Q&A: ZELLA DAY

This blue-eyed beauty isn’t just a pretty face. Zella Day packs a serious voice and along with her sincerely written tunes; a mix of folk, synth and deep beats, Zella soothes the soul with her own multigrain brand of “Granola Pop”. Hailing from a small town in Arizona, Zella has been making herself known in Los Angeles with singles such as “Sweet Ophelia” and “1965”. The artist sat with us to dish details about her process, sound and upcoming releases.
 
LA CANVAS: How would you describe your music and your sound?

ZELLA DAY: Hmmmm…. Well the sound is definitely a concoction of all things that I am inspired by, strive to be, who I was, and who I am presently. I’ve been creating music for long enough to have made music that I didn’t like and wasn’t too sure about to right now where I feel like I’m expressing myself to my full capacity. My square one was an acoustic guitar and a coffee house, so there inlays flares of classic  “singer-songwriter” vibes throughout the tracks. The music really started taking shape when I started implementing synths and programming big beats into the songs. Somebody once called it “Granola Pop”.

LAC: What is your inspiration for creating music?

ZD: I believe writers go through phases of inspiration. When I look back at my body of work I feel nostalgic with every lyric written. My head is in a different space everyday and music helps to document those spaces. I’m currently inspired by the major changes I’ve been going through in the past few months. I moved out to East LA by myself while dealing with one of the worst heart breaks I’ve ever endured.

LAC: What other musicians do you admire?

ZD: There are so many greats. I’ve always looked up to those like John Lennon and Bob Dylan, who I see as true poets that moved the world with their words.

LAC: You have some great singles out, is there going to be an album? If so, what can we look forward to?

ZD: Thank you! There is going to be an album released early of next year, but I’m anticipating the release of my EP thats out on October 21st. Baby steps 😉

LAC: Your performance at the Echo is quickly approaching, how do you prepare for shows?

ZD: I like to take my sweet time. The day before a show I make sure I do some yoga and have some quiet time. I find that it helps me to be meditative in the moments leading up to a show so that I can be fully present on stage and not have have mental chatter.

LAC: What is your favorite thing about being an artist in Los Angeles?

ZD: My favorite thing would have to be being a part of a thriving community with so much passion and grit. I find it enchanting that LA has so many talented people in it. This town is welcoming and competitive all at the same time which calls for GREAT art.

Check out Zella Day’s music video for her single “Sweet Ophelia” and don’t miss her upcoming show at The Echo on September 10th.

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: 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: ALICE RUSSELL

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British soul singer Alice Russell shows no sign of slowing down. Nine years after her first studio album, Under The Munka Moon, she has released four more including her most recent one, To Dust, released through TruThoughts Records. She has also released countless EPs including the August release of For A While and the very recently released Midnight at The Beverly Laurel, which is chock-full of remixes from various producers. Earlier this year she played at the massive U.K. music festival Glastonbury, today she is touring the U.S., and later this year she will be heading back overseas.

Alice has contributed vocals for the likes of Fatboy Slim and Mr. Scruff, but her most popular collab has been with musician, Quantic, whom she released an album with last year titled Look Around The Corner. She has enough confidence behind her powerful voice that she doesn’t seem to mind that years into her career she is still being compared to other female British singers such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and Adele. She sits among the trio as the lesser known but perhaps as one of the most natural and effortless sounding singers in her category. Her music is a fine attempt to create timeless material by avoiding the pitfalls of disposable “gimmicky” pop singles. She fuses classic genres with contemporary sounds to create something that’s both moving and comforting.

Last Saturday LAC was able to catch up with Alice before her sound check in preparation for her performance that evening at The Echo. She shared with us her excitement to be back in the U.S., her process of creating music, and some of her favorite L.A. spots.

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LA CANVAS: How was Glastonbury? 

ALICE RUSSELL: Oh it was wicked! We literally arrived two hours before we were on stage and then had to leave an hour afterwards because we had to get on a flight. We got a big entrance and a big exit.

LAC: You just started your U.S. tour.

AR: Yeah, we just started five shows ago. Washington DC, Philly, New York, San Fran, Santa Cruz, then here. So we’ve been in the states for about a week now, doing shows and some rehearsals.

LAC: In your previous album you collaborated with Quantic, but your new album is primarily just you. Do you prefer to be a solo artist?

AR: I mean with Will (Quantic) on that album, we sorta just wanted to do that together, so that was our treat side project. Yeah, I do love doing my own thing. You always want to express yourself in your own way.

LAC: What is the difference between your last solo album, Pot of Gold, and the new one To Dust?

Well, we got TM Juke again on the new album. He is my on going partner whom I write most of my songs with and he also produces. With Pot of Gold it was sort of a live album, with this one we wanted to go darker. Even though all of it was played by us, it was cut up in loops so it was going back to some of those hip hop sounds.

LAC: Citizens is just an amazing track on the new album, it’s just as you just described it.

Yeah! Originally it had strings and everything, we were like, “you know what, no, it just doesn’t work.” That was around two in the morning and we had to strip it back. Keep it minimal.

LAC: You have so much going on. You’re touring extensivley, you have a new album, a new EP, and another EP full of remixes. Where’s the energy coming from?

