__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

SUMMER 2019 ISSUE 135 FREE

SADGIRL CATE LE BON MARK DE CLIVE-LOWE DEVIN MORRISON ROYAL TRUX KEVIN MORBY DAKIM GIANNA GIANNA THE UHURUVERSE THE DAMNED THE UNDERCOVER DREAM LOVERS


6 SADGIRL Bennett Kogon

28 DAKIM sweeney kovar

8 CATE LE BON DAIANA FEUER

32 Gianna Gianna TOLLIVER

12 MARK DE CLIVE-LOWE CHRISTINA GUBALA

34 the uhuruverse TOLLIVER

16 DEVIN MORRISON TOLLIVER

38 the damned simon weedn

20 ROYAL TRUX JED MAHEU

42 THE UNDERCOVER DREAM LOVERS SYDNEY SWEENEY

24 kevin morby DONNA KERN Photo: Kevin Morby by Maximilian Ho


ADVERTISE L.A. RECORD offers advertising in the print magazine, on larecord.com and across all social channels. Please email us at advertise@larecord.com for more details and rates for print and digital ads. Custom campaigns in print and online are available.

CONTRIBUTE L.A. RECORD strongly encourages contributions from the L.A. music community! If you would like to interview, review, illustrate or photograph for us, please get in touch! Email fortherecord@ larecord.com with “submissions” in the subject. Sending examples of your work is encouraged but not mandatory.

REVIEWS L.A. RECORD strongly encourages vinyl submissions for review but accepts all digital formats! We also invite submissions by local authors and filmmakers. We review any genre and kind of music and especially try to support musicians across the greater L.A. area, including Orange County, the Valley, the South Bay and the Inland Empire. Send links to digital music to fortherecord@larecord.com. Send physical copies to

L.A. RECORD P.O. BOX 21729 LONG BEACH, CA 90801

SUBSCRIBE

ACCOUNTS AND ADVERTISING Kristina Benson — kristina@larecord.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Clipper Arnold, Zach Bilson, Tom Child, Miles Clements, Christina Gubala, Zachary Jensen, Donna Kern, Bennett Kogon, Eyad Karkoutly, sweeney kovar, Jed Maheu, Nathan Martel, Joe Rihn, Siena Riley, Kegan Pierce Simons, Sydney Sweeney, Tolliver and Simon Weedn CONTRIBUTING DESIGNERS Kristina Benson, Jun Ohnuki SPECIAL THANKS Jun Ohnuki, Daiana Feuer, and Tolliver CONTACT fortherecord@larecord.com

Five issues per year with definitive interviews; original full-page art and photography; the most comprehensive compilation of L.A.-area album reviews and our album-cover-recreation centerfold.

SADGIRL COVER Debi Del Grande

U.S.A. - $29.99 WORLD - $49.99

All content © 2019 L.A. RECORD and YBX Media, Inc.

Send total with shipping address to orders@larecord.com for PayPal, or cash, check or money order to

L.A. RECORD P.O. BOX 21729 LONG BEACH, CA 90801 4

EDITOR — Chris Ziegler chris@larecord.com PUBLISHER — Kristina Benson kristina@larecord.com EXECUTIVE EDITOR — Daiana Feuer daiana@larecord.com COMICS EDITOR — Tom Child tom@larecord.com FILM EDITOR — Rin Kelly rin@larecord.com DESIGNER — Sarah Bennett sarah@larecord.com MANAGING DESIGNER— Jun Ohnuki jun@larecord.com ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR — Debi Del Grande debi@larecord.com WRITER AT LARGE — Ron Garmon ron@larecord.com

L.A. RECORD is proudly distributed by Paper Pushers LA.


SADGIRL INTERVIEW BY BENNETT KOGON PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBI DEL GRANDE

Inspired by the roots of rock & roll, the sun-soaked surf that crashes against California’s golden coastline, and the possibility of a world that exists parallel to our own, SadGirl’s Misha Lindes crafts music wholly authentic to his own experience. It’s nostalgic for a former era, yet happily relevant to right now, and that’s why this trio has risen from the core of the local DIY scene to become celebrated hometown heroes. I was able to catch frontman and guitarist, graphic designer, and visionary Misha Lindes while lounging at a pool party to discuss SadGirl’s aesthetic, transcendence, and debut album Water—out now on Suicide Squeeze. I love the title of this new record—Water. It makes me think of the summertime and SadGirl is a very summer-y type of band. But what does SadGirl ‘water’ taste like to you? Misha Lindes (guitar/vocals): It’s crisp and refreshing. Perfectly pH balanced. And it’s always cold. Your band has a strong aesthetic. Not just musically, but visually as well. It really helps focus the vibe that you’re going for. How do you feel that these other factors contribute to the overall creative output of the band? I’ve always appreciated the mystique of album artwork. You have this opportunity with a music project to create this world where the music exists. It doesn’t have to be existing in reality, necessarily. You can create an aesthetic and make a visual accompaniment to it. It’s so fun and rewarding. I think maybe songwriting and recording is a slower process for me because I feel like everything has to be cohesive. It takes a long time for me to compile everything in a way where I feel like I’ve found a theme that makes sense. Or a world where these songs exist. It makes it an enriching experience. It’s so fun to be able to put on a record, open up the gatefold, and read the lyrics while listening along. You can create these really special, intimate moments and experiences that are personal to you. You get to create that world. A lot of the songs were compiled and recorded over the last couple of years. A few of them are just like, home demos that sort of got polished up and taken into a studio and worked on. Which I’m really stoked on … I like how the whole thing came together because it was a really organic process. It wasn’t a thing where we booked a few days in the studio and cranked it out as fast as we could. I think it’s tough for me to write and record stuff where it feels sort of like an obligation. 6

I know Water isn’t a concept album, but what is the specific world that you’ve envisioned for it—besides being refreshing and perfectly pH balanced? I think it’s a tiny fraction of my own personal experience of Los Angeles. Part of it is imagination and part of it is real life. It’s kind of an L.A. that doesn’t exist in any particular decade or neighborhood, but rather a semi-fictional version of my interpretation of growing up here. I think probably the best way to describe it is that it’s a parallel universe of Los Angeles within an amalgam of four decades through my own eyes. Or ears. Did you grow up in a musical household? My dad’s a musician and my mom’s a big music fan. They’re from that era where the most important things in their lives were Elvis and The Beatles. We grew up with a lot of early rock ‘n’ roll. I think they felt somewhat of a responsibility to expose us to what was influential to them as children. My experience growing up was skating, old cars, the beach, graffiti—these are all things that are part of your existence as a teenager in West L.A. There’s something about the West Coast vibe that’s surf, but also soul music and punk. I feel that is L.A.: Beach Boys, the Wrecking Crew, and Dick Dale— fucking California style. My first car when I was nineteen was a 64 Mercury Montclair. It was definitely not the right car to have as your first one. Seriously some of my most fond memories were just driving around in this old car and listening to oldies in it. If I can communicate even like a tiny bit of that experience through my music, I feel like a success. SadGirl is a contemporary band with a retro style. What elements allow that vintage sound to exist right now? We’re in a very interesting time musically, because essentially every single person has this insane wealth of knowledge of the entire contemporary music history literally

in their pockets at all times. So it’s almost like we’re in the era of post-modernism— we’re able to [make] reference, either overtly or otherwise, to music and eras of the past. What makes [SadGirl] contemporary is that we’re making it now. It’s music that’s close to my heart and I’m just trying to make something that feels authentic to me. When I think about current bands active in our local community, I often think of SadGirl. How has the Los Angeles scene elevated you and inspired you to grow? I genuinely don’t think we could have continued as a band like we have for the last couple of years if it wasn’t for such a supportive and creative community that we’re lucky enough to be involved in here in L.A. When I started the band, I was working a regular day job and sort of feeling kind of depressed that I wasn’t going to make music. I thought I’d just continue playing guitar at home, but I was resigned to the fact that I probably wouldn’t play in a band. When I started getting the project together, it was right when this local DIY scene was taking off. I was working at a screenprinting shop at the time and suddenly having a band was the perfect outlet. I was able to do everything that made me feel personally satisfied. And I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for the amazing people that are all so involved in the community. Pretty much everybody that’s ever been involved with the project has been like, a friend. Most of them are friends that we’ve made playing music in L.A. It seems like you’ve helped create a friendly atmosphere, too. Once I realized there were people that I didn’t know personally that were interested in the music and who started coming to shows, it was like, ‘Well, fuck—this is actually a big responsibility.’ I remember how important it was for me when I was getting into music as like a teenager. I’m

just trying to do the best that I can to make that experience as rewarding and exciting as possible for people that are getting into music. Your sister [Staz Lindes] plays in the Paranoyds. Do you ever collaborate, or is it strictly your own thing? I feel like we definitely exist within the same world. We share a drummer [David Ruiz] and also a practice space, so it’s pretty much as close as it can get before [we’re] actually making music together. We have worked together in the past, but maybe there’s a little bit of a sibling rivalry thing underlying it. We totally support each other and help each other in any way we can—except for work on music. I’m sure we’ll do it at some point. We’ve talked about releasing a split 45 together for a long time. I’m sure we’ll get that together at some point. If you and your sister were to form a supergroup tribute band, who would you choose to portray? We’d probably do like, James Brown and David Bowie—something weird like that. Or Smokey Robinson and DEVO. It would be a combo of two bands, like soul mixed with an art-punk group. We did actually put a wedding band together for our drummer David, who got married like two years ago. We picked a bunch of his favorite songs and played them for him at his wedding. And he didn’t know we were going to do it. He didn’t have to drum for us, though. SADGIRL’S RECORD RELEASE SHOW FOR WATER WITH PINK $OCK AND LA CHAMBA ON FRI., JULY 11, AT THE TERAGRAM BALLROOM, 1234 W. 7TH ST., DOWNTOWN. 9 PM / $16-$18 / ALL AGES. TERAGRAMBALLROOM.COM. SADGIRL’S WATER IS OUT NOW ON SUICIDE SQUEEZE. VISIT SADGIRL AT WEARESADGIRL.COM.

INTERVIEW


cate le bon INTERVIEW BY DAIANA FEUER ILLUSTRATION BY BIJOU KARMAN

Cate Le Bon needed a break. After a decade of making music and four albums to her name—including two with Tim Presley as Drinks— the Welsh musician had come to a moment of reckoning. What was she doing and was she happy doing it? She wasn’t even sure if she loved making music anymore. She signed up for woodworking school in the English countryside and took a year and a half off to learn about building furniture. During that mostly isolated time, she eventually found herself drawn to a piano and started writing songs for catharsis after school. Suddenly she had a new album without actually necessarily intending to write one. Reward is out now on Mexican Summer. What kind of people were in your woodworking course? Was it mostly a disgruntled mid-life crisis people? Is that what took you there? It wasn’t all disgruntled midlife crisis people. There was a young girl from California who had a really clear trajectory of what she wanted to do with the school experience. There were lots of people who just wanted to change careers. Some were disgruntled, and some people who were retiring. It was a mixed bag, really. For me it was a break from something that I’d been doing for a long time without really looking at it from a different angle. Did you go into it thinking you would make music while you were there? I did, but I didn’t. I’d signed with Mexican Summer and they knew that I needed some time off … but I knew that I probably needed to spend my spare time making a record. But it happened in a very different way from how I foresaw it happening. I had this plan to do a bunch of recording on an 8-track but the songs that I wrote that ended up being the record were written almost without the awareness that I was writing a record. They were kind of like an outlet from work. The school was so intense and consuming that I would go to the piano to relax. When you change your whole life in one fell swoop and you spend a lot of time alone, there’s quite a lot of personal reckoning that happens. The INTERVIEW

piano and writing songs was my cathartic where you’re just trying to write and create a few personal reckonings that caught up tool for that. I was writing everything without an awareness. Almost like you do with me. without really knowing that I was writing when you’re a child. Was there a moment you could tell you a record. It’s hard to hold on to that. were finding answers to the questions Do you find the piano to be more Yeah—I mean, even if you go to the ends that brought you out there? Or was it cathartic than guitar? of the earth, as long as you’ve got a mobile more in retrospect, as you’ve had to sum I think that it’s just a little bit more phone you’re constantly disrupted and up your experience? involved maybe. There’s something about interrupted and it’s always going to just A lot of it has been retrospective. I was so having the presence of a piano. It’s kind of open the window a little bit. It’s a mix of caught up in school and there wasn’t really hard to walk by a piano without playing self-discipline and also removing yourself time to dissect what was going on really, it. It felt more like company than a guitar physically from something. aside from being in the moment. Only would. You play it with your whole body. In so many ways that sort of solitude is when I returned to music did I feel like I It’s pretty loud. You can’t do anything about wonderful and beautiful and exactly what really readdressed my relationship to it and that. It’s pretty dramatic as well, you know, you need, but isolation can also turn on that it was healthier and on my terms and the piano, so it kind of suited the setting you and bring in some dark clouds. that I truly loved it, which is what I was and the solitude. Absolutely. I made these decisions that hoping for. I was telling myself, ‘Oh, you What was the setting like? changed the architecture of my whole can just give it up.’ And once you’ve drawn It was a small cottage in the middle of life but I didn’t fully comprehend the that exit door in your mind it gives you a the mountains by a weir. Beautiful river. significance of that change until it was too little bit of freedom to really explore what Beautiful tiny little village in the Lake late and I found myself living in this self- it is you want. Because that was really the District in Northern England. It was imposed isolation. I was going to school worst case scenario. Just to recalibrate your pretty wonderful really, very dramatic, and everyday and not really seeing anybody relationship and redefine what you want changed dramatically with the seasons. outside of that. And when you’ve been from music and what your motives are is Seems like you make a habit of finding moving and going for so long and pretty far better than just throwing the towel in. some kind of isolated enchanted cottage much always surrounded by people and Scary! If you take away something setting whenever you set about working your self-identity is very fixed to that thing that you’ve spent so much time on and on a record—you did with the two you’ve been doing for so long … then it’s invested your identity into, what’s left? Drinks albums as well. pretty strange to suddenly cut yourself off. It What do you do? I guess it’s important to me to be able to felt like I’d been transplanted into someone Yeah but, you know—it’s that I didn’t find shut yourself off as much as you can from else’s life. It gives you time to catch up with it that scary. You can live many different any kind of notion of perceived audience, yourself but it also gives things time to lives. I didn’t want to fall into this trap of or searching for approval from someone, so catch up with you that you’ve been maybe thinking or getting stuck in this idea of you can just be. Maybe that’s the only way slowly putting off or distracting yourself growth that always diminishes what you to find authenticity, I don’t know, but it’s from thinking about. So, yeah—there were have in your hand—to think that you have 9


to reach this phony point on the horizon there. You don’t want to chain yourself to Tell me about the title Reward. moment. Life on planet Earth seems less or you’re not a success. It’s to redefine the something. As the sessions became longer It was during a time I was feeling a bit loopy and less collaborative between multispecies, economy of success and what time is. I and longer, I went back again to work on and a little bit removed from everything and between different countries, and just on didn’t find giving it up that frightening but more saxophone parts for more of the songs I saw a TV program where a woman had a people level. It’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s really I’m glad that I reconnected with my love because it felt like it set the right mood for trained a horse to walk around a kitchen regressive and really sad. I don’t know. I of music. me and how I felt about the record. It all she built in a stable and the horse would really don’t know. There’s the saying that if you do unfurled from what the songs needed really. go in and it would walk around closing the Oh darn, we can’t end the interview on something you love as a job, you’ll never How was the recording process for cupboard doors with its rear end and then such a bleak moment. Tell me something work a day in your life but I don’t think Reward different from past albums? she’d say, ‘And now he gets his reward.’ And that’s true. You risk losing your love for The songs were solid structures when I it just made me really frikkin mad because purely fun about making the songs on that thing. took them into the studio. Whereas in the she’s humiliated this beautiful animal and Reward. There was a Robert Fripp quote that I read past I’ve always had a live band that I was then she’s telling this animal what its reward Pure fun? They all were at different times. whilst I was in furniture school and it was, a part of and we’ve performed the bones is. You’d think that not being interfered When you make anything your relationship ‘If you love music become a plumber.’ That of a song live and captured that, this was with by humans would be reward enough with it is pretty tempestuous. Working out totally makes sense to me now. I had to ask more like opening the door in increments for that horse. And then it got me on a trip saxophone parts is probably one of my myself, ‘What is it that I love?’ I have to to people, one by one and one on one. It thinking about how we’re all manipulated favorite things to do. Maybe ‘Miami’ was be careful of defining the parameters of my was a lengthier process. The songs dictated in that way, being told what our reward one of the most rewarding songs to put relationship with it. what was right and what wasn’t right. There is. You think of it as a positive word in a Since you ended up playing with a piano was no need to be obtuse and try to do way but really it has negative connotations together and record. instead of guitar, do you think that something that wasn’t serving the song. It when its being used to manipulate and in Did something happen in Miami? changed or revealed another layer of the just demanded a different approach. Some propaganda. The only way that it’s a good A change happened, but it’s more about the songwriting process? parts were more labored and crafted. word is that if you dictate your own reward change than it is what the change was. Absolutely. If you’ve explored the worst-case I suppose it goes along with having spent and that brings you back to what you’re I do love the word ‘Miami.’ scenario, it doesn’t really matter what you a year crafting and being structured. defining your own economy of success and It’s a great word. might think people expect of you. Whether I think so. It wasn’t intentional that the of time and focusing on what you have in CATE LE BON ON FRI., JULY 5, AT PAPPY they expect a certain kind of song or not process of making the record almost your hand. AND HARRIET’S, 53688 PIONEERTOWN or what instrument you are supposed to mirrored the process of making a piece of It’s hard to do that in a world built on RD., PIONEERTOWN. 9 PM / $18 / ALL play. You’ve really just taken full control of furniture, but it did. The material you’re rules and pre-determined obligations. As AGES. PAPPYANDHARRIETS.COM. AND whatever you’re going to do next musically. working with dictates what you can and in—what is success if you’re not getting WITH SK KAKRABA PLUS DJS STELLA There’s more synths on this album can’t do. rewarded? compared to others but also lots of How about the process of writing lyrics? I agree. Capitalism is built on this idea that MOZGAWA (WARPAINT) AND BOOM saxophones … That part was not so different. I’m always everything constantly has to be on the up BIP AT SATURDAYS OFF THE 405 AT THE GETTY CENTER, N SEPULVEDA BLVD. I’ve always loved saxophones. They truly scrambling at the end to fill in blanks. To or else everything is shit. AND GETTY CENTER DR., LOS ANGELES. bring me a lot of joy when I hear saxophone an extent I had a lot of the choruses and a Could there be a version of civilization 6 PM / FREE / ALL AGES. GETTY.EDU. on a song. Coupled with synths and pianos, map of what was going to go where but the that isn’t that way? it’s a really exciting mix to me. I think I’ve final drafts don’t really exist until the last I don’t know. The only hope is that if CATE LE BON’S REWARD IS OUT NOW always had that in the back of my mind minute. I’m a procrastinator. The meaning there’s real collaboration between people. ON MEXICAN SUMMER. VISIT CATE LE but you have to allow yourself room to get might be there but the words come later. The politics of division are so rife at the BON AT CATELEBON.COM.


mark de clive-lowe

hip-hop scene was huge then. Between those two I thought that was me. But then I’d always played piano growing up, and … You studied jazz piano as a young man— like from age four? I grew up playing classical, and then I got into jazz around this time in high school. But I definitely compartmentalized the R&B/New Jack Swing/hip-hop thing on one side, and then the piano on the other side. They were very separate. I got to a point where I just woke up one day and was like, ‘All these loops are bullshit!’ I sold all my vinyl, sold all my synthesizers and it was just me and the piano. And Miles Davis and Coltrane records. I was like ... sixteen? Seventeen? I did a lot of extremes growing up. I wasn’t very good at moderating. And these are good examples of that. But the jazz thing became my entire focus. I wanted Synth/piano/producer polymath Mark De Clive-Lowe is a crucial to grow up and live in New York and be part of Los Angeles music, both personally and as a vital force playing with Art Blakey and Betty Carter behind local musical institutions like epochal club CHURCH, the and ... you know, what Branford Marsalis storied Ethio-Cali ensemble and more. This spring he released the was doing with his quartet was amazing to Heritage and Heritage II albums, recorded in part live at the Blue me. That was my aspiration. I actually had Whale and both out now on the Ropeadope label. They’re twinned a moment in New Zealand. I was playing releases with a day-night split—or maybe a sunrise/moonrise a concert, a jazz gig at the Auckland Town Hall … like it was a big deal, the show. I feel? Heritage is vivid, expansive and atmospheric, with the feeling remember being on stage and playing the of new light revealing new land all through it, while Heritage II piano mid-show, just thinking, ‘Why am I with its more direct hip-hop and beat influences uses contrast so serious about the jazz shit when I actually and shadow to make its brights brighter and its dark moments have more fun doing kind of funk jam deeper. As the title makes clear, both albums chronicle De Clive- gigs?’ Which are very much jazz informed, Lowe’s exploration of his heritage and personal history, which but aesthetically different. We’d have like rappers and turntablists and all sorts of shit. spans at least three or four continents—he describes himself as I was like, ‘I could be more serious about “half-Japanese half-New Zealander,” and spent formative years in that.’ This is like, mid-gig that I’m thinking London and L.A. as well—and even more genres of music, and the ... not sitting on the beach or lying in bed. result is a musical work that’s intimate and inviting at the same That was a pivot moment for me as well. It time. Heritage is a conversation where all parties leave feeling was totally an epiphany. like they know the other—and themselves—a little better, a spirit Especially considering you’re in front of an audience while this is taking place. which we hope to honor in the following interview. I wonder who would be able to detect It seems like you do a lot of really deep thing. Whatever I feel, I can create. So I’ll something like that? No one. No one. None of the bandmates connecting with music. That’s one thing just create. And then it’ll be what it is. knew what was happening. I played the gig. that I really admire about your catalog— I’ve been listening to you with the two But I definitely had a penny drop during there’s a lot of attention paid to the different halves of Heritage that you’ve the gig. And that led me into ... that was the things that you love and the things that recently released, and it seems like you’re time just past the peak of acid jazz, when you admire. I want to kind of pick this trying to approach two different halves jungle and drum and bass were coming out apart a little bit. Say you have a blank of your musical brain. The first one was of the U.K., and I got pretty much drawn slate, a blank calendar, and you can make a little bit more reserved and calm. I to that whole U.K. sound. any kind of music that you want to. How definitely felt some Steven Halpern vibes Did you go from New Zealand to the UK? on there, which was really surprising! does that process start? Almost. I went to Berkeley. Very briefly. And then the second one leans more And then I went back to New Zealand. I That is my life. It’s a blank slate, it’s a blank canvas. I can do whatever I want, which is towards this frantic, energetic kind of was gonna move to Sydney, and then I beat-heavy scene. Do these two halves followed a girl to London, and then that great. But if it’s a remix, I just start playing exist in your brain simultaneously? Or do became another ten years. Not with the girl, with the material. It’s like if you give a kid you find yourself switching gears often? but with London. [laughs] The girl didn’t a box of Legos. I don’t mean one with a Those two halves exist simultaneously, for work out. picture of a thing on the front and they go, sure. I mean, through high school I wanted You didn’t keep up any of your jazz piano ‘I’ve got to make that.’ to be like a hip-hop and New Jack Swing studies when you leaned into drum and Just the pieces. producer. Teddy Riley changed my life. I bass? How I grew up with Legos. Pieces. And had a moment when I was thirteen where Hell no. Not at all. It was like drum and you’re just like, ‘Make something.’ And I was like … It was the first Guy album. bass, house music and broken beat. That they enjoy that process, and they just A friend played that to me at a school was it. create. That’s literally what I do with music. assembly in New Zealand, just walked up to You broke away with your old self and And when it’s a remix, there’s the source me and put his earphones on my head, and chose a completely unfamiliar path. material ... when I was younger, I used to it was Teddy’s jam. I was just like, ‘What Totally. I mean, I’ve released acoustic jazz really painstakingly labor over, ‘How am the fuck is this?!’ And then suddenly all this records in New Zealand when I was really I going to approach this? What’s it gonna music I was hearing was coming from the young, and I was perceived as an acoustic be? What’s the style gonna be? What’s … ‘ same person—or his friend or his protege jazz artist. And then when I connected with Everything. But now, it’s very much a free- or whatever it might be. So that influenced London, and I spent time in Cuba— flowing almost stream of consciousness me hugely, and then the Native Tongues When were you in Cuba?

INTERVIEW BY CHRISTINA GUBALA PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARI ASKEW

12

‘98. Three months in ‘98. On my way to London, actually. As I was kind of perusing Spotify’s highest played track, I noticed, like, a bit of a salsa rhythm. Oh, I love that music. I mean … Latin music has always been huge for me. It just makes sense to me. You’re very rhythm-driven, but one thing that struck me as I was reading about Heritage II is the way that ‘The Silk Road’ came together, and how you found reflections of Japanese pentatonic scales in Ethiopian music. Yeah, and someone actually misquoted me on that—saying something like, you know, ‘similar’ or ‘approximately.’ I was like, ‘No, they’re exactly the same!’ Like, I mean what I say! [laughs] How did you become involved with Ethio Cali? Were you involved with the scene of the Blue Whale before you played with them? When I moved here and I started a club night, my party called CHURCH— —I have lots of questions about that, by the way, so let’s come back to that. So once CHURCH was underway, it was kind of a closed-slash-open jam at points. Like, people could jump up, but not just anybody. What was an average night like there? Did people come out to party? What was the crowd like? It was everything. Like, the whole point of CHURCH, was I wanted to share my journey as a musician. So when the party started, the first set was like a jazz club— acoustic jazz. I’m flipping Duke Ellington and Monk and Ornette Coleman joints. And then the second set would switch into a live remix, like … dance fight. So we’d get the dancers coming down, and they’d come early. And they’d be checking out all this jazz shit. And then the jazz kids would come down early and stay and see it morph into this dance floor with poppers and whackers and to me it’s all one story. So it was important to be able to share that. I think it’s also very special that you were able to separate out the two instead of putting pressure on the jazz people to create an energy that was going to come later. For sure. It’s like a story, it’s like a DJ. Especially a warm-up DJ. If you walk into a room, it’s the start of the night and it’s empty and the DJ’s pounding house music, it’s like, ‘Well, this is not the story.’ And even in the Golden Age, as house music was evolving, you go to the The Loft with Mancuso and stuff, and the first three or four hours there wouldn’t even be a kickdrum! And so when it comes, people lose their shit! You’re not just mapping an aesthetic onto a place regardless of what’s taking place inside of it. Totally. Yeah. I really appreciate that. It was important for me to do that clearly—to map it clearly—and I think that the jazz being fused with different things is very much a thing now. I’ve been doing this since 1998 or something. I suppose it’s INTERVIEW


part of my DNA. So it’ll be easy for me to kind of ignore the public perception of the complexity of it and just go full-on, but I wanted to be very literal about the story. And then as the club night—as the party— evolved over time, it kind of morphed more into one thing. But the Blue Whale … OK, so we’re doing CHURCH when it started at Angel’s in Santa Monica, this little speakeasy. And Dexter Story would come down and Dex and I ... I think we had just met. I was living in Venice and he was living in Venice, too. And he’d been to like Triple Down. So one night we’re playing, just getting the vibe, and suddenly Dwight [Trible] comes over, grabs the mic and starts singing. Uninvited, which was fine, you know? He sounded amazing. It was a really special moment. So I went up to him afterwards, and I was like, ‘Man, thank you for jumping up—that was really incredible.’ And he was like, ‘Well, you know, I just couldn’t help myself.’ That was a huge compliment in itself. The vibe is so INTERVIEW

killing I had to contribute. So then Dwight asked me to play in his band, which was the Cosmic Band, and it was an iteration of his music, which has a ... like a child of that is the band which we did his new record with Mothership which just came out. But that started with the Cosmic Band, so Miguel Atwood-Ferguson was in there, Trevor Ware, Dexter Story, myself and Dwight. And the first gig was at the Blue Whale. So it was my first time playing there. This was like ... I moved to London in late 2008, so I would hazard a guess at early 2010, maybe? I hadn’t played a jazz gig like that. I mean, I’d done it in the context of CHURCH, but not in someone else’s music. And it was so liberating and freeing. Dwight’s been a huge facilitator in me reconnecting with the piano how I have because he’s so dynamic. He loves sensitivity and he loves aggression, all these things in the music, and so I was able to do the whole breadth of that. So we did the Blue Whale, and that was amazing, and I

did a lot of stuff with that band. But one of the Blue Whale gigs, Todd Simon came out. And he had his mind just completely fucking blown. And then he was just about to start Ethio Cali, and he asked me to play that first gig, which we did at UCLA. Kamasi was on that, and Kelela was on that as well. It was outside somewhere. I think I saw you play with them then. Quite probably. I mean, Kibrom took over, so, if it wasn’t Kibrom, it was me, basically. But the fascinating thing was when I found out about the similarity between—not similarity, this identicality between tizita [Ethiopian pentatonic scales] and Japanese pentatonic scales. And these are not, like ... they both use Western pentatonic scales, but they’re altered pentatonic scales and it’s the way that the alterations are identical which is how they’re the same. So it’s very specific. When I found that out and I was telling Dex about it, he was like, ‘Man, that’s why you always sounded so good on Ethio Cali.’ An ‘it’s in your blood!’ kind of

thing. It was amazing just realizing how the building blocks are the same, but in Ethiopia, the way the melodies phrase and ride the rhythm is different to how they would in Japan. And then there’s more of a fundamental underpinning rhythm groove in Ethiopia than there might be in Japan, which might be more subtle. So there’s differences in style or aesthetic, but yeah— the DNA is the same. You have a unique perspective as a pianist. A lot of times it’s really easy to point out how rhythms travel, but it’s more difficult to point out exactly where and when these scales shift. Another thing that’s in my mind as I’ve been considering interviews you’ve given about Heritage is how we can be connected to something we consider our heritage and completely leave any thought of government out of it. Oh yeah. It’s imperative. All those governments are constructs. I mean, the heritage is other people. And so if we had a truly utopian political system, maybe 13


that would be expressed through a cultural heritage conversation. But it’s never happened, and probably never will happen, so I think it’s ... you know, I grew up primarily in New Zealand and secondarily in Japan, and I relate to New Zealand. It’s almost hard to articulate. But I relate to New Zealand in my body, in my physicality. Like, when I’m in New Zealand I feel a physical connection to the land. Japan is like a spiritual connection. Japan’s a much deeper, kind of more esoteric connection. How old were you when you were living in New Zealand, and how old were you when you were in Japan? I was in Japan like every summer from age 10, but I really got entrenched finishing high school there. I don’t think I had a consciously spiritual connection with Japan at high school there. I had more of a teenage connection with Japan. [laughs] Now, I spent most of my time in jazz clubs all over Tokyo or in Yokohama, so that definitely changed my life. There were sixty-eight jazz clubs in Tokyo at that time. Now there’s like, maybe ten. It was probably 90% local musicians. They’d do the circuit and play the same club every two months, but they’d be playing every night. I saw so much music, and I was supposed to go back to New Zealand and start law school, and on the first day of law school I remember I was living back in my parents’ place, and my dad was knocking on the bedroom door and was like, ‘Mark, get up! University starts today!’ I was like, ‘No, I’m not going. I’m cool. I’m gonna do music.’ Yeah, Japan—you sent me to Japan, look what happened! [laughs] And now you’re reconnecting with your Japanese roots. When I started touring in Japan … I started touring a jazz trio there in 1996. And my mom would tell me, ‘If you’re going to be touring in Japan, you’ve gotta do some Japanese songs.’ I was like, ‘I don’t want to do Japanese songs … ‘I was definitely very headstrong about this. Who was in this trio with you? A couple of Japanese musicians. Tomokazu Sugimoto, who’s a great bass player, and Nobuaki Fuji, who’s a great drummer. And Nobu is actually on a bit of the Ronin Arkestra project, which we just released. We’ve known each other for a long time now. I remember I reluctantly went through some Japanese folk songs, and I knew from a jazz perspective how to arrange them and make them sound hip. I was like, ‘Let me just do that.’ I wasn’t actually connecting with the material. You were using source material to create something— —on my terms. So I did that, and people were very receptive, and it was great. But it wasn’t until much more recently that I’ve gone back to that material and really understood the essence of it, and the energy and the frequency in the melody. And so on Heritage I and II there’s one traditional folk song on each record, and in both cases, they’re very different interpretations—one’s solo piano, one’s more of a head nod hiphop thing—but in both cases, it’s all about 14

the melody. I mean, it’s in total reverence to the frequency that is intrinsically embodied in that music. Each track that you included on both of these two records ... it has a little story behind it. Oh, everything’s got a story. Do you start with the story and build around it? Or do you start with a melody and let it speak? I’ve never done anything remotely this personal. Ever. I made instrumental records when I was really young in New Zealand, and occasionally there was inspiration for a composition, but generally I’d just take something that was happening in my life and add that as a name kind of thing to something I was working on in music. Then I started working with a lot of vocalists when I was in the U.K., and it became more about I guess a genre/aesthetic style of writing, which, lyrically I’d largely defer to the guest vocalists. As long as we were on the same page I’d be cool with that. That was more about me putting on my producer hat and making producer records. This was a whole different thing. It’s special instrumental music. I think that the audience really appreciates the narrative information and the connection. It’s almost like if you’re in an art gallery looking at some really abstract shit, and yes, you can totally make up your own stories, but if the artist shares his story, that deepens your appreciation for the message. And that’s what changes it from an aesthetic to a work of art—when you’re allowed access to the narrative that it’s trying to express. Yes. And so in writing the music for Heritage, it was actually ... it was really, really easy for me. It was a matter of sitting down at the piano and reaching into a feeling, and making and playing some music. And if the music ... I was going to say ‘if ’, but that wasn’t the case. Every single time the music resonated with the feeling I was leaning into, and it matched. It was very definitive. ‘Well, this is what this piece is. This is it.’ And then with most of them, having written the basic skeleton, the sketch of the composition, then I’d sit with it like, ‘Well … ‘ I’d identify the feeling and what the relationship is in my memories and experiences, and thereby find the thematic association which would tie into the whole narrative. It’s like, you know, with any mythology, folk tales, or more esoteric kind of Shintoism ideas or anything like that— there’s a universality to all of it. There’s a human experience there behind it. Exactly. Like, ‘Ryūgū-jō’, which means ‘the dragon palace’, on Heritage II, that was inspired by ... that was actually in reverse, that one. I’ve always loved the folk story of Urashima Tarō. Urashima Tarō, he goes to the beach and there are these kids, and they’re beating on this turtle. And so he chases the kids away, and he saves this turtle. The turtle’s like, ‘Cool, I’m gonna reward you. I’m gonna take you somewhere. Jump on my back.’ He jumps on his back, and the turtle goes into the sea, and in Shintoist

