If you read my blog on a regular basis, then you know I’m no stranger to expressing my own heartfelt opinions. Thus, when I was asked a couple months back about answering some questions about my own blog, I decided to drop any potential hesitations about clouding my honest answers. And I realized that most of my darkest secrets happened long enough that I don’t care about family members reading about them, nor do I worry about ever running for public office. So to sum up the interview in 5 parts:
#1 – I love to talk shit.
#2 – I accidentally smoked crack when I was 16.
#3 – Ween kicks ass.
#4 – Zach dela Rocha let us all down by not releasing new Rage Against The Machine material during the Bush administration.
#5 – I’d be nowhere without the influence of Built to Spill, Phish, and the Beastie Boys.
Read the in-depth article HERE.
Photo courtesy of my utterly bold 18 year old self.
It seems odd that we’ve come to a time when a three-guitar rock band from Brooklyn sounds refreshing, but in a landscape dominated by laptops and synthesizers, Los Encantados are just that. Embracing the love and melodies of the greatest punk/50’s revivalists, but adding a little something called chops and talent, these guys have established themselves in just over one year’s time as one of the new bands coming out of New York actually worth paying attention to. Fresh off the release of the 3rd and final chapter of their debut album, The Same Damned Soul, I talked with the band’s front-man, James Armstrong, about the shockingly natural formation of their music, and how their dream gig lies somewhere between playing with a Miami gangster-rapper and a bisexual glam-rocker from London.
Adam King: So how did these songs move from your bedroom to the stage?
James Armstrong: Well, I had initially wrote The Same Damned Soul by myself as kind of an audio Valentine type thing for this girl. After a while, I eventually let a couple of my friends listen to it…it got passed around through some more friends and band members that were in different bands, and they passed it on to band members and then one night we just decided to go to our practice space and play the songs that I had written. And that’s kind of the short story of how we started playing together.
You guys had another band going and then morphed into this band?
Yeah, one of the guitarists in the band, Kevin, he has a garage-rock band that I played guitar in at the time, and still play guitar in as well. And all the other members are members of very official projects, and all those bands before Los Encantados was a thing, we had all shared the same practice space. But I just never had shown them the songs that I had written before. Yeah, so we just nailed down a date and went through the songs, and initially we were just gonna do this one show and play the whole project from start to finish, and following that show we got booked on another and we just kept on rolling from there.
Were all the songs on The Same Damned Soul written before you released the first EP?
Yeah, we recorded it all at once. All nine songs.
Why did you decide to release it in three parts then?
It was partly just because I think, or we think, it’s a little bit easier to consume as a listener – to have it in three little short bursts. And the arc of the record kind of mirrors out, well it flows nicely through seasonal changes, so those were the main theories, that there’s really sort of three peaks.
Did the album work with on the girl that inspired it?
Yeah! For a while…(laughs) You know everything has an end point…it was a good one.
I know you guys are working on this new album – is the new record still just you writing the songs or are you slightly more collaborating with the other guys in the band on it?
Yeah, it’s a bit more collaborative. I still primarily write them and then bring them to rehearsal to flesh them out. The first one, the first song is basically me in my bedroom just recording, so I think the next album will be a little bit more dynamic and there’s a lot more varied instrumentation, and a little bit more produced. It will be a little bit different.
Are you guys working with the same producer that you did on the EP?
No, the EP was my buddy Sammy Gallo – he did those. The new album we’re producing with Tim Wagner who’s the co-founder of Dither Down records, a dance-label in New York. He plays with other projects and DJs and stuff. I really like the sound of the dance records he puts out, like the drum sounds and the bass, and he’s got a lot of experience in the music scene besides producing records and working in the studio. So he’s great to work with, and he’s really got an awesome ear for great sounds.
I hear a bunch of influences in the songs, but in all of them there’s something about the whole vibe of the band that’s undeniably a New York sound. How much of a direct influence do you think that the city itself has on your writing, and how important do you think it is for the band to be based from there?
I think more than anything, there’s just so much here. You get to see so many different bands live. And not just bands, there’s art and cultural experiences and it keeps you inspired and makes you feel more a part of what’s currently going on. I was born in a super small town in Scotland called Nairn, it’s about 5,000 or so people, and I moved around the state sides as well, but that was my home base. And being so remote and removed from all the music you love…it’s cool and it’s fine, but it’s kind of a weird feeling, you yearn to be immersed in this scene that you think‘s going on, so I’m glad that I’m over here now and being more of a part of it and experiencing it first hand as opposed to through reading Kerrang or Spin or something like that, you know?
