Q&A with Paramount, LA-based Band
I know, I know. I know what you’re thinking at this very moment. I knew this thought of yours before you thought it. Say it with me now: Not. Another. New. Band. For the love of everything sacred, no more new bands. Why do males in their 20s insist on forming bands when we’ve had enough already. With only 12 notes and 144 chords in Western music, surely every possible combination of rhythm and melody has been explored. Furthermore, My iPod only holds 30,000 songs. What will I delete to make room for still more new music? My We Are Scientists B-sides?!
And, ordinarily, I’d be inclined to agree with you. But you see, L.A.’s PARAMOUNT is different. First of all, they’re friends of ours. Second of all, they are really very decent. And that’s just them as human beings. Thirdly, there are three of them. Oh– and the music rocks. Read on as Anthony (drummery), Nate (vocalizations and bassing), and Daniel (axemanship and also vocalizations) respond to and evade hard-hitting questions and baseless accusations.
NB: There is a giveaway at the end for those who make it all the way through this thing.
Me: First of all, congratulations on making a hell of a debut record. It is entitled Late Nights Brake Lights, if you haven’t heard. It jumps out of the speakers, and grabs the listener’s ears by the lapel of their blazers. [Their ears’s blazers? –Ed.] Tell us about the process of making a first record in L.A. Feel free to divulge any nepotism of which you took advantage or listing (in order) whom you each slept with in order to make the connections you needed to.
Nate: Wow, Victor. Going right for the scoop I see…
Me: [voice in my head] Score! Great question, V.!
Nate: Now how do I know that the fact that Daniel gave [redacted] a [redacted]job backstage at a [redacted] concert won’t end up on the cover of [redacted] magazine? [Get our lawyer on the phone, this is going to be a long interview –Ed. ] Besides that mess, it was a relatively painless process for us to make a record here, thanks to the generosity and charity of Matt Beckley, our friend, producer, fluffer, and #1 fan.
Anthony: Thanks. We have to keep the list secret but I will tell you that there were two people all three of us had to sleep with, both of them like me the best.
Daniel: Victor, as a longtime contributor to this blog, i know that was a total bullshit first question. And I liked it.
Me: [Damn! He’s on to you!]
Me: I’m hearing all kinds of influences in this record. I think the rock and pop kids are really going to be into it. Rather than just listing your favorites, tell me what the record shop card says next to the Paramount CD under “Recommended if you like…”
Nate: Just the rock and pop kids? Don’t sell us short. We’re huge with the showtunes kids. I don’t know. I can’t look at our music objectively anymore, it’s too much of an extension of my being at this point. Does that sound really pretentious? Recommended if you like: Nate’s Soul.
Anthony: Carnitas, the zoo, thin pizza, kittens, pickup trucks, shade, holiday season and coffee.
Daniel: Our bio says we are influenced by the Strokes and Weezer, and when I tell people that I kinda blush because I don’t really know if i believe it, or what that even means. For me, the Strokes might hit a little closer to home than Weezer. And last week I told a lady that we sounded like those two bands and she had never heard of either of them. I know, she MUST BE FROM MARS. My dad thinks most of our stuff sounds like Interpol [Obligatory Losanjealous Interpol mention–check. –Ed.]
Me: You guys recorded and pressed up your own CD. It seems more and more that the new music business model favors self-starters who just shut up and get it done instead of whining about getting signed. Do you see a new era of empowerment or just the same impenetrable monolithic gatekeepers to making it
Nate: In terms of empowerment, I’d agree that things like Myspace and iTunes have made it easier for us to spread the music and get some ’empowerment’ that way, but the people controlling the money are the same as they’ve always been. Any empowerment we get has nothing to do with monetary compensation, so don’t get the wrong idea about us: we definitely still whine like little children about getting signed. And when that doesn’t work, we resort to seduction. So if you’re a record company exec and you’re reading this… Daniel’s pretty good with his [redacted].
Anthony: It depends what kind of van it is, but going on tour sounds pretty magical. We got really lucky in having a producer, Matt Beckley, who did an unbelievable job for cheap to help us out. I think you need to have a successful cd before any record company will take notice. It’s like the chicken and the egg, kind of.
Me: [Mmmm: chicken and eggs…]
Daniel: you have to be a hustler to make it. thats the way it should be I think, especially when most of the hustling can be done out here in cyberspace. As you once said, Victor, “It’s all ones and zeros, baby.”
Me: Ha! That is SO me to say that.
Me: So are all you guys originally from L.A.? Or are you transplants? Tell us your personal history with the city?
Nate: I was born and raised in LA. I can’t tell you how many times people in Hollywood have looked at me incredulously when I’ve told them that… I think they’re under the impression that people aren’t actually born here. Is it more or less sad that I’m a native and still trying to make it?
Anthony: I grew up in Palo Alto but after coming to UCLA, i didnt want to leave.
Daniel: I was born and raised here too. I didn’t even leave for college. thats how much i love this city. I could talk about la forever. my memories of the 1980s in LA are fuzzy — because i was five, not because i was drunk or high [yeah, right –Ed.] Mostly Kirk Gibson’s homerun, begging my parents to take me to the La Brea Tar Pits for the hundredth time, and begging my parents to take me to the since-closed Aquarium Stock Co. fish store on Beverly and Crescent Heights for the thousandth time. That and the first time i went to Titos Tacos
Me: With songs such as ’Los Angeles Hot Rock’ and ’Miracle Mile,’ not to mention the fact that the cover photographs are taken at Union Station, to what extent does the City of Los Angeles play a role in your band’s songwriting? Going further, does L.A. play a role in the identity of the band itself? Do you consider yourselves an “L.A. band” in the classic sense of the term, a la GNR, Janes, Doors, and those awful, awful Eagles? What are you favorite L.A. bands?
