounge-y jazz, staccato string samples arranged into elegant structures and hip-hop drum fills are just a few of the textures over which Andoh’s able voice glides. There is an essential maturity in his lyrical examinations of life’s dichotomies; he confidently declares that his people are rising from the “other” side, and dissects the best parts of a crumbling love by proclaiming, “I just want to be happy” as a mournful farewell missive. On the stand-out single “Roles”, a tenuous relationship sees its foundational trust violated, but luscious wolf-y chords worthy of Debussy himself ebb and flow beneath the resolute lyrics and a radiantly syncopated beat. In many ways, the black-and-white cover articulates the album’s complex emotional statements, as on “Real Enough to Be”, where they wonder, “In a world of socalled endless possibilities / why does only ever one get real enough to be?” There is a finality—an absolutism fundamental to the concept of fate—and though many of the lyrical themes point to reaffirming fate’s power over a world trapped in the illusion of free will, the freedom and confidence of the music offers a convincing counterpoint. —Christina Gubala

SUDAN ARCHIVES self-titled EP Stones Throw “I ain’t got no friends / I’m too confident,” muses Sudan Archives on “Wake Up,” the lazy river of a track that closes out her debut EP. Indeed, the violinist wields her instrument with swagger and confidence—though her playing style is unorthodox, there is something uncannily classic about the sounds she creates and evokes. Organic glitches, dank percussion, deliberately placed vocal filters 66

and of course the sweep of strings come together to define a singular little world, invented by an artist completely comfortable in her own skin. Her lyrics are vague but more poetic for it, and through the six tracks on this EP she expresses curiosity, compassion, uncertainty, lust and selfsatisfaction in catchy harmonized stanzas. While each track is rhythmically rich, it occasionally flirts with a club groove, as on the first single, “Come Meh Way”. The syncopated claps, rich punctuated bass, and the flash of tambourine underneath the canopy woven by her urgent bow strokes make for a lush listening experience. Six tracks, each running shorter than 4 minutes, merely whet the appetite for this unique sound, and hopefully they only scratch the surface of what we’ll come to see from her. The confidence that may intimidate those would-be friends comes from a musician with something to truly be proud of. —Christina Gubala

THE TISSUES VEIL self-released Post-, art-, and noise-punk fans alike are sure to fall in love with the Tissues’ debut LP VEIL, which showcases the band’s ability to blend avant-garde sensibility with newfound energy and their own dark, brooding style. The NELAbased band, which cites groups like Pylon and Siouxsie and The Banshees as major influences, are known to tear through live sets with defiant energy—catch a show if you can. VEIL is a pitchperfect presentation of all the elements that make The Tissues so good. Jerry Narrows’ guitar tone is perfect, simultaneously sharp and full. Bianca Ayala’s bounding bass lines shine on tracks like “Fire” and “On the Magazine.” Colette Arenas holds down the fort with her tight and punchy drumming. Kristine Nevrose’s vocals are alternatively breathy and declarative, with plenty of yearning wails and piercing screams thrown in for

good measure. Some tracks on VEIL appeared on their 2016 self-titled EP, like the taunting “Paint Me Black,” but have been polished up and absolutely rip now, showing that this band just keeps getting better and better. —Julia Gibson

together PANGEA Bulls And Roosters Nettwerk It might be hard to believe, but L.A.’s Together Pangea (formerly known as just Pangea) have been around for about a decade now. The band has evolved from wild party punk beginnings and grown into an outfit better placed on the heavier end of indie/alternative rock, although they’ve preserved the rawness, urgency, and spirit that made them so endearing in the first place. The quartet’s latest, Bulls And Roosters, sees Together Pangea digging deep and further refining the earnest, guitar-driven rock and roll sound they locked into with 2014’s Badillac. Collaborating again with engineer/producer Andrew Schubert—with mixing help from Chris Coady—the recordings here capture the band at their tightest and most comfortable, and they’re absolutely swinging for the fences with their songwriting. They cover a lot of ground on the record, varying styles from clean and classic power-pop to more textured ‘80s guitar tones, but it all works well together. They might not be coming in with the speed and reckless intensity of their earlier material, but the songs still hit incredibly hard, with an emotional depth and vulnerable honesty that a younger, more immature Pangea just couldn’t achieve. —Simon Weedn

