Q&A: IN THE VALLEY BELOW

Scenario: Music duo In The Valley Below sit next to you as Jeffrey Jacob strings his guitar and the angelic Angela Gail sips the same cocktail you have in hand – the kind that have those lit up ice cubes in it, with a cherry floater. Shriek! These two musicians bring sensual electro-pop new life in their Man Girl EP — their hit track “Peaches” went haywire earlier this year with remixes from the hands of international DJs and producers, and other tracks like “Hymnals” set the tone of what we may expect from them as they grow as artists and bring us future music.

We all give a genuine smile, salute our drinks and compliment one another’s personal style — she in a floor length white dress and he rocks a classic white button up and suspenders. We are at the EventBrite LA‘s BriteSpace LA pop-up closing party hosted by LA CANVAS, and the magnitude of chemistry exuding from them fills the green room we lounge in, and is as amplified and passionate as their stage presence. Abide:

LA CANVAS: What brought you two together? 

ANGELA GAIL: I randomly saw him playing at a club in LA. We came here separately. I thought his guitar playing was perfect. I wanted to get to know him and we became friends.

LA CANVAS: What brought you two together? 

ANGELA GAIL: I randomly saw him playing at a club in LA. We came here separately. I thought his guitar playing was perfect. I wanted to get to know him and we became friends.

JEFFREY JACOB: I actually don’t remember meeting her the first time, which is awful, but we just kind of all of a sudden we were hanging out all the time, within the same circle of friends and musicians. She was just there. We are both somewhat shy so it was a slow friendship evolution, and then it took a long time before we started writing songs together. That was also a slow process too, and writing songs with another person is really intimate, especially if your not used to it, which I wasn’t. First few songs we wrote together was pretty bad, but we got comfortable, opened up a little bit and it started to get better.

LAC: Give us a few words to describe what your partnership in music and compadre-ship is like: Your process, things you abide by when you create music

JJ: We write all the songs together, so it’s definitely a collaboration on everything. Every song is different, so some songs start off with an idea that I have on the guitar or vocal, and she’ll come in for that or she’ll come in with an idea and we’ll finish it out together.

AG: I feel like every song starts with some idea that falls upon you. Almost like you channel something and you want to sing it over and over, so you have to build the song around that one little piece.

LAC: How do you separate that from your friendship? Is it always just about the music, or can you go to dinner and talk about other things? 

AG: We do try to do that. We just love music so much and because it’s such a big part of our life, it’s what we end up talking about so it’s OK.

LAC: About your spark and manifestation of creating a song, and about something bigger. What rituals do you have in your creative process? 

AG: We usually write all the music first. It’s gibberish. Sometimes it starts on the piano, sometimes it’s the guitar, sometimes it’s drums and bass. We just want to write something that’s catchy and fun. The lyrics we want to spend a little more time with, so they’re not cheesy or obvious.

LAC: We blasted the Peaches remix by Bloc Party on the way here. What’s the deal with all these amazing remixes popping off?

AG: There are a lot of remixes out there right now. The Passion Pit remix is a fun one!

JJ: There’s a good one by this Austrian duo called We Love Machines. They did a really aggressive remix.

AG: My favorite may be the Dirt Caps remix.

LAC: What artists are on your wish list to work with?

AG: Peter Gabriel

LAC: What are you listening to right now?

AG: Classic Rock, old Bonnie Raitt, London Grammar.

JJ: Saint Vincent had a show at The Wiltern and it was pretty good. Bob Segart. We’ve been on his kick for a long time.

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LAC: What does your voyage as emerging artists feel like?

AG: It’s really exciting. We’ve done so many things we’ve never thought we’d be able to do but only dreamed of. But then you get to the next level and there’s so much more that you want to accomplish. At the same time, it’s like a Cinderella effect: you get a great opportunity and then your back home and nothings happening — and that happens over and over and over. I guess it’s hard on the ego but it’s also good for it as well. It keeps you in check. We’ve realized how lucky we are, we try the best that we can.

LAC: Do you ever work each other’s nerve?

JJ: When you’re on the road, everybody kind of gets on each other’s nerve. A month in a van leads everyone to need their own personal space, but not from any mean way, it’s just the nature of touring. You’re stuck together 24 hours a day and you gotta put up some barriers to keep your sanity.

