Q & A: Pants Off with OKGo

Treadmills, canines and visual trickery aside, the indie rock outfit OKGo simplifies to childhood friends who just want to “create stuff.” Since forming in 1998, the foursome have spent their career in a steady state of transformation that spans music, film and movement. Their forthcoming album, Hungry Ghosts, is set to debut this fall — preceded by an ambitious summer tour. While diligently prepping on a soundstage, front man Damian Kulash took time from the madness to share his perspective on their musical growth, ridiculousness in clubs and the right moves to sweep a pants off-dance off. Shall we shimmy on? OK… Go…

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LA CANVAS: We’re looking forward to catching you guys at The Echo on 7/23, and noticed that most of your tour dates route through intimate venues. Was that deliberate? And, what can we expect of your live show?

DAMIAN KULASH: We were particular in picking small clubs, but it won’t be small staging. We’re really attempting the ambitious with our live show… musically, visually, and the experience. We’ll be bringing big production on the road with us that small clubs don’t normally have. Think lots of computers, LED screens, projection mapping, and other insane things from this new crazy world of technology. We want to prove that rock shows can be ridiculous, especially since we’ll be touring for the next year or two.

LAC: Speaking of years, it has been quite some time since your last full album. Tell us how OKGo has grown, and about the process behind making this new album.

DK: So it has been about 4 years since our last album, which was a very electronic and deliberate record. I think we’re done being deliberate with songs. For example, with our first single “Get Over It,” there was a lot of nu-metal or bands like The Strokes out at the time. We asked, “what about glory?” and we set out to write a stadium rock anthem. Now when we’re writing, our songs have no starting point. It’s like playing in a sandbox. We’ve grown so much in embracing not knowing what it is that we’re making, and planning less. Being open has really evolved our voice, both the process and result is a lot more unique like that. I feel that these new songs and this new album sound a lot more like “us” than our prior records.

LAC: So, does your mom think you’re famous?

DK: You know, we’ve been together as a band for 15 years, I’ve never felt that we’ve become super famous. I feel like we’re known in creative circles but we’re not really a pop culture band. But yes, my mom does read all the comments online and wallows, she’s pretty proud.

LAC: The story is told that OKGo was sparked from meeting at summer camp many, many moons ago, what was 11 year old you like?

DK: Tim & I have been friends for 27 years. Wow, that sounds weird to say that out loud (laughs). Since age 11, our friendship has been based around making stuff together. We were just 2 camp kids with a guitar and sketchbook, and we still look at things as art projects. From being kids to our career now, it does feel a little  full circle. We’re lucky for this to be our day job. You have to be naïve enough to chase this, as it’s really a one in a billion chance. We understand that, and we do our best to work hard.

LAC: People know OKGo as a Chicago band, but you’re mostly LA residents. Any favorite places and things to do in the city?

DK: None of us have lived in Chicago in about 10 years, we are here now and LA’s a good place to be. Some of our favorite spots include the Magic Castle, for obvious reasons, and Griffith Park. I love being in nature with my dogs and it’s just minutes from the bustle of the city. We’re always hunting for food spots too, we are big foodies.

LAC: Spill on your top taco spot.

DK: Ok, but there are 2 calibers of tacos. If you want fast, cheap yet good, then you have to hit up Taco Zone on Alvarado. There are definitely much better places on York Ave in Eagle Rock though, if you’re willing to make the drive.

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LAC: To ease the drive during the next few months, what’s on your tour playlist?

DK: I’ve just gone through a period of only listening to 60s and 70s soul, now I’m back into Led Zeppelin big time. Some newer acts on my radar are Hozier, such a soulful singer songwriter, and I’ve been feeling Jai Paul. They’re both pretty awesome.

LAC: Your band has earned bonus kudos on your impressive choreography but if there was a pants off dance off right now, which member would win and with what move?

DK: Without a doubt, it would be Tim and he would win with a little move that I’d like to call the “Pelvic Rodeo.” It’s a very intense and specialized dance. However, I should note that I’ve just learned to Vogue. I’ve been watching videos with these guys hitting the floor, and it’s the coolest thing ever. So actually, I think I’d hit Tim with that for the win, he wouldn’t see it coming (laughs).

LAC: Other than music, videos, and dance-offs, what else is in store for you guys?

DK: Our goal is always staying creative and consistently making things… music, videos, and everything beyond! Presently, we’re working on 2 TV shows, and launching another app.

LAC: It’s half way through the year. Be honest, have you fulfilled your resolution yet?

DK: My resolution has been pretty effective, working harder and thinking less.

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This one’s a no brainer, come dance! OKGo performs at The Echo on Wednesday July 23rd. In the meantime, listen to the Upside Out EP for a small taste of what’s to come.

