Tag: Los Angeles CA

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Clipping. Release a Cinematically Shot, Menacing, Fever Dream

Over the past six years or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping.– production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs. Interestingly, last year’s critically applauded There Existed and Addiction to Blood found the acclaimed hip-hop trio interpreting a hip-hop splinter sect through their own singular lens — horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. Additionally, the album is also partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.

With horror films, sequels are perfunctory and perhaps even obligatory. As the insufferable film bro Randy explains in Scream 2, “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate—more blood, more gore. Carnage candy. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.” Clipping.’s highly-anticipated follow-up to There Existed an Addition to Blood, Visions of Bodies Getting Burned officially dropped today. And although many may see VoBGB as a sequel, in reality, it’s a the second half of a planned diptych. But hewing closely to the sequel tradition, the album finds the acclaimed JOVM mainstays returning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t ever stay dead.

Interestingly enough, in the years following ffSplendor & Misery, the trio wound up being incredibly prolific, writing and recording too may songs for just one album. Before the release of There Existed an Addition to Blood, Clipping. and Sub Pop divided the material into two albums, specifically designed to be released only months apart. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic managed to forced the cancellation of multiple tours and sadly, the delayed release of the act’s latest album. The 16 song album draws from an eclectic array of sources including Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson as much as it does from Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Developing their own abrasive, angular and messy interpretation of horrorcore, the members of Clipping. have fully intended to lovingly twist familiar tropes to fit their own politics and thematic concerns — in particular: fear, the absurd, the uncanny and the struggle for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.

So far, I’ve written about three of VoBBB‘s singles:

“Say The Name:.” Featuring a heavily chopped up and screwed sample of Scarface’s evocative lyric from “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” — “Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned,” the song is centered around wobbling, tweeter and woofer rocking low-end, industrial clang and clatter, arpeggiated synths and Diggs’ tongue twisting flow, full of surrealistically gore-filled lyrics full of imagery demons and hell spawn in the flames, bullet hole ridden bodies and more. To me, the song evokes the slow-burning horror of watching a man being snuffed out in public with replays form different angles and commentary as if it were a key play in deciding a big ball game.
“96 Neve Campbell:” Written as a tribute to the self-aware “final girl” character of the post-slasher film cycle that features a vicious and swaggering guest spot from Inglewood’s Cam & China, The trio of ridiculously talented emcees envisions the movie’s final girl — or inn this case final girls — preemptively striking the slasher and fucking his ass up before he could get them. Simply put, the track is fire. featuring criminally under-appreciated talent that you should know. “We’ve been fans of theirs for a long time, going back to the days when they were in the group Pink Dollaz,” Clipping.’s Daveed Diggs says of their collaboration with Cam & China. “Cam and China continue to be some of the most consistent and under-appreciated lyricists on the West Coast. We’ve been trying to do a song with them for a while now, and this one felt like a perfect fit. They bodied it.”
“Pain Everyday:” Centered around a menacingly glitchy production featuring industrial clang and clatter, stuttering beats, atmospheric synths and electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings said to be the voices of restless spirits — presumably those who maybe have died horrifyingly brutal deaths. Thematically, the song envisions a call-to-arms for the dead victims of lynching and extrajudicial police killings to haunt and torture the descendants of their murderers both here and in the afterlife. “This song was one of the most challenging to write because it’s the first time we’ve done a track entirely in ⅞, which, it turns out, is kind of a mind fuck,” Clipping.’s Daveed Diggs explains. “I love how it came out because it’s in this odd time signature but the flow still feels natural, like rap is supposed to.”

Visions of Bodies Being Burned fourth and latest single “Enlacing” is a menacing take on trap featuring the prerequisite stuttering beats, distorted vocals that seem to come out from the opened gates of Hell., brief bursts of twinkling synths, droning electronics and tweeter and woofer rocking end paired with Diggs’ alternating between his imitable rapid-fire flow, a spoken word flow and sung choruses. Let this track be a reminder of how Clipping. is actively pushing the sound of hip-hop in new and weirder directions while remaining remarkably accessible.