Japan, the god of the sea is a dragon, and the dragon lives in the dragon palace under the ocean. So the turtle takes Urashima Tarō to the dragon palace. And the dragon palace is by all accounts totally baller. Urashima Tarō gets there and is living his best life. He’s just partying for three days, everything he could ever want, it’s this amazing, mystical place, and what he doesn’t know is that each night in the dragon palace is a hundred years on earth. So it’s the club. [laughs] But after three nights he goes back home, and three hundred years have passed. So all his family, all his friends ... everyone’s died, and he’s there by himself. And that’s the end of the story! [laughs] But that’s a story I’ve always loved. The image of the dragon palace—I was like, ‘Wow! What is that?’ With that piece, I remember writing the bassline that underpins the whole composition, writing that first, and it was evocative of that pride to me. ‘Okay, this is Ryūgū-jō. This is the dragon palace.’ Things very much fell together. If it was so natural, it sounds like it was also simultaneously pretty cathartic. Definitely cathartic. You know, I was being raised primarily in New Zealand. New Zealand now, especially Auckland—the city I grew up in—it’s a real mixed melting pot, and a pretty harmoniously progressive melting pot. Relative to some other countries in the world, like— —who shall remain nameless because they speak their own name. Yes. There we go. But when I was growing up there ... I became a teenager in like 87, so it was a different New Zealand. To be a half-Japanese kid growing up in New Zealand then, I was ‘other.’ There were no others. None. I never looked fully Asian, so people would relate to me more through my European side. And New Zealand itself didn’t really have a cultural identity. It had the Maori cultural identity, but the European post-colonist identity was very vague, and it wasn’t interfaced with the Maori culture. Now it is. Now it’s a whole different thing. So I was raised in a pretty much Japanese house in New Zealand. Culinarily, culturally, linguistically, etiquette, customs—it was a Japanese house. So I had that, but growing up with that, I didn’t have an appreciation for it because it was just how things were. It was normal, right? So I think at this point in life, having gone through massive experiences and changes and relationships and living in different countries, having a child— all sorts of stuff, and traveling so much around the world—it’s great to finally arrive at these conclusions, I guess. Or these realizations of the depth of cultural connection, and how much that’s an important part of my identity and my story. And in my question of art, like … what does my art mean? And, really, I don’t care what it means to someone else. What does it mean to me? It’s easy to write, especially in a jazz context or any beats or whatever. It’s easy to write, to create some music and just call it whatever, you know? Call it ‘Jack Herrer’ or whatever

you want to call it. A smoking man, so you know... I was thinking ‘Watermelon Man,’ but same page. But Watermelon Man has a cultural thing— huge cultural story. I know. I remember Herbie’s explanation. But still—it’s one of those things where if you were just your average listener scrolling through the top of the Spotify playlist for Herbie Hancock, you’d have no idea, you know? Yeah, exactly. ‘What is that?’ It’s meant a lot to arrive to that point, and feel that cultural connectivity. And that’s the catharsis you were asking about. This project’s made me understand that to understand one’s place in the world, you need to understand where you’re from. I do think that speaks to larger societal issues in the world right now around xenophobia, racism...all that. And people’s false sense of us vs. them mentality. This binary that’s being created is forcing people to cling to their identities in a competitive nature. But that’s not real. That’s not culture. That’s just ego. It’s manufactured reflex. And as frustrating as it is, we’re also forced to examine the fact that if someone has decided that this is what makes them them … that if you approach that in any kind of threatening manner, you’re going to get this claws-out response. Yeah because fear ... it’s game over. For me, when I say ‘understanding where we come from,’ it’s appreciating the beauty of my own cultural connections. And if anyone does that with their own cultural heritage, then they can’t—in my mind— do anything but appreciate someone else’s unique cultural heritage. It’s not from some kind of nationalistic superiority perspective at all. Things that give context to the finished product. The story, you know? I have a certain tendency to doodle in a very specific way. Whenever I need to draw, or whenever I need to calm myself down, I’ll draw very specifically. One day I was looking up, like, things from Poland. My dad is from Poland; he grew up in Poland. And I looked up Polish ceramics, and all of the designs on the pots were just like my doodles. Wow! There you go! It’s in the blood! Yeah, it kind of threw me off for quite some time. I mean ... I saw you mentioned in your previous interview with JAZZIZ, that a lot of times in Western America, we kind of divorce ourselves from the roots, almost intentionally so. That’s something I’ve really experienced with my family where it’s like, ‘We’re American and that’s all you need to know about it.’ But the deeper you go, like ... I don’t know, I was able to wholly appreciate so much more that was coming out of my own hand in that moment, you know? Yeah! I mean, it’s just kind of belittling your heritage to ‘We’re American.’ I mean, America wasn’t created in a very nice way, but you wanna lay claim to that shit? Like … [laughs] INTERVIEW


And that’s the thing! It’s such a propagandized notion that we’re only just starting to sincerely confront it. Or I mean, ‘only just now,’ … I’m speaking for myself, but I feel like there is a reckoning taking place right now. Oh, no question! That’s why we have such a dynamic time right now. Yeah, certainly. I’d wanted to start this interview asking you about the last track on your most recent Heritage record, which, as I understand, you named it for a gig you did. The History of the Future. Yeah. The History of the Future. What do you want to survive from your output in this crazy era for future listeners? Whenever I perform the music, whenever I play this music, perform it live—the Heritage project—there’s a feeling I get from it that’s unlike anything else I’ve done. I think it’s very much that the music is encoded with a lot of frequency that I’m a conduit for. It’s not necessarily ... it’s not of my making. And when people talk to me after the gigs, that validates that connection. They tell me things, they share their experience of being in the audience in a way which I’m like, ‘OK, this is totally connecting.’ That’s all I can ask for. In decades and centuries to come, if someone listens to the records and they’re open to those frequencies, then I think they’re still going to be there. The reach of resonance. Yeah! It’s a completely different kind of thing, but Coltrane’s ‘Alabama.’ He composed that in loving tribute to a really tragic happening, and that emotional investment is encoded in the music. It’s still there now, and we’re now fifty years later. Not even to put pressure on you, but now that you’ve moved through a very cathartic project, what feels enticing? I’m really curious to explore the Japanese piece more. There’s a lot of depth to explore in it. A lot of the material, when I wrote and performed it for the Mirai no Rekishi concert, I had some guests playing traditional instruments like koto and taiko drums and shinobue flutes, and that was a whole sound unto itself. I consciously decided not to do that for these records—I wanted to use my regular band and explore the music that way. But that’s something I want to do more—explore with traditional instruments. And I have one show next month, actually, in Japan where I’m doing Heritage, just duo—me and a shakuhachi flute player. In a really old, beautiful town called Noto in Japan. And I can’t wait for that, because the essence of the sound is in the shakuhachi, and then without the band it’s way stripped down, and I’ll have electronics too. You definitely inhabit a lot of roles while you’re on stage. It’s just my playground, you know? If I wanna get into some thumping beats, I can. If I wanna get into some really emotionally driven piano, I can. It’s great to be liberated in that way and not feel constrained to one aspect. I hear the music that way. It’s like this kind of marriage of acoustic and INTERVIEW

electronic, and man and machine, and it just ... it makes sense to me. What makes Los Angeles unique for musicians collaborating in the context of jazz music? There’s a really ... what’s the word ... fruitful community here which crosses conventional genre boundaries in a way ... not identical, but in a similar way to what happened in London, with different fusions of music creating new music. I recognize that in L.A., to the point where, you know, the the Low End Theory crew would come out to the Blue Whale, and then the jazz heads would go to Low End Theory, and Fly Lo would be doing his thing incorporating all the worlds—those kinds of things, not in those exact combinations, but that was what was happening in London when I was there. It was a really golden time. So to see that happening in L.A. at the same time was amazing. And then the elders are here. You know, I play in Harvey Mason’s band, and getting to play with Harvey is like ... he’s played with everyone! Herbie, James Brown ... like, everyone. All the CTI Records, the Mizell Brothers ... he’s a legend. So to have that connection is amazing. And then at one of my first gigs playing in Harvey’s band, the band was Darryl Jones—who’s now the bass player in the Rolling Stones, who was with Miles for a long time—Bill Summers, who was Herbie Hancock’s percussionist, Patrice Rushen, Kamasi before he did The Epic, Harvey and me, and that was the band. And I’m sitting on stage, like me and Kamasi were kind of ‘the kids,’ just going like, ‘Oh my God!’ And that happens in L.A. because everyone’s here, you know? I randomly stumbled across a Benny Maupin performance with James Ford at Cal State LA! Exactly! And then on the flipside, you know, it’s like, Stones Throw’s legacy, Madlib, Dilla’s legacy from here ... you know, there’s so much. When I was living in London we’d get early L.A. beat scene SA-RA demos, and it was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ It just blew our minds, and it was, ‘Oh, that’s some L.A. shit, OK! What else is there? Oh, here are some J*Davey demos! Who are they? Hey, all of this sounds amazing!’ It’s so multifaceted, the scene here. When I was moving here, so many people said, ‘Why are you going to L.A.? L.A.’s going to change you!’ and there is that perception of what we know as West Hollywood as being all of L.A., you know? That’s the exported image, too. Yes, these things can be true, but it doesn’t apply to every single person here. That’s true of every major metropolitan city. Every major metropolitan city has that element. And so I enjoy sharing my L.A. with different people, like, ‘No, it’s not like that, actually.’ But there’s so much talent, and people are open. The musicians are really capable, and that’s a huge thing. Like, guys who are killing and open-minded? You can’t get away with faking it here. ... well, not in the music scene we’re talking about. [laughs]

Specifically if you’re playing at the Blue Whale, you’re not getting away with faking it. [laughs] You’re really not. But that room is one of my favorite venues in the world, and I get to play all over the planet. But that is a very special room. And the World Stage. I mean, the World Stage and what it represents historically ... that’s right up there with the Church of John Coltrane in San Francisco. The World Stage has that history. It’s amazing. I feel very grateful to be here interacting with my peers, interacting with the elders, and interacting with the younger cats, kind of mentoring, too. Who do you recommend that’s coming up right now? I love the Katalyst group. Katalyst with a ‘K’. Oh, are they doing Jazz Is Dead? Or did they just do it? They may be supporting on one of them, opening or something. I don’t think they’re headlining one. But they have a residency every Saturday at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice. They’re a young crew of musicians, pretty much all of them live in Inglewood, they’re all like in their early twenties, and they’re killing it. So I love what they’re doing. The whole Moonchild crew ... I mean ... pssht. That blows my mind—when the music’s already killing, and then each person’s pulling out a different instrument and just playing. It’s like, ‘What are you doing?!’ [laughs] I mean, I love that. Are you familiar with Black Nile? Yeah! Black Nile I think of as being in the more extended family of the Katalysts. Yeah, and then Lawrence and I have played together a couple of times. I had them play at one of my shows, and he sounds great. I mean, there’s so much talent here, and I know I have a lot to offer in a mentoring capacity, having lived multiple lives on multiple continents. [laughs] And you’ve seen the music industry through so many very intense shifts! You started making music in 1995. You got to see the entire wave crash. Yeah, I mean, my major label debut was in 2000. That was the exact moment where the ground came out from under it. I worked at Universal in 2007-10, and it was just ... It was already fucked by then. [laughs] Floundering, trying to figure out what comes next. We had one distribution company in West London called Goya Distribution who distributed all of the underground shit I was working on in my community, and they didn’t survive the transition to digital. At all. Because vinyl died at that point. The whole vinyl thing now is new. It was weird watching it happen in real time, too. I remember asking some of the executives at Universal and getting laughed at about it, and then, you know, three years later after having quit and seeing every single Nirvana record reissued … in like the most wasteful packaging possible?

Of course! So that was a trip seeing those transitions, and even when I had a major label thing with Universal, even with that, throughout the entire time I’ve very much been an independent artist. And I’ve been self-managed apart from maybe three years out of twenty or thirty? Oh my God, I’d better get that right. I understand I have a perspective on the business of being an independent artist, which is informed by a lot of experience in a lot of different parts of the world. So for me, it’s really important to be able to share that when people want to be open to that. Especially given the fact that if you do know the ropes, there’s so much uncharted territory when you’re starting out as an independent artist. Any direction could be the wrong one or the right one, you know? You just have no idea what the outcome is going to be. What I love now is that there’s no one set of rules. What might work for you may not work for me, and what might work for me may not work for you at all. And so there’s a lot more room for trial and error now, but I love that technology facilitates that anyone can get their music out. That’s a really interesting evolution. How do you feel the experience of fatherhood has influenced your musical output? Well, there’s the pragmatic side of like, ‘I need to make some money so I gotta get working.’ And that’s not something that’s frequently acknowledged, either. Sure. When I had my son I was 28, and I hit the road hard. I was like, ‘I need to be touring.’ That had its own impact on the family situation, but it was what I felt like I needed to do. I put out a record actually just after he was born called Tides Are Rising, and the opening track to that is called ‘Masina’s World’—my son is called Masina, and the end of it, like, you can hear his heartbeat in the womb, like probably about ten hours before he was born. Talk about a time capsule! Right?! So that felt really special, to be able to capture that and put it in a musical context that made sense to me. But beyond that—at this point he’s a teenager, and this is what dad does. Because this is his heritage, too, and as you tap into it, now he has this like, compounded experience. He’s slightly further removed, but he’s now got an intense connection that you’ve provided for him, too. Totally. And he’s creating his own story. He’s a quarter Samoan, a quarter Japanese, half New Zealand, born in London, raised in California ... it’s like, his story is crazy! So I can only imagine how he’s gonna continue to explore the journey of life. HERITAGE AND HERITAGE II ARE OUT NOW ON ROPEADOPE. VISIT MARK DE CLIVE LOWE AT MDCL.TV.

15


DEVIN MORRISON INTERVIEW BY TOLLIVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEX THE BROWN Devin is the dude. The Orlando-born auteur is having an Epcotsized moment, releasing his debut album behind a wave of praise from R&B luminaries. Bussin’ is a devout document, a love-letter to early 90s R&B, Jodeci with a smart phone. With any luck, it’ll catapult the sophisticated singer / producer into the upper echelon of soul pioneers. The album came out this spring on NBNrecords. We were talking about bussing kids into schools in Orlando, which segues perfectly into my question about ‘Bussin.’ What does it mean? Cuz I want to use it in life. Is it about sex? Is it about food? Is it about both? Well, it’s not about sex. [laughs] Though some people use it for that. This coffee is bussin’, it tastes real good. So it’s just when shit’s poppin, when it’s really good. Yeah, it’s gon’ slap. Are you making bussin’ happen, or is it already a thing? It’s been a thing, man. I noticed it when I came back to Orlando from college. A lot of cats were saying it. It’s really a Florida thing. There are other regions that say it, but I think Florida takes the crown for that one. One of the things that strikes me about the album is it sounds professional as hell, like you’ve been doing this forever— but this is your first album. What’s your background? I was playing piano since I was six. My mom put me in piano lessons. I was doing that for a long time. When I was like 16 I was like, ‘Alright, I think I might be able to do this long term.’ I never wanted to go to school for music because I didn’t think I was good enough. And then I got into Esperanza Spalding. I was like ‘Yo, this chick is incredible.’ I found out she’d only been playing bass for four years before going to school for it and getting a full ride. I was like, ‘Dag, if she can do it, I can do it.’ So I was trying to go to Berklee. I got accepted but they were talking some [thousands of ] dollars. That’s what happened to me, too. I was like, ‘I’m not gonna go.’ I’m not paying that right now. So my mom enrolled me in Oakwood University. I was like, ‘If I don’t like it, I’ll go to Berklee in a 16

year.’ I go, and I love it, and I learn a lot. I was producing all through that time. What would have happened if you went to Berklee? Might’ve lost my soul. [laughs] I went to music school in Chicago. … Columbia? I went to Roosevelt, which is more like ‘we do opera.’ Whereas Columbia teaches you more music industry shit. But at the end I just ended up trying to forget all that stuff—trying to forget everything I learned. But whatever, this interview’s not about me. It’s a conversation, brother. [laughs] I haven’t seen Joyce [Wrice] in a couple years, but she’s a friend of mine. Tell me about your sessions. Oh man—Joyce is a sweetheart. She’s a wonderful person and a great artist. I met her through MNDSGN or maybe through my manager. We became real cool. I was like, ‘Yo, I would love to have you on my album.’ It’s funny cuz it’s always kinda like a lesson when we have a session, even though she’s a well-versed, good artist on her own. Being that I had the classical training I was kinda showing her little things that she didn’t notice. I wanna make her better than everyone in her field. She killed it, man. She’s incredible. How many sessions did y’all have? Did you do a bunch of songs? We did maybe three sessions for the ‘With You’ joint. Lately me and her and MNDSGN have been in the studio working on some stuff for her. Are you and MNDSGN gonna do a whole project? I noticed y’all have been putting stuff out. Maybe! I think it might happen. First of all it was like … fun. We were just having fun, just playing around. But everyone’s like ‘Yo, we need this MNDSGN / Devin album.’

It’s in the atmosphere. Right, so it’s like, ‘Aight we can’t hide from it anymore.’ I used to see him and Alima a bunch. Shout out to Alima, man. She found my glasses. So the first single is ‘No.’ That song is really direct lyrically. I want to know who it’s about. [laughs] It’s funny cause everyone thinks it’s about one person. It’s kind of like a few stories in one. This way I’m not being too direct. I’m talking about a few different scenarios, some of which aren’t even my stories. It’s kind of a gumbo pot of a few different stories. So you’re telling everyone no. I think that’s what makes it kind of relatable. Like you probably went through this, you probably went through that. It definitely feels like you’re talking to someone you loved. Yeah. And I mean—it’s the glow-up anthem. It’s ‘Aight, you want me back now. Nah, I’m good.’ [laughs] How did the glow-up start then? My glow-up kinda wasn’t really much of a glow-up. During college I was very nerdy, very just in my art. Went to Tokyo, lived there for a while, was kinda wiling out. And then I came out here. So I guess, like … the glow-up is in process. I’m not gonna say, ‘Oh, I’m here now.’ But clearly something’s changed—people are paying attention. I’ve noticed a lot of people I really respect commenting on your Instagram, like Eric Roberson. I was like, ‘Damn.’ Eric is amazing, man. Praise God. It was Eric and someone else with the blue check, I can’t remember. Might’ve been Phonte. Phonte’s so cool, man. So ‘Fairytale’ is my favorite song on the album. I love the opening line and I love the feel of it. It’s a song about God and it starts with a line about people being holier than thou. That’s funny to me. How important is it for you to have God centered in your music? More and more everyday it’s becoming more important. I was kinda coming from a dark place. I grew up in the church my whole life. And then you leave home and it’s like, ‘Aight, I can do whatever I want. And I can taste all these fruits I haven’t tasted before. And you come to find out these fruits aren’t that sweet.’ I’ve come to terms with the fact that the fruits of the spirit are much more delicious than the fruits of the flesh. He’s just been so gracious to me. Especially being out here it’s so easy to lose yourself. A few times. [laughs] L.A.’s a weird place. It’s kind of insidious. You look up and three years have gone by. That’s what I’m saying, Tokyo was a blur, dude … You can’t get time back. Exactly! Tokyo is such a secular place. it’s so easy to get lost in this weird world. Shoutout to Lakksmable who’s featured on a song called ‘Brother.’ He’s who I would

call whenever I was having these spiritual battles. He’s probably the best Christian I know. The album is real smooth, but there are some lines like ‘Don’t worry about these haters,’ the opening lines of ‘Fairytale.’ Listening to the music you might think it’s all about love. That was kinda the idea. I wanted to mask all these different ideas in R&B format. So it feels like these are songs about ‘Ooh girl I love you,’ and it’s like nah, it’s a little bit deeper. ‘Love Yourself ’ is just about loving yourself. I caught that. That’s good. So your Instagram matches your musical aesthetic— [laughs] —kind of an early 90’s feel. TLC’s ‘What About Your Friends’ was my favorite song when I was coming up. You know what’s funny? My friend was just playing that at the crib. [sings a few bars.] What is it you love most about that era? I dont know, man. Just more flavor. It was around the time when hip-hop and R&B were just starting to marry each other. It was kinda cool because there was this new sound in hip-hop where you’re starting to blend jazz into it, and then R&B’s getting into the picture. So it’s like, ‘Uh oh. We got these big beats and these crazy chords, so we’ve got this cool mixture going on.’ And of course, aesthetically I just think it’s superior. How would you characterize the aesthetic of R&B right now? I think the aesthetic of R&B right now is really ambiguous. We’re at this point where you do whatever you want. Everyone’s taking something from everything. I don’t know—we’re in kind of a weird age. So it was important for you to be clear? I don’t think I had to try too hard cuz that’s what I like. Who knows—maybe in 10 years I’ll be into the 80s or the 70s. Have you already planned the next thing? Yeah—for sure. I’ve planned the next thing and the next thing. I like to have non-musical questions. Everybody loves food, what’s your favorite food spot in LA? Ooooo. OK, it’s kind of a tie. Ackee Bamboo over in Leimert Park. It’s a Jamaican food spot, so bomb. And MNDSGN put me onto this taco spot up in Lincoln Heights called Avenue 26 tacos. Wait—where is that? I’m always in Lincoln Heights, I’m going there right after this. It’s on avenue 26. [laughs] It’s like one dollar tacos. Straight BUSSIN’, bro. It’s this big tent. They make the tacos real fast. Them joints is schmackin, dog. It’s tough for me with tacos because they’re everywhere. So now I don’t trust anyone. I feel you. Benedek took me to this taco spot and I was like, this is good, but…this isn’t touching Avenue 26. VISIT DEVIN MORRISON AT DEVINMORRISON.BANDCAMP.COM.

INTERVIEW


18

INTERVIEW


ROYAL TRUX INTERVIEW BY JED MAHEU ILLUSTRATION BY JAY TORRES

Royal Trux were and are a dimension to themselves—they had their own gravity, their own laws of physics and their own extraterrestial kind of white light / white heat even on their first self-titled album for Drag City in 1988. Thirty-plus years later, this spring’s unexpected reunion album White Stuff (Fat Possum) still has all the right stuff, designed by masterminds who could and can plug right into the heart of 40-50-60 years of rulebreaking rock ‘n ‘ roll ‘n’ more. Co-founder Neil Hagerty was unavailable for this interview but Zig Zags’ Jed Maheu got Trux co-founder and frequent L.A. RECORD alum Jennifer Herrema to dig up some good stuff. I’ve never even done this. I think all the somebody interested in wanting to put out from these? Is this possible?’ Like, yeah, it’s other writers were scared to talk to you your record when there’s nobody to reach totally possible. and Neil, so they asked me. out to anybody? [laughs] So it really all Was this guy like a music industry guy? Jennifer Herrema: [sighs] Well, Neil doesn’t came together, like, fortuitously. Literally, Or was he just like a random guy? speak to humans, so. It’s his problem. we met a stranger, like a complete stranger. He was a guy who was like, a huge music We’re gonna start at the now and then I guess I had met this guy once, I don’t guy. Not like, super industry. His wife go back to the beginning. So what was it know, over a decade ago, but he reached makes films and stuff, but he owned a huge like? What was the process for recording out to me on social media, and his question record store in San Diego and ran it when this new album? was, ‘Can I ask you a question? I’m a huge he was a teenager, evidently, and then I All the songs were completely written fan. Why is Royal Trux not streaming?’ think he bought it later in life. Yeah, not before we went into the studio. We had And you know, I was like ‘LOL. It’s a long like, super industry but he was definitely started playing again together [Neil and story.’ Whatever. So the dude’s like, ‘OK, I connected. He’s a huge fan of music, and I] towards the end of 2015, so it’s been need to talk to you…’ He drove down from he’s just connected. Literally we had like three years. Was that the Berzerktown Calabasas the next day down to the beach Skype meetings with every motherfuckin’ show? That was the first reunion show, and schooled my ass. Totally schooled me. I publisher set up within a month, you right? That was the first one, and then was like, ‘Oh my God. Like, people license know? Like, everything. He’s just good at after that the second one was in New York catalogs directly to streaming companies making connections, obviously. [laughs] So we got this offer to make the new album, at Webster Hall, and then we released an and stuff.’ He’s like, ‘You guys own all your which we didn’t have any expectation that album of those super raw live show sets own stuff, like ... what the fuck? You can that would come about, and we didn’t because we recorded ‘em for posterity not get a great advance if you wanna license it.’ even ask—it just happened. So we were knowing we would ever perhaps ever do I never knew anything about it. So he just like, ‘OK, great,’ and Neil and I just started it again, you know? So we were like, ‘We kinda went to town. We had deals comin’ writing back and forth. I think he was gotta record it just in case!’ So that was that. out of our ass, actually. Most of ‘em were using Cubase or Logic, and I was using Pro But then we toured Europe and did a lot no-gos because they were perpetuity, but Tools and Ableton, and we were just like of the European festivals like a year, year Fat Possum really wanted a new record, so ... I mean, I can write music stuff, but my and a half ago. So we were together, and we would talk about different topics, ideas for we were like, ‘OK, we’re going with these playing sucks like shit, you know? So I just songs and stuff, and then basically we did people because they are really stoked to have kind of fake it, you know? it ... We weren’t really thinking we were a new record, and we already know that Do you play guitar when you write a necessarily going to make a new record. It we’ve got one in our brains…’ So that was song? Or what do you do? was just like as time went on, the more and that for Fat Possum, and then the Orchard Yeah, but it’s a digital guitar so I can assign more we figured, ‘Shit, you know, we can distribution and digital distribution deals it any instrument I want. We were just easily write a new record.’ But we weren’t and the neat publishing deals ... all of writing back and forth, back and forth, and really interested in doing it under the same this came about by a stranger reaching out. then the last show we played was a year ago, conditions as I’ve been doing with like I would not have known any of this stuff actually. It was about a year and a month Black Bananas and stuff, you know? No was available to us. And I guess that’s my ago. That’s when we went with Fat Possum, distribution, no just kind of putting it out own fault, but I don’t fuckin’ ... know this and we were hanging out with them when there. So we were just like, ‘We’ll probably fuckin’ industry. I don’t even care about it. we played two nights in Bushwick in New York. And then there’s February and March; just not do it,’ because we’re not allowed to I just know that I own a lot of… by the end of March, all the songs are have a manager or anything at Drag City— Right. You’ve written a lot of songs. you’re not allowed to have anybody work Yeah, I’ve written a lot of songs. [laughs] written back and forth, and everybody— for you at Drag City. So how do you get I’m like, ‘Can I actually make some money like Neil and the label people—they all INTERVIEW

flew out here and we were just kind of playing them, you know, just some of the preliminary shit that Neil and I had gone back and forth on. Then everybody went home, and I was talking to Neil, and he was like, ‘Let’s just do it. Let’s just get it done.’ Because there was all sorts of grand ideas cuz we had a good budget. He likes our studio, but it’s too much of Black Bananas, RTX ... It’s too much of your vibe. Yeah, so he was like, ‘We need a neutral zone, neutral zone’ and that’s how I ended up at that Burbank studio. We were in and out in 12 days. So that was that. [laughs] Like we walked in and all the songs were ready. I don’t know if I’m gonna interview Neil or not. I mean, it would be great but I gotta tell you, the guy ... I mean, he’s certifiable. Seriously. You can print that shit. He’ll have your head a-spinnin’. You’ll be like … ’So, this new album…’ and he’ll be like, ‘What album? I don’t have a new album.’ [laughs] Do you feel like making this record was an enjoyable experience? No, it was horrible. Horrible. It was horrible. [laughs] You know, I’m dealing with Neil ... our relationship is totally ... you know, volatile. It was just all very not musical. For me, it was just like, ‘Fuck it. Hit it and quit it.’ But ... in the end it worked out. The thing is, sometimes you have to go through that shit. It’s never smooth, but it’s never been, like, total weirdness before. But at the end of the day, the whole situation was weirdness, so weirdness ensued, but we got what we needed. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. You have to go through it. How do you feel about labels trying to like, brand the band or have a say in artwork or singles or songs? I’ve never 21


really had to deal with that in a real way, I was like, 10, I think it was a flyer I saw by was... This is what was told to me—kids that but when you were with Virgin did you the subway about punk rock shit, and I was got kicked out of all the other schools go to have guys telling you like, ‘No, this is not like, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ Then they started the school that I went to. I mean, Justin having all-ages punk rock matinees, and Theroux went to my school and Spike Jonze a single…’? or Adam Spiegel went to my school, too. I No, actually. We’ve never had that. At you could go if you were 12. all. It’s kind of interesting. I’m not gonna So you were aware of some of the didn’t know that. My sister had to tell me. ‘What? You don’t know that?!’ I’m like, ‘No.’ complain that we had complete creative Dischord stuff happening then? control cuz that’s not really a complaint. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Early on. When I was 10 or They were just fuckin’ little kids I guess. I I mean, Virgin, when we turned in Sweet 11 I knew that. Because I had to be bussed guess they were bad kids that got kicked Sixteen, they were like, ‘Well you can’t to school. It was basically reverse bussing. out of school for a minute. roller skate to this music. It’s no good for [laughs] When I would get out of school, My mom taught at like an alternative us.’ [laughs] But so it was like, ‘Well, but it took hours to get home—walk all the high school when I was a kid, and they here it is, and you still have to handle it, way to the subway, take the subway for let the kids name the high school because so…’ I’ve always kind of been curious as to half an hour, then take a bus for another they wanted everyone to be really how somebody ... that it’s not just about 20 minutes, and then walk another mile inclusive. And so they named it Pantera the preciousness of the art. It’s like, a fuckin’ and a half home. So a lot of the times after High School. salesman, like fuckin’ Glengarry Glen Ross. school because I was in Northwest, I would Oh, that’s amazing! That’s awesome. That’s ‘Sell that shit! Sell that shit!’ Like just have just fuckin’ like use my bus pass and go to so awesome. some uninvolved non-precious personal ... Georgetown. Cuz that’s where all the record [laughs] And then they got in trouble I mean, actually we did. We changed the stores and all of the cool shit was going on. ... I guess they found out that it was a name of this album. There was a couple I would kick around and waste time and band and they made them change it, and of different album titles, but, you know, meet people like from other schools and then they named it to River’s Edge High talking to different people, I realized that stuff, and that’s how I kind of figured it out. School. White Stuff was the title to go with because It’s weird because I think about it now … I Oh, that’s great, too! That was fuckin’ it’s just simple. It’s fuckin’ easy. Other stuff, had a neighbor a few years ago, and I was Seattle? you had to think about it, or you might not playing soccer with her daughter, and she This is in Portland. [laughs] was 12 and she wasn’t allowed to cross the Oh, Portland. Yeah. River’s Edge. Oh my even understand, you know? I like the fact that we have been enabled street to go to Trader Joe’s on her own. I God. Pacific Northwest is dark. to do as we please. But I mean, I also was like, ‘Jesus fuckin’ Christ!’ You know? Pacific Northwest in the 80s, you know? like running shit by people that I respect, [laughs] My parents were sending me to Very serial killer-y. Portland was way and, you know, kind of getting so it’s not the other side of the murder capital alone different than it is now. I mean, last time I was in Portland, which so insular. Cuz everything makes sense to at that point. me when they’re all my ideas. Of course. It’s funny you say soccer—I had this wasn’t that long ago, it was dark as fuck. [laughs] So I kind of enjoy putting stuff out weird premonition, and I didn’t write it Our van got fuckin’ windows broken out there. It’s like everybody is my springboard down, but I wanted to ask you like, if you ... but then again, we don’t stay at the Ritz Carlton. ever played sports before. or my producer after the fact. I wanted to start earlier. Where did you I was a total jock, yes. I guess it started You stay at the Ritz Cracker. with swim team and basketball, and I was At the Ritz Cracker, exactly. [laughs] initially grow up? Southeast Washington, DC. We were living always tall. Like, I grew really quickly, and So you were coaching boys soccer—how with my grandparents in a basement when so I was done growing completely by the did you go from there to New York and I was a little kid, and my dad was working time I was like 12 or 13. I was, you know, music? for the senator of Connecticut on Capitol like, my full height. I always looked older. When I was a little kid like in my Hill. And he went to some auction, I think, So that worked for basketball. Soccer was grandparents’ basement, I had like little one day like at lunch, and fucking bought the one sport that I played the longest, piano lessons and stuff. I really liked it. I a house. I think he paid like $40,000 for it, because there was a team right there. It was remember my first recital where I had to which was a lot of money for my parents on the other side of the Capitol Building, get up on a huge stage and play the piano at that time and all that, but it was this and so I could just walk to the field. We in front of all these people. I totally went huge, gorgeous house that was completely would go out like 2 hours into Virginia and blank and just completely freestyled. I don’t destroyed. But my dad was all about play private school kids, you know? And know what the fuck I was playing. [laughs] construction and stuff, so he just fuckin’ we were just some scrappy motherfuckers I remember saying, ‘I like to play piano, but quit politics. ‘Yeah, I’m outta here, these from southeast DC, but we were called the I don’t ever want to do that again.’ [laughs] people are trash people.’ Which is true. And Rowdies. And we were pretty good. Then Then when we moved we didn’t have a piano. so he started his own construction company when I graduated high school I coached I guess I was like, I don’t know, maybe 6th grade? I think it was 6th grade. I got an that actually kept everything intact up to boys soccer. Don’t ask me how, but… acoustic guitar for Christmas, and then historical preservation standards. He was What?! this guy was like, teaching me, but I didn’t part of that whole thing where you can’t Yeah. I coached boys soccer. like anything he was playing, I was just like, tear down like the gorgeous Baptist church I was gonna ask you this, too: in high ‘Fuck this shit,’ I just like wandered off from just because there’s no Baptist congregation. school, did you feel like you fit in? Or did it. But I was always writing. Like writing, You have to keep it. But you can repurpose you feel weird in high school? Did you writing, writing, writing. it, you know? That’s how I ended up there. get along with other girls? But yeah, it was in the ghetto for sure. And None of the sports I did at all were in What kind of stuff were you listening it took him years. We lived in it while it school. School was a house, and there were to that you liked at that time? Were you was being rehabbed. But we were little, you 20 people in my graduating class. So there seeing Minor Threat or… know what I mean? We did notice that we was no extracurricular anything. I mean, I Yeah, I mean, obviously. Bad Brains were were the only white kids, but it didn’t really don’t know. I mean, I had a lot of friends, super duper one of my favorite fucking but most of my friends were boys. But I bands, and I loved Void, too. Like Faith register as anything that odd. Was your dad or mom into music and art had a couple friends—a couple of really ... Alec MacKaye and Chris Bald. I mean, good friends that were girls. But there were Chris Bald and Mike Fellows ... they were too? Yeah, they were into music, but they weren’t so few people at the whole fuckin’ school, both in Royal Trux, from Faith and Rites of Spring and all that. Those were my homies. into music and art to the degree that I you know? [Laughs] was. It was entertainment, and they were So you had to kind of make your own But that was way later. But we knew each other at the time. My favorite local bands. interested in stuff, but it’s not like they’re sort of reality, then? gonna go out record hunting for something Exactly. And like a double one, too, because Like totally local bands. It was Void and that’s not on the radio. [laughs] Like when I would be up at school and ... the school Faith and Bad Brains. I mean, I’d go see 22

any hardcore show. Any hardcore show for sure. There was no internet or cell phones or nothin’. I think that the fact that I was being shipped basically to a whole other side of the city, and then I would casually make my way home and then back every day, I learned a fuck ton. I would just go on H Street right by our subway in southeast DC, and that’s where I fuckin’ bought ‘Rapper’s Delight’ when I was in fuckin’ like ... 4th grade or something? I walked in there and they were playing it, and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ This was before they even had words called ‘rap’ and ‘hip-hop.’ It was just like, all Black music. Fuckin’ funk and disco and blues and this and that. I didn’t even know. I just walked in and they were playing ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ and that’s all I needed to know. I was like, ‘How much is that record?!’ I babysat all the time, and I would just go and buy records. And a lot of the times, you know, Olsson’s Records in Georgetown ... John Stabb from Government Issue worked the door, and he was a sweetheart, but they didn’t have listening stations. Some of these imported 7”s, like the Damned or something ... you can’t listen to it, you have to take a wild guess and buy it, you know? I remember even when I was a kid, I mail ordered some stuff from some punk distro, and they accidentally sent me the Nation of Ulysses album. All I was listening to at the time was like, Misfits, Dead Kennedys and like, Black Flag, and so then when I heard that Nation of Ulysses album I was just like, ‘What the fuck is this? There’s fuckin’ horns, like this sucks, I hate it.’ But I only had like 2 CDs at the time, so I just had to listen to it until I liked it. That super happened to me. Never Mind the Bollocks ... I remember I didn’t ask anybody. Pink is still my favorite color, and I thought, ‘That looks cool.’ I was listening to it and I was just like, ‘This is crazy!’ But then like you said, I kept listening to it, and then I was like, [laughs] ‘This is the best record ever!’ That kind of thing, where it’s not like you have choices. I was always listening to the radio, but once I got into punk rock and stuff I was like realizing how much music [there was] that was like, interactive, to an extent, where you can go and see the people and shit like that. That has nothing to do with the radio. I would just be like, ‘Okay, like, Cliff Burton has a Misfits shirt on, so I’m gonna like them.’ But when I went from Metallica to the Misfits, I’m just like, ‘This is so, like, weak.’ I didn’t understand, ‘Why would they think the Misfits are cool?’ And then I had to somehow spend enough time with it to understand it. I liked the Misfits too, but there was definitely a DC/New York thing that was unspoken. Now, I wasn’t even part of that thing, but you just kind of felt it. I saw the Beastie Boys when they put out Pollywog Stew and fucking bought the 7”. That was the first record I heard before I started playing guitar or anything where I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this.’ INTERVIEW


Yeah. [laughs] Exactly. See, that was the other thing. I was listening to all this stuff, and I was like, ‘I can do this,’ but I think it was more like I had so many ideas in my head that as far as executing them, like … who am I gonna sing with or play with? But it all came together, like when I met Neil… How did you guys meet? You went to New York, right? No. No no no. 11th grade ... I graduated early. I mean—some people graduate when they’re 16 and almost 17, and that’s what I did. I skipped ahead. And I got a full scholarship to the New School for Social Research in New York. So 11th grade, my first boyfriend who should have never fucking been my boyfriend. Part of me is like, ‘How the fuck did my parents let me date a 20-something year old?’ He died of a heroin overdose, and I just remember like Ian MacKaye spoke at his funeral. He was in like a wooden tinder box or whatever, and one of his good friends—of the dead boyfriend, Brian—was there. I’d met him once and I’d always heard about him. His name was Dane. Then we became friends, and he was in a band called the Jet Boys of the North West and they played up in Adams Morgan, and I went and saw them one time, and it was Neil’s band, and it was like… I’d seen a lot of weirdos, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy is the shit.’ I’d just never seen or heard anything like Neil before. At all. At all. And so Dane and Neil lived in a fuckin’ warehouse by New York Avenue Bridge. So I would go there after school and just kind of hang around, like not really ... I was really kind of there to see Neil, but he never knew that. Then we just started doing a lot of acid. I started doing acid after school all the time, and then, you know, acid acid acid. Then Neil decided I was his girlfriend, acid acid acid, I had got the scholarship to the New School in New York, Neil and I started playing, just the 2 of us at DC Space because it was kind of like … basically make it up as you go, freestyle, adlib, I don’t know. They called it improvisation, but I don’t know what the fuck I was doing. But it was fun, you could do that at DC Space. And so Neil and I would do that stuff, so that was early Royal Trux. And so then somebody came around asking for his phone number, and there was no phone. But it was Julia and Jon were looking for him because they wanted him to be in Pussy Galore. They hired him, and so he went up there with them and they put him on salary and paid his rent, and then I followed like a couple months after for school. I lived at the YMCA, because the New School didn’t have any dorms or anything. It was just ... you know, you can rent your own apartment, or you could stay at the YMCA, and I just stayed at the YMCA. And that’s how Royal Trux kind of started. It started in DC, and then they came and brought him from DC to New York. When we first lived there, you know, up to New York, he was in Pussy Galore. We had no money and we had no rehearsal space, and so we didn’t do anything Royal Trux until I saved enough fucking money at the grocery store. [laughs] And so our INTERVIEW

music came out a few years after we’d already been there. What about Pussy Galore? How was that band received at the time? Oh, it was received really well. The way that I saw it, being younger than all of them and just coming from where I came from, just seeing scenes … I understood the whole concept of scenes, just because of DC punk rock. I understood how if you went to the Iron Cross show, you’d see Sab and Dante play, but you’re gonna get a bunch of fuckin’ bumper beers and mohawks and all that shit, but if you go over and you see Minor Threat, it’s a whole other look. So it’s like the scene compartmentalized itself based on how people looked. And that actually was happening in New York, too, and I noticed that. Where did you start to find your look? I remember when I first saw you, I was like, ‘This is the only person who’s wearing bell bottoms now.’ The 70s look now is totally a thing, but not when you were doing that, though. The thing is any jeans I had I would just sew up and patch and stuff—just make. So I was always just wearing jeans, boots and t-shirts, regardless of whether they’re skinny jeans or flared or whatever. It was kind of super makeshift, super no money. But growing up you put me in a dress and I’d throw a temper tantrum. I didn’t like anything that was like, ‘Hey, look at me!’ But I also didn’t like any stuff that was like, ‘Hey, this is what I am!’ Was it conscious at all to be like rebelling against the D.C. anti-rockstar thing? More like rock ‘n’ roll? That never came to my mind at the time. There was no anti. But it really was anti in so much as I started smoking weed when I was 12 and drinking when I was 12, and I was not down with that straightedge shit at all. So part of me I think got my first lesson in kind of recognizing scenes and self-righteousness and things that connected people. But I love some rockstar shit, honestly. I went and saw fucking Rush. I loved Rush. I mean, I didn’t know what it was or anything. I didn’t compartmentalize at all. Like I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is my scene so I reject all others.’ I was like, ‘I don’t have a scene.’ I just feel like that’s kind of the music of Royal Trux. Like this is not part of any scene, but it’s kind of a conglomeration of all these different kind of influences. We can be like Rush, or we can be a punk band, you know? Exactly. We wear our influences a bit on our sleeves, but it’s not like you can actually list them all, because they get jumbled up, you know? I didn’t grow up in a skinnerbox, so basically every single thing that has touched my ears and that I’ve liked—and things that I’ve hated—have kind of formed my ... you know. I’m not in charge, I’m not in control of my brain. [laughs] That’s a fact. I got formed. By life. Life formed my brain. Stuck with the one I got. ROYAL TRUX’ WHITE STUFF IS OUT NOW ON FAT POSSUM.

