Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE: LA Edition– your source for the best shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live band. For the month of February we will be featuring LA shows!
Draag is a shoegaze band from Sylmar, California who create stream-of-consciousness film noir landscape music that is performed at eardrum melting volumes. Starting as the solo project of Adrian Acosta (originally a mariachi singer), the lineup was filled out by seasoned underground musicians Jessica Huang, Nick Kelley, Ray Montes, and Shane Graham, who have influences ranging from no wave to experimental jazz and classical music. Last month they released a music video for their track “Ghost Leak,” and are currently doing a free month-long Monday night residency at The Echo and Echoplex in support of their new EP Clara Luz. The second installment of this residency will be presented by Pretty But Wicked on 2/10 with Orchin, Gold Cage, Sprain, and DJ Bloome at The Echoplex. We chatted with Draag about how they create their live sound, what body of water their music would swim in, and their favorite LA traffic listening.
AF: What are your favorite guitar pedals and/or any other piece of gear that’s important to your live sound?
Orange amps, Sunn amps, Strymon, Earthquaker Devices, Nunez Amplification, Hologram Electronics, Moog, Roland, Korg, Boss, Dave Smith Electronics, Fender, Gibson – without delving too deep into each individual gadget of ours. One secret weapon we can reveal is the Digetech Pds 100 Digital Sampler.
AF: What are your favorite LA bands to play with?
Vinyl Williams, Goon, Ceramiks, The Shaking Hands, Alms, Shaki Tavi, Sam Wilkes, Sprain
AF: What body of water would your music like to swim in?
Tigris and Euphrates
AF: If you were to create a new score any horror, sci-fi fi or cult classic movie that already exists, which would it be?
Rosemary’s Baby, Hereditary, and Street Trash.
AF: What’s your favorite record to listen to while stuck in traffic?
Jessica: My Bloody Valentine B-sides
Ray: Dinosaur Jr. –You’re Living All Over Me
Adrian: J Dilla’s Donuts
Nick: Carpathian Forest – Fuck You All
Shane: Ulrika Spacek’s https://open.spotify.com/album/4P5B6hMF3QavOLvYPfvqRQ?si=IFr-6Yp3TWewGUozk1jfyg
In the late Nineties, CDs cost around $20. Without the means to buy much, my CD “collection” included Green Day’s Dookie, No Doubt’s Return of Saturn, and Celine Dion’s magnum opus Falling Into You. This distinct lack of variety caused me to listen to these albums on repeat for six months at a time. I still find myself listening to certain songs or albums for months on end, until my brain finally screams at me to stop. Diet Cig’s 2015 EP Over Easy and their subsequent singles “Dinner Date” and “Sleep Talk” were on my rotation for much of 2016. This April, the band released Swear I’m Good At This via Frenchkiss; although it’s the band’s first full-length album, it already shows a sense of maturity is setting in.
“I think this band installed some hardcore wokeness, like politically, which is cool,” lead singer Alex Luciano, 21, said in an interview with Spin Magazine. The song “Sixteen” address slut-shaming, with lyrics like “When I was sixteen I dated a boy with my own name, it was weird/And I didn’t think you had to go to town/and tell everybody’s mom that I’m sleeping around.” The playful, high school dreamer sound of their first EP remains throughout, yet based on the subtle evolution of tone, I was excited to see how Diet Cig translated live.
Lisa Prank, aka Robin Edwards, opened for Diet Cig. There was something odd about watching a woman with a crown on, singing solo with a backing track. Prank’s voice is dry and direct. She plays well with the crowd, thanking her backup band with the note “They don’t get paid. It’s actually pretty brutal.” The audience was down with Lisa Prank, shuffling their feet, nodding their heads. Yet overall, the plaid-wearing crowd was ready for the main act.
Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” was playing on the venue soundsystem just before Diet Cig went onstage. My date and I debated whether this was chosen by the band, but our argument was quickly settled when we caught lead singer Alex Luciano dancing wildly by the merch table. Her energy, magnetic and frenzied, carried into the performance with opening song “Sleep Talk.” Pom pom earrings, a babydoll dress, and blue eyebrows completed Luciano’s hodgepodge Nineties look. She smiled, a wink in her eye, as she let the crowd know there’d be no moshing at this show; without the aide of a moshpit, fans danced frantically in one place, like the inflatable tube guy outside a car dealership.