INTERVIEW: UK DUO DUSKY TALKS BEATING OUT HARDWELL & MORE

UK duo Dusky grabbed some major attention last month by beating out mostly mainstream bangers for the coveted #1 spot on Beatport’s Top 100 chart. Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman, who make up Dusky, have been putting out a widely varied range of music, touching on everything from deep house to techno, all to much acclaim. Their ability to weave in everything from uplifting melodies to low-end density have marked them as a duo unafraid of the depth and originality that electronic music is often accused of lacking. We catch up with them below after their set at HARD’s Day of the Dead at the Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque Stage.

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Photo: Jerry Lin

 

LA CANVAS: Is this your first major US festival?

DUSKY: Not the first one, we played Tomorrowworld. We played somewhere else… uh, we played Decibel Festival in Seattle too. Oh we also played Ultra Festival.

 

LAC: Have you noticed a difference in playing to US crowds versus European crowds?

D: UK has quite a big repertoire of tracks that they know. They know our scene and people respond quite differently. The UK crowd like to be quite wild. That’s probably partly because of the amount of substances they like to take [laughs] and they like to drink.

LAC: The UK and drinking goes hand in hand.

D: [Laughs] Yeah, definitely.

 

LAC: Australia’s like that too right?

D: Probably worse over there cause they can’t get drugs over there so they just drink really, really hard. In the UK at least you can get cheap drugs, so, like, by the time it gets past 3, all the drunk people leave and all the people who are really wired are still there.

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Photo: Jerry Lin

LAC: Congrats on your #1 Beatport Hit ‘Careless’. What’s it feel like? If you look at the other tracks on the top 10, it’s stuff like Cedric Gervais and Hardwell.

D: It was a nice surprise. Very unexpected, it’s just kind of nice that it’s there. We made it kinda thinking ‘Yeah, we really wanna be Beatport #1. Then it happened and we were like, oh, cool, maybe we should try and get another one.’ [laughs]

LAC: Have you seen a surge of support from people who are like ‘Oh my god, you’re beating out so-and-so’?

D: Yeah, yeah, it was nice! We did a Facebook post, the timing was perfect. It was like the day after Hardwell had gotten announced as DJ Mag’s #1 DJ. So we’re like ‘House Music – 1, EDM – Nil (0). Wooo!’ It got shared like thousands of times and thousands of likes – more so then any of our normal posts. It was good timing. We’ll see, stuff normally takes quite a while to feel the power. If you get a #1 on Beatport it takes like 6 months or almost a year to actually feel the power, for it to translate into your shows. We’ll see how it affects us but hopefully it’s positive.

 

LAC: You guys started off on the label Anjunadeep. From an artistic standpoint, do you normally come up with tracks and decide where you might want to release them, or do labels come to you and you try to cater to their sound a little bit? The variety of your tracks is quite large.

D: We work with quite a lot of different labels. A lot of that’s out of necessity, because the tracks are so different. Some would work with one label and some wouldn’t. But we try not to try too much to cater to a particular label, we just try to work with different labels. Sometimes we decide we want to do something a bit deeper or techno-y, or garage-y, so we’ll work on relevant ideas. The way we tend to work is we have a huge bank of fragments of ideas. We sit on them and pick them out and take this and put it into a track. After we’re finished we’ll say, ‘Okay, what label will fit with this?’ I think it’s slightly different from a remix. If you’re remixing for a certain label then you’re not gonna put a 12 minute long or a 110 bpm tune. It’ll depend. With originals we just kind of write it and see where they’ll fit.

 

LAC: With your popularity growing in the US, where do you see yourself in the next 2 or 3 years?

D: Uh [Laughs]. Ask Andrew [their manager]. We never really looked at it like, ‘Oh we wanna get to a certain place,’ we just do it cause we enjoy it. I suppose that comes through in the music and the way we DJ. Hopefully that keeps building. We’re not like, ‘Oh yeah, in 3 years we wanna be Tiesto, or Hardwell.’

 

LAC: Or Duskwell.

D: [Laughs] Yeah, 13 city tour with Duskwell!

 

LAC: How would you describe LA in three words?

D: Three words? [Laughs]  Uh, what’s the word for spread out. ‘Vast?’ ‘Hot.’ Uh… I don’t know, I guess I was trying to think of a word to describe the architecture. Cause to me it’s like, I don’t wanna be rude [laughs] but I think the architecture’s quite bleak.

 

LAC: Alright, ‘bleak’! We’ll take that…[laughs]

D: [Laughs]. ‘Vast. Hot. Bleak.’ [Laughs] ‘See you next time, in 2014. Or never again.’ No, no. Don’t say that ! We’ll say fun. How about that?