23


KEVIN MORBY INTERVIEW BY DONNA KERN ILLUSTRATION BY ALICE MURTHY

There’s always been an element of worship in rock ‘n’ roll—you can even buy devotional candles with saintly images of Joey Ramone and Marc Bolan. And with his sizable Leonard-Cohen-by-way-of-Lou-Reed charms, it can’t be long now until Kevin Morby’s cherubic face appears on a candle of his very own. Morby’s music has always flirted with the divine, so it’s no surprise that his latest record is a full-on concept album about spirituality, complete with choirs, harps, devils, halos, prayers and a gloriously surreal companion film made with Chris Good. Kevin and I met up, quite appropriately, at Mount Washington’s Self-Realization Fellowship, but when the heavens unexpectedly opened we took refuge from the rain in a hallowed Highland Park watering hole to discuss the power of meditation and saunas, why he appears shirtless on his new album cover, how his vision of the ideal afterlife looks not unlike the 80s animated movie All Dogs Go to Heaven, and the life-changing insights he gained from a month of silence following vocal chord surgery. Read on for revelations as Kevin shops for painted tiles of psychedelic saints in Portugal and strives to find transcendence in a sound bath full of snorers at the Integratron. His celestial new double album of modern day hymns features something for the saints and the sinners alike. Oh My God is out now via Dead Oceans. Your label calls airplanes and beds your churches, and you’re in bed on the album cover. I was thinking about this—beds and turbulent planes might be some of the only places where atheists yell out, ‘Oh my God!’ What makes these places spiritual for you? I think it’s the one place where people who claim to not be religious become somewhat religious. I find myself praying in turbulence or on take off. There’s some sort of heightened reality that goes on with being up there, and for whatever it’s worth, being in a plane gives me some sort of clear vision. You’re in such an unnatural space—it gives me this heightened emotion. It gives me the sort of heightened emotional landscape where I’m able to … if I’m stuck on something in my life, be it a personal decision or an artistic decision, I feel like when I’m up on an airplane, everything seems to click in this almost life-and-death sort of way. Things that seem sad seem even more sad, and things that seem happy seem even more happy. It’s almost because what you’re doing is so vulnerable. Life feels very thin up there. I’m constantly traveling on planes, given that I’m a touring musician and constantly on the go, and so it just seemed to be this time and place … I live in Kansas City, but I spend a lot of time here and New York. This record was sort of nonspecific to any place, whereas my records in the past have been very centered in New York or very centered in Los Angeles. This one kind of feels all over the place—if anywhere, sort of above the clouds. That’s another thing, too. Being on an airplane is so stressful and so tense but then you get above the weather and it looks like a literal vision of what a heavenly kingdom looks like. I think there’s just a lot there. 24

You’ve never shied away from religious Absolutely. It’s really truly everywhere in the a motif—it’s like you write the beginning, topics in your music, but what inspired Midwest and it’s almost like I didn’t fully middle, and end of an album, and then you you to write a whole concept album about understand that until I moved to the east get to fill in all the pieces and drop certain religion—especially as a nonreligious coast. Religion is everywhere, in every corner words or certain phrases like ‘Oh my God’ of the world, but it wasn’t until I moved throughout the album and it becomes this person? I would say I’m spiritual but not religious. to the east coast … everything’s a little bit fun thing. And you get to really explore But it’s always just been in my vocabulary, more relaxed in terms of that [there]. Then that world. My last concept record was City especially growing up in the Midwest. A lot when I went back to the Midwest, I was Music. It came out in 2017. With that you of people call that the Bible Belt because it’s like, wow … it’s truly God-fearing country, actually end up learning a lot because you a very God-fearing part of the country and with billboards and marquees on churches research—you have this initial attraction or you’re constantly reminded about hell or and just the churches in general out there. a little bit of information about something, promised hell if you don’t live a certain way. But it’s always been a part of my vocabulary so you start going down that wormhole, I read that your family was Methodist— growing up where I grew up. People were and then you come out having learned a do you remember your earliest always surprised that I’d go there with my lot. Same thing with this. It’s really cool. I lyrics, but to me it’s literally just a part of think the first concept record I heard that experiences with religion at all? So we claimed to be Methodist though we the language. It’s a way to tell a story. Also really blew my mind wide open … the never acted on it. There was never a bible in that part of the country, the Wild West Mountain Goats have a record called All is kind of everywhere. Growing up on the Hail West Texas, and I heard that in high in the house growing up. We never went to plains you’re constantly reminded of that. school and I remember feeling like, ‘This is church or anything like that. I do remember I was fascinated with cowboys and I was an album that feels like I’m reading a book very early moments of maybe parents of fascinated with this—heaven and hell. The or something when I listen.’ This guy has other friends at my grade schools and stuff big difference between the two being that created a world in which these characters prying me about religion and asking what ‘cowboys’ have this sort of mythologized live and [it’s] exactly what you said—you my parent’s religion [was], what church we fairytale aspect, whereas while religion also can just go into that world. When you have belonged to, and then inviting us to church. has that, people still take it seriously … as if that record on, you’re witnessing the lives of Growing up, maybe I went to church twice it’s not … you know. I’ve never felt a reason those characters. Ever since then I’ve been with a neighborhood family that talked us to not use those tools to tell a story. very interested in it. into it and both times—because I knew my I love concept albums personally because You call out Sinatra on ‘Hail Mary’ on the parents weren’t that into it or took it that it can feel like such a cohesive complete new album. Some people credit him with seriously—I never took it that seriously. vision—a little world that you can go creating or popularizing the concept It’s kind of back to the cowboy fascination inside. This isn’t your first concept album. album. where I was like, ‘What is this place?’ You What draws you to the format? Are there Really? Wow! That’s cool. I had no idea. know what I mean? These people are very any classic concept albums you love that He also had a really interesting take on serious about it. I remember seeing grown inspire you? religion. He once said, ‘I have respect for men crying during sermons and stuff, but I For sure. I’m really drawn to it because I life in any form. I believe in nature, in never at any point felt I was wrong for not like fiction and I like reading fiction and I the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything believing in it. It felt like, ‘Oh, this is what like other concept records. As a songwriter, I can see or that there is real evidence for. some people are into, and we are not into it’s easy to exhaust the notion of writing If these things are what you mean by God, that and that’s OK.’ And I was just sort of about yourself all the time. When you then I believe in God.’ fascinated. It’s a crazy thing to hear about latch onto a subject that you’re naturally Wow—what a poet. I think that’s perfectly burning in hell for eternity. interested in, it becomes really fun. It’s put. Devils make lots of appearances in your like you’ll write a few songs and notice a At the same time, though, he recorded lyrics. thread between the three songs and sort of Christmas albums that ended with ‘Amen’ INTERVIEW


and stuff. So it was complicated for him. What’s your take on it all? What do you think about that? I think very similar to that. I just did a press tour in Europe and I was sort of asked that question like, ‘If there’s a God, what is God?’ That answer is way more eloquent than mine. I thought that was so beautiful when I read it. I was like, ‘Kevin would like this!’ Yeah, thank you. It’s very beautiful. I really relate to that. You know, I think the concept of God … if you’re going to go there or put a face to that name, I think that it’s really all about one person’s self. And I think that reality and living in this universe that we’re all thrown into, it’s all sort of about yourself. You know what I mean? It’s about finding beauty in the mundane. I think about that a lot—about how life can seem depressing or just boring at times, but when you actually stop to smell the roses—as they say— everything is pretty insane. Everything can be interpreted as this magical unbelievable experience—the fact that the sky’s blue or that trees grow or that we’re here at all. I think getting in touch with that sort of spiritual side with oneself is important. It’s something that as I get a little bit older, I feel more concerned with doing. I was reading recently that ancient cultures didn’t conceive of creativity the way that we do. They thought that if you were inspired it was divine. Like in ancient Greece, they would pray to the Muses for their creative inspiration. Apparently that’s where the word ‘music’ comes from. OK, I love that. Oh, wow! From ‘Muses.’ That’s so funny to hear you say that because I should have put that together. That makes a lot of sense. That’s wonderful because my mind was blown when I was like 19 years old and someone told me that ‘museum’— the origin of that word is to muse, which is … I mean, it’s so obvious, and ‘music’ as well. Now here I am at 31, learning. I love that so much because I just think ‘muse’—that’s everything. That word is like life to me. You know what I mean? That’s everything to me. And I love museums. I love music. I love just becoming inspired, and that’s everything to me. Where do you feel your creativity comes from? Does it ever seem like it’s coming from something magical outside of you? Absolutely. I think anyone who writes songs or anyone who writes stories, there’s this moment … that kind of goes back to why I like to write in bed. It’s almost like I can hit this state where I’m not fully awake and I’m not fully asleep and you find this in-between zone where I don’t know—it’s like you prick a hole in the universe and you’re able to go into this different chamber and that’s where the magic happens if that makes sense. I do think something takes place. There’s something beautiful about just creating something out of thin air and every time it starts to happen with me, I know that it’s happening. I’ve become very conscious of like, ‘Oh my God, it’s happening again.’ And I really have to follow it. It can be the sort of thing where I’m having a night at home and I’m planning on doing something—planning on cooking and


then calling a couple friends or something, but the moment that thing hits I have to cancel all plans and follow that down the rabbit hole. There’s a difference between just making something to make something and feeling inspired, but when you do have that inspiration, I think it’s like true magic. I think the true magic is that it will go on to be out in the universe in some form and it’ll help guide a person’s life, no matter how big or small. It’ll play some role in somebody’s life and you kind of become a part of the air in that way. You have eternal life from your music … It’ll last forever. Definitely. It’s like … being able to live forever. Mortality comes up a lot on your new album, so I wanted to ask: what do you think happens when we die? Or, maybe better yet, what do you want to happen? I can’t help but think it’s going to be similar to when you go under at the hospital or something. You know: if you get a procedure done, you just sort of fade out, and you of course wake up but you don’t remember really what happened in between. I think you go into that in between. There’s a part of me that believes that we just go into an elongated dream, you know? Sometimes there’s a part of me that thinks that reincarnation could be very possible. And sometimes there’s a pessimistic part of me that thinks that it’s just nothing. It’s just blackness. But I also think there’s something OK about that. In my ideal world, you know, it’s a very picturesque All Dogs Go to Heaven sort of thing where [it’s] suddenly me and everyone I’ve ever loved, and we have all the time in the world now to hang out. And all of our dogs! Absolutely. I would love to enter a kingdom where, yeah, I see my childhood dog and my best friend who passed away. I saw this movie recently—it’s Harry Dean Stanton’s last movie. It was actually directed and written by David Lynch, but Harry—are you a Harry Dean Stanton fan? Do you know who that is? You would recognize him. He’s been in a lot of movies and he died a couple years ago in his 90s. Really amazing actor. You’d definitely recognize him. He gives a speech at some point where he kind of knows that he’s entering the final days of his life. It’s this weird thing where even though he’s in his 90s, he’s in good health, but the doctor’s just kind of telling him he might die soon from natural causes. He’s trying to smoke this cigarette in a bar and the owner of the bar tells him, ‘You know, you can’t smoke in here and you have to go outside.’ And he goes off on this tangent and he’s like, ‘The cigarette doesn’t matter. None of this matters, you know. All of it’s going to go away. Someday I’ll go away. You’ll go away. The cigarette will go away. None of it will have ever existed. It will just go into the void, into darkness.’ And he upsets this owner of the bar and she starts to cry, and she says this really amazing thing and—I love this movie. It’s giving me chills just thinking about it—but she says, ‘Well, what are you supposed to 26

do with that?’ Almost like he convinced her that that’s what’s going to happen and she asks, ‘What can you do with that?’ And he has this moment—it’s so good—where he gets this little smirk on his face and he’s like, ‘Smile. All you can do is smile.’ That’s kind of how I think. All you can really do is smile, you know? When you contemplate the afterlife or what could happen, it’s one of those things you gotta … We’ll all find out at some point, you know. Until then, I think you just gotta smell the roses. As society becomes less religious or organized religion becomes less dominant, the feeling of awe is maybe something more elusive in our lives. Maybe you’d go into an old church or you would hear a sermon and you’d feel that feeling of awe. Where do you find awe in your life? I think as an artist you’re always trying to make something that’s a little larger than life, for both yourself and for also other people. It’s funny, all this stuff—I feel like if I was reading it, I would sound like such a boring weirdo, you know? Like, I’m into meditation now and I’ve gotten very into saunas and that culture, but it’s … I don’t know, in this new era of my life and giving up things like cigarettes or drinking less, trying to be healthier as I age, you know … I get really into these things. Like, I bought a sauna. I have one in my backyard in Kansas City, and I’m so into it. Those sort of rituals are very … I don’t know. I like being around the wood. The wood smells really nice and I like sweating and there’s something psychedelic to that. I’m trying to get fucked up as healthily as possible [laughter] and meditation and being in saunas do that to me. But nature for sure, you know. I’m always having to walk. When I lived here, I got super into walking and when I was in New York, I walked more in New York than I walk anywhere. Now that I live in Kansas City—or even being on the road or anywhere all the time—walks are a big part of my thing. I get a lot of thinking done there and it’s always sort of awe-inspiring to walk. A big thing for me is I need to be in water. I love being in water. I love getting in hot water and cold water. And [some] things have always been aweinspiring to me. I love visiting cathedrals. I love visiting museums. Those things haven’t gotten old to me yet. You lived in Los Angeles for a good bit of time. I was wondering if you ever dabbled in Los Angeles’ new age experiences: crystal meditation, sound baths, anything like that? I did do a sound bath at the Integratron in Joshua Tree. It was cool. To be honest with you, it was one of these things where I was very excited about it and then they were like, ‘OK … please don’t fall asleep because people snore.’ Then the moment it started there were like fifteen people snoring. [laughter] I could see how it’d be relaxing, but suddenly the sound bath became a bath of snores. But you know, we were just at the Self-Realization Center. That was kind of my first insight to meditation honestly. Now I do TM. I do Transcendental Meditation. Oh cool—like the Beatles!

For sure. I think George was super into it. I got into that when I was in Kansas City, but I finally properly got my mantra and did all the classes and stuff. Can you tell me what your mantra is? I can’t. You’re just given a mantra, an ancient mantra that’s been used before but it’s sort of impregnated with this goodwill of having been around for centuries, and it’s wonderful. But the Self-Realization Center—when I lived in Mount Washington, that was my first insight because there’s a meditation room within there and it’s super quiet and you walk in there and they have a display of a bunch of different … you know, there’s Jesus Christ, and there’s Gandhi and there’s all these different… All the religions. And it’s really nice. That was the first time in my life, maybe around 25-26 years old, where I’d go to a quiet place and sit and close my eyes and sort of just … I didn’t fully know what I was doing, but those were my first insights to meditation. It felt like a very Californian, very Los Angeles thing to do. But it was great, and now that has led to me doing TM every day. So I know monks will often take a vow of silence. You had to take an involuntary vow of silence… Wow, you did your research! Yeah. You had some polyps removed from your vocal chords and you had to be silent for a month. I think that you could say that was around the time that I was getting into meditation for the very first time… So that worked out well! Totally. It was really amazing. I think [of ] us as very social beings, and living in these popular cities, and doing what I do where I have to be a host in a lot of different situations, you forget to take time out for yourself and just hear the world around you and to sit in that silence. I think it’s really important to sit in that silence, which is why I’ve really furthered my meditation. But it was actually incredible not talking for a month. I’m one of those people who—maybe you can notice—I’ll just talk to fill up the air. I really go million miles a minute, so having doctor’s orders to not be able to speak for a month was really amazing. You hear people differently, you start to think about words differently, and you really learn to just listen. I really liked it and for a long time after that—this sort of just got turned into meditation—I would do things where I wouldn’t talk until noon, or I would take three hours out of my day where I wouldn’t say a word because I really enjoyed it and it helps you think. I describe meditation and the not talking about the same way—like drinking water for your mind. It’s almost like reality is like alcohol or it’s like substances. Reality is like caffeine and alcohol and cigarette smoke. It’s all these unhealthy things coming at you and clogging your brain, but meditating or not speaking and just sitting with yourself is like just taking some very sobering glasses of water for your mind. You mentioned cigarette smoke. I read that you had to quit smoking because of

this, and you had called your cigarettes your ‘sacred cigarettes.’ Ha—yes, yes, yes. Are there any objects that are sacred to you that have taken their place? Cigarettes really truly did feel that way. I always felt like… I used to smoke, so I totally understand. It becomes entwined in the creative process. Absolutely. I always felt like if I had cigarettes I was never alone. You make so many friends! You make so many friends. Bumming cigarettes off other people and standing around outside… Absolutely. I made so many friends that way—some of my best friends. I just felt like if you had cigarettes on you, you didn’t have to worry about being alone. I have something to do—I can go smoke a cigarette. But now to take the place of that, I mean: meditation. It’s something that I look forward to in a similar way like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get this time out of my day to myself.’ That’s really what a cigarette was in a lot of ways, to step outside and do that … Cigarettes are almost like an ex-girlfriend that can never be replaced. They were crazy and bad for me, but no one will ever kind of be that cool. [laughs] But I’m glad that we’re no longer seeing each other. Do you have any rituals that you do before a concert or before a tour? Yes, just stupid little rituals. I always have two beers before I play. I try to do no more, no less, as just a sort of tic. I also take two beers with me on stage and I never touch them. I might have a sip out of one, but I never touch them. It’s a weird thing. I like to have the two beers before and then take two beers with me on stage, and they just sit there. A lot of times I see people at the end of the show—like fans—just take them because they’re like, ‘There’s two full beers.’ But I like to sit with myself and do some breathing. I do three out, hold for three, three in, hold for three. I do that to calm my nerves. That’s basically it. I do some vocal warm-ups. When was the last time that you prayed, and what was the prayer? The last time that I prayed? It’s a good question. I feel like it wasn’t that long ago. I like to sort of send a prayer into the universe, as hippy-dippy as that sounds. I like to check in with myself and remind myself—I think it’s very important to remind myself—that so much of the world is less fortunate than I am, and also remind myself that there’s a lot of people who care about me and that I care about in my life … There’s a line on my new record—this kind of sums it up the best—that says, ‘I tried to pray but I didn’t know what to say, so I just mumbled some names and I said I hope they’re okay and amen. They were the names of my family and friends.’ And that kind of sums it up well—just a general positive thought to the universe about people who are struggling and about my family and friends. You’ve said that music has the power to make you cry. When was the last time that a song made you cry? INTERVIEW


Absolutely. For some reason, Nina Simone’s version of ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ by Bob Dylan—something about that recording and her vocal delivery makes me want to cry. I feel like it’s such an incredible song. Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian Jazz saxophonist. His music makes me want to cry all the time. There’s a song—the name’s really hard to pronounce—but it’s the last song. There’s an artist named Hailu Mergia who’s an African keyboard player, like, jazz keyboardist. The last song on his last record, which came out two years ago—that song is very emotional and it’s just this instrumental piece and that always makes me want to cry. But you know, I just did this thing … there’s a Bob Dylan night in San Francisco. I just performed at it. A bunch of different artists played one Bob Dylan song, so it was like 20 different artists or something and William Tyler … he’s an instrumental guitarist. Do you know who that is? He’s made a good name for himself. He’s pretty well known, but it’s instrumental stuff. He sang at this thing and I never heard him sing before. Like I said, he’s a well-known musician. I’ve seen him perform a million times before, but never sing. He sang a Bob Dylan song called ‘Not Dark Yet’ and it was really beautiful, and I think that’s probably the last time I got weepy listening to music. So—William Tyler covering Bob Dylan’s ‘Not Dark Yet.’ There’s always been an element of worship in rock ‘n’ roll. We call them ‘rock gods.’ You can even buy devotional candles now with Joey Ramone’s face. What does it feel like to be on the other side of that where people are getting tattoos of your face or your lyrics? It’s actually kind of crazy. I think when you set out, you sort of secretly want those things, and then when you get them … it’s interesting. I think it’s funny because it’s my name. It’s not a band name, it’s my birth name—it’s Kevin Morby. Sometimes it feels like my birth name has become a brand or something. When somebody does something like that, gets lyrics tattooed or something … I don’t know, I feel a little separated from it. I feel like they’re into this brand that’s been cultivated by me or by a record label. I mean, I love that they relate to it, but it’s hard to wrap your mind around someone getting a tattoo of your face. I also have people who completely hate me. You know what I mean? Which is fine and just comes with the territory, but it’s a funny thing to think that some people think about you intensely enough to love you so much or hate you so much. It’s an interesting thing when you put so much of yourself out there as an artist or a musician, but it’s one-sided, you know? They think that they know you, but they don’t. And in the age of social media people can really feel like they’re close to you. There’s a guy who’s obsessed with Katie [of the band Waxahatchee], who’s my girlfriend, and by way of that he hates me. When I first started out, I took such small steps with my career. It took me a long time to start seeing real success. For the longest time, I was like, INTERVIEW

‘I just want people to hear about me,’ and then that moment happens where you cross over into this other thing and then suddenly you’re like, ‘Oh, wow. Well, this is strange. This is stranger than I thought it would be.’ But it’s just part of it. I don’t know one person in my peer group of fellow musicians who doesn’t have something similar. It just comes with it. I noticed that you posted your mailing address and asked people to send you letters. Have you received letters from people? Can you tell me about them? I’ve received a ton of letters. It’s amazing. Some of them are just like, ‘Hi, Kevin. I like your music. Thank you for everything’ and some of them are, you know … I had a woman write me recently saying that her mother passed away from cancer, but she had really found some solace with my music, and she knit me a hat. Things like that—very sweet and sensitive things like that. I received one letter from a woman who dated a guy who liked me a lot, and she wrote me to tell me that ‘my ex-boyfriend is obsessed with you and I just wanted to write and let you know that I never liked your music.’ [laughter] Which I actually kind of love because I mean … it was fun to get that letter. I just actually really appreciate it. She’s become kind of a pen pal. But they’re all over the place. And I mean, yeah—you know, a lot from young kids who asked for advice on how to get started playing music … They’re really, really cool. I wanted to talk a little bit about the film that you made with Chris Good to accompany the album. You screened it at Hollywood Forever. It was very magical! What was that experience like? It was amazing. I learned a lot doing that. Chris wrote the music videos and I wrote the rest of the film, like the dialogue about the halos… You wrote the dialogue? It was so great! I loved that. I wrote that, yeah. Thank you. I write a lot of short stories and poems and I want to release a collection of those someday, but … You should! Kevin Morby: Thank you. I plan on it, but you know, it’s just a little scary. But with this, it was basically taking some of those things I’ve written and putting them on screen, which was really fun, and it gave me a little bit of the bug. I want to do more of it, though it also showed me how difficult it is. It’s a crazy process unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I feel like music is 1/10 of film, because sound is a big part of a movie, but also you’ve got coloring issues and different lenses and cameras and having to do shots over and over. We just made a pretty lowkey fun half hour film but it took us like six months to make. But it was super fun and I learned a lot about sound design and how crucial that is to a film. I really love now having this sort of visual representation of my album and I was able to have a lot of fun with it and like you saw, having the talk radio stuff speak my lyrics—just fun ways to honor the album, rather than just the regular ‘release singles and go on tour.’

You know, there’s that German word ‘gesamtkunstwerk’—it’s like a complete work of art. It’s so cool that you created this film and this album. Everything is this complete vision and concept. Thank you for saying that. That’s how it feels. For the first time. Every other record I’ve ever done, there’s always something like, ‘Oh I kind of wish we would have done that.’ But with this, it feels like everything. I was able to take my time and get all the photos I wanted to get in and make this movie, and it feels very good. Shifting over to fashion: on past tours you’ve had really amazing suits. You had the suit that said ‘Crybaby’ with the thunderclouds and the tears. You had the kind of Hank Williams suit with the music notes. Will there be an ‘Oh My God’ suit and have you had a hand in designing these? My good friend Judith makes them. She has a company called Rusty Cuts here in L.A. We always kind of collaborate on it. We get together and talk about the subject matter from the album and decide what seems like that would be good visually. Yes, there will be an ‘Oh My God’ suit. I’m very excited. There’s two of them. I actually haven’t seen it in person yet, but she just sent me the photos. [Opens the photos on his phone:] As you can see, there’s praying hands, there’s candles, there’s halos. There’s a devil tail around this candle. Then on the back, there’s the airplanes and then there’s the wings at the shoulders. You know, on the album, there’s the whole thing about ‘horns for my head, wings for my shoulders.’ And then obviously the big bold ‘Oh My God.’ I’m very proud of these. I know you’re inspired by Leonard Cohen. He was Jewish but he would sing about Jesus and he became ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk. He once said, ‘I never met a religion I didn’t like.’ Is that something that resonates for you? Love that. You know, I’m a little bit illiterate when it comes to most religions, but I think in a very sort of broad strokes way, yes—all religions are beautiful. When I’m on tour in other countries, when I’m anywhere… [Listening to the song playing in the bar:] My favorite Deerhunter song! It’s a very good song. I think the best representation is religious art. I was in Portugal recently and I went into this tile shop where they sell tiles and there’s all these religious paintings of saints on tiles and I bought this really big one—sort of expensive and really heavy— and the woman was very curious as to why I as an American would want to buy this saint. The saint is named Saint Fátima. I was sort of explaining to her that I just have an interest in religion and religious art, and then she told me the story behind the saint and it was funny that she ever was so curious as to why I would like it—the story was so interesting, you know? It was about these two shepherd children who had a vision of a saint coming to them and so everyone began to worship these children as these prophets. But the woman telling me the story, she’s like, ‘My interpretation of that is that these kids lived on a farm and maybe

they ate something that was psychedelic and they had a vision.’ I don’t know—I like to collect religious art. And I really like what Leonard Cohen said and I really relate to that: ‘I never met a religion I didn’t like’ because all of it’s going to tell its own tale. In the same way that I’ve never met a city that I don’t like, you know? Everything’s got its story and everything is interesting if you look at it the right way. The new album features some unexpected sounds. You’ve got flute, harp, choirs … There’s even a storm. And neither of the two singles you’ve released are guitarbased songs. Did you set out to create like, maybe, a more sacred sound? This is my fifth solo record and on the first four, it’s mainly guitar-based. With this one we went into it kind of making another guitar-based record, but given the subject matter it just didn’t feel appropriate to make this holy or spiritual record. [Listening to the song playing in the bar:] It’s funny, I think this is Spiritualized… We wanted to make something with the instrumentation that you would see in a cathedral or something—piano and organ and a choir and a harp—and we wanted to break the songs down to their parts and have it be the bare essentials and have the vocal be front and center. We wanted everything to be naked in this way, because I think there’s something holy about that. And on the album cover, I obviously have my shirt off … which is a decision I now have to live with for the rest of my life! I was wondering if you were going for like a sexy Jesus vibe or…? [laughter] No, more than anything … honestly, it’s two things. Number one is I write a lot in bed before I go to sleep and when I wake up, and I don’t wear a shirt when I do those things. So … I felt like if I wore a shirt I’d be lying, you know? I don’t wear a shirt in bed. And number two, the whole thing’s supposed to be naked and exposed, like … This is my body. This is my soul. And you look at any religious art and all the baby angels—no one’s clothed, you know? [laughter] It’s definitely a decision I now have to live with, but you know what? I’m happy with that because I didn’t want to wear some vintage t-shirt that I have or something and put it in a time and place, and that’s what this whole record’s about, you know? It’s not specific to any time and place. I want it to exist in the air and I want it to have no time or place. Sometimes with clothes it’s like, ‘Oh, this shirt makes me look like maybe this photo was taken in the 60s’ or maybe, ‘This shirt is a shirt that people recognize from the 90s.’ I wanted it to be very exposed. I wanted to make myself uncomfortable a little bit. I mean, I definitely see that now they’re making posters of it and stuff and I’m like, ‘Oh, God. This is going to be hanging up…’ [laughter] But I wouldn’t have it any other way… KEVIN MORBY’S OH MY GOD IS OUT NOW ON DEAD OCEANS. VISIT KEVIN MORBY AT KEVINMORBY.COM.

27


DAKIM INTERVIEW BY sweeney kovar PHOTOGRAPHY BY CINQUE MUBARAK The connection between music and spirituality gets frequent lip-service but it is a rare and special thing to find music that can function as a pathway towards the spirit. It is even rarer to have the privilege of recognizing a musician devoting themselves to music as a spiritual practice in real time. That’s been my experience with Dakim, the unassuming prodigal son of Detroit’s deep and fertile cultural legacy. I first crossed paths with Dak in the fall of 2013 during his first trip overseas. Independent filmmaker Gus Sutherland had recently completed his documentary All Ears, chronicling his understanding and admiration for the L.A. beat scene of the late 2000s, and he’d organized a university screening in Belfast, Ireland. Gus flew out Dak, Ras_G, Kutmah (then recently deported from the U.S.—

fuck ICE! Abolish ICE!) and yours truly for a panel and performance. Witnessing Dak travel across the Atlantic with a set-up that included a chunky and obstinate 16-channel mixing board for one performance for about 200 people was an impressive and humbling display of dedication. Dakim’s music stirred something in me and I was glad when he accepted the invitation to sit for an interview. A selfdescribed hermit, Dak has spent most of his career making music for himself, with little regard for the rat-race most of his peers lose themselves in. That also meant that you may have had a hard time trying to find any of his releases, which don’t come close to catching up with his prolific work ethic. Now, however, the eclectic composer seems to have gained a confidence and

You were saying you cut out the the main ones. I can’t do those anymore Backwoods and the tobacco. 
My lungs either. just couldn’t take it. That’s what happens Getting to the music—one of the when you smoke Backwoods everyday for interesting aspects about you is how years on end. At first I did miss it a little bit you’ve had a presence without having a but now I can’t even smoke them anymore. ton of stuff released. How were your early Maybe once or twice a year, I’ll try to smoke days in Detroit making music? a Backwoods for a special occasion and I’m It was always just me and a small handful of homies in Detroit. We were pretty like, ‘Man, this shit is gross.’ insulated. We weren’t really accepted by I remember thinking the same thing the the elite of Detroit. People came from first time I tried a Backwoods but then I all over and congregated at spaces like grew to appreciate it. 
I actually enjoyed St. Andrews or Hip-Hop Shop, Lush my first time. Prince Po from Organized Lounge and Buddha Lounge a little bit Confusion was in Detroit for a show later too. Everybody knew us because we around 2006, about a week after Jay Dee were everywhere, but we were scrubs. We died. We were kicking it afterwards and he were doing our own thing. Maybe we were was trying to get some trees. So we took looked at as scrubs and felt ourselves as him back to my hood—the grimy part of scrubs. But we kept at it, staying in our the hood—which he was real excited about own bubble and developing our own little for some reason. I remember thinking, thing. Trying to push it or get it out there ‘You’re not safe right now—you shouldn’t wasn’t even the mentality at the time. We be so excited.’ Anyways, we got the trees just did it and it was for us. My whole thing and went back to the house and he pulled with music since we started was therapy. I out the Backwoods. We were like, ‘What started making music at the same time I the hell is that?’ As a kid I remember seeing stopped going to school, around the age of the Backwoods package at the grocery store 14. My brother left behind his turntables and being intrigued because it kind of when he went away to school in 94. Within looked like the Big League Chew package. a year or so I started getting into his stuff It looked like candy.
 and making tapes. My life fell apart at the What were people smoking in Detroit at time—I got super depressed and stopped the time? going to school. I just focused on making Swishers, Optimos and Garcia y Vegas. tapes because that was the only thing I Dutches were around but nobody was really really could do at the time. I was making checking for them like that. Swishers were these little rinky-dink tapes and did that 28

perspective that is allowing him to maintain the sacredness of his creative space while more intentionally engaging with the commercial aspects. Though we began our interview riffing on the pedestrian yet universal subject of how-are-you-smoking-your-weed-nowadays, we quickly moved on to matters of greater consequence and import. With great lucidity, vulnerability and candor, Dakim shed light on his early days in Detroit, his admiration for the work of Pharaoh Sanders and the spiritual practice he’s been able to cultivate through his work. A quiet warrior, Dakim’s art aims for the soul—he’s using the magic of sound to bring the discerning listener that much closer to the source.

for a few years. Eventually, I met my homie Leaf and he was the first person to really hear me and support me. We linked and we’ve been cool ever since. That’s when we started kind of forming a crew but even still, it was just us. We never really got out of that doing-it-just-for-us feel. Was that ever a point of conversation or was that just implicitly understood? We had dreams of doing things. Leaf would call me up sometimes like, ‘I had this dream we were doing this show!’ But as far as putting a plan to it? We just made the music and that was it. Even still to this day, that’s how I am. I make the music and that’s it. All that extra shit? That’s not for me. It’s to the detriment because that’s not the way to get shit popping. When did you first start to feel like your music was reaching outside your bubble? That wasn’t until I lived in L.A. I only stayed in L.A. for three years but it feels like I was there for a lifetime. It was in L.A. that I started hearing from folks overseas, like Gus Sutherland in Ireland and my man Bun out of Japan. I had no idea people were listening. Gus is really the person to let me know people were listening. Before that, I just thought it was me and the homies. What brought you to L.A.? My wife. We met on a hip-hop chatroom in AOL back in 96. That’s amazing! What were the chat rooms like back then?