Clipping. recently released a C Prinz-produced double video for “Enlacing and “Pain Everyday.” featuring frontman Daveed Diggs, the visual is a gorgeously shot and incredibly vivid fever dream that pulsates with menace and unease. “This piece explores bodies and impact and gravity and sensation in a way that aims to overwhelm you as viscerally as our current world reality does mentally, but through the lens of the embodied experience,” C Prinz explains. “We are surrounded by surface level, fake realities through social media and politics. I just wanted to create a piece that serves as a momentary break from the superficial culture we live in and fantasize on a more genuine, honest reality in the effort it takes to survive right now.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Joe Wong Teams Up With Fred Armisen on a Lyrical and Trippy Visual for “Nite Creatures”

Throughout the course of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Joe Wong. Wong has had a lengthy career as a drummer — but he has made a name for himself for his scores for a number of acclaimed TV series, including Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Earlier this year Wong released his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, and so far I’ve written about four of the album’s previously released singles — including: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” the Scott Walker-like “Minor,” and “Day After Day,” a sobering exploration of free will versus fate that doesn’t have easy answers. Continuing an incredible run of stunningly lush yet brooding material, the album’s latest single, album title track “Nite Creatures” is a slow-burning and deliberately crafted track focuses on existential dread with a rapturous and swooning psychedelia. If Wong wasn’t a contemporary artist, you might mistakenly think that “Nite Creatures” was released sometime between 1966-1970.

Directed by Fred Armisen, the recently released video follows a brooding Wong as he enters a vaguely Eastern-styled house. As he wanders through the house, we see some deeply kaleidoscopic and psychedelic effects happen to him and to his surroundings, suggesting that Wong was going through a deeply spiritual awakening of some sort. Much like the song itself, it’s a slow-burning and gorgeously shot fever dream — but with something dark and murky on the fringes.

Interestingly, the collaboration between the duo can trace some of its origins back to the 1990s: Armisen was the dummer for Trenchmouth and Wong was a high-school kid in a math rock band named after an extremely obscure Dune reference. Wong wound up reconnecting with Armisen in 2013: Wong was drumming for Marine Stern. A few years later, Armisen asked Wong to help produce his first comedy special Standup For Drummers.

“It was inspiring to witness how he’d evolved from the drummer I met over twenty years ago to the singular talent he is today,” Wong says. “When I decided to make a video for ‘Nite Creatures,’ I thought Fred would be the ideal person to direct. Because of his sense of narrative rhythm (we’re both drummers, after all), surrealist aesthetic, and ability to make creative decisions on the fly, he proved himself the perfect director, indeed.”

“I love Joe’s album,” Armisen adds, “so when he asked me to work on the video, I was like, ‘YES!’ The song is so sonically rich, I think it makes dreamy videos in everyone’s mind. I just wanted to try to match that feeling.”

Los Angeles– based duo Complicated Animals— singer/songwriter Monica da Silva and multi-instrumentalist Chad Alger — specializes in what the duo have coined Indie Nova, a mesh of Indie Pop and Bossa nova. Complicated Animals can trace their origins back to 2008: the then-Chicago-based da Silva, who had been wanting to steer her music back to her Brazilian roots had stumbled across Alger’s Craiglist ad seeking someone to start a Brazilian music project with. The duo met during the winter and they survived the cold Chicagoland winter by drinking red wine and black coffee — and at some point, during that haze, Alger picked up a guitar and da Silva made up some lyrics. And the songs they began crafting transported them to the beaches of Brazil.

The duo collaborated on da Silva’s solo album 2010’s Bruce Driscoll-produced Brasilissima, which featured songs written and sung in English and Portuguese. Brasilissima‘s first single “Aí Então”, caught the attention of the blogosphere and Cumbacha Records‘ Jacob Edgar, who featured the track on Putunayo World Music‘s Brazilian Beat compilation. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s psychedelic “That’s Not The Way” pump dup crowds during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Written and recorded in a cabin in the Michigan woods, the duo’s Complicated Animals 2015 debut, the six song In This Game EP was released to critical praise by PopMatters, who called the effort “a 6 song masterpiece” and the “beginning of a new sound.” Since then da Silva released the haunting and cinematic “Soldado de Amor,” which was featured on the BBC TV dramatic series The Replacement . Last year, In This Game single “Phoenix” was featured in the Netflix’s Last Summer.