TOM BROSSEAU Treasures Untold Crossbill

The history of American music is messy, and ugly. Many have claimed to be “kings,” “princes,” and “godfathers,” and yet in our own minds the heritage is a mess of tangled wire, a story whose facets become more complicated the more we parse them. American music a story of theft, of stolen credit, of half-remembered names, of feverish all-night exchanges gone undocumented. Its chief documents, particularly its earliest forms, come distorted and sheathed in static, a gritty chasm we cannot easily cross. Tom Brosseau strolls across this ugly gulf singing with a voice soft as candle wax, plucking a gentle ragtime guitar. The performance on Treasures Untold, a document of a concert in Cologne, Germany, features his own songs and a handful of covers. The originals make great use of the tenderness in Brosseau’s delivery, odes to local Dairy Queens or the subtle spiritual joy of strumming the guitar. The album’s centerpiece, “The Horses Will Not Ride, the Gospel Won’t Be Spoken,” is a sepia snapshot of a little hillside church in Brosseau’s native North Dakota, and the fire that consumes it one Saturday night. Like much of Brosseau’s best material, the song ventures peacefully into darker emotional territory, but chooses not to dwell there. There are vivid details of the fire—the horses breaking out of their leather harnesses trying to escape and a white stepping stone, the only remnant of the church that remains the next day. Amidst the catastrophe, Brosseau gazes up at a few rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds. Brosseau’s interpretations of American folk songs, of which there are six on Treasures, underscore his particular uncanniness. Rev. Gary Davis’ swaggering, billowing “I am the Light of the World” is light and crisp in his hands; Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” swoons rather than wallows. Brosseau’s interpretations of a pair by Jimmie Rodgers—the “Father of Country Music”—shore up the sweetness of Rodgers’ own delivery. The agility and richness of Brosseau’s voice renders the songs pretty in an otherworldly sort of way, dislodging them from time and tradition. Rodgers’ songs in particular, written nearly 100 years ago, sound as if they were written yesterday, or as if they were written in the Bible, or came out of the air. The collection, a warm, intimate document, calls to mind others who inverted or resewn the American myth—David Lynch imagined the 50s and its diners, jukeboxes, and convertibles as

airtight containers of America’s soul; Jim Jarmusch imagined Elvis as a kind of holy American spirit. In Brosseau’s hands, American songs, for all their inherent grittiness, flutter and float, and some essential element is laid bare. We hear in Rodgers’ songs some traces of juke joint blues, or Cajun ballads, or corridos. The story of our music is complex, but for a moment, in Brosseau’s hands, we see a few of its strands, and the connections seem simple and graceful. —Chris Kissel

WAND
 Plum Drag City Between August of 2014 and September of 2015, the mischievous rock ‘n’ roll wanderers in Wand released not one, not two, but three albums that showcased not only their affinity for many different styles of guitar-driven music, but also their willingness to bring them together under one roof. In doing so, the L.A.-based band established itself as the most convincing genre-chameleon in the West Coast’s fertile garagerock scene, able to play strummy acoustic folk, soaring psych-pop and earth-moving riffs with equal aplomb. Imagine the Beatles and Black Sabbath melted down together and you’re in the right fantasy world. Two years later, Wand is back with its fourth album, Plum, which finds the band reigning in their wanderlust juuuust a little bit. But this band remains nothing if not dynamic. To wit: “Charles De Gaulle” is a soundtrack to a kaleidoscopic daydream that’s somehow both fidgety and mellow at the same time, and “The Trap” is a gently beautiful ballad draped in pillowy choral vocals and twangy pedal steel guitar. But “White Cat” runs on a white-knuckled jumble of skittering drums, synth buzz and guitars set to blitzkrieg, while the title track starts out as a shaggy solo-McCartney-style piano-pop tune before mushrooming into a thorny tangle of electric guitars. Plum is impressive in its breadth, ALBUM REVIEWS


but still, Wand is at its very best when it steps on the pedal, as on the chiming, 8-minute guitar jam “Blue Cloud” and “Bee Karma,” a song with classic-rock swagger stuck in overdrive. It’s glorious, and so is Wand. May they never settle for sitting still. —Ben Salmon

WARBLY JETS
 self-titled Rebel Union In a recent interview, Britpop patron saint and giant walking quote Liam Gallagher had this to say about the current rock scene: “If you’re going to do ‘guitar music’ you have to put a fuckin’ guitar on the record. Put the fucker in. Stop wearing it like it’s a fuckin’ necklace.” On their debut album, Warbly Jets put the fucker in, stomping through eleven tracks that would be right at home with the shreddiest Supergrass or Oasis songs—leading many to believe that the Jets also