Just a lot of people grillin’ people. ‘What you know about Freestyle Fellowship?’ ‘You get that new 2MEX tape?’ That kind of shit. I was in Detroit so I didn’t know anything about that but I was intrigued by it. It was a place where like-minded people could come together and mostly just crack jokes on the new guys. My wife was in there and we had a few instant messages. Eventually we talked on the phone and eventually I came out to Orange County. I think that was 2000 or 2001. I kept going back and forth visiting and by 2007 it was clear something had to happen. So I moved out there and stayed with her and her two roommates in Highland Park. I stayed there for a few months and then got my own place in Cypress Park. I moved a few blocks down, then I moved to Glendale where I stayed for maybe a year. Then one of her roommates moved out and I ended up moving back to the house in Highland Park. So it was coincidence that you moved while there was this migration of Detroit people to Los Angeles at that time? I moved for love, man! I wasn’t thinking about music at all until I started going to Project Blowed. I was on MySpace at the time and this cat in New Jersey named Macross sent me a message directing me to Dibia$e and this beat thing happening at Project Blowed. I hit up Dibia$e and he told me to come down and my mind was blown. Project Blowed for the first time... INTERVIEW


oh my God. From that point I was catching Like I said before, it seems like a lifetime. the bus from Highland Park to Leimert We’ve been living here in the Bay for 10 Park, which is a mission. There’s a couple years now and I was only in L.A. for three of times when I missed the last bus home. years but it seems like I was there way I think that actually happened my first longer than we’ve been here … probably night going out there. The bus stops early because so much happened. I lived in so but Project Blowed goes to late and I didn’t many places and met so many people. I know that. So I was just out there walking look back on that time fondly. It was a on Crenshaw at 3 AM not knowing how I time of growth. I had never been out of the house. I lived at the crib until I was 25, so was going to get back. I had just got there it was all new for me. and I knew nothing about the city. Luckily How did it affect your creative process? this random dude in a Cadillac just slid up I don’t know that it affected my process to me like, ‘What you doing out here?’ He directly but it got me thinking about more gave me a ride and I got home. That was a things. Specifically texture, space and blessing because that could of turned out mixing. Up until I met people like Dibia$e, real bad. I got caught out there a few times, everything I did was all based on the feel. I scrambling to get home, but I kept going spent so many hours on my MPC making back because the energy was just incredible. music but it was all about the feel. The That’s where I met Dibiase, Ras_G, Sacred thump, the size, the mix? I didn’t have a and we were rolling from there. concept of any of those things. I learned the How do you look back now on your time MP on my own in the basement, same way in L.A.? I learned everything on my own. I didn’t INTERVIEW

know any basics. I just made beats and put them on tape. I wasn’t tracking them out or anything like that. Then I started hearing cats with crazy boom and big, fat drums with the shit sounding like it’s supposed to sound. That got me thinking about that. I’m still working on that because that’s not my strong suit. Just within the last couple of months or so, I don’t feel completely unconfident as far as mixing goes. I love how your music is very free. You can have one piece of music that is easily understood and adheres to more ordinary structures and then you can have another piece of music that is just abstract and dense. Were you always that expansive in your music-making or did that progress through time? It’s always been like that, totally unintentionally. I would hear something and want to try it, as simple as that. My influences coming up were RZA, Jay Dee, Timbaland, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin,

Bjork … it’s all the same to me. Whatever I could get the machine to do is what I was trying to do. If it’s hip-hop beat right now and then in ten minutes it’s something that’s 200 BPMs, that’s cool. I never really had any barriers as far as that’s concerned. Maybe being from Detroit has something to do with that. We’re big on electronic music and eclectic music is always around. Dance music and uptempo stuff has been in my blood forever so getting the drum machine to go up in tempo and get away from traditional hip-hop tempos … that wasn’t even a thought. I didn’t realize there was a range until I got out of my own comfort zone and realized most people are just one thing. Which is good too, because that’s how you master things. I never really mastered any of the things that I tried because I wanted to try everything. Earlier you were mentioning the therapeutic benefits of music-making. Can you break that down a bit more? 29


That’s all music is—therapy. Firstly, it’s always been around. My parents listened to a lot of Motown. I was in a band in junior high, but when I found my musicmaking process, that’s where I found my spirituality. I was 5% before that. That’s pretty cut-and-dry, but I feel there’s more to it than that. There’s a spiritual essence that I’ve been curious about my whole life. Working with music so intimately plugged me directly into that. I can plug into the source. It’s meditation. Recently, I did a serious meditation course—like a ten-day course. I saw how similar deep, serious meditation is to the creative process, when you get in there and the channels just open up and stuff starts flowing … that’s the closest thing to peace. It’s my spiritual practice more than my hobby or my career. It’s my salvation, man. Is that also why it wasn’t ever easy or appealing to engage with the whole business side of it? That’s exactly why. This is where my heart is. Putting a price tag on it is always hard. Going beyond that, marketing and all that … I don’t even get into it because it’s so far away from the process. Elongating that peaceful space for as long as possible … that’s what I was doing in the basement in Detroit for years but then it got away from me for a while. Then I moved to L.A. and things got crazy. My process never really got back to where it was. Again, meeting people like Dibia$e and finding out how much I lacked—that put me on a path to figuring things out. I was trying things to get to an end for a really long time. Most of the stuff that’s out now, since about 09, that’s not my natural music. Anything before that is my natural music—my natural state—because I was doing it out of the love and the need for that peace. Then getting around more people and seeing that this is something that people can make careers out of … that changed my focus but not for the better. How were you able to bring it back? Did moving up here help? Moving up here helped clear my mind and get me back in my natural creative space, but it was really last year when my mom got sick. That was really rough. She’s doing better now but there was a point about a year ago when I had a night where I felt that was the last time I was going to see my mom. That was serious trauma and to deal with that, I brought the MP in the garage and everyday—as much as possible—I was just in here. I was trying to get away from the trauma and the depression. I made about a hundred tracks and put them up on Bandcamp. I was also trying to get over another part, which was doing it just for the process and not sharing it. I checked out KanKick’s BandCamp, and I met my man Tiago Frugoli, who lives down in Brasil. That combination of experiences helped me take BandCamp seriously. I started making stuff and posting it up right away. I knew if I waited, I would secondguess myself. That started the process that’s still going on now, removing that barrier. I’ve been standing in my own way. I’ve had a million reasons not to put something out, INTERVIEW

or not share it or not even make it. Dealing with some trauma and going back into that peaceful space, working on the MP nonstop … that put my mind back to where it was when I was younger. My garage is like my mom’s basement now. I feel like I got back to the purity. It feels good to be able to share the stuff as it’s happening. This also might be a good time to introduce some of the folks you frequently collaborate. I’m thinking of the Butter Made crew, like Ahk and them. Ahk is the first guy that comes to mind. He’s my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since we were babies. I always remember this: my mom used to put Frosted Flakes in plastic bags and we used to sit on my front porch and play G.I Joe’s and Transformers and eat Frosted Flakes. That’s my brother, plus his birthday is like two days away from mine. I reconnected with Ahk through my homie Leaf Erikson. He’s all over Detroit— everybody knows him. He’s a real peopleperson, which is the opposite of me. We started as Audopilots and then the homies Blake Eerie and AC Pull joined. Dirtee Curt came through with Blake. That was around the time we met Baatin. Leaf was at the bar at St. Andrews and Baatin came up to him like, ‘We’re gonna be friends.’ And just like that, they became best friends. Leaf called me up like, ‘Yo, I met Baatin!’ I was thinking he was making shit up. Eventually, a couple of weeks later, we drove over to Baatin’s house. That was my first time at his place and as soon as I walked in, I seen Ahk. We both had a moment. I hadn’t seen him in like 10, 15 years at that point. That’s magic. Our other homie, Damien, he’s real tight with Ahk. He introduced me to SunRa and Pharaoh Sanders and that really changed my life. Pharaoh Sanders let me know that music was … more. That’s what let me know that this is a language. This is spirituality. This is how you do this. This is what it’s all about. That let me know that music can say everything. That’s all through Leaf and Baatin and Ahk. Hearing Pharaoh Sanders from Damien for the first time, I’ll never forget that. Do you remember the song? ‘Hum-Allah.’ I was weeping. That song is a lifetime. It starts smooth then it becomes the worst shit ever, but still makes sense, and then the harmony and the melody come back in. That’s what let me know this is serious. I didn’t view sound the same. It was a sacred thing after that. Baatin being around, he had this shamanistic energy about him. He was the high priest bringing us all this energy from different times and spaces. That was a magical time. A little before that, through my man John, I met Sterling Toles, who was already very deep on that path. He was already living in the place Pharoah Sanders took me, like he has all the answers to those ill questions in the back of your mind. I can’t forget Hughie— Hugh Whitaker. He keeps things together. He’s the producer, beyond just making the music he makes sure this shit happens. And he makes incredible music too. That’s pretty much the crew.

There’s another member of the crew I somewhere and someone who doesn’t speak wanted to ask you about—I think his your language is bugging out and asking you name is Awesome Pete? to sign things. This is nuts! It’s hard to wrap I don’t know where Awesome Pete is my mind around, to be honest. Everytime anymore. I haven’t seen him in a long I go out, I can’t believe it’s happening. I time. He’s hard to find, but he still kind just do my thing. I’m pretty isolated. I of gives me courage to say things I couldn’t don’t really push anything. When someone say otherwise. This stuff is therapy—that’s hits me up to do a festival somewhere … all Awesome Pete has ever done. It’s a way how do you even know me? My wife and to give my anxieties and my fears a voice, I are going to Glasgow, Scotland, in a few so they’re not beating me up. It’s like, ‘OK, months for a festival. It’s a cool thing. I’ve you can speak. You can do your thing.’ In seen places I never dreamed I’d be able to doing that, I overcome it. This fear has see just from staying locked on the MP. been holding me back my whole life, so yell That was never my intent. I just wanted to about it all you want, just do it on the mic. feel better. It’s two steps for getting at it: recognizing How does it feel when you perform live ? it’s there and then putting it out there. And It’s usually nerve-wracking. More often it’s still scary! than not, it’s not enjoyable. One show I Those things don’t go away—you just get did enjoy was in Korea at this experimental better at dealing with them. noise festival. The energy of the other artists Right. I know everybody deals with fear blew my mind. Also I was prepared. I knew and anxiety to varying degrees. For so exactly what I was doing. That actually can long, I just let it keep me in a shell. Now throw me for a loop in its own way because I’m trying to think around it and maybe I like to think I enjoy improvising more. I expose it a little bit. I’m hoping that can was very prepared and everything was lined lessen its power or transmute that energy up, I knew exactly what I was going to into something more constructive. do. It went off without a hitch and I was I know Gus Sutherland out of Ireland really pleased with the performance. It was has been a big supporter. a real serious, high-brow thing and my set Gus’ help has been indispensable. Firstly, got people loose a bit. People were actually his premier in Belfast for the All Ears documentary was my first time going dancing and getting into it. But in general, overseas. That experience alone was a huge I’m a hermit. Not being in the house is not boost and with the film showing in other enjoyable for me. I mean, I like to go to the places in the world, I’m sure it’s cultivated park, take walks with my wife and things new listeners. I also feel like Gus’ work like that. But I don’t really like to go out. has helped gain more support back home Being in social situations in any context, it in Detroit. It’s so common that Detroit can be rough. I’ve been a hardcore hermit artists have to leave home and get love for about 20 years now. I don’t really know elsewhere for the love to be shown in the how to be around people, just to be frank city. It makes sense in a way—everyone is with you. The social aspects of performing so talented, it’s easy to be one of many. It’s are the most difficult. ‘Oh shit, people are reasonable that you’d have to leave to stand looking at me!’ I just keep my head down out. The thing that’s best about connecting and stay focused. with Gus is that, after doing All Ears in L.A., Are you recreating things you have on he went to Detroit to make The Unseen. It record or are you actually playing live feels great that our relationship extended to and improvising? include a whole world of artists in the city. These days, it’s more live arranging. I kind Cats I came up with, people who were early of like to do live sets that are not recorded. influences and my closest friends all got Some time ago, maybe three years ago, I did love in the film. To have any part in shining some footwork stuff and that I did perform light on my city is incredible. For All Ears live pretty close to the recorded versions. though … if I had known how serious Gus Besides that, I like to make new stuff and was about making it happen, I probably arrange it live. I like for that performance would have gotten a haircut. to be the only time that will ever happen. I How did the collaboration with Opio know that the best moments musically—or come about? even any art where improvisation is a thing, Opio—that was a dream. I grew up on his the best takes are not recorded. Something music, for real. Hieroglyphics was such a about it just doesn’t allow it. Probably part of my early development that when Monk’s best performance on the piano, the word came that Opio wanted to work no one will ever hear it because it wasn’t on something, I was through the roof! I recorded. If his wife and his family were in sent him a few tracks and he recorded the house, they heard it. That’s who it was some stuff and I remixed them. It was a real for. quick, simple and easy thing. He’s a cool Do you feel like you have times like that? down to earth dude—like dude next door. All the time! When I’m playing piano, or You would never know he was sitting on working on something new, the best times classics! aren’t recorded. That used to really bother You’ve mentioned traveling and traveling me back in the day, but I learned to be at because of music. What has that done for peace with that. Even if I’m by myself, I’m you? playing for the spirit. They heard me. It’s been inspirational. Everytime I go some place, it’s another realization that people VISIT DAKIM AT DDUST.DIRECT AND are listening. It’s mind-blowing to go AT DDUSTDIRECT.BANDCAMP.COM 31


GIANNA GIANNA INTERVIEW BY TOLLIVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEX THE BROWN GIANNA GIANNA don’t make any damn sense. She talks a mile-a-minute, an oral collage of asides and cutting insights on modernity, sexuality and love. Her art is equally operatic. It’s big and bright and boldly oblique, yet it describes life more succinctly than anything I’ve seen. You see it, you feel it, and suddenly the existential dread abates because you recognize yourself in the fullness of this character. The ‘Famine’ video came out in May, and her full EP is due this summer. You’re sober. Is that a big deal to you, or like huge, and it was for Martin Luther King, Jr., day. Cuz like his right-hand man is it like, whatever? I just feel like it’s such an … you really have is gay. Without him, where would we be? to have the time and money and the energy But they told me to take it down. to want to do that. I can’t do anything Did they think kids were gonna see the mindlessly. Call it OCD or control freak or flag and be like HMMYEAHH? whatever it is. But I can’t just be like, ‘Oh, I just think of myself and being queer, let’s do this fun thing spur of the moment.’ [and] what that would have done for me It’s like OK, what are the pros? What are to see that in school. Cuz there are books the cons? I’m that type of super-rational with mommies and daddies. Why can’t person. I’ve been around it my whole life. there be … Let’s make it equal. Just equal I’ve been doing music since I was 16, so I’ve information. Cuz that’s brainwashing. That seen it. I was always like, ‘Oh, I’ll pass for heckin’ seems odd. now,’ and now I’m 28 so it’s like, why now? We’re all out and we’re like, lazy gays in black turtlenecks! But there’s still so Maybe when I’m 90 I’ll try mushrooms. Honestly? That’s the perfect time to do it. much that I’m ashamed of in moments Cuz I heard mushrooms are a really good that surprise me. Where I’m like, ‘Why magnesium booster and muscle relaxer. I am I hiding right now? Why am I being feel like a psychedelic would probably be weird?’ And it would have been so tight more my vibe. But yeah—not until I’m if I’d started as a kid being like, ‘Oh, it’s cool.’ retired, did the kids thing. I was lucky that my mom and my dad would I don’t even know what magnesium does. dress crazy and whatever. And my mom was I know nothing about the human body. super-glam and amazon. She’s taller than Oh my God, I’m like ‘health freak!’ I love it. me. And she’s big and unapologetic. So Magnesium controls all your muscles. And that’s what I grew up with. Jesse, my other so if you have a muscle twitch you should brother—he’s gay. We grew up in Irvine, take a magnesium supplement and it’ll go which is conservative, white. Weird looks away. all the time. But we just dressed how we I drink this stuff called Huel … wanted, whatever. He wore sparkles in his Hmmm. What the … hair and leopard head to toe. He was really It’s basically off-brand Soylent. glam. But if there was literally anything in a Hell yeah. Is it cheaper? classroom setting that was like, equal, I feel Not really. It’s basically the same price. like it would change lives. My friend’s addicted to Soylent. He like Like an institution. Home is different swears by it. It seems kinda, like, chalky from an institution. and— Totally. Yes. And it’s legal to marry the same It’s chalky and lame. Yeah. Seems weird. It’s well-documented sex, so why is that a thing? Why is that a that you’re a teacher and you do a lot of thing in a school still? Have you and your brother Damien different things. What is your day like? worked together on your music since OK. It’s weird. I wake up. 6 AM. Get BLOK? dressed. Go to work. And I always sneak in Yes! So he produced the first four songs I rainbow flags, there’s trans color blocking. I ever performed. Since then I produce, or used to work at a Christian pre-school—I I get a guest producer. Like ‘Famine’ is quit two weeks ago. I’m not religious at all. produced by my friend Nigel [Wilson]. But It was super-friendly—nice, cute. I was like mostly I produce. OK, cool. But they told me to take down I was going through your YouTube one of my bulletin boards. The pastor’s gay. and whatnot, and it seems like you’re They’re progressive and they’re liberal and releasing things as they come to you. Is whatever. But they told me to take down ‘Famine’ leading up to a project? this bulletin board that had a trans flag and Yeah, it is. I’m releasing an EP and every a rainbow flag. Cuz I did it really blatantly, song has a music video. And it’s gonna be 32

with this label … I’m still deciding. They have Sony distribution, but they’ve only ever put out gospel records. So I’m like, ‘Have you seen my videos? Are you sure?’ And also my voice isn’t that good to ever be in a gospel choir. So like, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?’ So I might do that, but I’m releasing the EP either way. So there’s another video called ‘Wrath’ that I’ve already shot and directed and edited already. And then there’s one more music video coming out for this song ‘Collapse,’ and that’s gonna be a DDR video game simulation. And then once that’s released this summer, the EP the next day. Reverse Lemonade [laughs]. And like much more paced out and much more DIY with less of a message. So. The ‘Famine’ video feels very you. There’s an auteur kind of vibe. I know it was a collaboration with [director of photography] Tyler [Bradberry]. What was the process? I told him, ‘These are the shots I want. You just make sure the things that I want are in frame.’ And he’d be like, ‘Hey, I have an idea. How about you lie on the grass right there?’ I did the main storyline, but [for example] there’s a living room scene, that’s his living room. It’s so cute, with Ren & Stimpy merch. I edited it. But he’s so pro, he actually works on movies. That was filmed on an Alexa Mini—the same camera Blade Runner was shot on. It’s like a movie theater camera. I was like, ‘I’m not worthy of this.’ I got asked to make a short-film for OUTFEST which was presented by HBO and the Directors Guild of America. And that movie was all shot on my phone. I showed it at the Ford Theater in Hollywood. It’s like that outdoor amphitheater. My cellphone movie was shown on this huge screen. And Molly Shannon presented it and I was like ‘… this is an iPhone movie.’ Right after it was a movie about Jane Austen, like a serious period piece. I was like, ‘Are you guys sure you chose the right person?’ Cuz it was literally on my cellphone. I mean it was tight, or whatever. The imagery was cool of course, cuz like, I made it. But like … which iPhone? 6. Damn!

Like super not good. The 6 was a good era though. I just got Damien an 8, I think, for his birthday. And he’s like, ha-ha! And I still have my like, heckin’ 6—it’s so dirty. I like that you say ‘heckin.’ The first time you said it I was like, did she just say ‘heckin’? I don’t cuss either. It’s like I’m straight-edge but I’m not. Like I don’t care. I’m all about being authentic and being myself. So if I were to start [swearing], I would say it all the time. I’ve already dropped heckin like, three times. That would be the f-word. And I work with kids and I’m always gonna work with kids. So I also sang opera in high school, and I definitely feel like it influences my art now, especially my music that feels more pastiche. Has that been your experience? I feel like your reference points are almost more important than what you’re saying. Like where you’re coming from—your intention. With that knowledge and dare I say, culture, there’s more of a sense of ‘there’s more to this’ and you get where this person’s coming from. When you know there’s a band and they’re like, ‘My favorite film director is Harmony Korine’ and they’re like, ‘Who’s Passolini?’ Like if you just know Harmony Korine, you have to know their references and know their references’ references. You have to get all the way down to come up with your own voice and vision. You never know what the references are completely, but I feel like you get more like a vibe that ‘there’s something here’ if you do have that background—that there’s more to the world than just like what’s in L.A. right now. ‘Famine’ is about toxic relationships. Is it about a specific situation? It’s like every relationship I’ve been in, except for the one I’m currently in. I’m pansexual. I’ve been with everyone. And I mean everyone [laughs]. I’ve noticed that what I used to be attracted to was people just coming into their sexuality in terms of discovering that they’re queer or non-binary or whatever. That they’re a lesbian. I noticed that I put up with too much because I’m like, ‘Oh, I know what they’re going through, I’ve been there.’ I wanted to help foster it. But I don’t need to be their mom and I don’t need to put up with certain things. I had to like stop and think, INTERVIEW


‘Gianna, just because you’ve faced so much whatever. But it was so weird. So I always adversity with this coming out thing … ’ Cuz went for these people where I could be like I’m kind of like this huge unapologetic thing, ‘Oh, I’ve been there. Let me help you.’ But I wear huge heels even though I’m hugely tall, then who’s doing that for me? I don’t need it and wear huge jackets and show cleavage and and I shouldn’t even look for that. And now everything … they want me to be heckin I’m with someone who’s almost twice my age straight. They want me to be Kardashian and it’s sick. And they’re non-binary. It’s like cause I’m already like va-voom! But I’m not, ‘You get it. Thank you.’ And we can see eyeand I faced a lot of backlash at first. to-eye on things. And that’s how I even got to Really? be able to write this song because I got to see From like, friends. This circle of friends. healthy and good. Whenever you’re in a good Heckin friends that got really dark about situation it makes you think, ‘Why did I ever it. Clearly I got a new group of friends or put up with anything less?’ INTERVIEW

[Laughs] I know, right? Too real. Because of that adversity that you face, you put up with too much. And it’s just like, ‘No. You shouldn’t. You just shouldn’t.’ Where are you meeting people? Like people that you end up dating. Usually fans of mine. Really glad I asked that question. I know. It’s so embarrassing. That’s how I’ve met everyone. Do they come up after shows or like … DMs?

Usually like the DM. Because I’m actually a very introverted person. I’m good at talking and I like talking one-on-one. But in groups I’m usually like, ‘See ya.’ Or I’m quiet. But if someone talks to me I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ So I feel like I come off as not mean, but intimidating. Because I am kind of like a [big gesture] whatever. Or like in person if they feel confident. Always after the show. One time I dated my dentist and that was pretty sick. VISIT GIANNA GIANNA ON INSTAGRAM. COM/THE_FACE_OF_GOD.

33


the uhuruverse INTERVIEW BY TOLLIVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAXIMILIAN HO

It’s usually R&B stars and corny crooners who describe themselves as warriors for love, and while I’m sure they mean it, none of them are actually on the front lines of Black liberation, justice and love as much as the Uhuruverse. The Kansas City born, Chinatown (by way of South Central) based artist is L.A.’s most visceral performer, an extraterrestrial art being that is simultaneously a salt-of-the-earth, vulnerable human and a pastoral Plutonian powerhouse. Their latest album Who Killed Kenisha is immediate and everlasting, a bacchanal electropunk right hook about American degradation, partying and self-love. It’s as punchy as it is prophetic, a shocking and deceptively sweet album best heard whilst passing joints at the warehouse show, or on a Black Magick Schoolbus headed to the rally. The Uhuruverse is a friend and collaborator, and this interview reflects that intimacy. So you’re in a new studio space—just started working here. What’s it like? It’s lit! My new studio space is part of the Project Q collective, which is a trans and gender non-conforming collective, and they give haircuts for either free or discounted to trans youth. It’s also a salon for transgender non-conforming people and allies. I feel at home—shit! I just got back from England and then I moved right into the studio. It just feels good to find a transgender nonconforming black community adding onto the one I already have, to come back to this fucking police state, is lit. Just to have a place to be like ‘this is mine.’ My own space, y’know? 24 hr access to make music. FUPU played in the space first. So Fuck U Pay Us blessed the space first— set the high standard for good music that would come out of these walls. Honestly it just feels a little bit like a dream cuz it just happened so … effortlessly almost? I call it effortless full-on manifestations of big-ass shit. How did it happen? My birthday was in February. I had a birthday lunch with a white punk— my friend Vanessa. She’s like a leather punk. I was telling her how I was being displaced from Los Angeles and how this gentrification has come down hard on me directly being pushed out of South Central after living there the past eight, maybe 10 years. I was telling her how I just couldn’t afford anything. No one’s hiring me cause I’m not what people are looking for when they go to hire. I’m not a white person, nor am I a cis person. I have piercings and whatever. I’m not finding work and I can’t get anyone to rent to me, ever. I’m always only getting subleases with other people who have secured the lease. So I was 34

just telling her I was completely getting It just felt like the universe was finally like, displaced and it was really hard for me cuz ‘We have to make something happen for I’m not sure if it’s time for me to just bow this kid. This kid’s out here fighting tooth out, take a knee and leave Los Angeles and and nail in their bus trying to hang on by go somewhere else. Maybe go back to the a strand to make art and music for the city South—a lot of Black people are migrating that birthed their art and music and them back to the South. And then she told me, ‘I and their true identity.’ Even though I’m heard Project Q is having an open-house not a Los Angeles native, this is the place about their collective that’s opening up where I was truly born. This is the place some studios. You should check that out.’ where I was free as a queer person, as a And you know I do have a bus—I got gender non-conforming trans person, as the Black Magick School Bus, so I have a a person who got away from my family mobile home. So between those two things and gender-role expectations, family-role I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll check out the studio.’ expectations, all this identity that was And maybe that will give me just the other created for me … I moved here and was things I need as far as having somewhere to able to stop performing for other people do my music and having somewhere to use and just be myself. And then also just living internet and like an office space, water and here in these streets, living in these streets, all that jazz. Then I came and unlike other being on these streets, walking on these people who are cis, they are not transphobic. streets—we was walking and taking the And they’re also Black people so they’re not bus and doing all that for shows. It wasn’t anti-Black. Anti-Blackness can look like a always a mobile bus, it was the bus. Or credit check or asking for co-signers. staying up 24/7 cause I didn’t have a house. Three months rent… So these streets raised me, and these streets Or asking that you make three times the are what makes my music everything that it salary of the rent to get the place. is. So it just feels good to have a little bitty That’s the one I keep hearing. corner studio in Chinatown on these streets All that shit is anti-Black, all that shit to be able to continue to make that music. is transphobic, all those things prevent It seems like your life—just like so many Black people from getting housing or Black artists—is really beautiful in the opportunities every day. I didn’t have to go sense that it’s really tight but it’s really through any of that in this instance joining tough. Does that wear on you? up with Project Q, bringing Snatchpower Oh my goodness—it definitely wears on and Fuck U Pay Us and The Uhuruverse in me. collaboration with Project Q. So that is the Cuz you have to feel like a real deity at first part of what made it feel like a dream some point. is that fact of someone just saying, ‘You’re I mean, it feels phenomenal to be a approved!’ This is something white people working artist, and I feel like it absolutely experience every day. They walk into a bank is a privilege and I don’t take it for granted. needing a loan: ‘You’re approved!’ Walk into I’m very grateful for the opportunities that a job or need a job: ‘You’re approved!’ Just I have, and I also fully acknowledge that I to be approved felt very much like a dream. created those opportunities straight out of


my brain with my ideas. Really believing Do you feel like you want that now in yourself and your thoughts and then though? putting those things into the universe and I definitely need bags on bags on bags then manifesting them, and then when eternally from this because it’s doable. And other people get behind those thoughts it’s the only way that I probably will be and believe in them too … like I don’t getting money that has the face of dead want to act like it’s just me. Snatchpower white men on it. This is the only way that is a collective, Fuck U Pay Us is a band, the universe has provided for me to get bags my own solo music, I have producers who period. Like I was saying, I don’t even get work with me. But the power of ideas, jobs. Like when I try to go and get a regular right? The power of ideas makes you filthy job it literally has never worked out for me. rich. Beyond rich. It’s infinity. You can I’ve literally had one full-time job in my manifest anything on this planet—I swear life. I’m also disabled so I can’t even sustain it’s real. I’ve done it! The fact that I can see physically working a full-time job either. so many of my ideas living and having their So doing art actually works for me cause own lives. Look at that Snatchpower idea it’s like, ‘Cool, you’re gonna go and do a living its own life! And just how things show and stand up for one hour, two hours evolve over time is unbelievable. So I max.’ But then you’re getting a bag that have definitely a lot of gratitude—as I say, you might’ve had to stand for 40hrs at a ‘Shukrani’—for the universe for gifting me job. So it comes back into this is my destiny. with the opportunity to even be an artist But I definitely need to get my family out and to travel and be a working artist, cause of poverty. I need justice. Really the U.S. I know a lot of artists who are still trying to government should be paying reparations, get their stuff off the ground. I definitely but I’m not expecting the enemy to do that feel like it is my destiny. I don’t feel like I’m anytime soon. doing anything short of exactly what I’m I noticed on your Facebook posts when supposed to be doing for the universe—for you were in London, it seems like there’s this planet. So I think that’s why I’m always an optimism when you’re out of town. Do being granted these opportunities because you find being in London to be different people need to hear my voice in another from being in America? Do you feel freer place—like, ‘Well, you need to spread to express yourself or nah? this message over here.’ Always when I was Oh hell nah. America is a mental ward. a little kid I wanted to be an artist, but I Nobody is sane here at all. I mean—we never named that—I never knew that was a are under intense pressure. Especially in title because I didn’t grow up around artists, Los Angeles being a state with the most I grew up in the hood. So there was no one prisons in the world, you experience so around me just painting, no one around me much police violence as a Black person, was like ‘I’m just a singer!’ It just was always hearing choppers around you every day. celebrities or that’s it. It wasn’t artists—it Just the sound pollution keeps your mental was, like, Beyonce. So I just knew I loved off. You can’t meditate when you have all performing arts, I loved theater, I loved this sound pollution around you. Then you drama, I loved music, I loved this, I loved have so much physical violence around that, and I always wanted to do those you. There’s Black people being killed every things. But I also grew up unsheltered, I day in America by the state or civilians. grew up poor. I grew up with a single Just anti-blackness galore, nobody’s being mother and a mentally ill drug-addicted charged. That will take your mental. father who was not able to physically The poverty, the anti-Blackness around provide for us or financially provide for us providing resources equally to Black enough income. So I grew up as an adult, people, which goes back to slavery—that y’know? My childhood was adult life. I will take you out of your mental state. As never had a chance to imagine, to dream well as just the intersections of oppression to play, or to do art. So a big part of why I of being queer, of being transphobic, not am such an all-in artist is because I’m just getting laid, so many things. But when I’m trying to live out my childhood. I reached in the UK, there is—and before I go to this point after grad school where I went glamorize it, I’ll make sure to say it’s not and got that graduate degree to appease my any utopian society—but I feel free there family cuz we don’t have graduate students because there is no police state. There’s no in our family. So I was like, ‘Alright, I’m choppers flying over me, there’s no cops gonna be the first person to get a masters grabbing their gun when they see me walk degree for us.’ After that I literally gave it to by. I do go to London, but moreso I find them and was like, ‘Y’all better hang it up myself in the countrysides of England. So and cherish it, or wipe your ass with it.’ But I’ve been to Folkestone, which is in south I’m definitely done putting myself through England near the English Channel, where the ringer in this white supremacist nation you can see France right there on the nude to help Black people feel valid. I cannot beach. I’ve performed in Hastings which perform like that anymore—that’s not who is in south England. I’ve been to northern I am. I need to sing, OK? I need to dance, England, I’ve been to Scarborough as well I need to be free. And I started doing that as I did a residency in Northumberland. shit in South Central, in Leimert Park with The thing about the U.K. is London is very friends literally just to free my spirit. Just much every other capitalist colony or city, to be like, ‘I’m stressed! I’mma let it out! but when you get to the countryside its I’mma go ahead and try to rap.’ I never went very much like an agrarian society. These into this with an idea of like, ‘I’m gonna be people are still in the feudal systems, like land owners working on the land. There a rich and successful famous artist.’ INTERVIEW

aren’t that many people there. That helps me—it just pulls me in. I think I might be on the spectrum a little bit cuz I have some things that highly stimulate me. Like in New York when I lived there I had to walk around with headphones on just because of the noise pollution. So I think I’m overstimulated by large groups of people. I also have a lot of PTSD around experiencing racial violence and attacks or sexual violence and attacks to where big groups of people are just too much for me. So being in a small town where there’s not so much traffic and all this stuff happening … as well as crime and poverty and violence and all these byproducts of capitalism. And just being around good food. The food is untouched there. They don’t have all this GMO food. I get over there and I’m like, ‘Why is this garlic so small? How come this tomato is tiny?’ I am being fed pumpedup, fake food in America. ‘Why has my bread already gone bad?’ My bread has too many preservatives in it in America. So just eating good food—that regenerates your mind. Having nutrition, having clean water. And it’s fucked up cuz of course you know England gone have all these things cause it’s the mother colony, so of course they’re gonna have clean water and healthy food. But I definitely need that escape for my sanity. When I get out, I feel like I’m exiling. And I oftentimes think about not coming back. Cuz I’m like—what am I going back to? I’m back to the literal trap that is AmeriKKKa. That stress. Right? So choosing to come back is always literally coming right back down to music and art, which is what this interview is about. It’s like, ‘Well, I’m going back for FUPU, I’m going back for Snatchpower.’ But it’s never anything else. Never. There is nothing else that has me coming back to America. But I definitely would say then the other side of it is like … in the U.K., since they are the mother colony they are a little bit more accepting of their oppressions. I think the older the colony or the power structure the more people get used to it and sink into it versus when its newer you get more resistance. So like in England they have surveillance culture out the ass. They have CCTV everywhere. It’s like everywhere you go you’re being watched publicly, and they don’t even care about that. And that’s something that makes me paranoid. I’m like, ‘What the fuck you watching? What you looking at?’ The scariest shit I saw was in Paris where the state is just armed with rifles walking down the street four by four. I was there for a day and I saw it several times. Nothing more terrifying than seeing all these men coming around the corner. You’re like, ‘What the fuck is happening?’ Yeah, like what the fuck?! Why are you policing us like that? Are we good? And you know Black people, we get real scared. We’re like, ‘Am I alright?! Do I have anything on my face?! Is my hair out of place? What am I doing that could go wrong? Take this cup, I don’t know—they might think its a beer.’

Also you can drink on the streets in the U.K. and that’s lit. When you talked about the countryside and feeling comfortable there, that kind of reminds me of your song ‘space exploration,’ which is kind of a different vibe. I’m glad you caught that, cause you know I don’t be doing that vulnerable, loveydove-y … It’s totally a different vibe. That’s definitely me choosing to be more vulnerable and show people how much of a lover I am. I think I’m such a warrior that I think people don’t recognize that that rage is coming from love—that I’m warring for love. That’s what I felt I needed to share, and that’s why I closed the album with that. People need love. Literally that’s all people need. The moment you give people love, it’s like watering them. They feel seen, they feel visible, they feel cared about. It inspires them to love themselves and then just come out of whatever that depression is, or fight a little bit harder in that oppression. People need love! I think we all experience so much abuse straight from childhood, which is fucked up. It’s fucked up that we’re doing this to children and it just perpetuates itself. But I think people experience so much abuse straight from childhood and I’m just like … all we need is love. We don’t need anything else. I do so much raging and warring on the issues around racism, transphobia and sexism to the point where it can seem like I’m an extremist who doesn’t want humanity to come together. I just wanted to make sure it was clear to people I’m mad about racists because its 2019 and we already addressed all this shit back in the day. And people should have really the steps then to address racism and heal it. That would have been reparations and actions like the government issued the Homestead Act of 1862, which gave white people housing. That would have been the government actually taking steps, like, ‘We’re going to issue the Housing Act of 1869 or 1962 where we’re going to give Black people home ownership.’ Let’s rectify the wrongs we’ve done to humanity by opening up space and hiring trans people and giving them housing and not being transphobic and convicting people who are killing Black trans women. That’s called love. When you see someone else that’s not your struggle, but you see it and you put your heart on it, that’s love and that’s what we need. So I was just like, ‘Let me go ahead and try another approach.’ But it’s pretty much still the same message. It’s the same message just another way to say it. THE UHURUVERSE WITH MATIAS, BABY, MXCHIEVOUS AND ALEXGREY AT MY BODY, NONBINARY ON FRI., JULY 19, AT MURMURS, 1411 NEWTON ST., LOS ANGELES. 8 PM / SUGGESTED DONATION $20. AND WITH DEM CAULDRONZ ON SAT., JULY 27, AT LOCATION TBA. THE UHURUVERSE’S WHO KILLED KENISHA IS AVAILABLE NOW ON SOUNDCLOUD. VISIT THE UHURUVERSE AT SOUNDCLOUD.COM/THEUHURUVERSE AND FACEBOOK.COM/THEUHURUVERSE.