“I feel like I was just high from the room, honestly. Y’all are like smoke stacks here with the holidays,” Luciano reminisced about her last time in Los Angeles (which happened to be 4/20). The atmosphere of the show was straight of an episode of Dawson’s Creek: Luciano, the adorable, quirky lead singer of a band playing prom, her delicate, breathy voice overshadowed at times by formidable drummer Noah Bowman, 24. “Link in Bio” was a highlight of the show, with girls shouting from the darkness “I’m done with being a chill girl! I’m trying to take over the world! Don’t tell me to calm down!”
The band wasn’t joking with the “woke” comment. “The best way to treat someone you hate is with radical kindness,” Luciano grinned after a beat, “Turn to someone next to you and say ‘Let’s smash the patriarchy!'”
As excited as I was to see my “on repeat” favorite songs, the showstopper single of the night was “Barf Day.” It perfectly encapsulates the fresh feeling of high school angst, as life moves forward into adulthood. “Just one birthday card sent to me/I missed my own surprise party/It’s me, I’m only twenty-one years old and now I’m drinking alone,” Luciano sang, her voice melting into Bowman’s warm, rhythmic beat. In the last moment before their final song, she looked at us and implored, “Remember to call your mom.”
Diet Cig’s full-length album Swear I’m Good At This is out now on Bandcamp. They’ve got three more dates on their West Coast tour but will hit the road aha
Coachella recently broke my heart when rumor had it they had rejected Kate Bush as a headliner (they later explained that never actually happened). When I sat down and started listening to DRÆMINGS’ self-titled EP, I was immediately transported to the mist-filled, gloomy paradise in which Kate Bush fans dwell. Kimi Recor’s voice is part Pat Benatar, part Patti Smith, and all guttural emotion. DRÆMINGS put a dance beat to some dark subjects, including suicide, technology overkill, and even the Dakota Access Pipeline. I spoke with Kimi about living in Germany as a child, her writing process, and even got the scoop on the theme for tonight’s free EP Release Party at The Echo.
I’d love to dig right in and ask you about your childhood. Mostly because when I listen to your music I picture an ethereal Wednesday Addams burning sage and jamming out.
KR: Well, I was born and raised in Germany, and I lived there until I was about 12. I had a very creative childhood – my mother is an artist, so we were always super hands on with everything. I was a wild child, throwing a lot of temper tantrums when I was younger, but eventually I managed to divert some of that energy into just being a spaz [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][laughs]. I didn’t really watch much TV until we moved to the US, so my childhood to me feels like this very imaginative, open space in my life. We spent a lot of time playing in the woods outside of my house, so it was really wondrous.
What kind of medium does your mother work in?
KR: Well, my mother started off as a dancer, and then later became a physical therapist, but since I can remember she’s always painted or drawn, or done sculpture — my mother is kind of amazing, because she’s always made art for herself, not other people. She never really exhibited her artwork, even though it was and still is amazing. It made me realize from a young age that “success” in the art world didn’t go hand in hand with talent and that art doesn’t always have to be something you monetize.
That really is an important lesson. Artists so often lose their original intent looking for success.
KR: So true!
How old were you when you wrote your first song?
KR: I’m pretty sure I was always singing when I was super young, but I remember the first time I wrote a song and performed it in front of an audience. I was about 12 years old, had just moved to the US, and roped two of my friends into doing this weird acapella song that I wrote. We wore all black and berets, and the song’s lyrics were something along the lines of “Fear us, hear us, near us, fear us!” It was very goth, pre-me knowing what goth was [laughs].
It sounds very Macbeth to me. I love that you were already incorporating costumes!
KR: Oh yeah, I’ve always loved costumes. Since I was very young, my mother always had a costume trunk for us.
Was fashion ever a vertical you considered?
KR: When I was a teenager I modeled a little bit, and I think for a couple of years I wanted to be a fashion designer based on my experiences. But then I realized I would actually have to learn how to sew and make patterns, and I realized that I’d rather just thrift weird stuff and alter it than actually make something from scratch. It’s funny, because now my costumes on stage are very intricate and strange, but on a day to day basis, I dress almost in uniform.