Complicated Animals’ latest single find the duo tackling one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, and arguably one of their biggest hits “Times Like These.” Famously, Foo Fighters released an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” in which Dave Grohl accompanied himself on guitar and piano — and while leaning much closer to the acoustic version, the Complicated Animals cover is a breezier, folkier, Fleetwood Mac-like take on the song. In my book, “Times Like These” is the rare Foo Fighter song that works as an arena rock anthem and as an intimate singer/songwriter ballad, which is a testament to how well written the song is.

As da Silva and Alger explain, they gravitated toward the track, because the lyrics are in line with the events of this past year. “This year sure has been crazy. We’ve all had to slow down, and focus on familial relationships, and close friendships. We believe that these challenging times, are the times that shape us,” the Los Angeles based duo explain. “The most important thing we can do right now, is just be there for each other. We hope to inspire people with some positivity. The world needs more of that. We’re collaborating with a talented Brazilian artist named Karla Caprali. She has created the song art, and is working on a powerful visual (animated video) to go with the track. We’re staying hopeful for the future. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.’”

With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut through Shelflife Records, the trans-national based shoegazer/dream pop act The Luxembourg Signal — currently, Beth Arzy (vocals), Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitar), Brian Espinoza (drums), Ginny Pitchford (keys), Daniel Kumiega (bass) and Kelly Davis (guitar) — quickly attracted a loyal following while receiving overwhelmingly breathless praise for crating material centered around ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, paired with a pop sensibility. 

The band, which features members split in LondonLos Angeles and San Diego returned to the studio with Mark Rains to write and record their upcoming third, full-length album The Long Now. Deriving its name from a phrase coined by the legendary Brian Eno, the title refers to a long-term way of perceiving time, that’s an alternative to the accelerated way we often experience our lives. Essentially, viewing our lives this way allow us to make sense of our brief and noisy time together, by understanding our place in a much larger timeline with history playing its own course. Slated for release next week through Shelflife Records and Spinout Nuggets, the 10 song album  thematically sees the trans-national septet imagining a blurred horizon that lies between light and dark and the fleeting nature of — well, everything. 

I’ve managed to write a quite a bit about the trans-national shoegazer/dream pop act over the past handful of years — and recently, I’ve written about two of The Long Now‘s released singles: the anthemic and breakneck “2:22,” a track that further cements their sound and approach — lush soundscapes paired with ethereal vocals. But a subtle bit of grime and grit gives the song an emotional wallop, which shouldn’t be surprising as the song tackles the overwhelming and confusing array of emotions that being constantly plugged in evokes. The album’s second single, the rousingly upbeat “The Morning After,” which features the band’s Betsy Moyer taking up vocal duties is a jangling, hook-driven track that thematically focuses on renewed possibilities the hopes of new beginnings. And as a result it’s a much-needed bit of hope in our dire time.

“Mourning Moon” The Long Now‘s third and latest single is a jangling and hazy shoegaze, centered around reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming, breathy and ethereal harmonizing and a soaring hook. And while continuing a remarkable run of lush yet anthem material, “Mourning Moon” may arguably be one of the more brooding tracks on the album. While featuring fairly vague lyrics, the song was written to conjure memories that are often vague and highly ambivalent — in particular, fundamental disagreements with a dear friend over a history between you that can’t be unwritten. And in many ways, the friendship may be on the line.

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LyrIc Video: Clipping. Releases a Minimalist and Menacing New Single

Throughout the past few years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual link covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping.– production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs. Now, as you may recall, last year’s There Existed and Addiction to Blood found the acclaimed hip-hop trio interpreting a rap spinner sect through their own singular lens — in this case, horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. That album’s material is also partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.

With horror films, sequels are perfunctory. As the insufferable film bro Randy explains in Scream 2, “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate—more blood, more gore. Carnage candy. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.” Clipping.’s highly-anticipated follow-up to There Existed an Addition to Blood, Visions of Bodies Getting Burned is slated for an October 23, 2020 release through their longtime label home, Sub Pop Records. Much like any sequel, VoBGB finds the JOVM mainstays returning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills, and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t stay dead. And although the album will most lily be seen and received as a sequel, in reality it’s the second half a planned diptych.

As it turned out, in the years following Splendor & Misery, the trio wound up being incredibly prolific, writing and recording too may songs for just one album. Before the release of There Existed an Addition to Blood, Clipping. and Sub Pop divided the material into two albums, specifically designed to be released only months apart. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic managed to forced the cancellation of multiple tours and the delayed release of Visions of Bodies Being Burned until next week. Interestingly, the 16 song album draws from Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson as much as it does from Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Brotha Lynch Hung. And while they’ve developed a uniquely abrasive, angular and messy interpretation of horrorcore, they fully intend to lovingly twist beloved and familiar tropes to fit their own politics and thematic concerns — fear, the absurd, the uncanny and the struggle for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.