hail from across the Atlantic. Instead, frontman Samuel Shea and keyboardist Julien O’Neill are recent transplants from New York, hooking up with ace drummer Justin Goings and bassman Dan Gerbang after voyaging to the West Coast. Typical L.A. music this is not: local trends like winsome psychedelia and greenhorn garage that have infiltrated the scene are blown away by the Verve-like strings and breakbeats on “Getting Closer (Than I Ever Was)” and the leather-clad prowl of “Fast Change.” “Keep Pushin” serves as the ambitious centerpiece, its refraction of the 60s through a 90s lens extremely reminiscent of Primal Scream’s “Movin’ On Up,” down to the pseudo-Stones bongos and gospel backup vocals. It’s very aspirational, done with a confidence that’s rare for a debut album, but falls a bit short by being so referential. Where they shine brightest are straight-ahead, muscle-y rumblers like “The Lowdown”—whose swaggering, fat riff promises to shake sternums across L.A., or the thrashy, reverbsoaked “Shapeshifter.” Another album highlight, “Raw Emotion,” serves as a change of pace, its classic riff and sing-a-long, fistpumping chorus bringing into play some glammier influences. Warbly Jets pride themselves on whispering their influences instead of screaming them—true to a point, but not all the way. This is

massive, sexy, slinky, killer stuff, but we’ve heard it before—not that that should keep starved rock ‘n’ roll fans from welcoming them with open arms. —Madison Desler

WILD WING Doomed II Repeat Hard Feelings / Mock It’s clear from the opening notes played on Wild Wing’s Doomed II Repeat what you as a listener are dealing with. A concept album about the fall of civilization (perhaps even a relationship!) and its aftermath, Doomed II Repeat incarnates the feelings of confusion which would accompany those events in real time. The chaos infuses itself to the listening experience, creating waves of anxiety crashing through the desire to make sense of it all. The longest song is 3:30 and the shortest rings in at 1:37, suggesting that the mental landscape that

this piece takes place reflects the tension and havoc that the subject matter implies. There is no rest, either—the record pulls one in so many directions that pure exhilaration drives the listener on. Doomed II Repeat is an album of its time, mirroring the internal and external struggle to make head or tails of what is happening in the ether that is life in 2017. Wild Wing wants want the listener to acknowledge that the collapse is both within and without, and how not to ignore what is happening. Doomed II Repeat is a siren call of self-awareness in the midst of insanity. —Nathan Martel

XL MIDDLETON Things Are Happening Mofunk For his newest Things Are Happening, funk maestro [and sometime L.A. RECORD contributor—ed.] XL Middleton adds new and dark-

but “Flower of Darkness” (another A-bomb song?) is the heartbreaker. What if the Raincoats had covered “This Time Tomorrow” instead of “Lola”? It gets lovelier each listen, but there’s deep sadness within—careful with this one. Side-long last track could’ve been a monster cover of Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War” but Helen Brown has a secret weapon of her own: “Last chance,” she warns, somewhere in the middle of a grinding Zounds-style chronicle of war and what it isn’t good for. Listen til the end—you’ll know when it’s safe to come out.

F.J. McMAHON Spirit Of The Golden Juice Anthology F.J. McMahon’s … Golden Juice is an album so closely in contact with the dread and hope of 1969 that it still speaks directly to the dread and hope of … well, whenever, and especially now. Recorded after a year of duty in Vietnam and Thailand, McMahon’s desolate but resolute folk rock sounds and feels like it comes from some isolated frontline listening post, a strange back-of-beyond mix between P.F. Sloan’s not-so-Dylan-y downers and maybe Lou Reed’s darker demos—“Early Blue” suggests a VU song a few different ways. Juice is more raw than rediscoveries like Jim Sullivan or Rodriguez and more rocked-out than Kauffman and Caboor, whose drumless folk album drips with abject desperation. But it’s also more optimistic than Gary Higgins’ gutted Red Hash: McMahon at least feels the future is possible, although far from perfect or even guaranteed. Per “Sister Brother,” which opens the album like dawn light through fog: “I’d like to see everyone smile / I guess it won’t happen / not for a while.” As with other rediscoveries, the flaws that likely dogged Juice at the time became its special specific strengths—particularly the lack of financial support, which forced a rough but winning make-it-work sound and which freed McMahon from second-guessing major-label interference. (Stand-out “Five Year Kansas Blues,” a bleak look what I assume is the deserter’s fate in Leavenworth, would not have won much corporate backing.) Juice is one of those odd underground classics, surviving thanks to word of mouth and clarity of vision. Think of it as album with a message, and a simple one: “Is there anybodyREVIEWS out there?” ALBUM ALBUM REVIEWS