AG: We’re pretty easy going though, so…

JJ: We’re pretty mellow…

LAC: Any advice for young musicians out there or words to live by to share?

AG: I think it’s important to go see a lot of music. You can then learn about where and how you’re gonna fit in. It’s also about having a great song — if you’re a songwriter or if you are looking for songs it’s important to go see shows.

JJ: If you’re a songwriter, you have to write a ton of songs. It’s a numbers game. You have to write a lot to maybe get one good one. You can’t just write three songs and then expect them all to be amazing. You’re gonna write some crap songs and that’s just the way it goes. Keep writing.

LAC: Tour life. Favorite on the road moment or city? Best crowd you’ve played to?

JJ: My favorite was Prague.

AG: Poland. Couple cities in Poland, the crowds were amazing.

JJ: Further east you go in Europe, the less bands tour through there. So Poland crowds really appreciate the bands that trek it there to perform. Cause its a trek from Germany which is right there, but its an 8 hour drive from Germany to the first city in Poland. They give you a lot. Same with Prague, they give you a lot of energy.

*KEEP GIVING AND TAKING, Y’ALL. 

PURE CITY CYCLES: THE ONLY WAY TO ARRIVE THIS SUMMER

Summer is too short to be stuck in 405 traffic all day. Solution; Pure City Cycles. Made with the urban cyclist in mind, these bikes are designed to fit your lifestyle so that if you’re on a hill or a have runway-style long legs, your bike can be modified accordingly. The best part is none of the aesthetics will be compromised in the process, so you have all the mechanics along with all the style.

By far, our favorite is The Western, the black and white frame will go great with our white Converse Chucks, but the citrus hues of The Abbey would really make our tan pop. With all the gas money we’ll be saving we just might be able to nab both!

And let’s not forget how banging your legs will look after a couple of weeks of peddling your little heart out. So if you have to work this summer, why not arrive to that dreaded summer gig in style.

We can already picture ourselves riding around LA neighborhoods as pedestrians dodge out of our way—we don’t have that whole graceful bike rider thing down just yet. And ladies, don’t forget to wear some bike shorts under your dress while on the seat; moderation is key this summer.

THE WEEKLY: ARTWALK X VAPES, POP-UPS, CRAZY LA + MORE

A rundown of the best events in our city this week. 

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ARTWALK LA PRESENTS: STREET / SAINT, A SOLO EXHIBIT BY STEVE PINEDA

WHEN: Thursday, January 9, 7pm-11pm
WHERE: Vape Supply Co. | 129 East Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014
WHAT: The boys at Vape Supply Co. are getting their feet wet for their first Artwalk LA exhibit, Street / Saint,  featuring Nike designer-slash-artist Steven Pineda, otherwise known as ESPY. Pop in during your first of many  2014 Artwalks and indulge in complimentary drinks from Monaco, tunes from guest DJ Wendy City and check out some of the shop’s top-choice vape pens and juices. Oh, and did we mention there’s a rooftop lounge? |  more info

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YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

WHEN: Friday, January 10, 5:30pm
WHERE: 900 Expositoin Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007
WHAT: Poppy, funky and all things reminiscent of summertime and swimming pools, Youngblood Hawke was born out of late night musings between friends turned bandmates, Sam Martin and Simon Katz. The two had previous stints with another band, but out of yearning for a creative outlet sans commercial pressures, Youngblood Hawke was born. Bringing on songwriter Alice Katz, drummer Nik Hughes and Tasso Smith, the five friends have come to encompass what it’s like to be young and unsure of what life has in store — but not without a few dance parties along the way. | more info

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CHAMPION X TRIED & TRUE POP-UP / LAUNCH PARTY

WHEN: Friday, January 10th, 7pm-10pm
WHERE: 507 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036
WHAT: Champion USA is set to debut their Fall 2014 collection during a week long pop-up shop at Tried + True boutique on Fairfax. Celebrate the launch this Friday where exclusive garments from Champion’s Street Active Collection will be available to purchase for both industry folk and civilians alike. | more info

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WILLIAM EGGLESTON OPENING RECEPTION