New Video: Brittany Campbell and Phil. Team Up on A Bold Declaration of Queer Love and Desire

Brittany Campbell is a Los Angeles-based R&B artist, animator and actor and activist. Joining the Metropolitan Opera at an early age, Campbell went on to act in and star in a number of Broadway productions including a little one by the name of Hamilton, where she met her girlfriend Candace Quarrels — and formed the R&B and folk duo Mermaid, whose forthcoming full-length album features production by Matt Otto and Sam Hoffman.

Campbell has also released material as a solo artist, releasing her full-length debut, 2018’s Stay Gold, which revealed a songwriter, who could craft earnest, lived-in songs paired with a self-assured vocal range. The Los Angeles-based artist, animator, actor and activist’s creative passion and curiosity led her to become a self-taught animator, who has created videos for supermodel/vocalist Shaun Ross, as well as for her work.

Born Philip Johnson-Richardson, Phil. is a Charlotte-born, New York-based singer, emcee, dancer and actor, who immediately upon finishing his degree in musical theater at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music joined the cast of the Chicago production of Hamilton, where he eventually starred in the titular role. Since starring in Hamilton, the rapidly rising talent has managed to land a number of prominent acting gigs, appearing in TV shows like Chicago P.D., Proven Innocent, The Other Two and the the horror film Haunt. He was also cast as a series regular in the Sara Bareilles and JJ Abrams created Apple TV+ series Little Voice. And adding to a incredibly busy period, the Charlotte-born, Chicago-based singer, emcee, dancer and actor will be releasing his debut EP Different Cities, an effort that will help to further showcase his talents.

Recently Campbell and Phil. teamed up on the slickly produced and empowering pop anthem “Champion.” Centered around stuttering trap beats, shimmering and layered synth arpeggios, Campbell’s sultry vocals, an inspired guest spot from Phil., who quickly alternates between staccato spitting fire and achingly tender soul crooning and an infectious hook, “Champion” is a sensual and joyous ode to queer love, desire and devotion that was specifically released for National Coming Out Day. “I’ve written a few songs about making love but none that were inspired by making love to a woman,'” Campbell explains. “The song and video is my attempt at capturing some of the feelings it inspires in me. . . the euphoria and joy in making love.”

The brightly colored, intergalactic — and downright trippy — visual for “Champion” captures Black, queer love with a boldness that’s defiant yet tender, as it suggests that for the song’s narrator making love to her girl is a transcendent and otherworldly experience.

 

With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut through Shelflife Records, the trans-national based shoegazer/dream pop act The Luxembourg Signal — currently, Beth Arzy (vocals), Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitar), Brian Espinoza (drums), Ginny Pitchford (keys), Daniel Kumiega (bass) and Kelly Davis (guitar) — quickly attracted a loyal following while receiving overwhelmingly breathless praise for crating material centered around ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, paired with a pop sensibility. 

The band, which features members split in LondonLos Angeles and San Diego returned to the studio with Mark Rains to write and record their upcoming third, full-length album The Long Now. Deriving its name from a phrase coined by the legendary Brian Eno, the title refers to a long-term way of perceiving time, that’s an alternative to the accelerated way we often experience our lives. Essentially, viewing our lives this way allow us to make sense of our brief and noisy time together, by understanding our place in a much larger timeline with history playing its own course. The 10 song album which is slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Shelflife Records and Spinout Nuggets thematically sees the trans-national septet imagining a blurred horizon that lies between light and dark and the fleeting nature of — well, everything. 

Earlier this week, I wrote about The Long Now’s first single “2:22,” an anthemic and breakneck song that clocks in at exactly 2:22 and finds the act further cementing their sound and approach — lush soundscapes paired with ethereal vocals. However, there’s a subtle bit of grime and grit at them edges of the song, which give it an emotional wallop. Thematically, the song deals with the emotional and mental paralysis and insecurities of our digital world the evokes the overwhelming and confusion array of emotions that constantly being plugged in evokes.