er tones to his signature synthesized textures. The 808s, vocoders, and keytars glitter as they did on 2015’s Tapwater, and frequent collaborators Zackey Force Funk and Moniquea still lend their voices to duets and harmonies. But now XL’s lyrics, although still delivered with his characteristic ice-cold confidence, reveal a headspace vexed by paranoia, cynicism and claustrophobia. The desolate cover art—a disheveled bedroom precariously balanced atop a sliver of land— hints at the loneliness he explores on tracks like “Better Friend” and “Look Who’s Talkin’.” Both cuts examine the relative value of social interactions—either with chosen family or with passing scenester acquaintances, respectively—in an increasingly compressed and content-heavy environment. A dark new-wave-y set of shadows stretch over the sleek g-funk landscape he creates, an auditory mirror of the heat-blurred L.A. skyline during a particularly draining summer. The album’s arguable high water mark is the smoldering “Paradise of Pavement,” a grooved-out homage to the city of Angels and its broken boulevards. It lauds L.A.’s suffocating, seductive glamor as well as the ever-present threat that the earth may crack open, underscored by Middleton’s obviously native Angeleno refrain: “You can say what you want / But I’m on my L.A. shit.” And—as always—he is. —Christina Gubala

EARTH GIRL HELEN BROWN Mars EP Empty Cellar Earth Girl Helen Brown is rocketing through a series metaphorically exploring our solar system, and this is Mars and Mars means war—so this EP starts with a declaration and finishes with a wave of annihilation. (Yes, she researched her subject well.) Mars is bristling with big-credit guests (Ty Segall, Nora Keyes, Jack Name, Shannon Lay) battalionized here as the Center for Planetary Intelligence Band, but more importantly it’s bristling with charm, personality, originality, commitment and—because this record never stops at four things when it can try five—conviction, too. The do-everything-at-once spirit of the Homosexuals is all over, as is the firebright righteousness of the Raincoats on cracked-but-better-for-it pop songs with lightning-strike sax and precision lyrics. “Attention” is like a Broadcast from Fancy Space—outré electronics with sentiment to compliment—while “Tommy D. and the Atomic B.” sets Eno’s Blank Frank slouching toward sanctuary in Cale and Riley’s Church of Anthrax. “Vanishing Spray” is the sweet one, with NYC ’76 deadpan—a la Lou, Patti and T.V.—swirled into gentle UK ’79 post-pop a la Cleaners From Venus,

LÍNEAS untitled Hit + Run Eddy Funkster and Zackey Force Funk are LÍNEAS, a oneshot (or maybe not?) collab built out of peeled-from-vinyl samples and scary stories from the streets. Like Gaslamp Killer and Gonjasufi’s still-potent A Sufi And A Killer, the law here is raw—raw samples, raw production, raw concepts, raw delivery and even raw bootleg-style packaging—and like Sufi, it’s a record with nothing left in the songs but vibe and voice. (“Cruisin ‘64” is like PIL Metal Box recut for low-riders.) Zackey and Eddy have worked together before, but never on anything this deliberately dusty. These eight songs chop into the roots—or the guts—of G-funk with slasher-movie relentlessness, making a dimly lit creepy crawl through sleazy modern funk, low-budget boogie and cokey AOR noir that finishes with the ripped-from-the-crypt gangsta-harmony closer “Goodbye My Love.” The atmosphere looms extra heavy thanks to Zackey’s whispered look-behind-you! vocal style and Eddy’s positively scholarly source selection. (He doesn’t just dig … he exhumes.) Think the low-budget horror of Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” and you’ll understand where LÍNEAS must’ve drawn their inspiration. 67 67


LILA ASH @ LILA__ASH

SPENCER HICKS COMICS

COMICS CURATED BY TOM CHILD

JOHN TOTTENHAM

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LIVE PHOTOS SUMMER 2017 Iggy Pop July 2017 FYF FEST

Neon Indian August 2017 Teragram Ballroom

Stephanie Port

Bjรถrk July 2017 FYF FEST

ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE

Stephanie Port

Eduardo Luis

Drab Majesty June 2017 The Echoplex

Maximilian Ho

The Regrettes July 2017 Levitt Pavilion

Surf Curse July 2017 MOCA

Eduardo Luis

Maximilian Ho

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LIVE PHOTOS


Frank Ocean July 2017 FYF FEST

Stephanie Port

SadGirl June 2017 The Smell

The Adicts May 2017 The Belasco

Stephanie Port

Eduardo Luis

Tacocat July 2017 MOCA

LIVE PHOTOS

Eduardo Luis

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L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD Interview by tiffany anders illustration by ELZA BURKART