WHEN: Saturday, January 11th, 6pm-8pm
WHERE: Gagosian Gallery | 456 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
WHAT: Pioneer of color film and member of the prestigious permanent collection at MoMA,  photographer William Eggleston presents his collection At Zenith XI for the Gagosian Gallery through February 20th. Catch the exhibit’s opening reception this Saturday in Beverly Hills. | more info

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KCRW PRESENTS: UNFICTIONAL LIVE 

WHEN: Sunday, January 12, 5pm
WHERE: The Smell | 247 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
WHAT: As we Angelenos know all too well, you can’t live in this town for long before you rack up a few strange stories.  This Sunday, the local gods over at KCRW will partner up RIOT LA to present Unfictional Live —  an in-real-time installment of the Independent Producer Project, from the station that showcases odd, funny, and compelling tales indigenous to LA. | more info

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DWNTWN RESIDENCY AT THE SATELLITE

WHEN:  Monday, January 13th, 8:00pm
WHERE: 1717 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
WHAT: Everybody knows Monday is the new Thursday. Next week,  twinkle electro-pop kids DWNTWN kick off their monthly residence at The Satellite. All of January, our favorite live-music destination in Silverlake will play host to the alt-pop quartet, whose debut EP “Red Room” has already received notable praise by the prophets over at Spotify. | more info

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ROBERT GRAHAM EXHIBIT OPENING RECEPTION AT KAYNE GRIFFIN CORCORAN

WHEN: Tuesday, January 14, 7pm-9pm
WHERE: 1201 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90010
WHAT: Robert Graham has long been known for his affinity for the human form in bronze. And as the first exhibit for the Kayne Griffin Corcoran, visitors will experience such, but on a miniscule scale and made of wax, which was the focus of Graham’s early work. The minute figures — complete with perfectly sculpted appendages and detail — twist and distort themselves in plexiglass boxes that leave context up to the viewers’ imaginations. |  more info

SID: SUPERMAN IS DEAD AT SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS

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In 1977, at the peak of the Sex Pistol’s popularity, Sid Vicious gave an interview, saying, “I will probably die by the time I reach 25. But I’ll have lived the way I wanted to.” The band would break up in 1978 and Sid would continue to work on his solo projects up until his death from a heroin overdose on February 2nd, 1979 at the age of 21.

If Johnny Rotten was the voice of the Sex Pistols, Sid was the face. As the brashest member, he was known to perform covered in his own blood as audience goers physically assaulted him – such was the case in the now famous Longhorn Ballroom performance in Dallas, T.X. where he had written “GIMME MY FIX” on his chest. It’s safe to say, Sid was punk as fuck. Only a few get to be an international notorious figure at his age by simply being obscene, and only a very few help spark a revolutionary subculture because of it. Not only was he one of the main radical stylish icons who defined the punk look – he lived it. He lived it way before he joined the Sex Pistols, before he played with Siouxsie & The Banshees; he had always been the exact type of person that would eventually follow his counter-culture lifestyle – a rebellious problem child. Behind his attitude and self-destructive choices, he was an enigma. Whatever happened on the night his girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found dead from a knife wound at his apartment will forever remain a mystery. A note found on Sid the morning he was found lifeless read, “We had a death pact. I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.”

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The current exhibit SID: SUPERMAN IS DEAD, showing at Subliminal Projects in Echo Park, is a collaborative retrospect between graphic artist Shepard Fairey and English photographer Dennis Morris on the short-lived but ultimately impactful career of Sid Vicious. For its opening this past Friday, an all-star line up of of musicians including Billy Idol (Generation X), Steve Jones (The Sex Pistols), Leigh Gorman (Blondie), and Clem Burke (Adam and The Ants), performed together as a band, calling themselves Ritchie Love. Inside the gallery, separate rooms contained works by Dennis and Shepard. The focal point was a life size replica of a hotel room trashed by Sid in 1977.

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BENEATH THE BASS: THUNDERCAT TALKS “APOCALYPSE” AND HOW MUCH HE APPRECIATES DRAKE

Last Thursday, Los Angeles born-and-bred Stephen Bruner, better known as Thundercat, topped off his North American fall tour with a fantastic homecoming show that would make any native proud to regard him as an Angeleno brethren.