37


the damned INTERVIEW BY SIMON WEEDN ILLUSTRATION BY JULIETTE TOMA One of the true pillars of punk rock, The Damned’s influence on the music, aesthetic, and overall identity of the genre cannot be overstated enough. Formed in 1976, not only were they the first UK punk band to release a single, ‘New Rose,’ and a fulllength album, Damned Damned Damned, but they were also the first UK punk band to tour North America. In Los Angeles, their appearances on that tour in the spring of 1977 would add more fuel to the fire of the budding underground music scene and forever mark them as primary influences on the musicians and artists of punk’s first wave and hardcore movements. In the years You all recently did a run across the North America celebrating the 40th anniversary of your album Machine Gun Etiquette. Had you ever played that album in its entirety live before? Captain Sensible: No—and there’s some interesting tracks in there, too, which made it fun. ‘These Hands’ with the manic laughter, for example. Dave gets right into that one. Maybe the ‘demented circus clown’ is one of his other personalities ... or is that me? Maybe I’m a figment of his evil imagination. [laughs] David Vanian: Not in its entirety. I mean, there are some tracks we’ve played off of it in our sets at different times, but there are some tracks on that album we’ve never played before or maybe at one or two shows a long time ago. It’s been interesting for everybody. CS: People in bands don’t generally play their own records. Machine Gun Etiquette is the only one of our albums I might play occasionally. So most of the songs are there in my head anyway. Over the years the way you play them changes though, so I made a conscious decision to get the band to play them more like the record. Monty the keyboard player had a moan but I think it’s valid to try and recreate the album onstage, in a 100% live way because the WardScabies-Vanian-Sensible original is just SO good. DV: It’s not one of those things where it’s not something I would have put forward myself because, as an artist, you always want to work going forward. But obviously there’s a lot of interest in our past and as you said this was the anniversary so it came up and I had a little reticence about 38

since, while many of their contemporaries faded away or imploded, The Damned have maintained a steady flow of new music that has seen the group constantly push their limits and reinvent themselves as well as continue to tour and drive audiences into wild, frenetic manias all over the world. This year marked the fortieth anniversary of the band’s seminal Machine Gun Etiquette. The album marked the departure of founding member, guitarist, and primary songwriter Brian James, and captured the new lineup discovering themselves as songwriters, shifting into new roles with Captain Sensible moving from bass to lead

it. But when I got into it, listened to it, and actually played through it, I’ve been enjoying it, I must admit. You forget what these songs are like. A lot of them I hadn’t heard in many years, and you become pleasantly excited about them rather than, ‘Aw, crap!’ And there are weird things … like sometimes there are tracks that we’ve played a lot over the years and distanced ourselves from the original performance in a way that it’s become different now, so we’ve gone back to how they are on the record as well. The only downside I’ve found is that when we first agreed to do all this we thought, ‘Great! That’ll be the set and then we’ll add a couple of other numbers in.’ But actually, the whole album is only thirty-five minutes long, which is actually pretty short. You forget records were like that back then. [laughs] CS: This is my fave setlist for many years— there’s plenty of guitar-ing in there. I went out and got a Mesa Triaxis amp to match the one I used on the record. Actually that was a Mesa Boogie Mk1 that belonged to Mick Ronson which we had ... how can I say this ... ‘borrowed.’ It sounded lush, and I was using it live, too, after the studio sessions until he sent some burly blokes round to pick it up. Were there any particular challenges for you to learn how to do this again? CS: The riffs fly thick and fast—it’s a workout for the fingers AND the brain not jumbling them all up. No, I absolutely love it. And anyone who digs that album and its particular blend of punk and psych will too. Do you have any fond memories of recording Machine Gun Etiquette?

guitar, and taking control of production to create the sound they truly wanted. The result was an electrifying album that pushed the band outside of the box that punk had built around itself and saw the group experimenting with heavier, bigger sounds, and bits of psychedelia. In addition to playing shows celebrating Machine Gun Etiquette, the band is already hard at work on a follow up to last year’s Evil Spirits. Recently, L.A. RECORD was able to catch up with David Vanian and Captain Sensible, to hear all their reflections on Machine Gun Etiquette, their new music, and the Damned’s ambitions and legacy.

CS: After Syd Barrett hadn’t turned up to we did as a band was that we kind of worked produce Music For Pleasure we’d had to together, took the best of every member’s shelve our plans for a psych/punk album parts, and then put them in this melting until this one. And with Brian James now pot that became the Damned’s sound. departed, the gloves were off. We could go One thing that’s always been interesting mad and experiment to our hearts content. is that everyone who has ever been in the 10cc had left their Mellotron behind. We Damned has always been different from found it tucked in a corner, got it powered one another—we have different interests up and instantly wrote ‘Just Can’t Be and different tastes in music, and if you Happy Today’ inspired by the vocal loops. looked at the band’s lineup you’d think, They may have been the ones on ‘I’m Not ‘Well, they really wouldn’t work together.’ In Love’—sounded like it anyway. Thanks But somehow when it comes to getting chaps! The Clash were recording Sandinista into the studio and writing music together, in Wessex studio 1 so there was a lot of there’s just some kind of magic there and each other helping out on handclaps and it works. We’re all very good at leaving our backing vocals and stuff like that. We egos behind, listening to the song, and floated a condom filled with helium to the trying to figure out what works best for ceiling in their recording room. It had a the song. I think we’re all of a mind where grotesque image of Mick on it. He wasn’t any of our tracks, if we did them our own vastly impressed and was seen launching way, wouldn’t be the way they are, but darts into the air with his colleagues in an because it’s for the Damned we’re willing to compromise. We’re all like that, so it’s a attempt to get the thing down. DV: Each album has its own separate life to good working relationship. You get the best it I suppose. That album—and The Black of everybody in this melting pot and it’s Album as well—had a sense that the band why I think you get these varied songs that was finding ourselves as writers because up come out. You get this mix of psychedelic, until then everything was written by Brian garage, hard punk or whatever it is—it’s James and it was very as much his band as reflections of our individual tastes. he wanted it to be. What we didn’t realize I’ve read that while you were going was that within the band there were quite through different line-ups after Brian a lot of song writers—not just one person. James left the band that there was a So the band completely had a rebirth after period where Lemmy Kilmister from the first two albums and Machine Gun Motörhead was playing bass with you all. Etiquette is us finding our feet as writers. DV: He literally just came in when we had More different styles came out—more of some gigs to do and we didn’t have a bass the psychedelic end and some of the kinds player because Captain Sensible had gone of things that were to come later. It was a on to guitar. So we thought, ‘Let’s ask lot of fun to make. I think that everybody Lemmy!’ We all knew Lemmy well—we’d in the band who had something to say was see him all the time, and he just turned champing at the bit to do it. And then what around and said, ‘Yeah!’ We even had a INTERVIEW


For Your Darker Desires

Since 1989

Gothic, Victorian, Steampunk, Rock Men’s &Women’s Apparel, Shoes Corsets, Leather Accessories Jewelry, Handbags, T-Shirts Hats, Hair Dye, Parasols, Books Incense, Crystals, Tarot Cards

517 N. Harbor Blvd. Fullerton, CA 92832 At Chapman Ave near 91 & 57 Fwys

714-525-7865

Weekend Tarot Readers $8.00 & Up --------------------------------------------------------Free History & Mythology Lectures 2nd &4th Wed, 8 p.m. Dr. J. Rietveld ---------------------------------------------------Weekly Workshops $20.00-$25.00 Wicca, Magick, Jewelry Making

www.

ipso-facto.com ipsofacto@ipso-facto.com Follow ipsofactostore:


bit of fun with him. When he came down to the recording studio Rat and Captain decided they’d play a joke on him and said to him, ‘OK, Lemmy, we’re gonna do an ABBA song. We’re gonna do “Dancing Queen.”’ And Lemmy just started playing it. [laughs] He was very good. I don’t think he influenced us, but I think the reason Lemmy liked us—and vice-versa—was that he could see the same spirit in us that he had in Motörhead. There was a rawness and honesty with what Lemmy was doing, and he was one of those guys that embraced the punk movement when it happened rather than putting it down. He was a real gentleman to work with, a real lovely fella. Everything you saw with Lemmy was the real deal. That’s how he was on or off the stage. That was Lemmy. Was there any pressure to have Machine Gun Etiquette be a success? It was the first album since the Damned had gotten back together. DV: To be honest, I don’t think we thought about success in the way of, ‘We’ve got to make an album that going to be successful and that people are going to like!’ It was more of a case of, ‘We love music, we want to make the album that we want to make, and if people don’t like it, well, what can we do?’ You’ve got to remember: when we did The Black Album we were renowned for having fast high-energy songs that were under three minutes long. A real assault on your senses. Then all of a sudden you had a nineteen-minute song called ‘Curtain Call’ crop up—this big operatic piece of music with violins in the middle and God knows what else. I remember it took up the entire side of an album and it was a case of, ‘Well, they’re either gonna love it or it’s going to be the kiss of death.’ But if we’d denied it and not made it, we wouldn’t have been honest to ourselves. If we thought the music was good, we hoped other people would also see what we saw. Obviously, we wanted success and everything that comes with it, but first and foremost we’ve been about writing good music that we like. Did you have any specific goals for the record? CS: Only that we’d made two eventsounding punk records and thought we’d like to push the boundaries a bit this time. It seems like being adventurous with your music and taking risks also helps build you an audience that’s willing to take chances too. DV: That has always been the fun for me because we’ve always had an intelligent, eclectic audience that you could turn on to other music that wasn’t yours. I mean, the covers that we’ve done in the band or the groups we talked about in interviews allowed people to find out who artists like Iggy Pop, the MC5, the Chocolate Watchband or the Seeds were. Because back when we were doing that stuff those bands weren’t so well known. Thank you for bringing up the MC5 because the only cover on Machine Gun Etiquette is their ‘Looking At You.’ DV: I think it was just one of those songs that we liked. When Brian formed the band INTERVIEW

he was a big Stooges fan, Rat was a mod— he liked The Who, Small Faces, and bands like that—Captain was into glam rock and Bolan, and my tastes were everything from film soundtracks and classical music to garage rock bands. In those days we’d play things on tapes and stuff and that was one of our favorites by the MC5, and we thought we could do a great version of it. We don’t do it so much now, but we used to pick songs that we loved that we thought we could add something to and that we would enjoy playing. That one was a great song to play. Over the years it’s been in and out of our sets, but it always goes down wonderfully. We did it once in Detroit and Rob Tyner’s wife came down to see us and was telling us stories and she said something really funny when Paul was talking to her. She said, ‘You know, the MC5 weren’t half as cool as their girlfriends were!’ [laughs] I believe it! DV: Yeah! So do I! [laughs] I noticed that the band was also credited as producers on Machine Gun Etiquette— what was it like to have more control over the sound of the record? DV: At that point we knew what we wanted to hear and we knew we could do a halfway decent job because we’d been working on demos in the studio. But as I remember, there was a panic from the record label because there was a guy they’d brought in, and—I’m sorry, I don’t even remember his name—and we thought he was just an engineer. But then he started telling Captain what to do and we were kinda like, ‘What’s going on over here?’ And then I said, ‘Look, what’s your job here? You’re just an engineer, surely?’ He said, ‘No, I’m here to produce the album.’ So I’m afraid we sacked him. [laughs] Then a message came down from our record label saying that if we produced the album, it would be the kiss of death. Well, they couldn’t get down to the studio for quite a few days and we were quite a way in on some of the tracks, and once they heard the way it was going they changed their tune. That’s the way it was back then—they just thought it was ridiculous for a band like us to be able to do that. But, they underestimated us and it wasn’t the first time that happened. And it’s not surprising considering our incredible reputation at the time for chaos and destruction. [laughs] With a few decades to reflect, how do you feel about how Machine Gun Etiquette turned out? If you could change anything, would you? DV: I think it stands the test of time. It sounds like an exciting album. I don’t think there’s any albums we’ve made where I’ve thought, ‘I’m not proud of it.’ In fact, it’s usually the opposite. I won’t have heard an entire album for quite a long time and I’ll come back and think, ‘Wow! That’s far better than I remember it!’ When you’re listening to it when you’re working on it, you’re so on top of it and you’ve heard every nuance of it so much that you don’t really have fresh ears. Then after a large gap of nothing suddenly you put it on and you say, ‘Wow! What’s that? Oh! That’s us!’ I

think I’m lucky as well because I can listen to it outside of myself. I know I’m singing on it, sometimes playing some things, and I might have written some of it, but I’m able to detach myself from it and listen to it as sort of a third person if you like. And I never come back thinking, ‘Aw, that was crap. No wonder it didn’t do anything.’ I’m always of the mindset of, ‘Why the hell didn’t this sell more records!’ Is surreal to be playing these songs forty years later? DV: When we did those albums we didn’t know if it was going to last five minutes. We had no idea. When we did the last album, Tony Visconti turned around at one point and said, ‘Remember when you make this—that this is going to be around for the rest of your life and beyond.’ It’s something that I don’t think we ever thought about in that way. We were always in the moment. And we didn’t have time—there was never a lot of time involved in anything. It was always very much, ‘Get your head down and get it done.’ If people take away one thing from the Damned’s music and legacy, what do you hope it is? DV: I think I’d like them to think it wasn’t one-dimensional. You know? That it’s music without prejudice or blinkers—that you’ve got to stay open to everything and it all goes in there. There’s that thing where our music is so varied that in different eras it encompasses all different things. It’s that sort of unbridled experimentation which makes it so interesting for us and the audience. Yet at its core still has a sound that is identifiable as the Damned. That’s what does it for me. It’s got a soul to it and hopefully people see that. I know your newest Evil Spirits came out just last year but are you guys working on any new material? DV: It pretty much carries on from our last album. That album was the best of the material we had. We had more songs. We actually signed to the record label and got Tony Visconti without hearing a note of any of it because there wasn’t anything to hear. We all had ideas, but separately. Then when we all came together we probably had twenty-odd pieces of music in the end and whittled them down to what became Evil Spirits. It had been a while since we’d worked together, so I think we rediscovered how well we work together musically and were just carrying on from there. One of the major things in what we do which may influence us is the fact that we’ve never made the … what they term ‘the big time’ and we’ve never been cut off from reality. I mean, I’m on a bus, I’m traveling with people, and I’m not separate from the world; I know only too well what the world is. I think that distance sometimes puts bands in a bubble and they lose track of things, and I think that’s never happened with us. We’ve had meteoric rises and equally quick drops, and each time we’ve learned that you’ve just gotta keep going. So with the new material, I’m not sure I can explain it. Again, it’s a case where it’s forming its own identity and I’ve suddenly

discovered things about my writing that have changed. It’s like a little button has clicked in my head and as long as it stays clicked I can keep working. What inspires your writing these days? DV: It can literally be anything: it could be from a real situation, it could be something I’ve seen in some film, it could be a conversation I overheard, it could be somewhere I’ve been, some event that happened or a newspaper headline. There’s no one thing—there’s no magic formula. I don’t know where it’s going to come from. I mean, when I wrote ‘Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow’ I had no idea I was going to write a song like that. I wrote the music first, and then gradually this song came out that is what it is. Are you all planning on working with an outside producer again? Or are you planning on producing this record yourselves? DV: At the moment we’re working with Tom Dalgety who worked with Rammstein on their new album which has been very successful. He’s quite renowned for working on heavier things and I was quite dubious that he would have the kind of references we need in the studio to get the ideas we put forward. But I was wrong and we’ve done three tracks with him and we’re going to do another three next month. It seems to be a good pairing. You put out an album last year, you’re working on a new one, you had a documentary come out about you not too long ago, and you’ve been out on the road a ton. That is quite a bit to have going on. Are there any other projects or ambitions for the Damned in 2019 or beyond? DV: There’s a big thing that’s happening out here. It’s a little secret, but I can talk about it a bit. We’re doing a special show in London—it’s a special Halloween event. We’re creating a whole semi-immersive horror experience that will be connected to us playing and doing our music at the London Palladium which hasn’t even been announced yet. I’m really looking forward to that because I love all of the theatrical element of it and it’s something we’ve never done before. The whole reason we can do it is because it’s Halloween, our special time, and if it’s successful we may bring it out to America next year. Are you going back and watching some horror favorites for inspiration? DV: I don’t need to do that. They’re all locked in my head! [laughs] Is there anything the Damned haven’t done that you’d still like to do? DV: There always is. I’d love to get the Damned to score a complete film. If someone wants to put one forward, we’d love to do it. With those it’s not just about writing songs, it’s also just pieces of music. I’d like to do something with Hammer Films as they’re back in the game. We’ll see. VISIT THE DAMNED OFFICIALDAMNED.COM

AT

41


THE UNDERCOVER DREAM LOVERS INTERVIEW BY SYDNEY SWEENEY PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEFANO GALLI Dreams are experiments in duality. They reflect and refract real-life. They are visions that can drive us while we’re wide awake, even when we’re charmed by things— art, environments, people—that we know are impossible fantasies. And when we’re dreaming, those bewildering distortions of

time, space and plot can be as attractive as the heart-piercing moments where everything perfectly resolves. Matt Koenig, the songwriter-producer behind the Undercover Dream Lovers, makes these dichotomies into music, and the lustrous get-down grooves and deliberate lyrical

Let’s talk about the video for ‘All You play on that piano one of the scenes, and Need,’ which was shot inside your house. I’ll sit there sometimes, and other times I’m Some people in the public light are up in the room—which is the space—and especially private about the places they it’s nice for people to have a peek inside. live. How did you feel letting people see We didn’t really ask how we could do it— we just did. Let’s do it. into such an intimate space? I think I didn’t try to give it too much What’s your favorite part about your weight. I think in the moment. Alex [who house? works under the name Otium] was in town Coming from New York—everything filming another music video for Hand about it. I really like decorating so putting it Habits, and we were just hanging out. I together was fun. Space is a really beautiful was showing him some new songs, and [my thing to play with. It’s the whole package. I manager] Rivka was like, ‘You know I still spend the most time in the studio. Lately love these old songs!’ That’s when they just though, since the weather’s been getting ganged up on me and were like, ‘We can do good, it’s nice to hang out on the back deck something tomorrow in one shot …’ and I as the sun comes up. How long have you been in L.A. for now? was like, ‘I don’t know…’ I like how you describe your friends as Maybe seven or eight months? I liked Brooklyn, but I’m the type of person who ambushing you. That’s what it was! At that point, I was just goes with whatever feels right. And kind of okay with it, but I did have a some people were trying to convince me to dentist appointment that morning of the move out here and I really liked it. I loved video, so they had to numb my mouth for New York, but I was realizing that some of some cavities and I couldn’t feel anything. the things I wanted to do kept getting put And Alex was getting ready to head back on the backburner and I felt constrained to Arizona, so we only had an hour to do with time and space. Like, if I wanted to something, so we kept it light and silly. We make a show better, the other musicians didn’t plan anything I did in the shots—we would be in other bands and we’d have just walked through it once and then I was really rigid schedules—like 45 minutes to like, ‘What do you want me to do?’ And he make something happen. It’s really forceful. But here it’s more ebb and flow, so if was like, ‘Just start doing stuff!’ something isn’t working out schedule-wise, What were you smelling in that jar? I was smelling jam! I tell Alex, ‘This doesn’t people are more ready to accommodate so make any sense—you know that, right?’ everyone can be together and in a good But it was just fun and spontaneous, and place, which is less mechanical. For me, I think the idea is also just like … a look that extra breathing room has been a huge inside what I’m doing. I have a tendency benefit. I think that’s what I realized—I to not talk about myself a lot. I’m private visited and saw that I could have that out in that way. I’ll work on things and assume here. It was hard because I had to consider that people don’t really want to hear about the six months where I had to find a place what I do because I do the same thing every to live and set up and meet new people to day and it’s boring to me. But of course, to play with. But I did it all, and I love it. someone else, it’s probably interesting. And How does the N.Y. hustle differ from the if I put my time into worrying about what L.A. hustle? others are thinking, and invest too much I’m glad I went to New York first because time in social media, I’ll end up doing that it taught me that you gotta really take more than making the art. So I’m just like, initiative. You can’t just live there super‘Forget about it.’ So this is me opening up relaxed. You gotta make money because in a really quick and easy way that’s carefree: it’s so expensive to live there. And if you ‘Hey, this is where I’ve been making music want a social life, you gotta really want it since I got to L.A., and it is what it is.’ I because it’s not gonna just happen for you. 42

ambiguity is exactly what you’d expect from an indie act with such a fantastical name. On an unhurried afternoon by Echo Park Lake, we talked about Koenig’s ‘if it feels right’ songwriting process and creating sounds that belong to both the past and future.

You’ll end up hanging out alone. You have to choose what you wanna make time for and decide what you really want. So it’s a good way to learn about yourself. Coming out here, having gone through that already, I think I’m lucky in a way that I still feel motivated and disciplined even though L.A. is more spacious and freeing. I’m so happy I went, but I’m happy I’m not there anymore. I think people in N.Y. have a lot of nostalgia for the music they love and the things that were created there—like the 70s and the 80s—and you wanna go there because your idols were there and they toughed it out. But realistically, the times were very different back then. Especially for artists—I think they did have more flexibility with working on things in terms of time and money, but today it’s really rigid and streamlined. I think people go and just work really hard and do amazing things still, but maybe it’s more work that what had to be done in the past in terms of balancing work and life and art. Do you think you give yourself enough time to have fun? Yeah … I could probably go out and have fun more. You sound doubtful. When I’m with friends and everything is lining up, I’ll have the best time. But when I’m trying to keep track of stuff I’m working on and I get caught up, I have to tell myself to relax. That’s what the New York mentality does to you. I think I could loosen up more and go out and have fun being carefree. Something that was confusing to me—and it started in New York—was when you don’t have a weekend anymore. I worked in restaurants, so I still had a grasp of the idea, but then I started working in real estate and renting apartments, which was fun, but it was your own schedule completely. At that point, I felt like I should work on something every day and the lines between free time and work got blurry. You have to teach yourself to just take a few days off and be totally okay with it and relish in it without stressing about what you could be doing. I think that’s just another thing we have to work on because we’re so caught

up in what’s ahead and doing everything right, you lose a sense of now—we have to remember that we can still get to where we’re going, even if we slow down a little bit. You can help yourself out by relaxing a little, even if it’s hard to remember. How has moving out here influenced your evolution as musician? It’s been a big change. Having the space to get more gear has been great, especially because I have rooms for drums now. It’s been a big change to my process for these new songs because I used to write or maybe make some beats, and if I wanted to elaborate or alter something, I would bring a drummer or borrow a drum kit. I learned that if you start with the drums first, everything gels better. You can be looser, and you get a better groove. Just that opportunity of having space has allowed me to start my workflow differently, and it’s super fun. We’ve also changed how I perform live. I have a lot of synths in my songs—and think a lot of musicians have this issue now—but in the old days you would write a song and if you got lucky you’d get a deal and go into the studio and record it and it’s done. And they approve it, and you play it. But now we have this thing where everyone has access to everything, and they’re putting all these elements in. So you’re wondering, ‘How the hell am I supposed to recreate this feeling in a live show?’ You either limit yourself while writing, or you use something like Ableton Live to make it easier for someone like your keyboardist. So he can still play, and we can make the songs a lot more familiar. I spend a lot of time dialing that in now, and now I have more time working one-on-one with people. I feel like our shows are the best they’ve ever sounded, versus being rushed in New York. I can feel more confident and comfortable sharing the music because it’s delivering what I want it to deliver. Do you think your real-life inspirations have changed with your new environment? I don’t know if it’s a direct thing from being here, but I do think that where you place yourself and what you expose yourself to INTERVIEW


affects you on every level whether you’re aware or not. But now that I’ve had more time to figure out some of those things that were a focus, I have more time to think about other things. It’s funny because I didn’t study music in school and I’m selftaught on everything, I learned from the internet, essentially, so there’s a certain comfort of getting over questioning yourself. I’m looking back at old music and what people did and the production styles they pursued … I guess I didn’t really listen to sounds before—I just went in a room and played something if it felt right—but now I’m looking at older 70s disco or listening to things that are energizing and fun and because I have the time, I can analyze a bit more. Naturally, that influences some of my ideas and processes. What’s some older stuff you’ve been gravitating towards? Have you heard of Hot Chocolate? No—sounds great though. Their songs are in like, every movie. I’ve asked people if they’ve heard of them and they’ll be like, ‘No, I haven’t,’ but then I play something for them—like ‘You Sexy Thing’—and everyone knows it. It’s so good—all their songs are. I think people have heard their stuff in movies but don’t realize it because we’re all focused on the story. Or if you’re out dancing and someone DJs it, you’re not really worrying about what it is even if you like it. I’ve always been someone who listens really passively and really enjoys a lot of things but didn’t always know who did what. I’ve been doing research now and piecing things together. There’s a couple of great Rod Stewart songs that I’ve been liking. And I’ve also been listening to this band Parcels—they’re newer but they have an older sound. I’ve just been excited by things that make you wanna dance without being electronic— songs that are more human and loose without editing and quantizing. Back then, a lot of bands didn’t have that option, so it was more natural. That’s true. Off the top of my head, when I think about music for dancing, every newer song that comes to my head is electronic. Yeah, and that’s probably because everything is so mesmerizing and transient because it’s so perfectly in rhythm. But I think a loose rhythm is more fun and human. It’s cool to accept that realness. Anytime I go to a party and people are putting on music, I try to pay attention to what’s playing or the song’s BPM. Or before I start a song, I’ll play something and get excited about it and go make something myself, which is something I never did before. ‘All You Need’ sounds like it’s about heartbreak. A few of the first lines, ‘I can’t breathe and you’re in luck’ and ‘this is now the saddest prize that I have ever won,’ struck me as interesting. What do they mean to you? It’s really bizarre. My writing process is very steam of consciousness, so I will occasionally challenge myself to write ideas out and relate them to a concept so they’re a little more clear. But very often when I’m 44

making things or looping sounds or taking connect with that stuff. So I put it out, and I’m doing too much, and then I decide to a small1989 break and I start something definitely songs on [that release] that takeSince a drumbeat and moving over to the guitar there’s For Your Darker Desires and picking up the mic … I get so embodied people are like, ‘That’s my favorite still.’ fresh, and I feel really good and rejuvenated with everything that is happening, I’ll Even though I might not be pursuing [the so I wanna put my time into that. That’s emote something and improvise vocals and same vision] it’s a sentiment that someone the pattern. Each time I do that I get better and feel like I’ve learned something new, lyrics for a long time. If something really still relates to. registers with me, I’ll write it down and Do you think the ambiguity in your so I become obsessed with that. I probably capture a version of it and try to do a better lyrics correlates to you being a private have like 50 to 100 songs just chillin’, but take and piece together other ideas that I’m person? they’reRock at different levels. Some are just a Gothic, Victorian/Steampunk, having. It’s not always a perfect chronology Probably. I’m one of eight kids. I have verse and a chorus, and some are more like Men’s & Women’s Apparel, sisters and a brother, so maybe it’s a aShoes in a story, but it’s pieces. I’ve debated on six full idea, but there’s a lot that I’ve learned space thing. Who knowsAccessories what it something from and I’ve taken that skill to Corsets, Leather how much I want to work on that because I personal I don’t like to Handbags, be upfront and obvious. have a cop out with the Undercover Dream is? next set of songs. I want to get faster at Jewelry, HairtheDye Lovers name. I like that the way I make the I like to put a twist on ideas that sounds my workflow so I can capture the moment Wicca Supplies, Tarot Cards music, and find the words—[but] it’s very and feels good in a rhyme scheme, or also quicker, and I want to refine my ability, unsure. I’m trying to find it in myself. It’s maybe I just like the way it articulates in so I can be more spontaneous and release not always the clearest thing—sort of like a a song, or maybe it just feels good to say things quicker. I feel like if I put something dream, but there’s a lot of truth in it, and a sentence. I love that I can cheat with out months later, I might be in a different certain phrases will resonate with people the whole dream thing, because dreaming place, and I might feel different … and it’s Chapman Ave don’t nearknow 91 &what’s 57 Fwys of bizarre—you as well … Ultimately, I’ve always thought, isAtsort confusing because you’re changing so you’re ‘Well, you can write whatever you want, but going to happen, and one thing doesn’t wrapped up in it. But if I feel like I didn’t everyone’s gonna interpret it differently make sense with the next, and you’re asking finish something in my mind, I’m okay what Tarot does it Readers all mean. I $8.00 actually& Up anyway.’ My whole process is refining the yourself Weekend with that because it’s just the art I made at -----------------------------------------------------that song about three years ago and that time. If it does something emotionally music so it can be understood on many wrote Free History &Mythology Lectures levels, but ultimately, I just trust my gut. I never really thought I was gonna put it for somebody that’s awesome. I’m pickier 2nd & 4th Wed, p.m.Dr. J. itRietveld I was in this place8where I liked and about what I put out because I like the So back to the lyrics—yeah, that song was out. ----------------------------------------------------was at a time where Circle/Seances I was trying to decide $20 definitely a time where I was going through itMonthly Spirit idea of showcasing what I’m working on. I wanted to treat it more like a demo and It’s a blend—like, ‘This is something from relationship stuff … I remember the if----------------------------------------------------Sunday Workshops 6 p.m. $20 time. It was after a relationship and I was make it better and work with producers, the album I’m working up to, and this is Wicca, Magick, Jewelry go my own route. But ultimately,Making I got something I did spontaneously and wasn’t meeting people, having different feelings or --------------------------------------------------experiment with it. And Tarot I workedClass on thinking too hard about.’ and things like that. What I liked about to Weekly Thursday and it wasn’t getting any better than the line ‘the saddest prize I’ve ever won’ was it, With Carl Young. 8 p.m. $20.00I have a scenario. You’re in a creative that it meant the end of something, but the demo I already had. I was frustrated, slump and you have to leave your house it’s something good as well. It’s this idea of so I was like, ‘I’m gonna put this on the to get the juices flowing. Where do you changing times—I found something new, back burner and work on new things and go? @ipso-facto.com ipsofacto growing and learning or whatever.’ It I definitely like going on hikes, which is but it’s sad because I left something as well. keep Follow ipsofactostore: one of those things I thought I’d fun. Or—I know this is a vague answer— So while writing lyrics, you piece became together different ideas—do you try to moved on from. Rivka—it was one of her but anytime I go out of the house and favorites for the longest time. We used to meet with people, it’s just refreshing. I also write thematically? Honestly, sometimes I ask myself, ‘Can play it at shows early on because we didn’t recently got a fish tank aquarium for the I make my lyrics more direct? Should I have a long catalog to choose from. People house and it’s a great distraction for my make them “better”?’ but I know that’s were like, ‘Wow, I love that song—when’s it brain. I get obsessed with learning about it just become my comfort zone. Language coming out?’ ‘Oh, we’ll see—I gotta figure and setting it up because there’s so many is communication. People come up with it out.’ Eventually it got away from me and details, so I won’t be stressing about the slang all the time because they’re with right now I’m writing a lot for my next music because my mind is preoccupied. I’ll their friends and a word happens and all project—either an EP or a full-length. I’m find something interesting to obsess about of a sudden it morphs into something working on that material right now. But and then eventually I’ll realize I’m doing more. I think it’s more important to just every once in a while, I’ll reflect on old stuff too much and go back to work with a clean emote what you’re feeling, and the message I’ve done and I had a bunch of friends over slate. Or I’ll clean a bunch—it’s therapeutic will come out. But I do work on different and one of my best friends, Otium, who for me. techniques that you can use to challenge does all of my music video content, he was Since you make dreamy psych pop, yourself—maybe someone can relate what in town and had heard the song before. So what’s your perfect psychedelic dream? I’m feeling to a car, or a date, or anything. they would all gang up on me and try to Hm. I’m really fascinated by like … what On the surface there’s one story, but make me put something out… the future of reality is. So maybe it’d take And ‘All You Need’ was the chosen one, underneath, there’s more. It’s hard. place in a world where all the hypothetical huh? Are you fine with that? scenarios I’m thinking of … where you’re Yeah, but I can be pretty stubborn I’m okay with it. I’ve heard comments from like, ‘How will this play out? I won’t even people who are reading the lyrics and they’ll sometimes. I was like, ‘Look, I’m already be alive for that?’ Or like somehow visiting be like, ‘Wow, I really love the music but I moving forward, and I don’t wanna get what the possibilities of what people like don’t get what this person is saying at all.’ I bogged down in what I already did …’ Even to dream up: ‘It’s gonna be like this in the had the epiphany when I was younger that though I know everyone listens to music at future or like that…’ I get very curious. everyone’s just gonna hear things differently, a different pace, so it doesn’t really matter. With my music, I try to make something so don’t try to overthink it if it feels right. But in a creative sense, I don’t like to hold that sounds like the past and the future Always try to do something new and onto things too much. I don’t want to have so it’s a blend of all these ideas that are creative without getting too in your head to worry about perfecting things too much, happening and it’s a nod back to how about it. The songs for the first EP I put out, even though it sounds like that’s what I was it’s connected to the same thing that was I wrote them in two weeks and I was like, doing. I just always want to be creative and happening in the past, even if it has a new ‘Do I make these demos and start releasing make something new. That’s my mindset. I casing or something. If I was dreaming and music again?’ Because I was making music get more excited that way. I could choose, I would live in a world of before I was in New York, when I was living So is it that you’re just over the idea? ideas that don’t actually exist. in Pittsburgh—so I was like, I don’t know. I I just exhaust myself. I burn out and then I was thinking I could just be in the moment don’t even know if an idea is good or what VISIT THE UNDERCOVER DREAM and share them even I’m not artistically it is anymore, or I won’t know if it’s ready. LOVERS AT THEUNDERCOVER where I wanna be. Someone might still Sometimes that happens with songs where DREAMLOVERS.BANDCAMP.COM.

517 N. Harbor Bl. Fullerton,CA 92832

714-525-7865

ipso-facto.com

www.