L7 were at the heart of the L.A. music scene of the late 80s and early 90s,a time when a thriving hair metal scene, the remnants of punk rock and a very underground art rock scene all collided. They might not have started up in Seattle back when it became the grunge capitol of the world, but they deserve a lot of credit for creating that sound—even though many people aren’t aware just how significant they were. But now there’s a new documentary on the group, first started by singer/guitarist Donita Sparks and producer Robert Fagan simply as a way to preserve early L7 footage and now finished as a testament to the incredible journey of four fierce females as they created (and even took over) the sound of grunge. While making the documentary, the band reconciled and reunited—a true Spinal Tap ending—and will be performing and releasing new music later this fall. I want to know about the Nick Cave and L7 Lollapalooza relationship. Nick Cave is performing and you come out on stage on rollerskates! This is a side of Nick Cave I didn’t know about! Donita Sparks (vocals/guitar): I know! I don’t think he knows he’s in the film! I met Nick the first day of Lollapalooza in Las Vegas. I was the only one in our dressing room and I was lying down on the couch. It was really hot. In walks Nick Cave who didn’t see me lying on the couch. He was like ‘I’m just looking for imported beer.’ They only had Budweiser or something like that. I was like, ‘Our dressing room is your dressing room.’ For that moment on, we were pals. They hated playing in the daytime, they hated the Lollapalooza crowd because it was a lot of high school kids. And they’re much funnier than they come off. They come off as very serious guys and they’re actually dry but funny. He would fuck with people too. He saw Adam Horowitz from the Beastie Boys: ‘Are you the caterer?’  The same year you were on Lollapalooza, Billy Corgan is doing an interview with Nick— Robert Fagan (producer): And Nick was taking the piss out of him.  It’s brutal.  DS: He could be brutal, but for some reason he took a liking to us. A lot of bands wouldn’t hang out—we would hang out. At night, we’d call each other and go out.  Who else was on that year? DS: Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Breeders, A Tribe Called Quest, Nick Cave, us … the Boredoms started, then Green Day came halfway and played first. They played right before us and they were on fire. It was right through the heart. Following them was tough—that album Dookie was blowing up.  It’s a good observation you make in the film—Kurt had died. People were sick of the self-deprecating— DS: And the sadness and the heaviness and the angst … It’s cool that we have that footage because touring is so different now. I feel bad for these bands. They’ve got Netflix on their laptops and they’re not engaging with each FILM

other. There were times we couldn’t stand each other but guess what? We were all in the same van. We had to communicate. We had to listen to the same music coming out of the stereo and just fucking make fun out of nothing. Like [bassist/vocalist] Jennifer [Finch] says in the film—now there are so many distractions. You can sit there and be pissed off at your bandmate and not even have any conversation with them all day. You can have your headphones on and be doing your Instagram. We were forced to interact which made things playful out of boredom or whatever. It’s probably the last of its era, and we got it on tape. It’s pre-cell phones. And yet videotape was cheap. We couldn’t have done it if it had been film—it was just that particular time where you could get a camcorder and a videotape and you could tape it, and it was cheap. It’s that special time capsule moment. I had all these tapes from sort of the later years of L7 and Jennifer had these early tapes of L7. And Dee [Plakas]’s husband Kirk [Canning] had the middle years of L7. They had already been transferred from VHS, which I saw were degrading. I had the original Hi-8s or whatever, and so I started digitizing those. That’s kind of how I got a hold of Jennifer. The band had been estranged— How long had it been since you talked? DS: Since she left the band, really. She left in 96. I think I ran into her a maybe couple times at a party that was like incredibly awkward. ‘Hi!’ ‘Hi!’ and it was weird. But then I had to get everybody’s emails because Robert and I had so much unique footage. We were like, ‘Maybe we should do something with this.’ RF: The first step was really unintended— to archive L7 photographs so they didn’t disintegrate. Digitize them for keepsake reasons. Then between interviews and live performances and still photographs, we said, ‘Yeah, we really think we can do something with this. We don’t know what the story is …’ But I don’t think you ever do when you do a documentary. There were surprises and twists along they way but that was the beginning. DS: I would check YouTube now and again and, ‘Wow! There’s more shit on YouTube!’

Every time I’d go to YouTube, there was another show that somebody had posted about or another lost interview. So we not only had home movies, but there’s more interview content, more live footage—people who bootlegged us or whatever. It’s fascinating to see over the years that kind of build. RF: We were beginning to see the percolation of social media groups popping up, little L7 groups. We thought, ‘Let’s try to make this a case study.’ We had a very specific regimen for Donita. Every week, religiously—Monday Wednesday and Friday at a specific time, she’d post these photos. We’d watch the audience grow from like 8,000 to now over 152,000.  DS: And a lot of times, with a film project like this, it later became a reunion, which we had no … So the film idea came before a reunion. DS: Yes, but then we ended up with the most stock generic Spinal Tap ending. Which is: the reunion. Which is fucking hilarious, because we didn’t even intend … we had no ending. We just had, ‘We’re estranged, and that’s it.’ But I needed to contact everybody because we needed to do interviews for this documentary, and everybody was kind of into the legacy thing because we felt like we had been very swept under the rug as a band. I felt that too. DS: Like our contribution to grunge, and our contribution to women in rock, and our contribution to politics in rock … There were maybe a couple people of that era—a couple women—who were the mouthpieces constantly of any commentary from that era, and it was sort of irritating all of us. We were like, ‘Yeah, let’s get our fucking story down because people should know about us.’ It was kind of an homage to our younger selves. As older people, we were like, ‘We owe it to our twenty-year-old selves to tell that story.’ I think some twenty-year-olds today need to fucking hear and see that story. So everybody was down and that’s how we got talking again. None of us wanted to be on camera, so that was a challenge. We just wanted audio, you know? We’re vain gals! Who were like, ‘We’re not going on fucking camera!’ 