AR: (Laughs)

LAC: You’ve been doing it for a number of years but yet you have that youthful energy.

AR: I’m like a little granny. If you see me throughout the day, I’m almost half asleep. I have to save that energy because you want to give the people everything. You can’t hold back with things like music and performing.

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LAC: Do you write or record while on tour?

AR: At the moment just thoughts, because when the tour is up in the end of November we are not doing anything for a while so I got December and January clear. We are planning to get back in the studio. I want to do a couple of EPs. I want to do something a little more stripped back.

LAC: You do these wonderful covers, what do you find interesting about re-doing songs?

AR: I think with covers they pick you.  Recently it was James Blake’s ‘Retrograde’, it’s beautiful and timeless, same with ‘Crazy’. I think it touches a lot of people.

LAC: On your own songs do you purposely go for a timeless sound?

AR: I think it’s important. The thought of gimmicky shit doesn’t excite me. You could always do something that’s fresh and new without doing it to be cool. A song will lead you to do it the way you want to do it and things will influence you.

LAC: How do you challenge yourself with making traditional  music?

AR: Well me and TM Juke made so many versions of every song. We made so many, we ended up going back to all the demo versions because they worked. With that, we challenge ourselves because we’re very open at letting go. I’m not a perfectionist and I wish I was sometimes, but all of it is just coming from an honest emotional place.

LAC: How did you find all these traditional songs when you were young, and how did you avoid the pressure of your friends to listen to pop radio music, especially when you were a teenager?

AR: You know what, there wasn’t that much pressure. Even as a kid I was into James Brown. I found a record of his and it blew my little brain. But then I was obsessed with Prince, but I was never really following the pop songs or anything, I was still drawn to the older sounds. Although, when I was a teenager I’d go to these parties and hear all this hip hop and picked that up.

LAC: When did you realized you had that voice?

AR: It’s weird because it’s something I’ve always done. When I was a teenager  people started asking me to join their bands, and from there on I gained more confidence to continue to sing.

LAC: How do you feel about being compared to other British vocalists?

It’s cool you know. I think people always try to liken someone to someone else. Amy (Winehouse), both of us released an album in 2007, so there was that comparison. Now it’s Duffy and Adele. If it makes someone check me out, that’s a positive. I used to get a bit, “come on…” but now I don’t mind.

LAC: What’s next?

AR: I want to do more writing. I haven’t had time to write. I’m looking forward to have that time at home and getting back to writing. Right now, I still have a tour. I’m going to Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, then end up doing a few dates in the UK.

LAC: Do you get home sick being on tour?

AR: No, we got so many friends here. L.A., San Francisco, New York, they feel like second homes. I could live in California. I just need to persuade my Londonite boyfriend to move. I love the vibe out here. I love all these crazy flowers you guys have. The food’s good.

LAC: Any particular places?

AR: Swingers! We love Swingers, and Café Gratitude if we want to go a little healthy, but there are loads of so many spots out here.

 

Purchase her latest album here

{ text & photo by HERNAN QUINTANILLA }

LISTEN UP: MOD CREW’S YUNG SATAN

So I moved to LA for a number of reasons, but let’s keep it real, I really moved down here for two things. One: of course, I found a job. And two: LA’s music scene.

Originally recognized through Low End Theory and the likes of artists like Free the Robots, LA’s beat scene has been on a huge rise in the last few years, and I don’t know what has kids coming out with these beats, but I dig it. Is it something in the water? Hell, maybe it’s the traffic or the pollution, something!

The M|O|D crew has slowly but surely breaking ground with their trap tapes and Peng compilations, but individual artists like Arnold, C.Z. and Lil Texas are starting to speed up the breakthrough process. Add in a kid like Yung Satan, and it’s only a matter of time until these guys are headlining major show festivals.

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Yung Satan | Photo Cred: Jason “OHDAGYO” Fenmore

Disregarding any “future trap” label that might come up on your Google search of the kid, Yung Satan’s sound in a nutshell in heavy bass undertones with an overlay of 80s and 90s R&B/soul samples, like in his most release, “Tell Me.”

Chopping and screwing the samples are Yung Satan’s forte for dissecting the samples to his liking but the R&B influences are there and compliment the true-to-M|O|D nature of “club” and “trap” music. What Yung Satan does is to transform that type of “trap” and “club” music into something outside of it.

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Yung Satan | Photo Cred: Jason “OHDAGYO” Fenmore

It’s a one-two punch combo that on paper lay on opposite ends of the sound spectrum but Yung Satan’s chord progressions and high hats pull it all full circle and leave you wanting something beyond a five-track EP and a sprinkling of remixes and guest mixes.

Last night the kid and the rest of the M|o|D crew and Team Supreme threw a party at The Echo, with sets from Yung Satan himself, M|O|D brethren Lil Texas and Arnold, Colta and Djemba Djemba from Team Supreme, and many more. The good thing about being based in LA is hey, you never know when his next gig will pop up in the greater LA county area, so keep an eye on his Facebook and Twitter and in the mean time, tune in to his guest mix featured on Beatflakes.