The album’s second single “The Morning After” is a rousingly upbeat track, centered around jangling guitars, a propulsive rhythm section, a Pixies-like bass line and an enormous hook as the song finds the band slowly adding instruments until the song’s galloping coda. Interestingly, the album’s second single is the first single off the album to feature the band’s Betsy Moyer taking up lead vocal duties — and thematically, the upbeat track focuses on the renewed possibilities and hopes that the dawn of a new day carries; a clean slate, a new beginning. Admittedly, it’s a much-needed blast of hope and uplift when things seem so dire and so bleak. 

“The song was written shortly after the completion of the Blue Field LP and became one of the building blocks for the new LP The Long Now,” the band explains in press notes. 

 

Photo Credit: Leah Zeis

 

 

 

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New Video: The Luxembourg Signal Releases a Nostalgia Inducing Visual for Anthemic “2:22”

With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut through Shelflife Records, the trans-national based shoegazer/dream pop act The Luxembourg Signal — currently, Beth Arzy (vocals), Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitar), Brian Espinoza (drums), Ginny Pitchford (keys), Daniel Kumiega (bass) and Kelly Davis (guitar) — quickly attracted a loyal following while receiving overwhelmingly breathless praise for crating material centered around ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, paired with a pop sensibility.
The Luxembourg Signal’s sophomore album 2017’s Blue Field saw the band’s sound moving towards a much more developed, darker and bolder sound — perhaps as a result of the band expanding to their current lineup.

The band, which features members split in London, Los Angeles and San Diego returned to the studio with Mark Rains to write and record their upcoming third, full-length album The Long Now. Deriving its name from a phrase coined by the legendary Brian Eno, the title refers to a long-term way of perceiving time, that’s an alternative to the accelerated way we often experience our lives. Essentially, viewing our lives this way allow us to make sense of our brief and noisy time together, by understanding our place in a much larger timeline with history playing its own course. Interestingly, the 10 song album which is slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Shelflife Records and Spinout Nuggets thematically sees the trans-national septet imagining a blurred horizon that lies between light and dark and the fleeting nature of — well, everything.

The Long Now’s latest single “2:22,” which coincidentally has a runtime of 2:22 is an anthemic and breakneck song that sees the act further cementing their reputation for crafting lush soundscapes paired with ethereal vocals — but in this case, there’s a subtle bit of grit and grime at edges that gives the song an emotional punch. Thematically, the song deals with the emotional and mental paralysis and insecurities of our digital world the evokes the overwhelming and confusion array of emotions that constantly being plugged in evokes.

Fittingly, the recently released video for “2.22” is a necessary dose of nostalgia as we follow the members of the The Luxembourg Signal hanging out in Brighton and various other locales, rushing off to tour stops with gear in tow via train, bus and car. Throughout, there are very small, very human moments of going places with with dear friends, playing music and just being here now. And in light of our lives during this pandemic, it’s those small moments — like of sharing a bottle of beer with new friends in Montreal, of dancing with strangers at shows and nightclubs, of exploring some new place as a stranger and so much more that I miss so very much.

New Audio: Los Angeles’ Peel Release a Brooding and Atmospheric New Single

Los Angeles-based duo Peel is a new collaboration between multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Sean Cimino and multi-instrumentalist and producer Isom Innis. The project can trace its origins to a month-long recording session the duo held at Innis’ concrete loft above the The Orpheum Theatre. The loft’s cavernous space, which once held fleets of sewing machines thrumming and humming served as the perfect setting for musical experimentation through drums, amps and modular synthesizers.

Last month, I wrote about Peel’s debut single “Rom-Com,” which interestingly enough, was the first song that Innis and Cimino wrote together. Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a woozy guitar solo and a hypnotic, motorik groove, the track may remind some listeners of Gary Numan and Antics-era Interpol to mind while thematically focusing on the difficulty of finding one’s existential footing in the cyclical information spiral. Building upon the attention they’ve received for “Rom-Com” and “Catch and Release,” Innis’ and Cimino’s third and latest single “Citizen X” is an atmospheric and meditative track, featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, a slow-burning groove, stuttering beats, shoegazer-like guitar lines played through delay and reverb pedals paired with a soaring hook and plaintive vocals that reminds me of The Veldt and Cocteau Twins but with a subtle hip-hop nod. “Citizen X” may arguably be the most cinematic leaning track off the duo’s soon-to-be released self-titled, full-length debut, which is slated for an October 16, 2020 release through Innovative Leisure. And interestingly enough, the track appears on EA Sports’ FIFA 2K21 Soundtrack.