INTERVIEW


48 album REVIEWS Edited by Kristina Benson and Chris Ziegler 50 THE INTERPRETER: HEALING GEMS Curated by KRISTINA BENSON AND DAIANA FEUER 58 Comics Edited by Tom Child

59 WAYBACK MACHINE RON GARMON 60 MAP Where to Find L.A. RECORD 62 LIVE PHOTOS EDITED BY DEBI DEL GRANDE 64 On The Record Edited by Chris Ziegler Illuminati Hotties at the Moroccan Lounge Photo: Miguel Vasconcellos


ALBUM REVIEWS THE BITES Open Your Mouth self-released

Tyler’s imminently persuasive here- shadow. Now L.A.-based, McBean of Independence, “When in the comes-trouble vocals. Apparently and fellow founding member course of human events it becomes it was German theologist Martin and keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt necessary for one people to dissolve Luther who said, “Who loves not leave overcast skies behind and the chains of jeans and t-shirts, woman, wine, and song / Remains aim their axes towards the high respectable haircuts, and bland a fool his whole life long.” On their desert. Schmidt’s keyboards seep pop music, and to reclaim the debut record, the Bites wax poetic to the forefront on the mostly- forgotten power of blazing guitar about both vino (“Red Wine”) and instrumental futuristic space jam, solos, decadent sparkle, glorious the fairer sex (“Women,” see also: “Closer To The Edge”—a track hair, and good old fashioned basically every other song on the that would not seem out of place fantasy and showmanship in rock album), so Tyler’s no fool by that in the next season of “Stranger ‘n’ roll, the Laws of Nature dictate measure. And if it seems foolish Things.” “Future Shade” sounds that a band like Blame Candy will to play rock ‘n’ roll in 2019, let’s like the great Desert Session jam emerge from the June gloom and invoke the words of that other on Thin Lizzy and UFO covers unleash a glittery one-two punch great theologian, Mick Jagger: “It’s that never happened. Some of new singles so powerful that a real buzz, even in front of 20 shameless rocking and tongue-in- they burst through the marine layer people, to make a complete fool cheek posturing can be expected with a fiery force not unlike Eddie of yourself. But people seemed to from an album whose cover Van Halen playing ‘Eruption.’” depicts a speaker cabinet rising “Mommy Daddy Money,” an like it.” —Donna Kern from the shoreline like the obelisk audience participation favorite at in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blame Candy’s live shows, taunts Black Mountain wholeheartedly a trust fund baby before launching and happily deliver the rock on into a guitar solo so intense and “High Rise.” Dusting off the old perfectly executed that it might classic rock trope of a song about make listeners answer Chris a car, “Licensed to Drive” cascades Greatti’s question, “How did he between symphonic keyboards and get that girl?” with “Cuz he plays space-age synths before throttling guitar like Randy freakin’ Rhoads!” into a hard-driving, four-on-the- For “Power Player,” Aaron Deming floor rhythm that just can’t drive takes over vocal duties to shoot a 55. “The highway is your heaven / sparkly sonic arrow right through The static is your hell / White light your heart, and then Chris Greatti across the blacktop / The magic twists it with an even more ethereal BLACK MOUNTAIN of her spell”. Hey, hey, my, my... solo that will make fellow guitar With Pee Chee folder lyrics like players weep with unbearable Destroyer that, rock and roll will never die. waves of inadequacy. Be warned, Jagjaguwar But it may drop out a few credits oh naysayer of glamor: Blame Candy is aiming right at your In author Steven Hyden’s book short. secret soft spot for 80s glam metal —Kegan Pierce Simons Twilight of the Gods, he wonders decadence and 70s glam rock sadly what will happen when all majesty, and they always hit their the classic rock bands die off? target. Will ‘classic rock’—the genre that —Donna Kern dominated the musical cultural

Fresh off the land yacht from Chicago, a tattooed and angsty Jordan Tyler and his rock ‘n’ roll band the Bites appear ready to tear off a piece of Lotusland. He’s already penned his own sassy ode to Los Angeles, “Dirty City,” that—like “Welcome to the Jungle” or “It Never Rains in California”—unfortunately shows the stars fell from his eyes pretty quickly. Nevertheless, the city is still inspiring him, and no matter how hot your heart may burn for these crazy palm-lined streets, you can’t really argue with a humor so dry it’s practically droughtfriendly: “There ain’t enough water to keep you clean in this dirty city!” (Hey, D.W.P.! How about that for a catchy new water conservation slogan?) Though this town birthed so many legendary rock bands, it can sometimes feel like the only rock ‘n’ roll stars around these days are on overpriced vintage t-shirts. (Honestly, why are Cinderella lexicon for much of the last half band shirts selling for $350 now, of the previous century—cease to and what happens when you spill exist? Hyden would be happy to your oat milk latte on Tom Keifer’s know Black Mountain and band lovely visage?) Tyler calls out these leader Stephen McBean have fake fans in “Rich Girl”: “She don’t always been game to keep the like rock ‘n’ roll / But she wears all genre alive. In previous iterations, the shirts.” Though surprisingly they toed the line between Black elusive on Google thanks to endless Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Dio orthodontic issues and candy blog with just the right amount of results, The Bites’ Open Your Mouth self-awareness and a sincere hits your speakers with the urgency commitment to rocking out. They of a dental emergency, the candy came from British Columbia crunch of 70s power-pop, and and that made sense. They wrote plenty of strutting Rolling Stones stoned-out wild and woolly attitude, lent further momentum rock sagas, born from the space by driving guitars, keys, and between the woods and the rain

ALBUM REVIEW SUBMISSIONS 48

BLAME CANDY “Mommy Daddy Money” /“Power Player” self-released As our founding fathers more or less wrote in the Declaration

BLEACHED Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? Dead Oceans

On this new album, Bleached takes the listener hostage, placing them right in the center of their tornado of emotional upheaval and refusing to relinquish their hold until the storm has diminished. You might surrender to anguish, but you’ll be dancing through the ache. It’s like listening to Fleetwood Mac if they actually had charm instead of all that too-serious selfregard. Break–ups and confusion can be fun, if you allow it—who knew? Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? reveals the sophisticated songwriting Bleached has matured into. The songs seem familiar—in a way where it feels like you already know them by heart as soon as you hear them—but they contain unrestrained personality, which froths and ferments as it resolves into intimate portraits of living. Records like this let us glimpse ways to navigate the hazy malaise of the life we’re given and the choices that have led us into this fog. (It seems like Bleached has studied all the Make-Up records, making this disorientation into an extremely fun evening.) But even with this emotional torment, the instruments burst with joy and vibrancy. As on “Kiss You Goodbye,” heartache makes its way to the hips, channeling the muddled mess of a break-up into a cathartic dance party. Bleached have triumphed over the tyranny of feeling shitty as a relationship dissolves, and there’s power in that victory. —Nathan Martel

BLU & EXILE True and Livin’ EP Dirty Science

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


Chemistry is probably the most underrated component of creating these days. Just because you find yourself around people who like the same things you do doesn’t mean an immediate translation to creating classics. But Blu & Exile have proven with their run together that they possess an entire periodic table of elements to meld. Their collaborations recall the Central Ave. jazz scene of Los Angeles, showcasing the character of their city through the creative extrapolations it encourages. With this EP, which draws on classic hip-hop twelve-inches of the late nineties with its three-song structure and instrumentals on the B-side—as well as an a capella, for those bedroom remixes! This is the kind of joint that would have been played on Friday Night Flavors twenty-two years ago, and the next morning yours truly would be flying down the 10 to get the wax at Fatbeats. (Vermont location!) This is the fare that you’ve come expect from Blu & Exile, too. Blu’s ripping the verses like his own personal rapture may happen at any moment; Exile’s flipping the requisite boom-bap with flourishes of plaintive horns or looped jazz guitar lines that suggest menace and calm at once. Of course the signature posse cut is here—“Power to the People,” with Choosey, Johaz, Cashus King, Aloe Blacc, Fashawn and Blame One—but instead of the typical ego-trippin’ showdown, it’s an updated protest song regarding current social ills. So rush to the local … well, find it where you can and listen like it’s urgent because it is. —Nathan Martel

DEXTER STORY Bahir Soundway As a multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, songwriter, and producer of plenty of amazing work, it is an understatement to say that Dexter Story is a musical powerhouse. He made his mark on L.A.’s music scene with a series of top-notch collaborations and made a mark of his own back in 2015 when he released the

ALBUM REVIEWS

African jazz styled album Wondem, co-produced with Carlos Niño. Wondem was inspired by his love of soul, jazz, and funk, and combined these influences with the sounds of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya. It was uplifting, fun, soulful, and overall a great listen. 2019 brings Story back out of the studio with Bahir (“Sea” in Ethiopian Amharic) and elevates the already great he’s established. Fans of any genre of African jazz will connect with this easily. The introductory track leads with African drumming and blends in harp and keys reminiscent of Alice Coltrane—it’s light and airy, and beautifully dreamlike. “Ras,” which features singing from Haile Supreme, channels Mulatu of Ethiopia before going off on its own unique direction. There are so many great collaborations on this album but one of the instrumental highlights would have to be Miguel Atwood Ferguson’s viola work on “Mamdoo,” which starts with an oud solo that melts into the viola, organ, Arabic-style guitars, hand drums, and streamlined bassline for a very 70s inspired track. I could list each track and say why they are great listens but nothing beats experiencing it for yourself. —Zachary Jensen

can be cruel, opportunities are “Bullet Holes” delivers on a time few or desperate, and the advice and influence that never really given to deal with these things went away, birthed from a city tends toward brute strength in and industry that celebrates and the service of survival. Yusuf commercializes past debaucheries offers criticisms of these realities, … all while seeking to inject the but his honesty and candor are same drug into younger veins. —Kegan Pierce Simons unflinching. In addition to a solid overall flow, the album manages to sound at once polished and raw, gritty yet cohesive and rough yet refined. It’s a bonfire burning in the unblemished darkness of a moonless night. —Simon Weedn

DRUGDEALER Raw Honey Mexican Summer

THE DREAM SYNDICATE These Times ANTI-

We’re in a moment when nostalgia is a genre in and of itself and many bands who find success do so by sounding more like somebody else than they do themselves. That means the band responsible for this record would no doubt find more success if they were a new band with a different name whose main attraction was that they sounded just like this great band from the ‘80s L.A. underground called … the Dream Syndicate. Instead, we have the second album from the actual original Paisley Underground veterans since DEZ YUSUF their reanimation in 2012. These Cadena 77 Times takes a wider approach self-released than its predecessor (2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here?), with After years of production work and Steve Wynn finding inspiration collaborations, Dez Yusuf—one in the crate-digging mishmash half of Long Beach’s Crimewave 5150—is here with his first solo of JDilla. “I loved the way he full-length, Cadena 77. Showcasing approached record making…as a Yusuf ’s talents as a lyricist and music fan,” Wynn said. “Wanting rapper over a host of dusky, tense, to lay out all of his favorite music, and sometimes overwhelming twist and turn the results until beats, the album is an awesome he made them his own.” You can debut and connects hard on every hear the results on the churning, punch it throws. Yusuf told Ill krautrock of “Put Some Miles On,” Society magazine that the song which sounds like Mark Knopfler “Power Violence” was “…simply a fronting Sonic Youth. “Speedway” song about the older male figures rattles along with a Doug Sahm in my life, and an accumulation of tilt-a-whirl farfisa and “Space Age” all the advice they’ve given me … exorcises the 13th Floor Elevators Imagine your uncle who ran the with its psychedelic medication streets and did a bid. These are on “just another barren white things he might say to you.” That stage / set the lights for the space idea feels like a thesis for much of age.” For those who yearn for the the album, which gives a window Paisley Underground jingle jangle into a reality where circumstances of old L.A. Dream Syndicate,

In the pantheon of bands with cheeky names that feel weird to Google, Drugdealer stands out as one of the most unexpectedly musically transcendent. Sometimes humor can be the defense mechanism of choice for the sensitive soul. That sensitivity is on full display on Drugdealer’s followup to The End of Comedy, starting with the single “Honey,” for which bandleader (kingpin?) Michael Collins enlists the deep and syrupy voice of Weyes Blood‘s Natalie Mering, with a harmony assist from the Lemon Twigs. Under the hashtag “#emo,” Collins explains on social media, “This one is particularly meaningful to me… I wanted to lay out a ballad dedicated to the treacherously emotional ‘in your feelings’ weirdos that can’t turn it off.” Perhaps he even counts himself among them? When Mering sings lines like, “I know that you want to be seen, and to be heard, oh to be loved / It’s not a crime,” get ready for the waterworks, gentle souls. This one feels like a sonic hug. Next up, fellow sensitive chanteur Harley Hill-Richmond of Harley and the Hummingbirds continues the exploration of intimacy by lending his considerable sweetness and light to the song “Lonely.” “How long have you had this look on your face?” he wonders. “You’re just too lovely, and all you can do is think of pain.” Meanwhile, New York City cowboy Dougie Poole brings a contrasting and appealingly weathered, worldweary Lee Hazlewood feel to his vocal duties on “Wild Motion,” singing, “They over intellectualize, but you taught them how to empathize, didn’t you?” Drugdealer remains as blissfully unafraid of schmaltz as they are of feelings,

deploying strings, saxophones, pianos, revving motors, rainstorms, George Harrison-worthy guitar licks and any other tools at their disposal to make your heart soar in that old fashioned AM radio way—but somehow the ship never veers into the nausea-inducing waves of cheesiness that have sunk many a less skilled sailor of 1970s soundscapes. Raw Honey embraces Beach Boys-style full band harmonies—see instant classic “Fools”—with a little Steely Dan smoothness, John Lennon tuneful wisdom, some of Todd Rundgren‘s dramatic flare, and a touch of Derek and the Dominosera Clapton Strat magic. “Nobody wants to feel they’ve got to hide themselves,” Collins sings over a sea of triumphant strings on “Lost in My Dream.” He’s not hiding his feelings and talents here, or those of his merry band of collaborators, and before long, you just might find yourself hooked. He’s got the good stuff. And this time around, it’s just love and understanding— the sweetest high of all. —Donna Kern

ELECTRIC LOOKING GLASS “Someday Soon”/ “Death of A Season” 7” Hypnotic Bridge Electric Looking Glass rode into Los Angeles on a beam of light, decked out in polka dots and bellbottoms and peddling pure unadulterated sunshine pop circa 1967—the likes of which have not shined down upon this city since the benevolently groovy reign of Curt Boettcher and the era when an entire candy shop of whimsically named acts from the Yellow Balloon to the Peppermint Trolley Company urged us to “follow the sun.” With cotton candy melodies, saltwater taffy guitar riffs, and the mischievous energy (and fabulous hair) of the Monkees, these self-described “four far-out dandies” seem poised to ride their magical sunbeam to big things, but in the most gentle and peaceful way. (After all, this is a band so democratic that two band members share lead singing

49


THE INTERPRETER

HEALING GEMS Curated by Kristina Benson and Daiana Feuer Photography by Maximilian Ho

Healing Gems make music from a past that never existed and a future that never happened—a bubbly mix of exotica and Morricone-meets-Duane Eddy twang, matched with deadpan lyrics about adventures gone wrong and fever dreams come all too true. Their Jungle Flower EP is out in July and their Healing Jams DJ night is every second Wednesday at Little Joy, 1477 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (10 PM, 21+ and free plus free karaoke too!) And Healing Gems’ annual Tiki Trash Festival will be at noon July 20 at Tiki Trash Island in West Covina—$10 or $20 to get a commemorative hat! More information to come—visit Healing Gems on Instagram at @healing_gems to find out. BUDDY MERRILL THE GUITAR SOUNDS OF BUDDY MERRILL (ACCENT, 1964) “I think he’s American but I found him by accident. He’s like a really really good guitar player and I was trying really hard not to listen to like Les Paul or whoever else plays like country guitar. But he plays songs we like—like old exotica in a surf kind of way. His version of ‘Caravan’ is really good and he does that ‘Busy Bee’ song that’s annoying at the beginning and then he gets really good. My favorite song is ‘Echoette.’ I found the record at Amoeba and it was interesting. I go for stuff that looks kind of weird, or if there is a girl on the cover, you get the idea that it’s going to be cool. The cover is really important if I’m digging through stuff and I don’t really know what I want. And if the name sounds cool, I’ll give it a listen.” —Trish Reyes

ERIC DIMSON CHA CHA ON THE ROCKS (VICTOR MUSIC CORPORATION, 196?)

“I found this artist completely by accident, just searching on YouTube. He’s from the Philippines, which is where I’m from, so I was looking for any musicians from the Philippines cuz I don’t know anyone there at all, and my family is traditional and don’t think music is worth anything. He’s from the 60s, he plays organ. It’s really similar to what Healing Gems play. It felt really cool finding this guy and I was able to show my parents. And they gave me a history about music that I didn’t know about—cha cha and dance was popular there and there’s a bunch of hidden gems that I haven’t found yet.” —Trish Reyes

POLY SUA GUITARRA E CONJUNTO MOENDO CAFE EP (CHANTECLER, 1961) “I was trying to find something cuz I started playing lap steel and I wanted to keep it kind of Latin, not Hawaiian, so I found that guy. I think he’s from Portugal and he plays lap steel. He does a lot of guitar and it’s how I want to pay lap steel—fast and dance-y. I found the actual record on Discogs. I tried to [buy records] until I ran out of space. For a long time I bought records off thrift stores and basing things off covers, and then my collection grew way too fast. Most of them were like a dollar and most of them sucked, so now I have a shelf full of dollar bin records. They’re OK, but then I started looking for stuff online cuz I could find it and listen to it. I like having a physical copy. We DJ from time to time and it’s fun to bring these things. There’s not a lot of stuff on Spotify that I can find.” —Trish Reyes INTERPRETER

ED LINCOLN S/T (SAVOYA DISCOS, 1968 / WHATMUSIC, 2002)

“I believe this was his third big studio release. I had to order this copy because you can’t find Ed Lincoln records anywhere—this is a reissue from the early 2000s. There are some rare ones but they are really expensive. I get to play it at our DJ night. Our laptops suck, and all the stuff we find is always available to us on vinyl so it’s easier to have the records. I keep my records in a bag and just add to it. I don’t even know how to use CD-J machines or any of that, so it’s easier with the records. I feel like it’s OK to have every version you can but it’s nice to have the physical copy because there’s information you don’t find on Spotify. The back covers have the interesting stuff! This one is all in Portuguese though so I don’t know what it says. [My favorite song is] ‘Se Correr O Bicho Pega Se Ficar O Bicho Comê.’ It’s a Brazilian record, it’s really organ based, with elements of bossa, intricate, with weird sounds coming from the organ. The instrumentation is different from each song. It’s really fast Brazilian jazz with elements of rock ’n’ roll. He’s originally an organ player but he also plays bass, and I think he played in the Four Cadillacs before doing his own stuff. Every song is really great—some have samba, some are more chilled out, some are slow, some are fast.” —Edgar J. Mendoza

THE ELECTRATONES GUITAR BOSSA NOVA (GONE, 196?)

“It’s two guys—one of them played with Santo of Santo and Johnny. He started with Santo and then did his own thing and experimented with this other guy and they both made some really cool stuff— like a different version of bossa with brass and steel guitar. It’s very twangy, very bright. Minimal drums, like a shaker that sounds like it’s almost stumbling, like it’s behind and trying to to catch up, but it somehow works with all the twangy steel guitar and the melodies are really cool. It’s just a really strange record. This one I found at Record Jungle—actually shout out to my girlfriend who found this one, and it turned out to be really cool!” —Edgar J. Mendoza

BILLY MURE SUPERSONICS IN FLIGHT (RCA VICTOR, 1959)

“This one is cool boogie beat, like rock ‘n’ roll. There are four guitars, two drums, and a bunch of brass and yeah! Billy customized his guitar and amp to give it a brighter, twangier sound and it really stands out so it gets pretty loud when I play it. I found this one—I don’t remember where! Just jumping from thrift store to thrift store I think? I forget! I can usually find good stuff in the bargain bins at thrift stores, but I have a feeling that I also got this one at the bargain bin at Record Jungle. Might have been the same time I got the Electratones.” —Edgar J. Mendoza

DICK HYMAN AND MARY MAYO MOON GAS (MGM, 1963) “I like the way I found it—randomly at Poobah in Pasadena. It was $20, but it was an original and I saw online that these are actually really expensive. I think sometimes they’re over $100. I only listened to the first song [“Moon Gas”] but I loved it—the song I like the most is ‘Bye Bye Blues.’ That song is really old. I think the most famous version is by Les Paul. I have a lot of exotica records. This one I consider to be exotica in a way cuz it sounds like you’re in space, but really it’s like a jazz record, with a lot of classic traditional [sounds. But they add all these ambient noises like you’re in space—Moogs and theremins. It puts you in that setting—I guess exotica is something that puts you in a different setting. Traditionally most people think of it with jungle, but it can do the beach, and this one is in space.” —Jaraldo Marin

KEN GRIFFIN EBB TIDE (HARMONY, 1967) “The song I like is ‘Ebb Tide’ but I like the whole album. This one you can find at any store like in the dollar bin and this is like the best dollar bin record I’ve ever found. My best dollar bin record experience is usually at Savers—I find lots of good records there. A lot of times I find records that look cool and they’re not on Spotify or YouTube or anything—you have to take it home. There’s stuff you cannot find online, and the only way to hear it is to go find it. I use YouTube and Spotify but they started deleting music—I wish I had recorded [the songs I like] but now it’s gone forever.” —Jaraldo Marin 51


ARMANDO TROVAJOLI IL GRANDE COLPO DEI 7 UOMINI D’ORO (CAM, 1966)

LEE HAZLEWOOD TROUBLE IS A LONESOME TOWN (MERCURY, 1963)

“It’s a soundtrack for an Italian film. The premise seems to be a spy that dresses up as a woman and like tricks people. I like the song ‘Rossanna’, and the bossa nova one—the first one. This guy did the entire soundtrack—he does a bunch of soundtracks and they all sound really cool. This one I got from Brazil and I had to order it by like ground mail and it took a whole month to get to me. The film is like a series and I ordered two different wrong soundtracks before I got the one I wanted—one was expensive and it wasn’t even the right one!” —Jaraldo Marin

“I love this one cuz I love all of his stories for all of his songs! They’re all witty and funny and at times cynical and I love the way he writes—and he’s a good storyteller and that’s one of my favorite albums of all times. I also bought it on eBay. I do go to record stores but it’s rare. I always go but forget what I’m in there for and leave with other stuff—not what I want. So when I hear something I like and want it, I’ll immediately find it on eBay. I like having tangible copies of things—I’m pretty old school that way. I don’t have a computer or a TV. I do listen in Spotify in my car, but I like having the physical object. [Spotify] deletes things on line and it pisses me off, I like to have a copy of it. And then you can leave it behind for someone else!” —Xochi Shirtz

LES PAUL AND MARY FORD “PUT A RING ON MY FINGER/FANTASY” (COLUMBIA, 1958) “Les Paul and Mary Ford are one of my favorite duos and it’s one of my favorite songs. I just think Les Paul is really fucking cool cuz he pioneered a bunch of cool recording things. A lot of people know him cause of Les Paul guitars and not necessarily his music. I love the lyrics on this song—everything about it. I got the record on eBay cause I’m a lazy bitch. I originally tried to buy ‘Smoke Rings,’ which is another single by Les Paul and Mary Ford and it came in a lot of ten for $10. So I got it, and ‘Fantasy’ was in there and I ended up loving this song way more than ‘Smoke Rings.’” —Xochi Shirtz

KITTY WELLS “AMIGO’S GUITAR” (BRUNSWICK 1959)

“This is one of my favorite songs too. I love her voice. I’m really really into country, and I love that old Spanish guitar with country and that’s what this song is. It’s a very romantic song, really pretty. I like 45s—I used to hate them and talk shit on people cuz I thought it was a waste of money to buy them. But they have two good songs, whereas a lot of an album could be filler! It’s also cool to DJ. You don’t have to lug stuff around. And that record I think was a dollar. They’re cheaper!” —Xochi Shirtz

YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA S/T (ALFA, 1978) “I got this specific copy online but it arrived from Japan, so I guess that’s cool! It’s an original, not a reissue. I wanted the physical copy because it’s such an awesome record, I’m such a fan of Hosono and those songs are so awesome and danceable. We do DJ sets as a band and I think it would be a great record to play live. We call it Healing Jams—we DJ something under that name and we play just about everything that influences us. Usually it starts out chill, and then it can get dance-y. Especially on nights where there is a Dodger game—people come in and get rowdy when we play dance music. And we play Mexican and Latin music and people love that too. They actually cover a Martin Denny song on this record: ‘Firecracker.’” —Eduardo Camacho

MIKE LAURE EN BOLERO (MUSART, 195?) “I got this from my grandpa and it’s such an awesome record—my favorite song is ‘No Llores.’ He didn’t order it online, ha. He grew up in the house next door to where I grew up and he took on the role of grandpa so I call him my grandpa. So when he passed away I inherited his records. He moved here from Mexico and ended up in California when he joined the military.” —Eduardo Camacho

LOS RELAMPAGOS DEL NORTE EL DISCO DE ORO (BEGO, 1966) “It translates to ‘Lightning Strikes from the North.’ And the title is The Album of Gold. This is another album I inherited. I chose it cause it kind of illustrates my relation with Mexican music in that growing up I was really not into it at all. I was more into rock ‘n’ roll but as I got older—especially when my grandpa passed away—I started listening to these records more and more and realized that these are really good songs. This is norteño, so it has heavy accordion, and the stuff when you think of when you think of Mexican music. They illustrate intersections in my music, mixing rock ’n’ roll into regional Mexican music like norteño before anyone else was doing it, which was a really cool thing.” —Eduardo Camacho 52

THE OCTOPUS PROJECT HEXADECAGON (PEEK-A-BOO, 2010)

“I got this record when I saw them live in San Francisco in my early years in college. They’re one of my first favorite bands. I’ve been listening to them since high school, and I’ve had a crush on their theremin player. She’s really melodic on the theremin—she does a lot of lead melody and she plays a lot of instruments. I got into this band because growing up I was so excited by the theremin and these guys blew my mind with their nasty electric sound and they really spilled over into the way I play drums for the Healing Gems. They included a bonus record in this album that has a bunch of unreleased songs but the way they cut their record … instead of one spiral that goes through all the song, they start all the beginnings of the song on the edge of the record and they all spiral to the center at the same time. So you can’t tell what song you’re going to get when you start the record. It’s like a randomizer shuffle. And the last seconds of each song they merge together in a repeating loop. It doesn’t end—it goes into a repeating loop that ends when you turn the record off.” —Michael Castellanos

SHINTARO SAKAMOTO LET’S DANCE RAW (OTHER MUSIC, 2014)

“I got this one online a few years ago. I had to have it and this artist never plays in America. I ordered on eBay—it was a nice price so I bought two of his albums as a birthday present for myself and for Jared. My birthday is his half birthday so I gave him a present for it. I used to listen to Shintaro’s older psych rock band from the 90s, Yura Yura Teikoku. I was crazy about that band in my late teens, and as I got older my tastes changed and I started listening to exotica and lounge and Latin, and Shintaro started this new band with lounge, lot of Hawaiian lap steel and kika. He went in the same direction we went. It was not just inspiring, but like a mirror of my own tastes that where he was doing the same thing. It all fell into place with this record. He went from psych rock to a lot of steel guitar, banjo, the slide guitar—this one has a lot more Latin rhythms. People call it post-apocalyptic lounge. It’s funny to call this an inspiration cuz I feel like a lot of this happened at the same time [as what Healing Gems were doing], and pulled it all together.” —Michael Castellanos

MARTIN DENNY A QUIET VILLAGE (LIBERTY, 1959) “At this point, everybody should have this album in their collection. Do a quick thrift store check and you might be able to find it lying around. I found mine at a thrift store—usually I go to Savers. My favorite track is for sure ‘Quiet Village.’ It’s been done again and again and again and for some reason I can’t get enough of this song. Every rendition of this song is good! The only time I’ve heard the vocal track of this song is Darla Hood’s ‘My Quiet Village’—it’s so good. And it’s not just [covered] as exotica. It goes on the other end of the spectrum with the Ritchie Family’s disco version. It’s a really versatile song. I just constantly am intrigued by it. I hear a lot of ‘Quiet Village’ in Healing Gems’ music.” —Michael Castellanos

INTERPRETER


duties.) On their swoon-worthy debut 7”, Brent, Danny, Arash and Johnny bring the baroque ‘n’ roll with A-side “Someday Soon,” a wistful Hammond organ and Mellotron lovefest sweetly sung by Brent and bursting with enough Left Banke-worthy harpsichord loveliness to make you want to run to the nearest thrift shop for a candelabra and a rufflier shirt. Meanwhile, Danny’s gorgeously vibrato licks on his Vox teardrop guitar might just bring a real life teardrop to your eye. On the B-side, Danny takes the reins to sing the softer, bittersweet “Death of a Season” which soars with the harmonies and sylvan glory of the Byrds or the Zombies as it pines after—what else?—the sun. Unsuspecting Angelenos, prepare to be powerless against Electric Looking Glass’s blossoming charms. Remember when those trampling hordes lost all sense of dignity in the mind-boggling presence of this spring’s visiblefrom-space superbloom? Consider that a pointed reminder never to underestimate flower power. —Donna Kern

FLYING LOTUS Flamagra Brainfeeder This album sounds like it was made by morlocks; it’s got its own harmonic language, one that defies reason and rarely gives the listener a chance to breathe. Which is to say, it’s thrilling. So only tunnel people could have made it, people used to working and thriving in the dark. Flying Lotus’ latest is the most exciting album released this decade, even if you hate it. It’s both punishingly staccato and effervescent, a mix of pastoral, seemingly unmixed sounds and finely-tuned and tweaked electronic pulse. “Takashi” is the standout on this 27-track album, an at-first unassuming 90s R&B flight that turns into a frenetic samba before landing squarely in a Baptist revival. This—alongside the ferocious “Black Balloons Reprise”—is the most direct track on the album. Each thread is tied, the transitions feel like breathing, and despite the twists it lives

ALBUM REVIEWS

overall in a decidedly churchy focus on texture, sound collage handclaps on wax. “Sensitive Witchita Records. That album world. “More” is also just so and subtle instrumentation until (Not too Sensitive)” is less direct, used cleaner production style and fabulous. The sounds and mixing an explosion of riffs, feedback, but has the same big “get off my more electronic elements, but on this are just so dusky and thumping drums, phasers, crisp back” energy. It could be read as still kept the general essence of brittle; it sounds like the snares vocals, solos and even horn. It a queer manifesto, an imagining the band. It was another album I are going to snap in the wind of sounds like it might be all over of a brighter future for the listen to frequently today. This year Anderson.Paak’s punchy prose. the place, but it’s actually carefully marginalized: “I want something finds the band fine-tuning their His phrasing at 3:22 is sickening, orchestrated and mixed. On that is better / I hope things will sound a bit more on Duress. Froth an insistent and generally this sonic manifesto, FATWF come together / For myself and is not afraid of experimentation underutilized counterpoint to flirt with prog and experimental for the others / For my sisters and gets better and better as they the rhythm section’s bodacious music, but use these concepts and my brothers.” This is vocalist explore. Duress was recorded with sonic bed. George Clinton’s more for inspiration rather than Sally Spitz’ definitive performance, the help of Tomas Dolas (of the vocal on “Burning Down the strict instruction, resulting in replete with on-a-dime dynamic Oh Sees, Mr. Elevator and more) House” is at once quintessential high-energy headbangers with shifts and cavernous, lifted-soft- at his analog focused Studio 22, him, but filtered through the white-hot guitars and ferocious palate bellows followed by pinched and the collaboration could not FlyLo funhouse. That is, in fact, drums. (These songs thump hard and powerful punchlines. The have been more fruitful. Opener how collaboration works, but as hell.) Agile but complex riffs rhythm section is equally sublime. “Laurel” comes in with the gravity here it’s just so special. George’s and rising tempos make songs like The interplay between bassist and of previous albums but with more vocal feels at once untouched and “Work” and “Realization” extra saxophonist is borderline balletic, of a 90s indie rock aspect. The unmixed, but with a spaghetti-on- sweet, while “Cobwebs” starts as sinewy and seductive. You can also standouts on this album are the the-wall quality to it, as though a mellower track—by the band’s hear a distinctive, left-in-the-mix songs with a sleepier and dreamier they couldnt decide which of his standards—dipping in and out of grunt at 1:38. That’s that good shit. style, instead of the heavier and many takes to include and settled more expansive melodies. “Purple Co-producer and engineer Sean more distorted shoegaze Froth on a stew. It’s beautiful, and not Velvet” seems to take inspiration Cook worked on St. Vincent’s used to play. “Dialogue” opens unlike Gil Scott-Heron’s late-years from 60s guitar pop, while MASSEDUCATION, an album with an ethereal guitar solo that recordings; gritty and florid. “Land longer songs like the title track that is shamanistically linked to builds into a deceptively simple of Honey” is just that, a syrupy or “Underneath You”—which this very-fine French Vanilla opus. melody that provides the backbeat and languid slide down a never- disintegrates into ambient noise by The signature dark comedy of to the slightly washed-out yet clear ending waterfall. Solange is the its finish—further demonstrate the the bands’ work is there, mixed vocals. The track “Department most assertive collaborator on this band’s facility for the experimental, with razor sharp musicianship Head” is quite possibly my favorite. project; this easily could be a track jammy, and expansive. But they’ve smoothed over by a veneer of It has a long melodic and circular on her album, whereas say, Tierra still got a finely honed ability to effortlessness. They all sort of lay intro that grows in complexity and Whack’s appearance feels more sense when switch into overdrive— back, rhythmically, but they do volume until in comes in full force like her playing in FlyLo’s sandbox. or when to stomp on the fuzz it TOGETHER. Album opener at about the minute mark and “Real or Not” is almost indulgent continues before the lyrics kick in This is one moody album. It leaves pedal. in its saccharine pop perfection. and knock you down. It has all the you feeling better about art but —Clipper Arnold From the opening lines, you can elements I loved from this band, scared for the future, worried this feel the spirit of the greats pouring while still sounding new. Second might be the last missive from the from Spitz. She just kind of slides to last song “Slow Chamber” martians who gave us bop, fusion, into the pocket in a way that’s winds down the album with a soul jazz and other drugs. It insidious and very correct. Also the slower tempo and dream pop feel. sounds lonely, despite the features. little falsetto breakdown section is This track and the subsequent But that’s where we are, right? the kind of arrangement detail that instrumental really highlight —Tolliver lifts this album head and shoulders the bands new direction—I am above its contemporaries. Nothing looking forward to seeing where vanilla about that. Froth takes their music from here. —Tolliver —Zachary Jensen

FRENCH VANILLA How Am I Not Myself Danger Collective Records FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS ZAM Greenway Frankie and the Witch Fingers’ output has run from ‘60s garageand psych-inspired material to fuzzed-out music with a punky edge—stuff that bears a strong resemblance to contemporary L.A. garage-punk zeitgeist bands like Oh Sees (reviewed here) and Wand (reviewed here). But ZAM is a dramatic—though natural— evolution. From the first epic moments of “Dracula Drug,” there’s an intense and revelatory

There are no scenes left, only actors. L.A.’s disparate, disjointed neighborhoods aren’t conducive to musical communion and collaboration, and DAWs have made myopia ever-easier. We’re FROTH all auteurs now! French Vanilla, Duress then, is the great outlier, a band Wichita that sounds borne of poor civic decisions and tireless gigging, Froth is a band that’s been in my a tightly-held pastiche of no- regular rotation since I heard wave canon and endless nights Bleak (and reviewed it for this at Lot 1. They’re also wry as hell. magazine) back in 2015. Its “Bromosapien” is an unambiguous opening track “Afternoon” pulled indictment of a turd man, a me in with its mix of shoegaze lyrically succinct dis track—“How and garage rock and a heavy lo-fi do I know that you are sexist / drone that leaves a deep mark. The because your ego is so delicate?”— band switched up their sound a backed by a percolating sax line and bit with their subsequent release some of the most finely recorded Outside (briefly), their first on

HAMMERED SATIN Velvet Vortex Burger There was a time not so long ago where manly men wore satin, heels, lipstick and eyeliner. They looked as pretty as their girlfriends— prettier!—and rocked much harder than their impractical shoes and delicate garments would suggest. When the 80s arrived, they swapped satin and glitter for spandex and leather, but the glamorous party kept right on

53


rockin’—that is, until the arrival of the 90s, when Nirvana made musicians suddenly look down at their fanciful apparel in shame. They set aside their sparkly things and began trying very hard to look like they didn’t try at all. Is it any coincidence that audiences started turning away from rock? In the immortal words of Nikki Sixx: “One of my biggest criticisms of some rock bands today is that there is a loss of the theatrical presentation and rock stars are becoming an endangered species... I didn’t sign up for rock ‘n’ roll to wear a sweater, stand in the corner, and stare at my shoes.” Neither did junk shop glam revivalists Hammered Satin, and they are leading the charge to return to the prettier, more theatrical days of yore. I’d like to believe that their new album Velvet Vortex is heralding the long-foretold but still long-overdue glam revolution. (You read it here first!) Alas, Hammered Satin’s oh-so-glam guitarist Conor Behrle packed up his Flying V and moved east, but Elizabeth Boyd of the Flytraps now fills his silvery boots, bringing a punkier feel to the new record. With her onboard and frontman Noah Wallace’s longtime DJ partner Don Bolles of the Germs on backup vocal duties, this batch of songs stomps hard—sometimes quite literally—but still drips with T. Rex swagger, especially on the title track. Hammered Satin are like the Hollywood Brats if the Hollywood Brats actually lived in Hollywood, like a va va va vooming Brett Smiley with better luck, a cuter Mud with more natural dance moves, and above all, Sweet on the verge of a diabetic coma. (See: “Candy Sugar Baby”). As Hammered Satin sing in “Satin Stomp,” “There’s a movement ‘bout to happen!” Well, bring it on—the world could use a little more sparkle right now. —Donna Kern

HARLEY AND THE HUMMINGBIRDS Future Superstar self-released 54

indoor shopping mall, captured and paired with Childish Gambino’s neo-soul sensation “Redbone.” With its juxtaposition of sterilized still life and unmistakably resonant and bombastic funk, the clip was satisfying yet eerie. Indeed, it provokes the question of why, exactly, is it so weird for music to exist without an audience? Especially when that music is as exceptionally feel good as Gambino’s biggest sleeper hit? But it was also a reminder that “Redbone” is a human record for human movements, like dancing or making love. The same can be said for Harriet Brown’s second album, Mall of Fortune, which, despite the title, has little to do with literal opulence and consumerism. Instead, Bay Area-raised/L.A.based multi-hyphenate Aaron Valenzuela delivers a 14-track R&B project that toys with the concept of life as a shopping mall: if wealth must be spent consciously, so too one’s time. As with Contact, the artist’s debut full-length as Harriet Brown, Valenzuela manifested this new record into existence all by himself. Both albums are selfproduced, arranged, composed and performed, but this isn’t to say the two releases are analogous. In fact, Mall of Fortune is a noticable departure from the gated reverb, galactic synths and punchy falsetto on Contact. While the earlier release is explicitly 80s, Harriet Brown’s latest effort is a blast of gaudy turn-of-the-century soul, the type of stuff that could establish Valenzuela as a millennial Prince. And in this case, ‘gaudy’ is a great thing—it’s a way to describe the ostentatious details of Mall of Fortune, a record that feels deliriously unpredictable and smart, as well as soaked head-totoe in Y2K nostalgia. From opener “Window Shopping”—a brief introduction that undresses the album’s mall metaphor—to closing slow jam “Take Your Time with Me,” Mall of Fortune celebrates a computerized funk reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Invincible era. Valenzuela’s music is made not just of stratified production intricacies—experimental drum loops and elastic synthesizers— but charismatic songwriting, too. “Cinnamon Sky” is a uniquely romanticized take on Los Angeles’ smoggy horizon, while “Man” is a gentle embrace of timeless ‘baby please’ soul. And nestled HARRIET BROWN perfectly between Valenzuela’s Mall of Fortune own sultry vocals are those of Ana Roxanne and Felicia Douglass, Innovative Leisure whose obviously feminine Early last year, an unusual video stylings counter the androgyny of bubbled its way to the surface of Valenzuela’s sound. As with much the internet: an image of a vacant of his ambitious, one-man-band