With there being 10,000 bands in New York right now, do you ever think about what you need to do as a band to rise above the mix of getting thrown in as just another hip new Brooklyn band?
Um, not like gimmicky shit. (laughs) I think just continuing to play as much as possible. We rehearse a lot, and I listen to as much music as I can, and just try to improve my writing. But besides that, the only way that I would want to be recognized apart from any other band is just by the quality of the music we put out.
I dug the end of the 3rd EP where things get a little darker and more poignant. Do you find that for some of the bands you listen to, that the darker things resonate deeper with you, or is a mixture of things?
I think both. I like bands that can do both even within the same song. Like Jesus and the Mary Chain kind of have that thing where it’s dark and kind of noisy for the most part, but they still have this pop sensibility that kind of lightens it up. I like that a lot, that stuff resonates with me a lot.
Are there new bands out there that you gain as much inspiration from as some of these older bands that you’re into?
Oh, yeah for sure! I mean, within our own city even… Japandroids are a really great band. I like a lot of dance music as well. I’ve been DJing since I was 15 or so. I took time off writing rock stuff to just DJ, and I go back to it sometimes. I think the dance scene in New York is really cool – there’s a lot of great stuff. I love Wolf and Lamb – that sound is so awesome. Like inspired off of 90’s R&B but with Housebeats.
Do you think of Los Encantados as being a dance band?
No…not necessarily – I mean not like EDM. People dance at our shows, but we’re a rock based kind of group. We’ve had remixes on our songs and I like having that, just having the variation.
Suppose that a current Top 40 band asked you guys to do a co-headlining tour with them. What would be the ideal band in that limited range that you’d want to do it with?
Oh man, Top 40? Shit…(laughs) It’d be pretty funny getting on a hip-hop tour, like Rick Ross. That’d be pretty ridiculous. If I could open for Rick Ross I think my dreams would be met for the year.
Suppose in some out-of-time other dimension, Television, The Modern Lovers, and David Bowie all ask you to join their respective bands at the same time.
Which one do you join?
I would go for Bowie. Definitely. It’s funny, interestingly, last night at rehearsal I was saying my favorite rock lineup is the Spiders From Mars tour era Bowie, you know with Mick Ronson and Mike Garson. I think that would be like a fucking dream. Almost as good as Rick Ross.
So the Bowie/Rick Ross combo tour would be it all right there –
Oh man, that would be too much.
It sucks to dis-hype any music by saying it sounds so particularly like anything else, but there’s no doubt that this 21 year old kid from England is the greatest champion of mid-90′s indie rock and shoegaze since My Bloody Valentine started a reunion tour. As I say in the interview – When I first heard Yuck’s debut LP last year, it wasn’t so much that is sounded like I was listening to Pavement as much as it felt like I was. Here’s a snippet but read the whole interview HERE at State of Mind.
Well, we wrote and recorded the music in… a timeframe. And I listen to music, well, I feel young with music. I think I was 17 when I started to really listen to records and discover labels. For me and Max, we still need to listen to, like, the most important bands — ones we’ve never heard before. So we go through massive phases with bands where we get really, really into something. And there are bands or artists that we always go back to, but sometimes when people ask that it’s quite confusing. Some bands Max likes a lot more than me, but I completely understand when people compare us to the 90s because I find that a lot of my favorite music comes from that time.
I’ve gone through an extended love affair with this band, and I don’t see it ending any time soon. Bringing melody and songwriting back into conjunction with something you want to bounce to, It’s a Corporate World is a refreshing taste of how the original pop-rock paradigm can cohabitate with modern sound. In this interview with half of the two-man team, I find Josh Epstein beaming with a stead-fast pride for his hometown of Detroit, an honest love for covering 80′s Winwood hits, and a conjunctive knack for crafting great songs. Read the full thing HERE.
I mean, yeah, there’s definitely that pressure from other people where “we need you to write songs that people like” just as much or more. But I think when you live like that, you’re writing from a fearful place. And I just don’t think that ever works for people. I think the sophomore slump comes from people’s heads. Daniel and I have to keep on thinking about that — this isn’t our second record. For both of us it’s like… number eleven. [Laughs] It’s not like we’ve never had to follow up an album before. Maybe not as many people listened to our other albums, but we’ve always tried to make one better than the last one.