 

Go tag-crazy with our photos from HARD Day of the Dead 2013 on our Facebook

THE SCOOP: HOW TO SURVIVE FYF FEST

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Photo credit: Oliver Walker, FYF Fest

 

It’s mid-summer, you’re all out of vacation days, and you can practically fry an egg on your roof. Best way to escape this inferno? Head to the embodiment of indie music bliss, F*ck Yeah Fest, at LA State Historic Park. It’s FYF’s 10th anniversary this year, and the festival has put together one of its best and meatiest lineups to date.  So if you haven’t already got it on your calendar, save the date for August 24th and 25th for what’s sure to be a kick-ass, reverb-filled weekend, with Yeah Yeah Yeahs and My Bloody Valentine headlining. See our list of survival tips and must-see acts to make your FYF experience parking-lot-porta-potty-I-don’t-know-who-to-see disaster-free.

 

QUICK TIPS:

1. Go Public: Unless you want to sound like a bad impression of SNL’s The Californians skit, take public transport. There’s the gold line to Chinatown that will shave a good hour and a lot of fury from your commute. Option 2: Bike. (Just remember to employ festive decorations or drop a pin on your phone’s GPS, so your beer-goggled self can remember where you stacked that shit later.)

2. Pre-game in Chinatown: Since you’re smart, you’ve arrived via subway right in the heart of Chinatown. Best advice? Relax, get some cocktails or some dim sum in Chinatown before heading into the battlefield. If beer’s your think, we recommend Melody Lounge on Hill St. for $7 beer flights.

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3. Be Fashionably-Practical: We got the advice from DJ Heidi (arguably one of LA’s most fashionable vinyl-addicts/DJs): “Bring your fashion A-game, this ain’t Glastonbury or Outside Lands–sure, there is a little dust–but you are not going to ruin your shoes.”

DOs: Hat, scarves (to field the dust), comfy shoes, summer dresses, ear plugs (Etymotics or Earpeace are great for lowering volume without distorting sound like those crappy foam ones do).

DON’Ts: Heels. And any outfit that looks like it belongs at EDC.

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4. Stay Cool: It’s hot as balls out there…so it’s important you drink plenty of water. F* Yeah Fest provides water bottle hydration stations. How did the legendary DJ Harvey (who performed in 2012) escape the heat? Ice Cream.

 

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Photo courtesy of DJ Harvey

5. Porta-Potties: It’s definitely gotten better every single year on this front. But with this shit (pun intended) it’s really logical: either plan ahead and go before you need to go, wear a diaper, or as festival regular Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips once recommended “do some practicing where you hold your piss a little bit longer.” Obviously option A is advised. Also, pack a sealed bag of wet-wipes to avoid catastrophic oh-shit-I-took-a-shit-but-there’s-no-TP moments.

6. Bring $$$: FYF is one of the few festivals that has an awesome selection not only of food, but also of rad clothing designers, artists, and records. Just remember, if you are going to buy, make sure you do the rounds and figure out where to stash it.

 

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2013 FYF ACTS TO CATCH (In no particular order…)

Poolside: Former LAC feature and LA-based duo Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise are signed to Echo Park records and craft the type of sunny, loose disco that you dig hearing poolside. Considering how hot and dusty Echo Park is, it’s time bring on the pool jams.

Charles Bradley : We are psyched this soul crooner will be dropping through. Let the hip swaying, “Amen!”-ing, and smoke wafting begin. And then let’s all hug and make out.

 

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Glasser at Coachella 2011

Glasser: Cameron Mesirow crafts shards of ethereal electronica, a la Zola Jesus and Fever Ray–dripping with eccentric percussion and electro-pop scintillation. She’ll let you just float away.

Flume: The 21-year old electronic beat wonder-kid from Australia is garnering buzz all around the world these days, particularly for his remix of Disclosure’s “You and Me” and single “Sleepless.” You’ll want to see this one up close …because it may be the last time you can. And you’ll want to d-a-n-c-e.

 

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!!! At Pacific Festival 2011

!!! – There’s a 90% chance that the lead singer will run into the crowd and try to eat his microphone. ‘nough said.

Dan Deacon : Dan is a Brooklyn-based avant-garde hipster whisperer. He turns on his deck of neon-colored knobs and gadgets, lets the layers of wacky DIY electronic sounds emanate and poof: hipster chicks get naked and skinny boys go nutso like fat kids on fire.

Devendra Barnhart: It won’t matter if you don’t know what language DB is singing in half the time and that he undulates from folk balladry to neo-psychedelia to self-described “space reggae.” He allows you to let your freak flag fly and that’s pretty much what F*ck Yeah Fest is all about.

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Toro Y Moi at SXSW 2012

Toro Y Moi : Sure he’s may appear to be a sweet, unassuming guy with a laptop and glasses, but he crafts the type of blissed-out electronica that will have you in a shimmery dance tizzy.