Ironic since you guys didn’t give a fuck! DS: Ironic since we didn’t give a fuck, clearly! Back in the day on MTV! DS: But it’s one thing being a political pioneer, and it’s another thing about being a vain artist. It has nothing to do with male and female— —it doesn’t! DS: —you’re a performer, and you’re vain, and that’s the way it is. Not everybody’s that way! But we are! So fuck you! So none of us wanted to be on camera. Probably Jennifer did— RF: We’d been watching Netflix and music docs and some of them from that era were starting to pop up and I turned to Donita and said, ‘If you don’t tell your story, no one’s going to.’ Then we started watching docs in a different way. How can we make this different? We were looking for documentaries that could inform the aesthetic. And one of the docs that we loved—not in the music genre, just a great doc—is The Kid Stays in the Picture. There’s a lot of photographs with a lot of voiceover. That became a foundation. One of the things we don’t like about docs is all these talking heads. And with the archival footage it felt right. DS: I don’t like seeing docs about really cool subject matter that have all these fucking boring talking heads. Or they’re like in the studio: ‘Oh, there’s Trent Reznor in front of the mixing board—’ —and the same people in every single documentary— DS: Yeah. And it’s not their fault. It’s the filmmaker or whoever not being creative. We were like, ‘Let’s get Exene in front of a car.’ Those were conscious choices. Let’s get a little bit of flair. I like flair. I don’t like square. RF: If we were home, I’d be writing that down. I love that.  There are some great lines in the movie that I was just writing down—they were so good. I actually liked everybody chosen to be interviewed. Shirley Manson being one of them—she was somebody that I equated with sort of a corporate kind of rock scene. She was almost the opposite of you because she was very put together, and she was the front woman for a kind of — 73


DS: She’s so much more of a badass than she is perceived. Yes—I could tell from the interview! DS: And she’s very feminist. And she’s a punk rocker. She’s kind of like Debbie Harry in the sense that she’s a total punk rocker and yet she loves going glam too. And it’s like … I would love to go glam, I just never had the fuckin’ army to make me look glam. Or the money! But I’d go glam. Why not?  All the females that you had in there and all the different perspectives— RF: Donita very much had a strong influence and opinion on who ended up in the doc. As a producer, I’m throwing it in big, ‘Let’s get everybody under the sun! What about X Y Z and Elton John?’ And she’s like, ‘Absolutely not!’ And it got more narrow and more narrow and more narrow finally to the point that I had to reverse the question and say, ‘Who DO you want? What is the minimum requirement?’ She said, ‘I don’t want anyone in the doc I don’t respect.’ And that was it. DS: It was also interesting because so many of these younger bands said, ‘We started a band because we saw you at the Metro in Chicago.’ Veruca Salt—they saw us, and they formed a band within weeks. That’s what I want in the doc. And I barely know Louise [Post of Veruca Salt] and she was gracious enough to be in the doc. Brody Dalle, same thing. I wanted to get people who we influenced and people who influenced us—Exene, Lydia Lunch—and a couple contemporaries. Krist Novaselic—in the greatest band of that era—is saying we had good songs. It’s like, ‘That’s all we need!’  That was so great! I totally felt him on that. Like, ‘That’s how I remember them.’ DS: So that was cool! Who else do you need then? And we had [producer] Butch [Vig] because we worked with Butch. I thought it was cool that it was female-heavy on the interviews, too, even though you don’t really notice. They all had interesting perspectives. Joan Jett too. Allison Robertson from the Donnas.  I loved her! I thought she had great things to say. She was very specific about how it was inspiring to her.   RF: Everyone had relevant and pointed things to say. We didn’t try to lead the witness. The other thing about that you should know … when the band interviews took place, the band had not heard anyone else’s voices. They did not have the privilege of knowing what [guitarist/vocalist] Suzi [Gardner]’s memory was of that incident. Or Jennifer’s. It was all a tapestry that came out later. The band didn’t see the film until it was done.  DS: I will say this: I was seeing rough cuts and I was shocked at how personal Suzi got in her interview. I was much more guarded. I’ve always been guarded in interviews—it’s the way you have to be because people go for your vulnerable spots, especially the British press—at least they used to be that way. You showed vulnerability and you’re a goner. You really had to front a lot in interviews about how disaffected you were. So when Suzi went there—when I heard her talking about the vulnerabilities and feeling the way she felt towards the end of the band—I was like, ‘OK, I’m going there, too. I’m going to say how I felt with the band ending and how it was 74