You did an interview with Nasty Gal where you said “When I was younger, I used to cause myself a lot of pain, thinking it was the only way to access my creativity. Now, I realize I can just draw from the darker experiences of my past instead of creating new ones. It takes a little more motivation, but I think it still creates meaningful work.” Do you draw exclusively from your own life, or do you now pull from other art mediums (literature, film, etc.) during the writing process?
KR: Definitely both. Sometimes I’ll watch a TV show, and I’ll relate heavily to a scene or moment, and it will inspire me. I’m also hugely inspired by the political, economic, and ecological events that are happening in the world right now.
What were some of the inspiration points for The Eternal Lonesome?
KR: A lot of those songs stemmed from a time period during which I lost everything I had defined myself by. A relationship, my band, my home – all of those things dissipated within a matter of months, and writing was the only way I could deal with it. It was very much an album that dealt with loss. But there’s also a couple of songs on there that are about my past, moments that defined me in my life. It’s an album I’m very proud of, but that also caused me a lot of pain, because it took so long to get released.
Do you go through writing spurts or do you have a daily ritual? Have you noticed your writing habits shifting from this album to new music you’re working on now?
KR: I wish I could say I wrote every day and that I have a ritual of that sort. I try to do a brain dump onto paper every morning, but life sometimes gets in the way of that. The Eternal Lonesome was pieced together from songs I had already written, plus songs that I wrote to round out the album. The new EP we just released today was written with my band in a rehearsal space, so I think the energy between the two is very different.
How did the band DRÆMINGS come together?
KR: Chris, my guitar player, is my brother from another mother. We have been playing music together for almost 10 years. He taught me how to play guitar. When DRÆMINGS was still more of a solo project he would come play the live shows with me. Thorson, our bass player, came on board about two years ago, when I needed a bass player for a national tour I was going on. We got along really well, and he’s been in the band ever since. He produced and mixed the new EP at his studio. Nathaniel, our drummer, just joined the band last summer. My old drummer went to medical school, and we lucked out. Nathaniel is super awesome, and his personality fits right in. We are definitely a dorky band that likes really weird things.
Can you tell us a little about the themes on the new EP?
KR: There’s a few in there. “Fire in Hell” is about finding your voice after someone tries to silence you. “Great Escape” is our feminist anthem about the double standards women often have to deal with. “Holy Land” is about the current state of affairs in politics – it was written right around the time the DAPL protests where reaching their climax. “Drowning World” deals with the repercussion that technology has had on our emotional state. “Don’t Even Worry” was written about my friend’s suicide attempt. And “Tides” is the lone love song – it was written about unconditional love, something solid and never ending.
I definitely hear some recurring Biblical themes throughout. It seems like apocalyptic undertones are popping up in a lot of artists’ music nowadays.
KR: Definitely. I think we are all really feeling that heaviness. It’s hard not to live in fear.
DRÆMINGS has had a month-long residency at The Echo. I absolutely love that space. How’s it been going?
KR: Really amazing. Each night just keeps getting better. I love The Echo as well, it’s probably my favorite venue in L.A. They’ve been really great about letting us do our thing. Every night we’ve decorated the venue in accordance to a different theme. It’s been a lot of work but SOOOO worth it.
And this Monday is your release party show right? I’m excited to see what the theme will be…
KR: Yes! We’re so excited. The theme is fortune… and let’s just say we’re definitely ready to blow the last night out of the water.
Is a tour in the works?
KR: We are doing a bunch of West Coast runs this summer, and hopefully booking a proper national tour later in the year. We love touring, and can’t wait to get on the road.
Alright, the Double Jeopardy final question is: What do you want someone to feel when they listen to your music? Is there an emotion or tone you’re hoping to convey?
KR: I want people to relate. Growing up, music was sometimes my only friend. It made me feel like someone out there understood me, and that feeling probably saved my life. I would love if our music could do that for someone else.
You can find DRÆMINGS self-titled EP out now on iTunes and Spotify. In the L.A. area? Be sure to drop by The Echo tonight to dance it up at the DRÆMINGS Album Release party.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.