Death Grips: After so much sunny electro-pop, it’s nice to sink into your dark side. If you like it rough and you dig dirty experimental hip-hop, you may find yourself moshing to these guys. Ear plugs are especially necessary here.

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TVOR At Spin’s Party SXSW 2011

TV On The Radio & The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: These two rock acts are old friends from Brooklyn so we’re dreaming of a lot of creative cameos within their performances. Maybe even some kinda mash-up?! Tunde and Karen – ya heard?

My Bloody Valentine: The band is stopping in before touring Texas and the rest of Cali. It’s a hipster’s wet dream to close out the weekend by dipping our heads and swaying slowly in the night to their tendrils of shoe-gazy reverb. Yes, please!

{ PHOTOS & TEXT: Faith-Ann Young, unless otherwise credited }

WEST SIDE MOVES: THE VENICE MUSIC CRAWL

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On Saturday, June 22nd, a little bit of magic touched down in Venice as the first ever Venice Music Crawl (VMC) took place. The event, which featured 60+ artists in a handful of venues ranging from burlesque bars to art galleries, drew in approximately 4,000 people total and kept pumping bass way into the night. Meanwhile, a stretch of Lincoln Blvd that is typically the opposite of photogenic and festive–filled with Bridgestone tire signs and stop-and-go-traffic–was transformed into a music lover’s Valhalla, immersed with color, sound, and energy.

VMC is a brand-new concept, started by Ben Adamson – who co-founded DANCEiSM and worked for HardFest, and Mark Rojas – who founded Venice Art Crawl and the Venice UI/UX Design Firm Sparkwave. “We see Lincoln Blvd as a fertile place for developing a music scene. Many of the spaces are closed, it doesn’t have foot traffic and is commercially zoned.  Rose, Abbott Kinney, and Venice Blvd have all been developed in the area and Lincoln looks like the next logical step,” said Adamson. If last week’s turn-out is any indication, Adamson and Rojas are on to something. Adamson said post-event, “It was a beautiful thing to see the seeds of a music scene developing.  Everyone was open-minded, free-flowing and totally immersed in the music. There are few organizations that put together multi-venue events in the world and I can’t believe we pulled this off!”

We’re stoked to watch and help VMC continue to grow. You can find out more on VMC’s website, Facebook, or via the App. In the meantime, below are a few key acts we caught at Venice Music Crawl that we bid you to keep an eye on:

 

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LA Witch:

The three-piece rock outfit brought reverb-soaked punked-out rock to Deus Ex Machina, the uber-cool bike shop, coffee house, which served up burgers and an elite set of up-and-coming indie music, hosted by All Scene Eye. The band have just wrapped up their residency at Silverlake Lounge and will be releasing their EP online this week.  Stay tuned on their Facebook.

 

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(Credit: Steffalo’s instagram)

Steffalo:

Steffalo, otherwise known as Steph Thompson, crafts sun-drenched ballads, in which her dreamy, wafting vocals draping over simple, acoustic guitar or blissed-out electronic jams. She had the crowd at Witzend jumping up and down and singing aloud. Feel free to mellow out to her cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.”

P.S. you can now pre-order her’s and Sun Glitter’s new EP out July 8 here.

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Midnight Therapy: Midnight Therapy is the collective collaboration of Jake from Beat Mass (LA/Madrid), Crash Landon (LA), & Max Jack (LA/SF), who “focus on taking you straight to Ibiza, Los Angeles with the funkiest tech house and underground sounds that catch breeze from the Pacific,” at least according to their Facbook. After turning up the volume at the gallery and arts education center Venice Arts, they are getting groovy this Sunday at Grand Park, as part of the free Grand Park Sunday Sessions in downtown, if you are around. Info here.

 

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Fox Hollow (above): These cuties were one of the early opener bands at Deus Ex Machina. They’re cute and sweet and… kind of awkward? Like a younger cousin to Vampire Weekend, who listens to the Beatles a lot. They’re so new they don’t have any music up (that we could find) but feel free to like ’em on Facebook.

The Get Down Boys (below): The Get Down Boys prove that “Los Angeles Americana-Blue Grass” is not an oxymoron. We first saw these guys at Villain’s Tavern downtown, where they caused us to dance our pants off. Saturday, they packed Witzend to the brim and got everyone humming and grinning to their banjo-strumming and sweet harmonies.

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Caught A Ghost: These guys make the type of neo-soul with mo-town flair that would be perfect for the next Bond flick…you know, when Bond is driving away in a Lamborghini Diablo in Capri, with a chick on his arm? If you dig Fitz And The Tantrums or Mayer Hawthorne, you’ll adore these folks. Fronted by Jesse Nolan, Stephen Edelstein on drums, and vocals and percussion from babe Tessa Thompson, “Caught A Ghost” provides the perfect grooves to accompany the weekend. Enjoy.

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(Photos and words: Faith-Ann Young)