devastating for me because I had not revealed that before.’ So Suzi inspired me, and then we did like a second round of interviews. RF: We did a couple of feedback screenings with friends and family, and we discovered the need for higher highs and lower lows. For instance, the period between the end of the band and the reunion … people were like, ‘What happened then? I want to see more about this!’  I didn’t know what happened then! And I was a big fan! RF: We addressed it through Donita becoming more real and authentic and going more to a more emotional place, as Suzi did, saying … it’s fucking hard, you know. DS: A couple of the comments were like ‘What did you guys do in the years in between?’ I was like, ‘Look, we’re already showing the corpse. Let’s not do the autopsy.’ I’ve seen docs where they show my heroes raking leaves in their fucking backyard and it’s like … no one wants to fucking see that. That’s just so … no. One of my favorite lines in the movie is when you say, ‘We were into more of the Motorhead rock—not the Poison rock.’ RF: ‘We liked metal in the Motorhead way— we didn’t like it in the Poison way.’  DS: The filmmaker, Sarah Price, isn’t really a punk rocker. So me being the creative consultant, I had to school her a little bit on why we are not from that scene. I think she assumed every rock band was from the Sunset Strip. I was like, ‘No, no no no no.’ She didn’t grow up here. She didn’t live here. There was a little bit of an education process going on.  It was interesting to me, being a punk fan at the time, and then a metal fan because I listened to a lot of metal too. And in [grunge documentary] Hype! there’s a scene where the guy is saying, ‘It’s punk and metal— that’s what grunge is.’ When I got to see L7, it was kind of the most amazing thing in the world—it was punk and metal, which did not have the name of ‘grunge’ back then, but it was grunge. You were definitely the pioneers of grunge as far as I’m concerned because this was 1988, 1987.  DS: Also what separates us from other grunge bands is we were from the ‘art-punk’ scene. We played cabaret shows and poetry readings and drag shows. You know how it was back then. Nirvana were not from the art-punk scene. Soundgarden were not from the art punk scene. I don’t think Mudhoney were from the art-punk scene. We were this weird thing of crossing over, not only from punk into the metal scene, but also the art scene. RF: It was the combination of Donita’s love of punk and the Ramones and Suzi’s love of hard rock and metal. That created that mash-up, which was the prototype of grunge.  DS: Nancy Sinatra on a little bit of speed with distorted guitar. Deadpan vocal. Sass. Not epic. Just some screaming and some deadpan.  You talk about being lumped in with the metal bands. What metal bands?  DS: There used to be a lot of free metal newspapers—Rock City News, L.A. Rocks. They embraced us. But they thought that we were the same thing as Hardly Dangerous or Vixen. But we weren’t like Vixen. They were cool with us not being sexy. It’s very strange

that they embraced us. We just looked like rag dolls that had been pulled out of the gutter— dirty and messy. But they liked us! I think it’s because we had distorted guitars, and we were playing heavy and fast. They covered us before Flipside or Maximum Rock’n’Roll. Back then, L7, Redd Kross, and Guns N Roses was all one scene. Which I embraced.  DS: Redd Kross and Celebrity Skin were two bands that were embraced by the metal scene and the punk scene—both those bands were not as much from the art punk scene.  Suzi and I were drinking, on speed, going out all the time, hanging with writers and artists and it was great. It was almost like L7 was a concept band to begin with. ‘Let’s do a hard rock thing because no one is doing hard rock. Let’s be ironic biker looking chicks.’ I was always kind of an ironic biker. Suzi was more a legit biker. I like in the movie when you say she came from a more emotional songwriting point of view and you were more political. This is why this band was so perfect for me when I was younger. It was empowering to me as a girl—it seemed really fucking fun and it had a lot of pure heart and joy in it, but with a little bit like, ‘Fuck you! We’re an all-girl band and we’re doing this!’ It had a feminist point but it wasn’t using it as the whole point. I wanted to talk about the political aspect of the band. There are interviews where you can see it in your face: ‘Fuck off, we’re so tired of talking about being girls.’ Is there anything that you look back on like, ‘I wish we’d taken this more seriously’—in terms of having that platform as a woman? Are you still pissed about something in terms of sexism? DS: It’s weird because our peers in the music industry in other bands were very supportive. We didn’t have much of a problem with dudes in bands. They were punk rockers. They were like, ‘You guys are cool!’ Even metal guys were like, ‘You guys are cool!’ The media got really silly or very gender-obsessed with us, which got really boring. But the way that we wanted to express ourselves in a feminist way was starting Rock For Choice. Instead of getting on a pulpit constantly about being women and women and women and women … we don’t want to harp on that. Let’s just harp on the rock. But we’ll start this organization because nobody’s doing anything for abortion rights in the music industry. That’s how we expressed it. A lot of our political songs involve just being pissed off in general— whether it’s ‘Wargasm’ or ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ about apathy … I think ‘Everglade’ is probably our most gender specific song, about a female. ‘Fast and Frightening’ is female empowering. Later, like some of the riot grrrl gals, I thought what they did was cool. It was not our approach—it was not our bag—to be so politicized. But there was a need for that. It was weird because they were coming from an academic place. They were college kids. We were living in the city and dealing with paying rent and doing drugs and just being urban. They were college town. There was a difference. We were a bit grittier, and we had to adapt in this urban thing with other bands, and we weren’t going to be passing out flyers