Thundercat’s latest album, Apocalypse, was recently mentioned at number 29 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Songs of 2013 for his hit, “Oh Sheit It’s X,” and has received rave reviews on the album since it’s release earlier this summer. An album ripe with inklings of Thundercat’s genre-versatility – due to previous stints with acts like Suicidal Tendencies and Erykah Badu – and the thundering cohesive direction from Brainfeeder brother Flying Lotus, Apocalypse was built with just as much emotion as it was with skill and talent, a feat that transferred directly to his performance that night.

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Photo courtesy of Michael Melwani | IHEARTCOMIX

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Photo courtesy of Michael Melwani | IHEARTCOMIX

We got to chill with the cat right before he went on to blow everyone’s minds away, and while maintaining eye contact during the conversation was a little difficult due to his Rick James-esque hair-do, talking with Stephen Bruner proved that he is everything we’ve heard about him and so much more. Check out the interview below to see what he had to say about coming home, his appreciation for Drake and how hard it is to sing and play at the same time.

LAC: How does it feel to be back in LA? Good? How was the tour?

Thundercat:  Feels good, man. Feels good to be home. Anytime I leave for a long time I get weirded out cause I miss the dynamic of being at home. The tour  was really tight. (laughs) It was fun, everyday was different, it was an adventure. At one point I had both of my brothers with me, and then we switched in the middle of it – it was just a lot of fun.

LAC: What was the craziest city?

T: Toronto, by far. Toronto goes nuts. The club we went to after the show was just nuts. But I do want to say that I did have a lot of fun on the other side of the states, like towards Philly, New York, Chicago, folks there were really into the show.

LAC: Anything like that New Year’s party?

T: (Laughs) No, not at all. Yeah that’s still the epic one – to this day we still refer to that party. (Flying) Lotus still gets mad about too, he was in Australia and we talked about it the other day and out of nowhere he was like, “It’s cool, we don’t have to talk about it,” and I just laughed. He missed out, he can still feel it.

LAC: Has the transition from being a sideman to a front man gotten easier as you’ve been working on your music and been on tour?

T: Yeah, it’s been a couple years since I started that whole process. I’ve still been learning a couple things about being the frontman, but it’s funny because I still get nervous when I come home. I feel like it’s too personal (because) there’s a lot of people here that are friends, and they’re all looking at me, or family’s here and they’re all like, “Oh, look at my baby!” Kinda weirds me out a bit, but it’s cool.

LAC: As your vocals styling’s have expanded, has that changed how you write your music?

T: It has a bit, I mean, I am absolutely more comfortable getting ideas out without being held back by the fact that I’m concerned how it’s going to come off how I sound. I know areas I’m comfortable with and areas I’m more willing to explore – I wouldn’t mind being pushed a bit though, you know?

LAC: Prior to, you were just writing music to play on the bass and now you’re singing and also a solo act. Is there a way you balance your expression between your instrument and your vocals as you become more comfortable?  

T: Yeah, a little bit. It’s funny because sometimes I’ll see footage and if I start playing, I’ll stop singing because it’s difficult for me (to do) both at the same time. But for the most part if I’m playing something solid and steady, it’s easier for me sing. But a lot of the time with the music, we try to use improv as much as possible and sometimes they get mixed up.

LAC: So it’s almost like, once one switch is turned on the other gets turned off.

T: Yeah, that’s where it can get hairy, but I think that’s also the fun part too because it leaves the door open for other things to happen.

LAC: You’ve said being a bass player it has forced to be creative and determined in a particular way.

T: It’s aided in the melodic structure in music for me in a lot of ways. It’s also like, looking at different examples and bass players in the past as big shoes to fill, but it’s also brings about this thing where there’s this inquisitive thinking on how far I can go playing and singing. There’s a lot to it, but it’s a bit simple when you spend time with it I guess, but you really have to dedicate yourself to it. It’s a funny thing because a lot of the songs, with some of the progressions I can’t outright sing over it. Sometimes I have to literally sit out and think about sustaining my voice over these chord progressions that are going on under it.

LAC: It gets super technical to a certain point.

T: Yeah, some of these songs, I’ve gotten good when I’m singing them at home. (laughs)

LAC: Considering the wide range of acts you’ve played with – from Suicidal Tendencies to Mac Miller and The Internet – what are some of the differences when playing with artists of varying caliber and ages?