Harley and the Hummingbirds‘ Harley Hill-Richmond has been lovingly and quietly (too quietly!) crafting classically heartfelt 60s- and 70s-style pop songs in bedrooms around the globe, from his native swingin’ London to a stint in Tokyo. But it’s here in the warm and smoggy embrace of Los Angeles that he’s released what just may be his magnum opus. He describes Future Superstar as “a concept album about love, fame and time travel.” If that doesn’t already grab your attention, let me emphasize that there are no “Hummingbirds” to speak of on this record—Harley personally wrote every note, played every instrument, and recorded the majority of the music onto good old-fashioned tape with a 2-track in his bedroom. Oh, and the album opens with a proper overture and everything. He cites Roger Waters and Pete Townshend as inspiration, and there are some definite Tommystyle rock opera vibes here. (And the deliciously delirious drums in “Emily” almost manage to match Keith Moon.) But there’s a little Harry Nilsson and Todd Rundgren magic afoot, too, especially in the sweet, sophisticated, hurt-so-good melodies of songs like “Goodbye” and “…Of You At Night.” Harley’s voice sounds as sweet and gentle as a hummingbird sipping nectar from Topanga Canyon wildflowers, and he’s got a few truly magical lyrics hiding up those vintage sleeves, too, like when he sings, “You’re my darling, while my darling’s not around” (ouch!) or calls out music that’s “good for wastin’ time and gettin’ blue”—the best kind, right? It’s rare to come across a musician making records (nay, concept albums!) in his bedroom with such an expansive, ambitious vision. If there’s any justice in this fickle world, Harley’s the real future star here. He’s already figured how to time travel. —Donna Kern

peculiarities, this is yet another of the deliberate ambiguities that makes Harriet Brown’s work so delicious. Make a stop at the food court before stepping out into the empty parking lot—Mall of Fortune is that last sweet treat you need. —Sydney Sweeney

HEALING GEMS Jungle Flower EP self-released It’s just barely summer, and Healing Gems have arrived with a new EP so hot and languid you can damn near feel the heat surging through the speakers. Jungle Flower is the musical equivalent of drifting down a lazy river through a psychedelic tropical forest that’s teeming with life. These recordings are a master class in creating a sonic atmosphere and landscape. Coming in just under a year since Healing Gem’s Feathered Serpent, this new EP finds the Los Angeles sextet sounding tighter than before and utilizing better production to service these songs. The result is some of the most vibrant and nuanced recordings to come out of the Southern California psychedelic music scene in recent memory. Where many psych rockers tend to flatten or wash out their songs in the studio, trying to recreate the sounds of their lo-fi, gritty garage rock influences, the production on these recordings add depth while still showcasing vintage style. —Simon Weedn

Jack Waterson’s Adrian Younge Presents... is a fascinating, sonically dense collaboration between Waterson, a member of the influential yet frequently underdiscussed proto-Americana band Green on Red, and producer extraordinaire Adrian Younge, known in large part for his fantastic, distinctive production of hip-hop and soul artists. While perhaps not the most immediately obvious collaboration, Younge was introduced to Waterson in the late 90s when he went into Waterson’s Future Music store in search of some unique instruments. Bonded by their mutual love for vintage sounds, Waterson and Younge began a prolific creative partnership leading up to this album, the first featuring Waterson as the frontman. While it may have been initially hard to imagine, the end result turns out to make a lot of sense. Hip-hop drums under warbling fuzz guitars and a nimble meandering bass meet flutes and strings and uncommon synths, with Waterson orating like a southwestern beat poet. His frequently double tracked vocals (one laconic, one keening and emotive) are on slight delay, rendering the music simultaneously unsettling and enveloping. It’s familiar yet completely original in its perfect synthesis of the two artists’ influences. Not fully acid rock and certainly not anything you could call hip-hop, this is psychedelic music in the true sense of the word, expanding your musical consciousness by melting down genre barriers and creating something quite new. By the way, do yourself a favor and take the artists’ suggestion to enjoy the hallucinogen of your choice and put on some headphones with this one. It’s good and weird as hell. —Tom Child

JAMMA-DEE Vol. 3 Arcane JACK WATERSON Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson Linear Labs

Few artists have a sound more fundamentally West Coast than Jamma-Dee. Through a series of releases for New York’s Arcane label, the L.A. producer has carved out a style that mixes elements

ALBUM REVIEWS


of G-funk, New Jack Swing and street soul with flourishes of old school house. The resulting vibe bridges the gap between 1992 and 2019 from the club to the car stereo. While Vol. 3 draws more from house music than Jamma-Dee’s previous releases, it pushes into faster tempos without sacrificing the relaxed groove that makes his work so satisfying. That seamless mix of styles also shows how Jamma-Dee is able to distill sounds from the West Coast’s musical past, then recombine the flavors into a contemporary sound that feels like a custom blend for the streets of L.A. That ability is on immediate display on opener “24/7,” which pairs a sparse kick drum with classic house hats and claps and a rapped vocal line. “24/7” takes pumping club energy and funnels it into the kind of laidback groove that could soundtrack a boulevard cruise just as easily as it’d fill up a sweaty dance floor. “Jump,” a collaboration with Benedek, continues in a shuffling garage house style that’s more New Jersey than London, while the fat synths and bassline of “Come 2 Me” reveal the influence of SoCal’s own modern funk scene. However, the best parts of Vol. 3 are found on side B, when Jamma-Dee revisits the slick hybrid R&B of his earlier works. “Lost” in particular showcases the producer at the height of his powers, merging slow motion breaks with the kind of plaintive sax line you might hear late at night on The Wave. To some, those sounds might seem cheesy or dated—but in the hands of Jamma-Dee, they’re undeniably fresh. —Joe Rihn

J-E-T-S ZOOSPA Innovative Leisure J-E-T-S are simple on paper: J-E is FM synth wizard Jimmy Edgar, T-S is footwork ambassador Travis Stewart, aka Machinedrum. But rather than meeting halfway between their futuristic fields, they’ve used J-E-T-S to flesh out something vaguely resembling pop, ceding the spotlight to a host of up-and-coming vocalists. Their

ALBUM REVIEWS

an illuminated manuscript. His Another Land is our very own palm priestly tones are complimented by tree’d Shangri La. On the title track, sacred-sounding instrumentation singer Trevor Pritchett croons, “By befitting the album’s theme: Mary California’s ocean swell, life is Lattimore strikes the harp and the joy and rent gets paid in shells.” “OMG Choir” chimes in on the If only, right? But that dreamy choruses, while soulful saxophones, glorification of our fair state feels rollicking organ, and Sunday familiar to anyone who’s felt the School pianos carry the tunes as pull of the golden west from more a Moog thunderstorm wreaks dreary, weather-beaten locales. havoc. Though a meditative mood It’s certainly sunshine—and not prevails, rock ‘n’ roll still ripples through the album on songs like Midwestern snow—that shapes the swinging Roy Orbison-esque this album. Sophisticated sonic number “Congratulations,” and tapestries and clever, bookish turns there are some devilish guitar solos of phrase (rockers who read!) lend lurking where you least expect an elegance and sophistication to them. On supernatural closer “O Lucille Furs’ music that set them Behold,” Morby envisions “horns apart from some of their more from my head, wings from my by-the-numbers psych band peers. shoulder” and contemplates Lucille Furs may be a thinking mortality, emptiness, love, and fate, person’s psych band, but don’t be to beautiful and overwhelming fooled into emotional complacency. effect. Throughout the album, With well-placed flute, bittersweet Kevin’s wide-eyed wonder at harmonies, and a heavy dose of existence is contagious: “This life is wistfulness, they can handily break a killer / but oh what a ride / just your heart on a lovelorn song to wake up each morning / just to like “Sooner Than Later.” And open your eyes!” Devout Kevin if you just want to dance madly, Morby fans will find plenty to the irresistible “Paint Euphrosyne fan the flames of their passion on Blue” slinks around perfect 60s this celestial concept record, and its swoon-worthy psalms—like guitar and organ riffs while the handclap-fueled single “No Pritchett purrs about (what else?) Halo”—should win him a slew of troglodytes and Greek goddesses. new converts, too. Our Los Angeles Another song takes its name from is a city of seekers often quick to the Hippocrates quote, “First, Do renounce earthly pleasures for the No Harm.” If you worry that the sake of a god, guru, death cult or band might take themselves too juice cleanse, but music—which seriously, be reassured that “Leave asks so little of us in return—holds It As You Found It” features an the near-divine power to inspire, unapologetically jubilant kazoo enlighten, seduce, raise hell, make solo. Pritchett’s honeyed vocals KEVIN MORBY us fall to our knees and cry, and swirl above the band’s sweet 60s Oh My God even transport us to a mystical sounds, seducing one’s ear with Dead Oceans kingdom above the clouds, if only flowery melodies, conspiratorial for the time it takes an ethereal sighs, and cryptic lyrics spiked If City Music was Kevin Morby’s record like Oh My God to spin its with wry observations that feel ode to urbanity and its gritty magic on our turntables. meant for your ears only. He’s concrete realities, Oh My God is —Donna Kern his next level cosmic meditation graced with an old-fashioned Ray on “all things wild” and spiritual: Davies-esque gift for storytelling devils and angels, heaven and and the lush voice of a breathier, hellfire, the magic of nature, and reedier Colin Blunstone. “You the insane miraculousness of life speak like a warning on a library itself. Morby is no stranger to wall, saying ‘Leave it exactly as religiosity as a reluctant product you found it,’” Pritchett coos. This of the Bible Belt, and although album is guaranteed to leave you he does not identify as religious, groovier than you were before you spirituality often informs his found it, and maybe even a little lyrics. On new concept album Oh bit smarter, too. My God, however, he’s outdone —Donna Kern himself, crafting a complete and dazzling vision of the divine and LUCILLE FURS the devilish, a hymnal of faith and faithlessness, a prayer to the sacred Another Land and the profane. And he didn’t even Requiem Pour Un stop at music—he’s also created a Twister gloriously surreal short film with Christopher Good to accompany Half of timelessly groovy baroque the album. Morby’s voice—even pop band Lucille Furs still live in when he’s just cursing—rings out the Windy City (the other half from these songs with the drama play with local band Triptides), but and pageantry of a preacher reading it seems clear that the other land from the curling, gilded pages of they praise on their second album debut LP ZOOSPA expands on that formula while leaving room for some jaw-dropping ear candy. Dawn Richard and Rochelle Jordan’s voices were shredded and scattered like confetti on Machinedrum’s New Energy, but here they’re allowed more room to emote. Richard’s “POTIONS” takes the age-old “love is a drug” analogy to the extreme (choice line: “I might overdose on you / I don’t really give a fuck if I do”), while Jordan turns “OCEAN PPL” from a menacing hyphy banger into a genuinely sweet devotional. Edgar and Stewart do get to flex their headier side, like on the vaporwave paeans “LOTUS HD” and “HYPER HIBERNATE,” but how can you vie for the listener’s attention when Mykki Blanco’s screeching “He was actin’ petty with the Fetti, you was takin’ cuts in the cut!”? ZOOSPA can be a lot to take in, but its stellar cast of characters and treasure trove of head-knocking beats are well worth the whiplash. —Zach Bilson

MARK DE CLIVE-LOWE Heritage Ropeadope Life takes you strange places. A chance encounter—a post-Far Bar one-night stand, a ratchet Uber pool, a boozy night of karaoke duets at Tokyo Beat—and suddenly you’re engaged and moving your life across continents to start again. Mark de Clive-Lowe’s latest sounds like that feeling one gets, years after the move, reminiscing about the people and places you loved, with hot tears welling but not cried. It’s sentimental and stoic, certain of its direction but dreamy and spacious enough to let light in. The halfJapanese, half-New Zealander has an unimpeachable reputation in the hip-hop, electronic and jazz realms, but with this release he’s ready to engage with his far-east roots. Opener ‘The Offering’ is meditative and celestial, and is built in part around a left-hand piano ostinato, a figure de CliveLowe uses to anchor a frenetic and ferocious solo. The intro is reminiscent of Brad Mehldau’s ‘When it Rains,’ right up until that melancholy flute comes in on the head. This is brilliantly arranged, paced and played—a great tonesetter for a lush project. ‘Bushido 1’ is noir done well, a head built around unison sax lines and closely-voiced post-bop harmony. That dampened, electronic kick and snare hanging out in the background is, ironically, the most pastoral part of this crystalline production. de Clive-Lowe’s solo is once again fiercely done, a flurry of arpeggios building into thrilling reharmonization and bombast. Horace Silver’s Tokyo Blues album sounds retrograde in comparison to this stellar document, but its mature amalgam of traditional Japanese music and progressive jazz is absolutely related. It’s melodically similar and the band is roughly the same size and they’re both like, fantastic. The standout is ‘Akatombo,’ if only because it’s the only solo piano song on the record. That qualifier does this stellar composition a disservice—it is breathtaking. It turns on gospel harmonies and crescendoing then abating force. The figure from :51:57 is a tears-on-impact moment, a gut-punching, ear twisting series of chords that resolve so satisfyingly one could listen to just this for an entire evening. You can never relive your past, but finding resolution will do. —Tolliver

55


understand no matter how distorted things get. Jon Bap delivers an ethereal and somber and beautifully sung vocal on “Chips.” This is the aural equivalent of perfectly-smoked salmon paired with the good cab, a twisted time-signature feint that feels elegant and right. —Tolliver

MNDSGN Snaxx Stones Throw It’s gluttony at this point. Mndsgn’s Snaxx, the follow up to last year’s Snax, is full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, short and sweet grooves, but each is filled to the gills with sonic information. Bizarre, almost disturbing vocal harmonies spring us into the coda, right before a contextless vocal sample trips us into the next song. The effect is entrancing and lush and melancholic and maddening. “Spreads” is a heavily swung 16th groove that feels very much like listening to the 11AM Baptist service band jamming while the ushers pass around the collection plate. The keys sort of insidiously lock you into the groove, a perfectly timed loop of laid back whole note chords on a 9/4 jam. It’s immediately followed by “Papayaberry,” perhaps the littest of the album. It’s built around an arpeggio of submerged 16th notes and heavy, thuddy snare before segueing into full sci-fi soundtrack territory, a celestial turn that leaves one adrift but happy to be lost, like if Sandra in Gravity just let herself float away eating cheese. The intro to “Cashoos” is a trip, an ending at the beginning. The final chord of this intro sequence is one of the most beguiling turns on record this year. This is a standout, all plinky and bright piano and soulful supper club vocal harmonies. The plucked and panned guitar is just so delightful. This is a great example of a short, snack-ass song that filling as hell. You could listen to it for an hour and find something new each time. Snaxx is wonderfully sequenced; we get strange, we get candy, we get strange, we get candy. Mndsgn’s signature warped synths and carefully etched sounds are the through line, putting the project in a sonic silo, a language one can 56

rhythmic pocket in the midst of cacophonous harmony and rhythm-section fol-de-rol. This latest project is a confident step further in this direction, a stoic slam-poet on a rambunctious New York street corner. Hold on to your butts. —Tolliver

musical references, and Flessa’s charismatic delivery at its heart. —Siena Riley

THE NIGHT TIMES Here We Go Outro In its early days, Frank Sinatra called rock ‘n’ roll “the martial NICK FLESSA music of every side-burned MOUSEY MCGLYNN Shootin’ The Shit EP delinquent on the face of the self-released X DUTCHYYY earth” and “the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form DutchyXMousey EP Shootin’ the shit is a phrase of expression it has been my self-released you’d often use to mean hanging misfortune to hear.” Well, sideout with your pals, but a deeper Tell them how you really feel, burned desperate delinquents dive into this new EP by Nick Mousey. The elegantly brusque rejoice because there are still Flessa reveals double entendres star of DRM demagogues Beat some shadowy corners of this embedded throughout. Flessa Cinema and the insurgent sun-soaked town where fuzzy invites the listener to focus Voidshift Music Group minces Vox guitars, renegade organs, on the intricacies of a poetic no words on this adventurous hair-raising screams and bad, soundscape of Americana, rock new EP. This is a sonically ‘n’ roll and noise aesthetics, bad attitudes reign supreme! surreal, swinging boom-bap and to discover the wisdom Covina’s the Night Times play dis cabaret. The too-brief EP embedded in its lyrics. He their songs of love, lust and is a collaboration with prolific describes the philosophy behind pain with the dark, delirious producer Dutchyyy, who lays the EP format as a chance mid-60s energy of the Sonics down a bed of smoldering for “each track to contain a or the Music Machine and breakbeats and soul jazz, the different world,” and the result just a smack of 1977’s snotty perfect complement to Mousey’s is space enough for exploration recklessness. Whenever this beat-battle-worn torch singer of both literal and metaphorical band of hooligans in Beatles delivery. On “whtiwnt”, she’s environments. Opening track haircuts (plus their tough gal glib and guttural: “I know “My Dude” shares a dynamic drummer with a Betty Page who’s making money. But and structure with the Velvet haircut) take the stage, good thanks for buying me all those Underground’s “Heroin,” with luck maintaining that jaded drinks you fucking dummy.” simple drum parts and full band crossed-arms facade. At their Over Dutchyyy’s fun house crescendo reserved until the very last Redwood show, I watched noir soundscape, she indicts end of the song. “Hell’s Bells” a lady who arrived sporting a everyone from dull, rich whites is appealingly minimal rock perfectly coifed bouffant held to the repellant dweeb trying music, hypnotically droning in place with intricate butterfly to ply her with drinks. There on with a charismatically weird barrettes proceed to (happily) might be some overlap there. organ sound, one sensual surf obliterate said hairdo on the “Crystals” is a sunny-with-a- guitar chord, and a succession pirated-themed dance floor. chance-of-ennui slow burn that of sexual innuendos that wink at What choice did she have? There finds Mousey more relaxed than the foolishness of man. There’s can be no bystanders when the ever, delivering a sprawling a resonant satirical sentiment Night Times come out to play, narrative celebrating her in each song that seems like a no matter how monumental the independence but questioning universally relatable response hairstyle. The band’s debut full her darker impulses: “Crystals to life’s disappointing moments. length Here We Go captures the or chemotherapy / Death will Flessa is the altruistic band infectious passion, angst and always be scary.” EP opener leader who welcomes a range sweaty garage-bred abandon of “Xwelcome” pairs Mousey with of individuals—conventional the Night Times’ live show and plunger-muted trumpets and performers or not—and who hurls every growl and scream a sizzling samba. This is her in incorporates their unique style (and this record boasts some banger mode: lyrically direct and into this endlessly flexible of thee most perfect screams) acerbic, a talk-sung declaration project. While each track here right back into your living room of independence. One of her is stylistically diverse, the whole with force enough to strip the greatest strengths is staying album is consistently engaging leaves from your unsuspecting in both the emotional and with uptempo rhythms, tasteful houseplants. Sinatra wasn’t

wrong—rock ‘n’ roll can be a brutal and desperate beast. But even Ol’ Blue Eyes later came to appreciate its wild, raucous beauty. After years of nonthreatening sanitized-for-yourprotection barely-rocking rock bands, isn’t it about time that we returned to those ugly early days? Or nights, rather! As Sinatra told Playboy in the 60s, “I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” You just might need all three to unwind after an evening with the Night Times. —Donna Kern

PORCH SAM HI DESERT Drop Medium Porch Sam isn’t afraid to leave his porch. Sound artist Sam Rogich is a born traveler, having spent time in Chicago, Boston, Nashville, and northern Wisconsin before winding up in L.A. in 2017, sculpting audio for commercials and working at DIY institution Non Plus Ultra. Last fall, a friend’s invitation to house-sit near Joshua Tree piqued Rogich’s interest, and he decamped for a couple of weeks with a laptop, some synths, and a will to beat September’s suffocating heat. The aptly named HI DESERT is an artifact of that wanderlust and disorientation, patching together the soaring synths and motorik beats of vintage krautrock into a stuttering lo-fi Frankenstein. Rogich’s ear for gorgeous tones is the foundation here—“Salvage Title” begins life as a new age soundscape, “Baby Dragon” as cavernous dub, “Cut Off” as flickering 1 AM techno. But Porch Sam’s lexicon is filled with sour modular blips, guitar feedback, and frantic live percussion, which creep in to hijack the sublime beauty for a drive through the Uncanny Yucca Valley. Not to mention Rogich’s vocals, which alternate between oblique mumbles (“Cut ALBUM REVIEWS


namesake, this new album is cool, refreshing, and deeper than you might think. —Zachary Jensen

Off”) and a hair-raising howl (“Wasteland”, with its distorted refrain of “I’m not goin’ out this way!”). It’s a deeply personal and claustrophobic take on communal music—the sound of pop left out in the sun too long. —Zach Bilson

PRETTIEST EYES Vol. 3 Castle Face Prettiest Eyes is like the house band in the elevator to hell. Think of the flames rising around as you descend into the depths—drinking from this lake of fire is actually refreshing when you know you’re damned. And really, who isn’t damned these days anyway? Alan Vega’s spectre clearly infiltrated the recording process here—this is an album Suicide might have made in 2019, turning the daily into a nightmare with grim fiber-optic clarity. “Another Earth” deposits the listener in the opium den of 21st century living, with terror always on the threshold but unwilling to reveal itself entirely. Then the siren call of “Marihuana” erupts into the panic, as the lull and pulse of the album washes over the listener with anxious riffs and floods of feedback. The through-line of uneasiness and the tension driving Prettiest Eyes is the strange feeling of living through absurdity and coming to enjoy it, and the exhaustion that comes with listening to this record is exhilarating. No sense seems to be spared in the process. The whiplash keyboards, the roaring guitars, and the avalanche of drums assault your psyche, and there’s no escape—at least not for the forty minutes til Vol. 3’s finish. —Nathan Martel ALBUM REVIEWS

ROSE DORN Days You Were Leaving

SADGIRL Water

Bar/None

The first time I saw SadGirl play, I was spending a weekend in a small cabin in the middle of the desert in Landers just outside of Joshua Tree. It was during an especially hot few weeks in the summer that provided the perfect opportunity to work on some writing, escape some responsibilities, and get raging drunk in the middle of the night on the porch. The stars filled the night sky and the Milky Way was visible to the naked eye. In other words—and like the music of SadGirl—it was exceptionally romantic and melancholic at the same time. The band opened up for Nick Waterhouse at Pappy and Harriet’s and captivated the crowd just as fully as Waterhouse did. The band plays a combination of 50s/60s era rock heavily steeped in the style of Phil Spector, mid-60s punk, and a hint of surf. Together it’s all so steeped in nostalgia that it can crack even the most closed off or stoic. A few years down the road finds the band with their second full-length Water. The album kicks off with “Ocean,” which comes in with soulful and slow guitar harmonics that tug at the heartstrings while also channeling a little blues and a little Americana, too. It has that dreamy quality that makes you feel as if you’re floating above everything from a safe distance, too far to feel fully involved. This song—as do all the songs on Water—plays heavily with the kind of love and infatuation that ebbs and flows with time. Some songs are optimistic yet more are shot through with pain, like “Miss Me” which dives into a broken love that just wont die. The guitar solo on this song is achingly beautiful and the quick pauses in the song metaphorize the breaks we often feel in life— although the song keeps going, as does life. Like the album’s

When you’re looking out the window of a room, the angles are all right. Everything is sharp-edged and orderly. But rarely is life lived that way. On their album Days You Were Leaving, Rose Dorn explore the underbelly of this mannered world—the messy, cluttered intimacy of knowing that everything isn’t OK. The spiraled sophistication of anxiety is on full display through this album, where shafts of sunlight crosscut aimless, brooding backalley bike rides—that’s the moment Rose Dorn have captured here. (“Collar” especially suggests the feeling of walking alone in a dry, abandoned riverbed on the most violently grey evening of the year.) There aren’t many records like this anymore. With their low registers resembling some of Built to Spill’s finest work and sentiment that recalls the remote intensity of Jeff Mangum, Rose Dorn are part of a tradition that examines that cathartic moment of realizing all the angles don’t add up—and the relief of the collapse that follows. Days You Were Leaving is the ultimate cold weather album, rowing steadily a distant sort of melancholy where everything will be alright eventually. (The meandering “Big Thunder” evokes the dreamlike consciousness of this album.) For Rose Dorn, the is smog is here to stay, whether you like it or not—but it makes the sunsets even more beautiful, too. —Nathan Martel

TYLER THE CREATOR IGOR

Suicide Squeeze

TIJUANA PANTHERS Carpet Denim

Odd Future

Therapy is overrated. It’s corny. You tell someone your problems, Innovative Leisure they advise a course of action, you follow or you don’t. It’s Tijuana Panthers—very possibly the best rock trio to impossibly linear. Tyler the ever grace Long Beach—use Creator’s emotional journey is their fifth full-length to create a well-documented both in pieces tapestry of stories involving the like this and on all five of his confessional, pugilistic albums, excitement of new beginnings but it’s been anything but linear. and the bitterness of unexpected His music has always been a mix endings. Carpet Denim of brusque and beautiful, obtuse showcases the Panthers at the and forthright, and this latest tightest they’ve been yet. Phil release does nothing to change Shaheen’s dynamic syncopation that dynamic. There is a new locks in with Daniel Michicoff’s sense of resolution, though—a pillowy bass to grab the lapels sanguine throughline in the of the listener—listen to “Owl face of conflict. This is therapy Eyes” without imagining that reimagined, erratic and scene playing out. There is unsupervised but ultimately lament and loss explored here more satisfying than any too (“End of My Rope”/”You doctors’ couch confession. “A Died”), with Chad Wachtel’s BOY IS A GUN” is the jewel vocals crackling with doubt and here, a harmonically beguiling, anger, swinging between matter- steppers-set retort from a of-fact requiems to searing scorned lover. Tyler’s delivery is streams of discontent and unrest. surprisingly casual considering Carpet Denim turns on a series the subject matter, but it be of scenes deeply rooted in the like that sometimes: “Oh, you underexamined moments that wanna go home / Cool, you come with living in Southern better call you a cab / I ain’t takin California. Listening to this you home / yeah, I’m brushin collection of songs recalls the you off.” The background vocals gale of Santa Ana winds and the are enchanting. The twisted din of the ocean washing upon sub-dominant chord at the end the shore, and it’ll remind Long of the hook is devastating and burrows into your subconscious. Beach locals of walking down It’ll have you picking out apples 4th Street at the height of spring, at Vons singing ‘gunnnnn’ out of or smelling the night blooming nowhere. (Not recommended.) jasmine during a meandering For catharsis, take two CCs stroll. These compositions of “GONE, GONE / THANK radiate with the undulating heat YOU” and call in the morning. of the summer landscape, reeling As with “BOY,” it’s buoyed by with melancholy, yet infused a childlike vocal, the optimism with a delight that that turns of youth counterbalancing into charm. Tijuana Panthers lyrics about being “scarred encompass the feeling of being for life.” Speaking of which, alive and the sense of wonder the way that lyric transitions that comes with it, animating into the Neptunes-influenced the panorama of driving the 710 next section is brilliant. The south toward the horizon and sophisticated-meets-breezymeets-dangerous harmonic the heart of their city. —Nathan Martel structure of their R&B work 57


comics curated by tom child

LILAH ASH @lila__ash

TOM CHILD

BARBARA ALCA

JOHN TOTTENHAM

EMILY TSENG @emily.tseng

58

COMICS


PEARL HARBOR AND THE EXPLOSIONS self-titled Blixa Sounds This sole album by a very short-lived San Francisco quartet was the beneficiary of a halfhearted push by Warner Bros that stalled out at an anemic No. 107 on Billboard. This near-total lack of commercial movement noticed has relegated them to a few lines in the standard histories of the era, most of them influenced by lukewarm-to-dismissive reviews in overworked rags like Trouser Press and the Village Voice. “Drivin,” the opening track, got heavy airplay in the Bay Area and a smattering in a lot of other places (like Virginia, where I heard it), but just missed going Top Forty. A lot of very unorthodox acts managed to cram into the baby spotlight reserved back in 1980 for new wave, but PE & the E weren’t among them. From the opening notes of “Drivin’” you’re solidly in the pocket of what was then mutating into mainstream commercial rock. “You Got It (Release It)” is pure delirium and “Shut Up and Dance” is a hidden classic of giddy clubland sex politics. Even relative filler like “The Big One” and “Get a Grip on Yourself” have clever adult lyrics, stiletto-sharp harmonies and enough cheerfully cynical No Wave propulsion to tickle the ears and rivet attention. “Up and Over” takes us out with a snaky insinuative two minute-plus instrumental fadeout that’s as cool as anything else on the record. Despite the foregoing, the band’s strongest element was singer Pearl Habour, aka Pearl E. Gates, a young German immigrant who (wisely) found 1970s San Francisco congenial to her dream of fronting a rock band. This one, however, fell apart over creative differences shortly after release of this record. Proof of what she meant to this band may be found in the three live tracks included among the bonus cuts. She’s leagues beyond what she’s fronting. Her two subsequent albums for Warners still retain cult

is present here, a seemingly intentional nod on Tyler’s part. This is also where he first raps on this song, the aforementioned lyric transitioning the listener from youthful optimism to the gruff realities of adulthood. This album is the least pure-rap offering from the oft-analyzed auteur, and one could spend an entire day wondering if this was intentional. Is it the result of fatigue? Is he genuinely just feeling these sweet, falsetto moments more? Are the Isleys on repeat at his place? Whatever the reasoning, the result is insidiously powerful. Beneath all the sunny production and backyard-barbecue ready grooves, there’s an album about loss and rejection and hiding oneself from the world. Interlude “EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM YOU END UP CHASING” is meant to be taken literally, advice given to the world and Tyler himself. WAYBACK

interest and she eventually married Paul Simonson of the Clash.

ROBIN LANE & THE CHARTBUSTERS Many Years Ago: The Complete Robin Lane & the Chartbusters Collection Blixa Sounds L.A. singer-songwriter Robin Lane grew up among the cool kids of the early Laurel Canyon rock scene and as a teenager hung with pretty much the entire international rock elite. At age 16, she sang harmony on “Round and Round” off Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969) and spent the next decade bashing around the fringes of the international rock scene. In 1978, she was by her confession a “hippie chick” hanging with the cool punk kids around Boston when bands like the Cars and Jonathan Richman ruled the scene. This noisy subculture made it easy to knit a band together out of contacts in Bosstown’s underground after she signed a solo deal with a local indie. The majors were likewise snorting around for harder-edged acts, so when the famed Jerry Wexler found this outfit making waves in the Commonwealth, he had them signed

This album was produced and written entirely by Tyler, but the features on “EARFQUAKE” deserve some mention. Charlie Wilson adds his usual back of the bleachers power, Dev his international groove sophisticate T’s. Playboi Carti, however, delivers the most satisfying guest performance of the album, punching and preening over a song that, prior to his arrival, was all crystalline ice and compression. Without saying a single clear lyric, you know that he means, roughly, “Fuck all the bullshit, I’ll be fine without you.” That sort of murky yet potent performance perfectly sums up the album, a crestfallen but ultimately bullish statement piece. It’s daunting to work problems out in real time, and damn near impossible with a massive microscope on your every lyric, but what a thrill it is to watch Tyler process what life

has thrown him. Now how does that make you feel? —Tolliver

to Warners. Released in 1980, Robin Lane & the Chartbusters made no great waves commercially, but “When Things Go Wrong” peaked at No. 87 on the Hot 100. The song’s video was the eleventh run on MTV on its very first day of operation, putting the band chockablock with the Who, REO Speedwagon, and the egregious .38 Special. “Without You” and “Don’t Wait til Tomorrow” are probably stronger goods; the former a breakup snarl worthy of Pat Benatar and the latter a should’ve-been hit on drive-time radio. The whole thing is stellar, as is Imitation Life (1981). Though reckoned as a missed opportunity by some, my ears rate this follow-up LP as superior to the debut in almost every way. Producer Gary Lyons had worked with Aerosmith, Foreigner and Queen and knew what a circa 1981 hit record was supposed to sound like. This may have been the problem with critics and the public, as the thing sounded entirely too radio-ready to be serious in such a confused era. “Send Me an Angel” swaggers like a hit, rocks like a hit and, listening to it almost forty years on, even a dotard crusty punk can be forgiven for swearing it was a hit, but no. Looking back now, all it would’ve taken was a thirty-second spin by Howard Hesseman on WKRP in Cincinnati for this song to have clicked with the public. “What the People are Doing” is heavier and better and the title track is an energetic rave-up— as solid an album track as you’ve heard out of any band then sucking up all the media oxygen. “Solid Rock” is startlingly Byrds-y and the rest of the LP runs a fine emotional gamut culminating in the torch song closer “For You.” The album didn’t do much commercially and remains somewhat underrated to this day. The Heart Connection EP followed in 1984 and these four songs are fragments of an album-length project that never saw release. The rest of the tracks are included in these three CDs, along with a generous haul of rarities and B’s plus an entire disc’s worth of live material. This band is still revered in Boston, where they represent a now utterly vanished era.

where desolation replaces order, and Zig-Zags will be playing the inauguration—the inauguration of the end. With They’ll Never Take Us Alive, ZigZags have created a perfect and compelling concept album centered on ‘the end’—some kind of end, either at our own or alien hands. Or maybe it’s all the same. The album is an unceasing force prodding the listener forward with pitchforks at their back, with nothing but the deepest darkness ahead. The music runs you blindly through ZIG-ZAGS underground labyrinths with They’ll Never Take Us no sense of orientation. It reminds me of the graphics on Alive the original Jeff Kendall Santa Riding Easy Cruz board: godlike hands When the apocalypse is nigh, splitting the earth in two, with that final Paul Revere ride won’t the molten core exploding into just be somebody shouting space. Zig Zags deal in that that ruin is on the way. Instead, kind of destruction. The guitars they’ll be playing Zig-Zags at obliterate everything in their pulverizing volume. It’ll be the path, and the bass is a sinking birth of a whole new world battleship hull cratering the sea

floor. The drums hammer at the chest cavity a catastrophic heart attack. It begins with “Punk Fucking Metal,” an introduction like taking a hit of speed at 4 am, and its runs the course from come-up to come-down. “God Sized” is the perfect ending to the high—the uneasy satisfaction in what just was endured. Listening to ZigZags is probably the equivalent of surrendering to the torture of the heretic’s fork, and They’ll Never Take Us Alive is a fight to the death. It keeps with the tradition of metal but adds a unique take on the genre—no, fuck that. It makes me want to place my hand in the fire, throw trashcans through windows, to be the catalyst in demolition and not a bystander. The creator, not the casualty. That’s what Zig-Zags’ third album induces in a listener. So take that dose. —Nathan Martel 59


KEY DISTRIBUTION LO 13 5

20 40

9

38

24 69

46 15 26 49

16

64 52 58 30 42

71

14

1

36 54

68

45 72

57 11 53

63

65

44

19 67

73

35

39

33 43 70

28

34

59

48

31

23

55

17

29

21

18

3 62

4

56

8 60

47 32 2

12 37 27 22

61

66

25

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


OCATIONS

RECORD STORES 1. AMOEBA RECORDS 6400 Sunset Blvd Hollywood 2. BAGATELLE RECORDS 260 Atlantic Ave Long Beach 3. BLACK HOLE RECORDS 115 S Harbor Blvd Fullerton 4. BURGER RECORDS 645 S State College Blvd #A, Fullerton 10

5. CD TRADER 18926 Ventura Blvd Tarzana 6. CREME TANGERINE 2930 Bristol St Costa Mesa 7. FACTORY RECORDS 440 E 17th St Costa Mesa 8. FINGERPRINTS 420 E 4th St Long Beach 9. FREAKBEAT 13616 Ventura Blvd Sherman Oaks

74

6

10. GLASS HOUSE RECORD STORE 248 W 2nd St, Pomona 11. HEADLINE RECORDS 7706 Melrose Ave Melrose 12. LEFT OF THE DIAL 320 French St Santa Ana

41

13. MONO RECORDS 1610 E. Colorado St. Glendale 6 7

A. area, from the Valley to Pomona wood, downtown L.A., Echo Park, ery one of our 300 drop locations, RD! If you would like to have your t fortherecord@larecord.com!