about stuff like that. I think that’s cool they did get a lot of college gals who maybe never would have been into rock ’n’ roll—riot grrrls got them into rock ’n’ roll. So all of a sudden they’re going to punk shows. That is cool, but that wasn’t our scene. It’s interesting because I think we’re kind of the archetype for the name ‘Riot Grrrl.’ I think riot grrrl is a really great branded name, sort of. I think most people in the media think we’re the first riot grrrl band because they don’t know what riot grrrl is— riot grrrl was a political movement with music as the delivery mechanism. Our message was to be a good rock band. We just happened to be women. We didn’t want a gender specific name, and made sure we did not have a gender specific name—quite frankly I wanted people to question whether we were male or female if they just heard us. I really did. I think we succeeded like that.  RF: Going back to the riot grrrl movement, you did experience first hand how when they would go back to a city six months later, they would see more girls who said, ‘I just started a band.’ There was that influence.  DS: Very Pied Piper! We were the accidental Pied Pipers, I think. We played Seattle; next time we went up there, there was Dickless, Seven Year Bitch, all these bands. I really do believe you’re the pioneers of grunge.  DS: I will let you shout that from the mountaintops.  The sound, if it’s punk and metal mixed together— DS: It’s more L7.  And our style was better. Just our look. It was better!  I don’t know if Jennifer says this in the movie, she says ‘It was a time of being authentic. Authenticity was very important.’ To me, L7 embodied that. Especially for a female. It takes a lot of balls—or a lot of clit—to not give a shit about how you look, which I thought was interesting about what Suzi said. You didn’t want to look too sexy because then you weren’t taken seriously.  DS: Personally I’ve never been a sexy dresser. Suzi’s always been a little more of a sexy dresser than I was. I’m just not comfortable dressing sexy. It was never my thing. I did hear from our manager, years later ... This was a private dinner she took me to without the rest of the band, and she says, ‘We feel—along with the record label—that you try to make yourself look ugly and if you prettied it up a little bit you would be more of a front person.’ I was looking at her like, ‘Oh my God.’ She may have been right from a marketing standpoint. But that’s the reason people love us. L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD SCREENS SAT., SEPT. 16, AT THE REGENT THEATER, 448 S. MAIN ST., DOWNTOWN. 1 PM / $10-$15 / 18+. MEET AND GREET TO FOLLOW. L7 PLAYS WITH ADAM ANT ON SAT., SEPT. 30, AT THE GREEK THEATRE, 2700 N. VERMONT AVE., HOLLYWOOD. 7:30 PM / $29.50-$59.50 / ALL AGES. LAGREEKTHEATRE.COM. L7: PRETEND WE’RE DEAD RELEASES WORLDWIDE ON FRI., OCT. 13. MORE INFORMATION AT FACEBOOK.COM/ L7PRETENDWEREDEAD. FILM


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L.A. RECORD 129 FALL ISSUE  

SUDAN ARCHIVES - L.A. WITCH - DOWNTOWN BOYS - MARTIN REV - L7 - RIDE - SUSAN - FLAT WORMS - ASHTREJINKINS - SUPERET - LOJII - COMICS - EXPAN...

L.A. RECORD 129 FALL ISSUE  

SUDAN ARCHIVES - L.A. WITCH - DOWNTOWN BOYS - MARTIN REV - L7 - RIDE - SUSAN - FLAT WORMS - ASHTREJINKINS - SUPERET - LOJII - COMICS - EXPAN...

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