Bred on new wave bands like New Order and Iron Maiden, L.A. Girlfriend‘s music has come to reflect an ’80s counterculture sound in a genre best described as “romantic nouveau.” This is evidenced by the L.A. fuzz pop act’s new record, Neon Grey released earlier this month. Throughout the album, LAGF founder Sydney Banta plaits sharp synths, propulsive drum tracks and a traditional house beat into energetic, edgy lo-fi arrangements. Get acquainted with these newcomers by listening to album highlight “XIV” — and “Runner” (off their Varsity EP) below.
As fans of the indie act Carousel, we were delighted to learn that one half of the duo, Jackson Phillips was embarking on a solo project known as Day Wave. The Oakland based artist has already accrued a combined 500,000 plays on Soundcloud over the last year with his first two releases, and the latest single “Drag” follows the same sonic trend as previous efforts with its ruminative, lo-fi surf-pop sound. Introspective lyrics paired with light guitar strums — along with an intrinsic post-punk nature and a hint of shoegaze set his sound apart from the more synth-leaning Carousel. Listen below.
ELEL is a new eight-piece based out of Nashville that has been building a good amount of buzz this past year. Founded by Ben Elkins, the epithet ELEL is an amalgam of Ben’s surname and his wife’s first name, Eliska (insert requisite “awe” here). Recently signed to Mom + Pop Records (Andrew Bird, Jagwar Ma, Poliça) the indie outfit is also comprised of musicians Zach Tichenor (keys/guitar/vocals), Tim Cook (guitar/keys/vocals), Jo Jo Jackson (bass/vocals), Alex Mojavarian (drums/percussion), Jerry Pentecost (drums/percussion), Fredrick Weathersby (trumpet/vocals), and Stefan Forbus (saxophone/vocals).
Collectively with their array of instruments, ELEL make exuberant indie pop complete with lo-fi sampling and lots of live improvisation. Prior to the group’s show at DC’s Black Cat with opener Avers tonight, we caught up with frontman Ben, post-sound check in Philly to discuss their self-titled EP that released today.
When did ELEL first come together?
It came together over about a six month period starting about two and a half years ago up, until we played our first show in in Nashville. A lot of us worked at Trader Joe’s, and at the time I was putting together a new band and got into kind of a crunch cause I needed people to play a show. I asked around a bit to see if people were available and lo and behold they were also great musicians. Around that same time I also met Zach at a party and we just hit it off. The two horn players were more of a struggle to nail down initially – I had to keep calling and calling, but once Fredrick came to the first practice, he was in. So it kind of came together in a real neat organic sort of way, which is great.
Can you give us a little insight into what all went into recording the EP?
It was a lot of recording at my house on my computer with just headphones. I like to record old instrumental jazz records collected from thrift stores over the years. I’ll listen through the song and chop out small chords and percussion parts, loop this or that and manipulative them in a lot of different ways – that really makes the song come alive more than just me doing that part with my own keyboard or something. It was a lot of messing around with textures just to get the feel of it down, then we would replace those parts in the studio. I did all the vocals at my house because I like to take my time with that kind of thing; plus I tend to get nervous in the studio setting since you’re paying for it and have all these random people listening to you.
Did you have to get a lot of equipment?
No but I mean I should have if I’d had the money! I just kind of worked with what I had. I borrowed this really neat old broadcasting mic from a friend, which is what I sing the vocals through. It’s a real DIY kind of project, that’s kind of one of the reasons that I’m thrilled that it’s resonating with people, ’cause I worked countless hours and put countless amounts of energy into it but didn’t necessarily have the best equipment.
You’ve talked before about the music industry being overly obsessed with perfection. Can you speak to that a bit more?
Definitely, I think the record industry’s drive towards perfection is mostly motivated by fear. The industry is so scared of taking risks right now because as we all know, for 10 or 15 years or so there’s been a decrease in revenue in the music business. So the reaction has been to not take any chances, and what that means to record executives is to make everything sound perfect. And it’s unfortunate because I think that a lot of the music that’s coming out is so perfectly produced that it doesn’t even sound human anymore. It’s like a photograph that gets touched up on a magazine cover, you know.
For sure, everything’s photoshopped these days.
Uh huh, it’s like that Foster the People video where this one model is told to manipulate her body, and by the end of it she’s changed so much that she looks really, really weird. It’s pretty intense – but in a way that’s what’s happening to music. When you hear a live band that’s really groovin, it just impacts your heart and soul. But if you took that performance and fixed all the idiosyncrasies, something would be lost. Humans don’t look or sound perfect – and if we get further and further away from that in our art, to me it feels uncomfortable and it doesn’t resonate as much with people.
What music inspires you the most and who are you currently listening to?
Anything that stirs my soul. Can be anything from 90s garage rock, to jazz, soul, and modern indie bands like Beach House or Local Natives. Also the most recent Flume release is pretty freakin’ awesome. And actually, it may sound strange but I’m not a huge music consumer; I probably shouldn’t say that – it sounds snobbish but maybe it’s the music producer in me that makes me want to change things. Nonetheless, when I hear a song that moves my soul – that’s the kind of music I want to make and contribute to this world.
How did you get connected to the Mom + Pop label?