T: I mean, there are always differences but a lot of the times you just try to feel out the vibe. Everybody has different sets of emotions and things that come with where they’re at, so I try not to over or under estimate anything, I just try to find a good balance to how whatever is going to occur between us musically is going to happen. I remember when I was in Suicidal and they would always be saying to me, “You know this stuff ain’t no joke, you gotta take it seriously,” and yet it felt really simple to me. The funny thing is that most of the time, when someone can’t tell you what they’re not hearing, that’s the part that’s actually a little bit more difficult. You know, I never judge, I just try to give what I can when I’m involved.

LAC: I’ve heard that you’d love to work with Drake.

T: I think it has to do with the fact that I’m a big fan of Drake, naturally. At the same time I’m a fan of where he comes from. That coupled with the fact that hearing about he’s really in touch with how he feels with his music, no matter what anyone says, he set a trend for people – that it’s okay to be sensitive, it’s okay to be emotional about certain things that happen when before it’s always been about downplaying (those emotions.) It was just something I always appreciated about him as an artist.

LAC: Is it much of a stretch to say that Apocalypse is as much FlyLo’s project as it is yours?

T: It’s not a stretch at all. The best way to describe is that the only thing that I can think of is that I put a lot of care into Lotus’s music and I treat it like it’s mine, straight up and down. And I would hope that people can see and tell that that’s how it feels. That’s why I don’t have a problem with his say-so in mine because I know he treats my music as his too. The lines have always been blurred between me and him and it’s never been anything weird. When we first started working together, it was just like me and him watching Adventure Time, have a computer one, have like, three basses lining up and just collaborating and coming up with ideas. It was a constant, “Let’s do more,” with me and him at that point. And we try to capitalize on it as much as we can.

LAC: So what’s up for 2014? Big things? A haircut?

T: (laughs) Well the hair isn’t changing, that’s for sure. We got a long of things in the works, me and Lotus are always trying to take over the world. That coupled with a bunch of different things, a lot of collaborations, I’ve been doing a lot of work with Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Donald Glover, a few more things. I’m working on a new album of course. Kind of trying to take it easy, but still be as fast and forward as I can.

 

INTERVIEW: LA FONT TALKS TRYING HARDER ON THEIR NEW LP

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At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the only sign that Danny Bobbe, Jon Perry, Greg Katz, and Harlow Rodriguez—more commonly known as LA Font—would soon be onstage is Bobbe restringing his guitar. They’re in the green room of The Echo, waiting to play their album-release show, drinking a PBR. The past year has been spent creating eleven tracks for Diving Man, their sophomore LP, released Nov. 19. Now, to commemorate its finish, LA Font took over The Echo, disco balls and gold-jumpsuit-clad dancers in tow. But before they hit the stage, we got used to their dry sense of humor while discussing their views on their music, each other, and Justin Bieber.

LA CANVAS: Tell me about the new LP. What separates it from your first, The American Leagues?

GK: We tried harder. That’s definitely true. That’s the most succinct way I can put it.

DB: We tried like ten times harder. We didn’t have any Internet content when we started off as a band, so we wanted some YouTube videos. So we went to a studio with some videographers to create some YouTube videos. And it was all low-lit and all the footage came out really, really crappy, and we didn’t want to use any of it. But the tracks we recorded—all eleven of them—they were okay. So we made our first record and it turned out okay. But the new record, we had four days, so it was four times as good.

JP: Well and  there was a decent amount of prep with a good producer.

GK: Yeah, Eric (Palmquist) is the dude. Without Eric, it would have sounded the same as the first one.

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LAC: And what’s the group dynamic as you’re writing?

DB: Well I’m leader, and I don’t really care about anyone else. I’m captain, and CEO, and Chairman of the Board. I’m VP too. I’m Sarah Palin and Rob Ford and Justin Bieber and Rihanna.

GK: It’s an honor to be playing with Justin Bieber. With his rippling abs, his incredible songwriting talent, his…pants. Also his very brotherly relationship with Usher.

LAC: I’ve been listening to Diving Man, and I heard that it’s autobiographical. It’s quite the sad song. I like it, but how’s life going?

DB: Ha. Things are going pretty well now. You know, life has its ups and downs, but you caught me at a bad moment. But, overall things are cool, and we love it out here.

LAC: So how’d you decide to create this show to celebrate the release of the LP?