“’Citizen X’ was an outlier to our usual stream of conscious lyric writing process— the framework began more conceptually,” Peel’s Isom Innis explain in press notes. “It has a tongue in cheek tone and is coming from a disillusioned place. Originally, it was a slower shoe-gaze inspired track, but Sean had the idea to re-imagine it, speed it up and really emphasize the groove and treat the guitar more like Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins].”

Portland, OR-based The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending college in Eugene OR back in 2004, studying for degrees that as the band’s Evan Way once joked “never used or even completed.” 

The members of the then newly formed Parson Red Heads spent the next year writing songs and rehearsing constantly. “We would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have,” Way fondly recalls. “We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”

In 2006, the band relocated to Los Angeles, with the hopes that they would take music seriously and become a real band. The members of the band moved into and shared a one bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way says of the band’s early days in Southern California. The Parson Red Heads quickly became mainstays in a growing, 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene primarily based in Los Angeles’ Silverlake and Echo Park sections. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason,” Way recalls.

After the release of King Giraffe, The Parson Red Heads spent the next three years writing new material and touring, which eventually resulted in their sophomore album, 2011’s Yearling. The album was partially recorded at Los Angeles-based studio Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey. After finishing the album, the members of the band decided to quit their day jobs and give up their apartments to go on a lengthy tour with their friends Cotton Jones. After the tour was completed, they relocated to Portland. 

With their first two albums, the band had developed a reputation for performing an uninhabited live show, in which they could easily morph from earnest folk to ass-kicking rock anthems with their sound and approach being inspired by The ByrdsTeenage FanclubBig StarCrosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Jackson Browne. Interestingly, with the band’s third album 2013’s Orb Weaver, the band desired to capture the energy and sound of their live sound.  “We’re always made records that were more thought-out,” Way says of Orb Weaver

2017’s Blurred Harmony found the JOVM mainstays actively intending to do things much differential than their previously released work — with the band recording and tracking themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously record Blurred Harmony‘s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the members of the band were forced to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The remaining founding members recruited touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time, and then they decided to approach any new material with a completely new lens. Slated for a November 13, 2020 release through their longtime label homes Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, The Parson Red Heads’ fifth album Lifetime of Comedy reportedly finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing it to be remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Way contends in press notes are the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date. 

Initially starting the recording of Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year, The Parson Red Heads quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. And once studios could reopen, sessions continued at a snail’s place for small, very intimate sessions. With the material being recorded in a delicate, touch and go period, the album’s material seems to be deeply informed by a sense of perseverance and hope. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about “All I Wanted,” Lifetime of Comedy‘s first single was classic Parson Red Heads — a breezy yet carefully and thoughtfully crafted song centered around shimmering guitars, twangy steel pedal. rousing sing-a-long choruses, saccharine bursts of multi-part harmonies, Evan Way’s plaintive vocals and incredibly earnest lyricism, born of lived-in experiences. And while superficially sounding as though it could have easily been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions, the track possessed a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe, that evokes the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness. Interestingly, Lifetime of Comedy‘s second and latest single “Turn Around” is a shimmering and heartfelt declaration of devotion but unlike its predecessor, it sound as though it were influenced by classic 80s and early 90s jangle pop, complete with soaring organs. It’s the sort of sweet and timeless love song that’s deceptively simple yet absolutely necessary. Sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”

“‘Turn Around’ started as a lot of the songs I’ve been writing these days do – as a half-jibberish sung melody line, sung into my phone’s voice memo while driving,” The Parson Red Heads’ frontman Evan Way explains in press notes. “It stayed in that form for a good year before I found it, dusted it off, and brought it to the band. This song is a testament to the strength of the bands collaborative writing on this album. Everyone’s parts are so integral to the song’s small and simple beauty. It’s a simple love song, the lyrics a statement of devotion – in many ways, it is like a classic old Parson Red Heads song, in both theme and sound, but it has this element of The La’s or The Charlatans in it that I just love. And Raymond (Richards, multi-instrumentalist and producer) was able to help us get such a great mix of guitar sounds, 12-strings, Nashville strung electric – a great balance of being lush without being over-crowded.”