Julia, the A&R person there found our track “40 Watt” in May 2014. That was a huge moment, receiving that email. I was sitting with my bandmate Tim in front of my laptop after an ELEL practice, and just happened to see the email from Mom and Pop and got so excited that as he was talking I hit him in the chest and was just like, look at this! We both started yelling, giving each other high fives and immediately went into the kitchen to pour tequila shots. And that was just an introductory email!
Haha, well luckily it all worked out. What’s next for ELEL?
We’re touring right now and getting ready to release a couple of videos off the EP, excited to be playing in SXSW this month, then heading from Austin up to the Northwest for a few more tour dates before heading back home.
Upcoming ELEL Tour Dates:
TV Girl is a postmodern pop band out of LA who released their debut album, French Exit this past June. The group incorporates looped samples, 80s-like synths, trip hop beats and catchy low-pitch vocals in what amounts to lovable lo-fi bubblegum pop. Piano, harps, xylophone and woodwind are also orchestrated in their songs, making for an easy and breezy listening style. Stream the track “Birds Don’t Cry” below and pick up the album on iTunes.
Montreal’s Mac DeMarco released his new album Salad Days via Captured Tracks the first of this month. And for only a 23-year-old, DeMarco demonstrates remarkable craftsmanship — and a world weariness that is a marked departure from earlier efforts. Albeit still quirky in his aesthetic, the Justin Kirk look-alike manages to show a more authentic side of himself on the LP with his blend of understated pop and lo-fi sound. Stream the dismal single “Passing Out Pieces” below.
Swedish duo I Break Horses, consisting of members Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck produce a magical lo-fi fusion of shoegaze and dreampop. This January saw the release of their sophomore LP Chiaroscuro via the label Bella Union (Beach House, Explosions in the Sky, Fleet Foxes). Stream the single “Denial” and check out their spring tour dates across the US below.
4/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
4/15 – Washington DC @ DC9
4/17 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
4/18 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
4/19 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott
4/21 – Montreal, QC @ Il Motore
4/22 – Toronto, ON @ Underground at the Drake
4/24 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom – Pike Room
4/25 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
4/26 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
4/29 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
4/30 – Portland, OR @ Holocene
5/2 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
5/3 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
As 2013 winds to a close, enjoy this under-the-radar indie track by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, released on their sophomore album II earlier this year.
If you love indie and also happen to be nostalgic for the dulcet pop stylings of the 50’s and 60’s, then look no further than the new Tennis EP just released via Communion Records. Sample their track “Mean Streets” off the five track EP Small Sound below and grab it on iTunes today.
Tennis will be playing at DC’s Black Cat TONIGHT!
Tennis Tour Dates:
11/06 Washington, DC @ Black Cat
11/07 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
11/09 Montreal, QC @ II Motore
11/10 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
11/12 Bloomington, IN @ Bluebird Nightclub
11/13 Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
11/14 Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
11/16 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/17 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
11/19 Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
11/20 Madison, WI @ The Frequency
11/21 Maquoketa, IA @ Daytrotter
11/29 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
In anticipation of their new album Static coming out October 15th, the Cults have released a couple new songs including the sweet but devastating lo-fi track “High Road.” The NYC based duo that premiered in 2011 with their eponymous debut record have a charming, fifties-inspired pop sound that reminds me a little of Camera Obscura. Enjoy it below along with my favorite off their first album, “You Know What I Mean.”
‘Cause I am afraid of the light, yeah, you know what I mean,
And I can’t sleep alone at night, yeah, you know what I mean.
Cults 2013 Tour Dates:
Oct 22 – The Sinclair, Boston, MA, USA
Oct 23 – Theatre of Living Arts, USA
Oct 26 – Life Is Beautiful Festival – Las Vegas, NV, USARSVP
Oct 27 – Life Is Beautiful Festival, Las Vegas, NV, USA
Oct 29 – Black Cat, Washington, D.C., USA
Oct 30 – Motorco Music Hall, Durham, NC, USA
Oct 31 – Visulite Theatre, Charlotte, NC, USA
Nov 1 – The Loft, Atlanta, GA, USA
Nov 2 Voodoo Experience Music Festival, New Orleans, LA, USA
Nov 4 – Emo’s, Austin, TX, USA
Nov 5 – Fitzgerald’s, Houston, TX, USA
Nov 8 – Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM, USA
Nov 9 – Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Nov 10 – The Irenic, San Diego, CA, USA
Nov 12 – El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Nov 15 – Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR, USA
Nov 16 – Rio Theatre, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Nov 17 – Neumo’s, Seattle, WA, USA
Nov 20 – Bluebird Theatre, Denver, CO, USA
Nov 22 – First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Nov 23 – Metro, Chicago, IL, USA
Nov 24 – Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, USA
Nov 25 – Lee’s Palace, Canada
Nov 26 – Webster Hall, New York, NY, USA
Cayucas is a California-based group, whose namesake is a seaside town in San Luis Obispo with a sound to match. Channeling the likes of Beck and Tame Impala, “High School Lover” is a laidback lo-fi number with a nostalgic feel. Pick up a FREE download of the track off debut album Bigfoot below, which will be out April 1st next week.