DB: It’s definitely a home court advantage, playing at The Echo. It’s the best venue, the best neighborhood that we all associate ourselves with. We also have our practice space around here.

LAC: Got any pre-show rituals?

DB: Well right now I’m changing these stings. You’re not supposed to change them at the last minute, but if it’s between having your guitar go a little flat or breaking a string, we’re gambling on the guitar going a little flat. But no, the real ritual is making Greg write out four set lists, one for each member of the band.

GK: I  look forward to it. This one got custom art.

JP: I see that. I like what you did with Fine Lines. It’s a cocaine nose job. That’s clever.

INTERVIEW: GUISADOS’ ARMANDO DE LA TORRE JR

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L.A. is spoiled when it comes to good tacos. You can’t go for a jog without being tempted to stop by a truck and eat three, maybe five delicious tacos. Those on the Westside suddenly know fluent Spanish when they want to order theirs al pastor or de carnitas. Even New Yorkers are on a desperate search to find some for themselves that rival ours. Best of luck you guys. In this city, when it comes to tacos, we got this, it’s ours, it’s just what we do best. But even here, claiming one spot as equal to or better than any other is grounds for a street fight. So when one Mexican restaurant is unanimously loved by Angelenos, it means something.

Guisados is the father-and-son restaurant that for the past three years has been receiving all the love. The Eastside prides itself on its historic Mexican roots and can spot authenticity a mile away. Within the first year of its opening, the restaurant on the corner of Cesar E. Chavez and St. Louis St. became a staple of Boyle Heights and Los Angeles as a whole – with families, church dwellers, and blue-collar workers, coming in daily to grab a bite that’s familiar, and most importantly, legit. In the same year Guisados left food critic, Jonathan Gold, at a loss-for-words. When he finally caught his breath, he described one of their tacos as, “a taco that will sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to do things that no taco should ever do, but you will always take it back, because you have tasted the complexity that lies three layers down.” If that’s not real love, I don’t know what is.

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Armando De La Torre Sr. and Jr.  managed to set up a restaurant that feels like the cook rummaged through mom’s kitchen, found some of her best recipes, and slapped portions of them on top of a warm homemade tortilla. Even the masa used to make the tortillas is made in a small market behind the restaurant by another family member. Their second location in Echo Park has already won over the area, and now Guisados is preparing to open a third location in downtown. Armando De La Torre Jr. sat down with LAC to tell us about his family’s history, the growth of the restaurant, and of course, the tacos.

LAC: Ok, so let’s start from the beginning..

ADLT: In 2010, Guisados was born on the busy  corner of St. Luis and Cesar Chavez. A small taqueria created to serve traditional braises on handmade tortillas. Next door is Carnitas Uruapan, which is a market and deli. There they grind the corn to make masa. So we knew we had that there at our disposal. We integrated this fresh masa into our menu. Thinking we can do tortillas, tamales, etc. We were like, “let’s do these home-style braises, these Guisados. Items that usually go with a side of rice of beans, but instead put them on a tortilla and call them a taco”.

We started with the idea of what your mom cooks at home. While your mom is cooking you grab a tortilla, stick it in the pot, and grab whatever she’s making. It’s just something you did as a kid and we wanted to bring out that nostalgia. Even to this day we get people who are like, “this takes me home.” It’s amazing to see people relate to our food.

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LAC: Where’s your dad from?

ADLT: He was born and raised here. He was born in Monterrey Park, same with my mom. I was raised in Alhambra.

LAC: How do you work out the recipes with your dad?

ADLT: My father, and his partner at the time Ricardo Diaz, worked up our menu. I was in charge of everything you see, the branding, the empty walls, the social media, and the daily operations. When we first opened Guisados, Ricardo Diaz and Armando Sr. wanted to focus on the idea of these braises on handmade tortillas, the merging of Armando Sr and Ricardo Diaz created something special. The menu started off small at the beginning and eventually grew to what you see today.  Since then, Ricardo has ventured into other projects of his own and my father and I decided to focus on Guisados and work on expanding into other locations. Now, we have a couple of guys who cook our recipes every day. They come in early in the morning leave by noon. Their only job is to cook our recipes over and over and over again. So that way, our food stays consistent. We cook everything in Boyle Heights. In the morning we separate it and send portions to Echo Park. That’s how both locations can provide food that tastes exactly the same.