14. PERMANENT 1816 Sunset Blvd Echo Park 15. PERMANENT 5116 York Blvd Highland Park

74. RASTA COWBOY 155 E Main St Tustin 17. RECORD JUNGLE 2459 Whittier Blvd Montebello 18. RECORD RECYCLER 17312 Crenshaw Blvd Torrance 19. RECORD SURPLUS 12436 Santa Monica Blvd, Westwood 20. ROCKAWAY 2395 Glendale Blvd Silverlake 72. SALT BOX 928 Mei Ling Way Chinatown

70. RESIDENT 428 S. Hewitt St. DTLA

CAFES & RESTAURANTS

35. THE SMELL 247 S Main St. DTLA

58. BRITE SPOT 1918 Sunset Blvd Echo Park

73. TERAGRAM BALLROOM 1234 W 7th St. DTLA 36. VIPER ROOM 8852 W. Sunset Blvd West Hollywood 21. THE WORLD STAGE 4321 Degnan Blvd Leimert Park 37. YOST THEATER 307 N Spurgeon St Santa Ana

BARS & LOUNGES

22. THIRD EYE 2701 E 4th St Long Beach

38. CHA CHA 2375 Glendale Blvd Silverlake

23. TIMEWARP RECORDS 12204 Venice Blvd, Venice

39. HAM AND EGGS TAVERN 433 W 8th St, DTLA

25. VINYL SOLUTION 18822 Beach Boulevard #104, Huntington Beach

40. HYPERION TAVERN 1941 Hyperion Ave Silverlake

VENUES

41. KITSCH BAR 891 Baker St Costa Mesa

27. 4TH STREET WINE 2142 E. 4th St Long Beach 28. ACE HOTEL 929 S Broadway, DTLA 29. CONTINENTAL ROOM 115 W. Santa Fe Ave. Fullerton 30. ECHO / ECHOPLEX 1822 Sunset Blvd Echo Park 31. DEL MONTE SPEAKEASY 52 Windward Ave Venice Beach 68. THE HI HAT 5043 York Blvd Highland Park

26. PERMANENT 5323 1/2 York Blvd Highland Park

34. MOROCCAN LOUNGE 901 E. 1st St, DTLA

16. POOBAH 2636 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena

32. THE PROSPECTOR 2400 E. 7th St Long Beach

24. POP OBSCURE 5215 Hollywood Blvd Los Feliz

33. THE REGENT 448 S Main St, DTLA

42. LITTLE JOY 1477 Sunset Blvd Echo Park 43. LOVESONG 448 S Main St, DTLA 44. REDWOOD BAR 316 W 2nd St, DTLA

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS 69. BEDROCK 1623 Allesandro St. Echo Park 45. CAVEMAN VINTAGE 3231 N. Main Lincoln Park 46. FUTURE MUSIC 5112 York Blvd Highland Park 47. GILMORE MUSIC 1935 E 7th St Long Beach 48. MCCABE’S 3101 Pico Blvd Santa Monica

49. CAFE DE LECHE 5000 York Blvd Highland Park 52. TWO BOOTS PIZZERIA 1818 West Sunset Blvd Echo Park 61. VIENTO Y AGUA 4007 E. 4th St Long Beach

RETAIL 53. AARDVARK’S 7575 Melrose Ave Melrose 54. BOOK SOUP 8818 Sunset Blvd Hollywood 55. IPSO FACTO 517 N. Harbor Blvd. Fullerton 57. FILTH MART 1038 N. Fairfax Ave Melrose 59. THE LAST BOOKSTORE 453 S Spring St, DTLA 60. MADE 236 Pine Ave Long Beach 62. PROGRAMME 2495 E. Chapman Ave Fullerton 63. STICKY RICKS 4539 E. Cesar Chavez Ave. East L.A. 64. STORIES BOOKS & MUSIC 1716 Sunset Blvd Echo Park 71. VIDEOTHEQUE 1020 Mission St. South Pasadena

MOVIE THEATERS 66. THE FRIDA CINEMA 305 E 4th St Santa Ana 67. THE NUART 11272 Santa Monica Los Angeles NEW OR UPDATED FOR THIS ISSUE!


LIVE PHOTOS SPRING+SUMMER 2019 ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE Gemma Castro March 2019 Chewing Foil

SASAMI January 2019 The Echo

Carlos Garcia

Carlos Garcia

Ezra Furman May 2019 The Teragram Ballroom

The Vandals May 2019 Punk Rock Bowling

Katy Gumble

Snoop Dogg March 2019 The Fox Theater

Kishi Bashi June 2019 The Masonic Lodge

Maximilian Ho

62

Debi Del Grande

Steph Port

LIVE PHOTOS


Plague Vendor June 2019 House of Machines

Debi Del Grande

Spirit of the Beehive June 2019 The Hi Hat

Lee Fields June 2019 El Rey Theatre

Miguel Vasconcellos

Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis May 2019 The Greek Theatre

Fucked Up May 2019 Punk Rock Bowling

Miguel Vasconcellos

LIVE PHOTOS

Lindsey M. Thompson

Vundabar June 2019 The Regent

Debi Del Grande

Sarah Hess

63


ON THE RECORD PREMIERES FROM LARECORD.COM

VARIOUS ARTISTS “Aeros (or: How I Cheated Second Death)” Respectful Lust

FunK’s music—is nothing but pure motion and pure style, with everything else stripped away. As DāM-Funk explains: “In this time of colossal distractions, easy trouble online, heavy trolling and cancel culture, this project provides an alternative to instead … just lay back, take a deep breath, stay outta trouble and simply ‘glyde’ for a while. Nothing illegal about that, right?” —CZ

Diā‘s new “Brokenhearted” is a torch song for the 21st century, where—much like the video itself—things that start simply reveal themselves to have layers upon lattices upon layers and more. Not many songs open with some understated ukelele and end up touching on opera, Italian folk songs, strings and/or Mellotron and a subtle heartbeat rhythm, but “Brokenhearted” makes its sound and its experience of heartbreak into its own pocket universe, precisely amplified both by the visuals and the production by Tim Carr. —CZ

creativity and community, art and life, image DEF.SOUND and reality and more, but in four minutes “12th Ave” Tone and guest Quelle Chris (whose recent self-released Guns album is coming into focus as one of The rose that grew from concrete, the vine his finest works yet) create a track bristling Respectful Lust Records‘ new “Aeros” grown from the desert: South Central DOT with insight and experience. This is a song project is something different than the soliloquist def.sound has built a career “Long Distance” that’s set to go the distance, if you’ve got the usual music video. It’s part label showcase, around lush, buoyant instrumentation and Unspeakable psychological stamina to keep up. —CZ part short film, and part musical episode polysyllabic re-imagination of a life anchored Like the title suggests, L.A. producer/ of a high concept television series in which BRENDAN EDER ENSEMBLE in L.A. And what a unique life it’s been. A polymath Dot‘s “Long Distance” covers a man, myth and mystery are in unending lifelong vegan born in a food desert, he’s lot of ground. It’s something of an exercise “PURPLE” kaleidoscopic collision, too. In short, it’s well-versed in contradiction and in the work in practical possibilites, she says, and here self-released an experience, and it was an experience it takes to water oneself until fully grown. she deploys her considerable experience Echo Park’s multitalented Brendan Eder has to put together, too. The “Aeros” project The song—from COLORED Disc 1ne, out as a producer (and as a music production worked with L.A. RECORD featurees like was an attempt to literalize the creative July 23—is built around a Vine of Shiloh teacher) to demonstrate exactly how to turn Sam Wilkes, Colleen Green, Joel Jerome and links between a community of musicians, Dynasty singing and playing guitar, a recent- a little into a lot. Her Atomic Age mixtape— Paul Bergmann as an arranger, drummer filmmakers, artists, actors and more, and to aughts reference too good to not mention out now on her own Unspeakable Records— and producer, but he also (and of course!) explode the usual two-minute music video here. (From apps to slaps—damn.) For all was put together with a portable production helms his own Brendan Eder Ensemble, into something with more power, space and the rhapsodic, confessional bars in his oeuvre, set up during two years of transcontinental where he can experiment with sound and volume. (Both aurally and physically, most this is the strongest return to his roots. The travel, and even as an instrumental, “Long vision to his heart’s content. His winning likely.) The six-song 26-minute film is a series video is literally shot on the block he grew up Distance” works as a sort of mission “PURPLE” is like Weldon Irvine or David of interlocking videos, each an individual on, with anchoring, sobering shots of loved statement. In three minutes, Dot moves Axelrod soundtracking Fantasia—evocative, story tied together by the cosmic chase ones watching him speak the language they through a whole landscape of sound—peaks, imaginative, pastoral and even whimsical, between Cupid-analogue Aeros (Matthew share. Visionary director Araeia Robinson valleys, chasms, spires and maybe even but also big drums—and this video is almost Ukena) and the God Killer (Farouk Daoudi) of creative production company Passerine cloud forests, all built from the pixels up— its own pink-elephants experience, except it’s with the musical equivalent of an ultralight as witnessed-slash-complicated-by a cast of a happy hallucination a la Harry Smith (or shoots with clarity and emotional and visual backpack, and shows the power of vision modernized mythological figures. (Respect depth, the video’s characters placed against Harry Smith working for “Sesame Street”!) and experience combined with precision to director of photography Poly Phema— backgrounds that reveal their background. instead of a took-too-much hallucination. tech. —CZ nobody could’ve been a better pick!) It’s a It sounds like it’s been put together from a Each frame is considered and handsome, a diverse mix of styles both sonic and visual, strong complement to Def ’s cinematic lyrics. choice selection of painstakingly excavated EAMON FOGARTY with 60s-style psychedelic downers (Aimee samples, but it’s all original, and that’s Eder’s Also If you look closely enough, you might Lay) and future R&B burners (Murci and standard operating procedure. He thrives on recognize a wide-eyed L.A. RECORD “Gods’ Guts” Red Hearts White Ribbons) and Stooges/ this kind of contrast, and the energy that contributor in frame. Says Def: “Growing Jealous Butcher Jesus and Mary Chain-style punk-pop (AJ comes from such unexpected juxtaposition. up Seventh Day Adventist in South Central Eamon Fogarty came from New Hampshire Davila) soundtracking everything from —CZ Los Angeles in a food desert in a plant-based and got to L.A. through a zig-zag that took dance parties to kidnapping to hallucinatory family in the 90s … is pretty rare. This him through Utah nuclear boomtown displays of beauty, and of course a was one of the first songs where I decided Moab and finally landed him in Chris DAM-FUNK committed fourth-wall explosion courtesy “Hood Biz” to own my story in its totality. Because I’m Schlarb‘s storied Long Beach studio, where spacey shoegazers Strange Phases, too. Settle constantly in a state of shifting, unraveling, he recorded his coming Blue Values LP (due GlydeZone in for a serious watch. —Chris Ziegler and becoming, 12th Ave & Jefferson is out July 26 on Jealous Butcher) during the L.A. mainstay DāM-FunK changed the landscape-slash-soundscape of L.A. music, a record that took my whole life to make. winter of 2016. First single “Gods’ Guts” BIG TONE + HOUSE SHOES not just with his sound but with his It’s the first time I discussed dodging stray (note the position of the apostrophe) is an “No Guest List” (ft. Quelle attitude, determination and dedication to bullets and surviving a drive-by at 9 years understandably muted affair, a dissipated Chris) principle—as he says so often, funk is a way old on a song—a trauma I blocked out soft-rock song with a Scott Walker-goneStreet Corner Music of life, and he lives it. Now he’s released his of my memory. As a people we are boiled Steely Dan thing happening—basically Big Shoes is the new album by Detroit hip- STFU II EP, sequel to 2015’s STFU EP and down to cliches, devalued by a structural the perfect vibe for wandering around Los hop eminence Big Tone and L.A./Detroit immediate follow-up to last year’s Gemini- racial calculus and political arithmetic we Angeles disillusioning yourself, and for figure House Shoes, and together they stand twin Garrett album and transcendent had nothing to do with setting up. The realizing that the way you float in the pool up a silhouette gigantic enough to cover Architecture II EP. (If you aren’t glued to sample loop used in the song is from a is the way you’re floating through life. (And half the country. Shoes produced every DāM-FunK’s label Glydezone’s Soundcloud VINE—remember VINE?—my homie it’s only through sheer presence of mind that track here while Big Tone leads a top-notch stream, you’re constantly missing important Colin found of Shiloh Dynasty singing and you’re not flailing and drowning, either.) — roster of featurees. As the title suggests, it’s a things—actually, that’s true for DāM- playing guitar. It felt like the perfect canvas CZ meditation on legacy, and what it means to FunK’s socials, too.) “Hood Biz” swings like for a confessional. At times we forget how honor the past while still working to build an executioner’s axe—this is hard-edged valuable our stories are and that just the act ELUSIVE a worthy future. Like you’d expect, it’s a razor sharp street funk, with bone-rattling itself of telling of them is revolutionary. It’s Bonsai Tree deep and complex album, and “No Guest rhythm and an ominous John Carpenter- important people know the spectrum of Dome of Doom List” is a stand-out: it connects Big Tone’s style drone in the background. DāM-FunK artists and people South Central can and L.A. producer Elusive has a discography that characteristically sophisticated lyrics to a is a master of power and efficiency, and does produce. I hope people see themselves branches, flowers and digs deep to put down slow-burn beat, humming and thrumming there’s never anything unnecessary in his in my story. The truth is the most powerful roots, and that’s why his newest Bonsai Tree makes so much sense. It’s a refinement of in the background like some highly complex work. And that’s what’s happening in this thing I can share as an artist.” —Tolliver everything this instrumental experimentalist million-dollar piece of industrial machinery too-brief teaser video filmed across from does, delivered with the fine detail and that could explode if it wasn’t constantly the oil fields in Los Angeles’ Ladera Heights DIA mind-boggling complexity that comes only under expert control. Put too simply, “No and featuring dancer Storm DeBarge of the “Brokenhearted” from with tiny tools and colossal amounts Guest List” digs into relationships between Throne dance ensemble, which—like DāM- self-released

64

ON THE RECORD


of patience. (And much like an actual bonsai also made especially for her friends, it reveals tree, it suggests a whole world within its an uncommon power, too. —CZ limited physical space.) Bonsai is alive with post-Low End theory fluidity and a flexible GIANT WASTE OF MAN sense of space, time and possibility: guest The Politics of Lonely Ian Roller’s sax traces a twilight horizon line Chain Letter Collective across “LuvBeam,” while trumpet player L.A.’s Giant Waste of Man (including Ben Gabe Steiner zig-zags a melody between the Heywood of Chain Letter Collective and vaporized drum smashes of the underwater- Summer Darling and Cam Dmytryk of sounding “Contrast.” “Rose Mary” is Fakers and Facial) appeared out nowhere last perforated with sci-fi synthesizer while “Soul June with their “All My Friends Are Batshit Inspiration” and “Feel Your Groove” are like Crazy” single and now they’ve released their funk spinning along the edge of a black hole, debut full-length The Politics Of Lonely. Like both stretched toward a endless kind of “Crazy,” there’s a lot of the spirit of the 90s slowness. The supermachined smoothness of at work here, and like “Crazy,” GWoM uses Bonsai is absolutely deliberate, says Elusive, that spirit for its own distinctive purposes. and it runs right up til “Dream Segments” “What About Happiness” has that Nirvana/ closes the album with a moment as sharp as Pixies loud-quiet-loud dynamic but with the demarcation between cool sky and hot an unexpected kind of grit and texture that asphalt. —CZ makes it sound even more urgent, while the plaintive “Petty’s Dead” builds from a FELL RUNNER heart-on-sleeve solo electric statement into “Same Way” a Sonic Youth (or Smashing Pumpkins?) YES PLZ noise ballad. The tempo and grinding L.A.’s Fell Runner are a cluster of CalArts tank-tread dynamic of grunge are there alums (including L.A. RECORD featurees on “Mailblues” and “My Hurricane,” but Gregory Uhlmann and Tim Carr) whose there are elements of Guided By Voices’ exuberantly experimental indie rock is the off-center pop sensibility and even Elliott kind of music that materializes when every Smith’s Heatmiser or the post-Heatmiser instrument is in an inspired conversation outfit No. 2. And there’s a strange sense of with every other instrument. It’s crackling bleakness and fighting through despite the with a stop-start energy that’s the sonic bleakness across the entire album—maybe equivalent of ” … and you won’t believe because of the conditions under which what happened next!” Their sophomore Lonely was recorded, says Dmytryk: “We full-length Talking is an exploration of the were recording with producer Sean Foye nature of interpersonal communication, and last year when it felt like the whole of Los this track “Same Way” is “about trying to Angeles was on fire. We’d sit out on the patio be present for people in your life that have between takes and see the sun completely different needs than your own,” they tell blotted out by thick clouds of smoke. That us. It’s a characteristically exhilarating track disorienting, apocalyptic image really stuck that starts like a pop version of a Pop Group with us, informing the record as gnostic post-punk song then happily collapses into a meditation on the same burning question fractured rock riff like an exploded diagram we all ask ourselves as we age: how did we of the chorus to a Queen song, and then end up here?” —CZ it turns inside-out again for a deliriously hypnotic jazz guitar section. —CZ

THE GRINNING GHOSTS “What Would You Expect From GEMMA CASTRO Me?” “Love Me Baby (Shine Ur Light)” self-released self-released

L.A. singer Gemma Castro—who premiered The Grinning Ghosts just released their a haunting video with us last spring—is extra-gigantic 27-song Youth On The Rack back now with the starkly affecting new album in April—you know it’s a serious song “Love Me Baby (Shine Ur Light)”, a when the vinyl has to come out as abridged raw and intimate acoustic lament with just edition—and they’ve just made a video enough spacey synthesizer to make her for “What Would You Expect From Me?”, sound somehow even more alone. Those the grand finale for their magnum opus. little bleeps and squiggles might put a few It’s grunge-y indie-punk song with heavy more stars in the night sky above her, but it guitar and lots of old-fashioned frustration only serves to make the darkness seem even and angst. The video (directed by Emanuel darker. (Maybe that’s why she asks—as other Farina with Cesar Luna) is basically a livehave before her—for more light?) Unhappily, action cartoon about love gone wrong or love the story behind “Love Me …” is just as that never goes anywhere in the first place, sad as the song. It’s the only survivor of a but the song itself is about all those times library of sessions that lived on her laptop, when you find yourself stuck in the muck of and when the laptop was stolen, she lost a friendship that’s not functioning anymore. everything she’d made except this—only And if he sounds especially exhausted, says because she’d texted it to a friend. And so singer/guitarist Daryl Blake, there’s a reason: “Love Me …” remains, preserved with its “It’s an old song. It was recorded at Jazzcats rawness and roughness forever only because Studio in Long Beach by Jonny Bell. It was it was sent as a message. It’s an uncommonly one of the last vocals we recorded that day intimate listen, maybe because it never had so my voice got increasingly gruff as takes the chance for a studio workover—but like continued. I think this ended up serving the Sibylle Baier’s home recordings, which were song.” —CZ

ON THE RECORD

HEADSHOPPE “Bringing In All Your Women” self-released

as an antidote to the excess, listlessness and pointlessness of everything else. It’s a song that doesn’t wanna show off and doesn’t need to, and it’s got that hard-to-pull-off balance of humor and stark honesty that can really make something resonate. —CZ

Guitarist/vocalist Cashew was co-founder of psych-folk band Eagle Winged Palace but he just put out a a four-song EP at the end of April with “Bringing In All Your Women” LITRONIX as the opener, which is probably why the “Kenter Canyon” song starts with the sound of a tape deck self-released clicking on. That’s an extremely appropriate opening, although this release was built Kevin Litrow’s Litronix is a project about more from pixels than tape: “Women” is discovery—of self, of psyche and psychology, a cheerfully ramshackle Skip Spence-style of potential and personality and more. The song made with acoustic guitar, drums pill imagery that surrounded his last fulland an entire UFO armada of synthesizers length Pump The Gas in 2017 offered a simple recruited from the iPhone app store. The signal: he’s here to help you feel better. But EP was recorded and mixed on his phone, now he’s got a new song and a new formula. says Cashew, specifically during 3-to-6-AM “Kenter Canyon” is instantly different from insomnia hours. (“That energy ended up Pump The Gas’ seething Suicide-slashskewing things with one surreal idea after Sensations’ Fix synthesizer songs. Instead, another,” he adds.) Cashew’s wife and Eagle it’s closer to a classic Laurel Canyon sound, Winged Palace bandmate worked with him with Litrow gently singing over acoustic on a more atmospheric mix, and the result is guitar and a barely there rhythm track. It’s this mix of old-world Kinks-ian music-hall an intimate ode to inner power and outer melody and (also Kinks-ian) deliberately peace, recorded in a church by psychedelic earthy subject matter: “[It’s] about a visionary and studio auteur Greg Ashley, young man’s obsession on the road and his and it’s an early look at Litronix’ coming choice to return home to a weary family Elvis Lives full-length, due September 13 unaccustomed to his newfound debauchery,” and dedicated to Litrow’s father. —CZ says Cashew. —CZ

JOEL WESLEY HARDING “I Don’t Mind You” self-released

MIRRORBALL “Natural World” Dangerbird

Mirrorball is the duo of vocalist Alexandra Johnstone—formerly of White Dove, Local legend-slash-hero Joel Jerome— enthusiastically reviewed by us in the of unflagging dios (malos) fame and past—and longtime local guitarist Scott mastermind behind the Abbey Road West Watson, and on “Natural World” they’re studio, which incubated a bunch of the good bands in L.A. right now—has a new matching stylishly narcoticized 80s FM full-length called Glassell Skyline and the AOR production to a melancholy song new name Joel Wesley Harding. (Well about uncertainty and confusion. If there’s played on both counts, Joel.) He’ll be giving unexplored territory between Fleetwood away the album as he plays it in full at a Mac’s best b-sides and Kate Bush at her most show at McCabe’s on July 6, and here’s a celestial, that’s where Mirrorball wants to be. teaser track, designed like the rest of the —CZ record “to listen to while sitting in the tub thinking about old flames,” he says. “I Don’t NYXE Mind You” would be a natural fit next to the “Pisces Moon” variously melancholic solo works of George, self-released John and/or Paul—it’s a ballad that sounds L.A.’s Nyxe and director Lexie Alley made best on a little L.A. balcony at twilight with this intensely symbolic video that’s directly a bottle of wine, and you should make some plugged in to the fundamental forces of nature—fire, water, light and darkness, time to test that statement out. —CZ of course. And it was even filmed on the LAUREN EARLY night of that January lunar eclipse to add yet another source of power. Between “Out of Style” Nyxe’s unsparing musical clarity and Alley’s self-released Lauren Early is an extremely accomplished unwavering focus on her subject, “Pisces Valley kid who ricocheted through at least Moon” is almost more like watching a ritual three of the most active music scenes in than a simple music video. (Or at least like America—ours, San Francisco and New watching some undiscovered Kenneth Anger York—and then came home to make her project.) —CZ debut Patience EP and this ecstatically charismatic video. There’s a major Pete and ORIENTAL BEATLES Pete opening credits vibe here—especially “Serena” Early’s little leap off the kick drum on the self-released front lawn—and there’s some of that unique Oriental Beatles is the new outfit fronted Pete and Pete feeling here, too. “Out Of by vocalist/guitarist/synthesizerist Stephanie Style”‘s music and video both seem to touch Chan (of Dunes) and filled out by fellow wizards/whisperers Marty on the idea of making the most of what you synthesizer have even as you hope-slash-know there’s Sataman and Mark Lee, and “Serena” is their gotta be something more out there. This is debut single. It’s somewhere between postindie rock made the way the ancients did— punk and synth-pop—maybe like Young

65


Marble Giants and Yellow Magic Orchestra? A little?—and although its got the heart and even vulnerability of a bittersweet b-side pop anthem, there’s plenty of gently experimental knob-twisting in service of subverting expectations, too. It’s like the climax of some cloudy Cold War-era drama, where the moments of clarity cut through the fog and hit you right in the heart. —CZ

PACHYMAN “Big & Easy” Permanent Records You know Pachy Garcia from synth-punk firestarters Prettiest Eyes—whose new LP is reviewed in our albums section—but now it’s time to meet Pachyman, the DIY alter-ego who’s about to put out a totally together set of classic reggae, dancehall and dub. “Big & Easy” sounds like a straight shot of 1960s/1970s Lee “Scratch” Perry/ Keith Hudson-style analog dub with endless negative space and a perfect sense of pace and dynamic, even though it was inspired by a notable figure from Jamaica’s early 80s: “I had been listening to Billy Boyo around the time I recorded that one,” says Pachy. “Wanted to try something tuff—some of that late dancehall stuff that makes you wanna bob your head.” —CZ

PEEL’D “Ease the Helm” self-released The multitalented producer/musician Lewis Pesacov (of Fool’s Gold, Foreign Born and lots of great studio work) started incubating new music somewhere in between becoming a father and climbing a mountain, and the result is his new Peel’d—a project born of discovering that deeper love and those higher heights. “Ease The Helm” has its roots in that sweet spot in the 70s back when the Troubadour was for folk singers (before the Bags came in and tore it up!) and Asylum Records was making a new kind of cosmic-country slash health-food-and-hot-tubs sound for California. There’s as much Dylan in here as Pesacov’s press release promises, but there’s also some of the spirit of late-70s releases by CSN, Warren Zevon (in that happy piano hammering) and of course cosmiccountry godfather Michael Nesmith. This is laid-back feel-pretty-good music with a cheerfully loose kind of character—and of course it is because the song itself is about letting the waves move you, instead of you trying to move against the waves. It’s part of a new EP called Cahuenga Pass, named for the road that survived Carmageddon. —CZ

RYAN PORTER “Carriacou” (f. Thundercat) World Galaxy / Alpha Pup L.A. jazz trombonist Ryan Porter’s last album was an explosion of joyful energy— that’s partly why it was called The Optimist. And now he’s got a new release on deck, reaching even deeper into that well of positivity. Force For Good is named after

66

a particularly resonant/relevant quote from John Coltrane, explains Porter: “He thought to himself there is so much evil in the world and so many people are making the choice to become a force for evil. John felt making a choice to be a force for good would not only help his life but make his music the film score for the people who choose to force for good no matter what the conditions are.” And Porter’s Force For Good is alive with that sense of purpose, manifested here in this ten-minute workout (powered in part by Thundercat’s electric bass). It’s a snapshot of West Coast jazz in full bloom, and the result is even more expansive and exuberant than you’d expect. —CZ

SAFE JAZZ “Sweet, Juicy & Delicious Strawberries” YERSELF Jesse Schuster is nothing if not busy— besides performing and producing for a lot of locals, including L.A. RECORD featurees BOY DUDE and Chrome Canyon, he also helms the Full Screen Mode music video party at Echo Park’s Semi Tropic. Safe Jazz is his personal project, Schuster says, and this “Sweet, Juicy & Delicious Strawberries” video—directed, shot and edited by Kellen Malloy, whose YERSELF label has a Safe Jazz 7” and other worthy releases—is a a deep dive into aural/oral indulgence as our subject sinks into a song while slowly and lovingly attacking a bowl of strawberries. Red is the color of passion, so there’s lots of red, and green is the color of life, so there’s lots of green, too, especially when we see children at play and musicians at work. (Maybe there’s a connection there, too, eh?) “Sweet, Juicy …” was produced by Schuster and YERSELF, and is an appropriately oversaturated instrumental a la Sam Wilkes’ exploded jazz with gigantic drums and a melody that cuts through the chaos, courtesy collaborators Eric Mayson (keys) and Arlen Peiffer (drums) —CZ

SAN MINOTAURO “Alteryessing” self-released San Minotauro is the endlessly developing project of one J. Bonigno, featured by us last year before starting something new. After several worthy singles, Bonigno’s newest San Minotauro work is exploring a dreamier half-awake-half-asleep sound, emphasized in this video (by Telly Aristotle and Bonigno) that sees the Minotauros roaming downtown and Chinatown after hours. It’s that time of night when the people are gone but the lights stay on, which is a perfect complement to Minotauro’s neon-in-the-middle-of-nowhere music— something Bonigno accurately figures lands somewhere between Local Natives and Toro Y Moi. —CZ

THE SHAKING HANDS “Take You” self-released

The Shaking Hands are an L.A. band with Rites EP on the Swedish ICEA label. It’s a very appropriate name—this is jittery unflinching personal relevation set to a stuff that’d fit well with the Urinals, the crystalline R&B track—the kind of sound (early) Garden or Gary Wilson, who the 1984 hoped we’d actually have by 2020— Shaking Hands actually opened for at Non and it’s matched to a homage/re-enactment Plus Ultra. If you remember how the punk video that includes some winning personal comps in the 80s used to put the hardcore touches and the heroic obliteration of a on side A and the experimental stuff on side couple clocks and a giant bowl of flour. Says B … Shaking Hands are definitely (and Tolliver: ‘The concept is taken entirely from probably proudly) a B-side band. That sort gay icon Juan Gabriel’s video for ‘Querida.’ of two-sides-of-the-same-thing dynamic is I made it ME by adding gonzo visual in play in the video by Matt Nespor, too, things like me huffing flour and destroying which is practically soaking in that blownclocks, which are super-literal references out YouTube manifesto aesthetic. —CZ to me doing coke and wasting my time. SOFT SAILORS Felt right since ‘Twisted’ is roughly about both those things. It’s directed by Amanda “What We Live” Kramer and Noel David Taylor, a team self-released L.A. musician Geoff Geis has a long and who made the best feature film I saw last distinguished history: Big Whup, Pizza!, year. [Was that Ladyworld?—ed.] They’re the solo songs that made him something of also the fastest shooters I’ve ever worked a SoundCloud sensation and appearances with, this was all done in two hours. Thank in L.A. RECORD both as subject and you Ramiro Zapata [who makes up Moisture contributor. And now that he’s “older and BOYS with Tolliver—ed.] for bringing Juan presumably wiser,” he says, he’s got a new Gabriel into my life.” —CZ outfit called Soft Sailors and this anxious/ angsty art-wave track “What We Live,” WILD WING which touches on Sparks, Geza X and “Triumph” maybe a little of Peter Ivers’ manic midnight energy. It’s a song that wrestles with the self-released power and weight we give the past, he says: From the future-now department comes “‘What We Live’ is a song about the dread this unexpected new song by L.A.’s Wild I think we all must feel at those points in Wing, who normally deal in heavy-toour lives when we stop to think about how crushingly-heavy punk-y/psych-y rock. much our futures are constricted by our On “Triumph,” however, they cut out pasts and all the decisions we’ve already everything but the cool steel frame of the made. Every single opportunity we take song and bring in some synthesizers to fill costs us the infinite opportunities we didn’t out the space. The intense and unsettling take, thus even the most successful among result is somewhere between a Devo deep us ends up with regrets. But existential cut (especially on the topic and the backing angst is counterproductive —life isn’t what vocals) and a Neu! outtake, with some we want, it’s what we live.” —CZ animal desperation in the vocals just to make sure this still fits in with the rest of STARCOTICS the wild Wild Wing discography. —CZ

“Fall Down The Staircase” + “Bloodwater” self-released

Starcotics is a new L.A. quartet—including Spencer Lewin, Wyatt Bridges, Dylan Bostick and L.A. RECORD contributor Bennett Kogon—and their debut single is two dreamy/screamy songs they very correctly call “emogaze.” (They’ve got a few whisper-y moments, too, just in case you’re worried they aren’t hitting the full dynamic spectrum of emoness.) Flattering production—this stuff should be so headphone friendly it’s almost medicinal, and it is—and a deft sense of dynamic makes this single sound like a 7” that never was from one of the old school indies. And if there was a video, it’d be the kind of thing you’d catch on 120 Minutes between Pavement, Slowdive and Weezer. (Or immediately next to stated band influences like the Swirlies or Lilys.) —CZ

TOLLIVER “Twisted” ICEA “Twisted” is the closing track from neverpredictable L.A. musician (as well as L.A. RECORD contributor) Tolliver’s last year’s

XL MIDDLETON “Gentched Up” MoFunk XL Middleton is one of the MoFunk Records masterminds, an occasional L.A. RECORD contributor and a lifelong devotee of funk in all its forms—musical and just as crucially philosophical—and his new 2 Minutes To Midnight LP is reinvocation of the power of G-funk, including cover art by Doggystyle artist and genre icon Joe Cool. New single “Gentched Up” is a surfacestreet scorcher with Middleton’s trademark sizzling synth and viciously specific lyrics about a city where “tech money is the new crack money” and it costs “$5,000 a month for 1,000 square feet.” There’s more—lots more—where that came from, too. XL Middleton describes top-down displacement and “the way the rent’s rising up is starting to panic me / in the city with no control / … / your home turns to rubble / there’ll be condos in its place / none of them low income, though / 3 Gs a month for a creative space? / Shit, I been making basement tapes at mom’s since 88.” —CZ

ON THE RECORD


We can’t wait to see you at a show

GOLDENVOICE PRESENTS SUMMER SALT

8/15

MAX WEINBERG’S JUKEBOX VIC MENSA / JESSE

8/15

DANIEL CAESAR

8/27

CANDLEBOX with ÆGES & State to State

8/30

ZAKK SABBATH with Fu Manchu, Don Jamieson, The Wraith & Entry ZIGGY ALBERTS

FRIENDLY FIRES THE MIDNIGHT

9/27

HERMITUDE REVOCATION / VOIVOD

9/27

9/28

8/31

TEGAN AND SARA HOODIE ALLEN

9/5

YOKE LORE

10/2

9/7

10/1+2

GREENSKY BLUEGRASS ZEDD IN THE PARK with TroyBoi, Keys N Krates (DJ Set), Jax Jones and Brownies & Lemonade

STILL WOOZY

10/4

LIZZY & THE TRIGGERMEN

9/7

FELIPE ESPARZA STIFF LITTLE FINGERS

10/8

XAVIER RUDD

9/12

GRANDSON

ALEC BENJAMIN SOFI TUKKER

10/9

CHRISTONE “KINGFISH” INGRAM SWEET & TENDER HOOLIGANS

9/13

THOM YORKE

10/10

ABOVE GROUND

9/16

KAMASI WASHINGTON THE REGRETTES with Greer

9/19+20

WE WILL ROCK YOU REZZ with Peekaboo & BlackGummy

10/11

PHUM VIPHURIT

9/19

9/20

ALICE SMITH

10/12

CAAMP

10/16

YO LA TENGO

9/20

GALANTIS

10/18+19

THE PAPER KITES

9/21

BARNS COURTNEY

9/26

MADEON HIPPO CAMPUS with The Greeting Committee

11/15+16

EMELI SANDÉ

9/25

BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB with The Greeting Committee

9/26

MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK

1/24

with Dante Elephante and Motel Radio

with Haerts

with Koffee

with Emily Brimlow

with Devotional (The Depeche Mode Experience)

Fonda Theatre El Rey

8/23

Fonda Theatre Shrine Auditorium El Rey

Fonda Theatre El Rey Fonda Theatre 9/7

Los Angeles State Historic Park El Rey El Rey El Rey

9/14

El Rey

Fonda

Fonda theatre Theatre at Ace Fonda Theatre El rey

El Rey

Theatre at Ace Fonda Theatre Mayan

with Flamingosis

with Psycroptic, Skeletal Remains, and Conjurer

with Jake Miller

with The Avengers

with Nothing, Nowhere

with Haiku Hands and LP Giobbi

Fonda Theatre 9/27

The Novo El Rey

9/28

El Rey

Theatre at Ace 10/1

El Rey El Rey

Fonda Theatre Microsoft Theater 10/5

El Rey

Fonda Theatre Fonda Theatre 10/10

Shrine Expo Hall Greek Theatre Microsoft Theater 10/11

Greek Theatre El Rey

Fonda Theatre Shrine Expo Hall Shrine Expo Hall 11/23

The Novo The Novo


Profile for L.A. RECORD

L.A. RECORD ISSUE 135  

SADGIRL - CATE LE BON - MARK DECLIVE LOWE - DEVIN MORRISON - ROYAL TRUX - KEVIN MORBY - DAKIM - GIANNA GIANNA - UHURUVERSE - THE DAMNED - TH...

L.A. RECORD ISSUE 135  

SADGIRL - CATE LE BON - MARK DECLIVE LOWE - DEVIN MORRISON - ROYAL TRUX - KEVIN MORBY - DAKIM - GIANNA GIANNA - UHURUVERSE - THE DAMNED - TH...

Profile for larecord
Advertisement