LAC: What year did you open the restaurant?

ADLT: December of 2010. This December will be our three year anniversary. We want to have our downtown location open by January to kind of be able to have one restaurant open a year. When we started that was like a dream. When we started we were like, “oh man it would be so cool if Jonathan Gold wrote about us”, or, “man, it would be so cool to open another restaurant”.  So now that we have this new location coming up, we have so much pride in it because this is our opportunity to show that this isn’t just a fad restaurant. A lot of people tell me, “eighty-something percent of restaurants don’t pass two years”. We’ve gotten passed that. But it kept us humble because it’s also scary. Every time we get a slow day we’re like, “oh no..” We start getting worried. It’s an interesting change for us and we’re open to the challenge.

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LAC: How’s the Echo Park location working out?

ADLT: It’s been a blessing. It has far beyond exceeded our expectations. We took a chance on that location because there are no other businesses around it. For us, we saw that as not having competition. At the same time there’s barely any food traffic, most people drive to us. In Boyle Heights there’s so much foot traffic, we have so many locals coming in.

Each one of the locations has a very different vibe. Here in Boyle Heights, it’s home’ish. Echo Park is very laid-back, you can go there and hang out. Hopefully we’ll be serving wine there soon. In downtown, it’s going to be a hybrid of both. Each one is going to have a different feel. To me, it’s like everything is just one big restaurant that has everything you want, but it’s broken into three different locations. We’ll experiment different ways in how to get people in them. One thing is a breakfast menu, like breakfast tacos, but mainly things we were just raised on.

LAC: Do you ever change the menu?

ADLT: The menu that you see right up front stays the same. The only thing that changes are the specials. At first it did change a lot, which is why it’s written on a chalkboard, but after a while we started to understand how to maximize our food so we don’t throw so much away.

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LAC: What makes a good taco?

ADLT: For me, it’s originality and flavor. Everybody has their own opinion of where the best tacos are, “this place has the best carne asada! No, this place has the best carne asada!” Well to me, I’ve had plenty of carne asada, but carne asada is just carne asada. It’s steak, grilled. Even today, we get people who look at our menu and order carne asada. We don’t have carne asada. We have the same kind of beef but made completely different. It makes people try something new. It makes them step out of their element. We’re not trying to change Mexican food, because this is Mexican food, but we’re trying to broaden people’s perception of Mexican food. It was important for us to be original and true, especially here in Boyle Heights.

LAC: Talk about the habanero sauce..

ADLT: Our habanero sauce is practically a puree. It’s 95-97% habanero, mixed with a few other ingredients, but it’s mainly habanero. People are used to red and green, then they see habanero they’re like, “yeah I’ll try it”. They’re all machismo about it. Then they taste it, and honestly, I’ve had guys cry.

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LAC: You seem to get everyone from LA here.

ADLT: We do. We get celebrities, locals, doctors, students, lawyers, politicians. It’s all for the food. That’s the most important thing for us, it’s the quality of the food. Focusing on one thing and try to do it well, which is why we don’t serve anything else but tacos.

When we started this place the walls were just white, now I’ve started to feature local artists’ work on the walls. It gives them some exposure, it changes my walls up a little bit. It gives a sense of community. The main idea of this restaurant wasn’t to just make money, it was to try something new and throw our passion at it. I just want people to come here, feel welcomed, and enjoy themselves.

FOOD SCOOPS: ALLUMETTE

 

Bar 2_george kelly

Throughout my tenure as Food Editor of LA CANVAS, I‘ve had some good food and I’ve had some great food. I’ve never felt dissatisfied, and I’ve consistently wondered why Jonathan Gold seemed so unimpressed with things I’ve found thoroughly delicious. Maybe, I think, it’s because he’s had too many meals like the one I’m about to describe to you.

Allumette is a fascinating new restaurant from the owners of Echo Park’s Allston Yacht Club, in the same location. Echo Park’s dining scene (well, everything scene) has been flourishing and changing for years now; a step ahead of the curve, Bill Didonna and Charles Kelly decided to close down their old casually hip small-plates eatery and resurrect it as a sophisticated new concept that cannot be so neatly encapsulated by a few buzz words.

After working with 24-year-old Chef Miles Thompson on The Vagrancy Project Pop-up, Didonna and Kelly eagerly recruited him as executive Chef for Allumette. With a profound respect for the foundations of French cuisine, Thompson pulls from the full spectrum of global flavor possibilities with an approach that’s playful as it is cerebral.  In short, the stuff that comes out of his kitchen is a trip. Or as one diner put it, “A cavalcade of wonder.”

Thompson’s menu is short, seasonal and forward-thinking, offering a nightly tasting/pairing menu and a neat selection of around twelve a-la-carte dishes. They aren’t meant to be shared (but we shared them, because they were too intriguing to keep to ourselves) but instead to be ordered in sequence as a personal tasting. Whatever you choose to do, be adventurous (there isn’t really another option. no filet mignon on the menu). And if being decisive isn’t your thing, you should feel entirely confident that whatever Thompson has planned will be more than pleasurable.

The cocktail menu is similarly impressive, with Serena Herrick of Harvard & Stone behind the bar menu. At first we were gigling over seemingly-absurd ingredients like “Velvet Falernum” and “Tangerine Szechuan Peppercorn.” But then we took a sip of our drinks and were swiftly silenced. Wide-eyed, speechless, licking the top of my mouth, all I had to say was Varnish shmarnish. And the bitter libations made more and more sense as the meal unfolded.

The dinner was a learning experience and a work of art. Read on for the photographic play-by-play.

 

drinks

 

On the left, a Negroni Sbagliato (“Sbagliato” meaning miscalculated/wrong/messed-up in Italian), a take on a traditional Negroni. This drink is dark and bitter but bubbly, like a grown-up coca-cola, made with the Italian Vermouth Punt E Mes and fizzy Graham Beck Brut. A bit of Aperol and a fresh sage leaf make it extra fragrant and flavorful.

The cloudy pink beauty is the Blood Meridian, which is kind of an uber-sophisticated, complex margarita made with Vida Mezcal, Luxurado Maraschino, blood orange, lime and kumquat. The rim of black lava salt adds a textural, savory bite.

 

menus

appetizer

 

This is the first thing that Chef Thompson sent out, a gift from the kitchen for every diner. If we weren’t convinced by the cocktails, the butter ball definitely did it (“Oh, this is going to be good”). It’s potato butter with a crispy shell, like a tater tot, mixed with mascarpone and just ready to bathe that piece of toast. Ridiculous.

 

broccolo

 

Sprouting Broccoli, with parmesan sabayon, beet, and black olive vinaigrette. The plate is littered with various herbs and leaves (those flowers taste like cilantro) each gleaming with a glaze and carrying its own pointed, unique taste. This is when things started to get wild.

 

cavatelli

Who put peas in my macoroni???? If peas were this insanely fresh and tasty when I was a child, I probably wouldn’t have minded. But seriously, this was my favorite dish. Cavatelli with uni ragu, English pea puree, braised mushrooms and fromage noir, which is a cheese that hung out with squid ink and turned black and devilishly delicious. Secretly, Chef Thompson also throws meyer lemon and white chocolate chips in there. It’s bananas. Eat it.

 

 

shortrib

Short rib, cooked in pho and surrounded by pretty Vietnamese herbs. The scattered leaves provide a similar experience to the broccoli dish, held down by that hunk of beef that is just INFUSED with delicate spices and sometimes tastes like a ginger snap.

 

porkshoulder

 

Juicy Pork Shoulder wrapped in bacon, with kombu relish, caramelized onions, and feuille de brick (that yellow stuff). All contrasts: sweet and savory, soft and crispy. Like a breakfast sausage but WOW.

 

octopus

 

And finally, the Poached Octopus. This was from the tasting menu, but available a-la-carte. The octopus is the ideal texture and sitting in a small pool of Vadouvan Butter, a butter infused with delicate french curry. The fried quail egg just drips the whole thing in yolky goodness while the  marinated slices of blood orange provide a refreshing contrast.

 

desertmenu

cheesecake

Cheesecake Mousse, with drizzles of maple syrup, some frozen cookie dough and graham cracker bits. Notes of tangy citrus balance out the sweetness so that you’ll easily devour the whole thing (at least I did).

 

Allumette

http://allumettela.com/

1320 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026

(213) 935-8787