Nate: I think Daniel’s songwriting is more influenced by the mystique of LA than mine, so you’re probably better off asking him about that. When I think of ’LA bands’, I think of the bands that have come up more recently like Maroon 5, Phantom Planet, Rooney, Big City Rock, The Like, etc. They’re all friends with each other, and we’re definitely not part of that. So in that way, I don’t really think of us as an “LA band” but I guess we are, in that 2/3 of us are natives and all of us went to college here. Plus, we’re all really good looking.
I don’t really have a favorite LA band, but I have a favorite LA band scene, which is naturally the hair metal days of the 80’s on the Sunset Strip. It’s funny in and of itself, but it’s mostly funny, and a little sad, how far removed the Strip is from that kind of craziness now. It’s hard to believe that was ever happening there.
Daniel: I think that perhaps more so than these guys I feel the city shapes our identity, but like Nate said, I do tend to write about it more so it makes sense. I wrote the words to “Miracle Mile” when I was thinking about the area during its heyday, where my girlfriend and I could have tea, go to department stores, buy inexpensive stockings and ties. She would be dressed very chastely, and I would probably drive an Oldsmobile while wearing formal headwear. I guess I am a bit nostalgic for a bygone era. For “Los Angeles Hot Rock,” I just wanted it to feel like a crazy, drunken night in LA. you know the feeling: knowing that at 3 am, the second chorizo taco from the taco truck is probably going to make you throw up, but eating it anyways. [I think we’ve all been there. –Ed. ] But like Sufjan Stevens, I plan to focus on another geographic locale for my next batch of songs: Glendale! or possibly Downey.
Me: I vote Downey. Karen Carpenter used to live there.
Anthony: My drumming is very Los Angeles, I invoke traffic and smog with my beats. I don’t know too much about other LA bands really.
Me: [You softened them up nicely, now for the jugular!] There seem to be 2 prevailing attitudes in the local band scene in Los Angeles. There is either: a supportive community that helps each other out OR a competetive, dog-eat-dog world out there, where its every band for themselves. Which has Paramount encountered? Do you consider yourself part of any smaller “scene” within the larger city?
Nate: I think we’ve mostly encountered the more communal, hippie version of things. I tend to think that there’s enough room for everyone to do well, so too much competition between bands is a little silly. Plus, you need people to play with. That said, it’s not like theres a group therapy session going on backstage, and there’s always going to be an element of alpha-male posturing with some who-looks-better-in-tight-pants tension. And I definitely do get some joy from hearing about the struggles of certain bands, which will remain nameless.
Anthony: In general the people i have dealt with have been very nice and there is a small group of bands we know and play with often…
Me: ..who apparently, you don’t want to plug by name in your interview. How generous.
Daniel: I’ll say this — this one fuckin’ hippie band we know, with a bunch of dudes with ponytails who don’t wear shoes onstage and hug you a lot — well, they fucked us out of a gig that would have paid us good money. And on the other hand, at our last show, these uber hipsters with cool haircuts got wasted while we played and shouted for us to play some Social D covers. Go figure. Moral of the story: LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING AND DON’T TRUST LONGHAIRS.
Me: My feeling has been that the vast majority of bands out there that complain they can’t get a “break” either don’t have the songs or the stage show. I mean, if you go up on stage and rip up a set with great tunes, you WILL get your shot. Do you agree? What are you thoughts on “making it” in L.A.? I think you guys have both, so you have permission to speak egotistically here.
Nate: Hmm. Here’s the thing. There’s nothing you can do about crap songs, and that’s definitely the most important part. But the problem with having a great stage show is sometimes you’re hampered by the feeling in the room. You feel like an idiot if you’re rocking out and going nuts to 3 people sitting down at a bar who don’t know who you are. Can you imagine a Sufjan Stevens-caliber show in that kind of setting? It would just never happen. Then there are also plenty of bands who have all the enthusiasm and fame and exposure they could possibly ask for and still put on a shitty show. I definitely used to feel like I could put on a better show if people got excited for the songs and were enthusiastic… and that’s happening more and more these days, and I think we’ve gotten better as a result.
Anthony: No, I think it takes a lot of work, not just good music. I don’t think bands get breaks, they make them. We don’t really do enough, we count on luck. Luck is way more exciting then sitting on Myspace for 6 hours to get 10,000 friends. You can’t make it without good music, but you need more then that. (Come on luck!)
Daniel: I think it takes a lot of luck. A lot of bands have great songs and go quietly into the night. sometimes it takes just that certain somebody out there in the industry to really just decide they need to get your music out there for it to actually happen. You never know when that person is going to come along, so yes, we’ve decided to consistently destroy people with our live show. And smile a lot. You never know who might be considering whether to smile back.
Me: Tell us 5 places/people/things in/from/about L.A. you love. GO!
1. Driving around when there’s no traffic.
2. The dreamworld I live in where that actually happens.
3. The Troubadour.
4. My favorite makeout location (Yeah right like I’d tell you so you can steal it).
5. For better or for worse, it always feels like a relevant place to be. I like that.
Anthony: T.G.I. Fridays, Blockbuster, Starbucks, Subway, Borders
Daniel: Bill DeMarco’s Starbucks rankings numbers 21-37, taco trucks, Richard Neutra, The Griffith Observatory, Musso and Franks. I can’t believe none of us said “the beach.”
Me: I can’t believe none of you said “Losanjealous.”
PARAMOUNT plays THREE CLUBS on Vine this Wednesday, December 13 @ 11 p.m.
Send an email with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org and win a copy of their self-pressed CD, Late Night Brake Lights. If it fails to rock you adequately, we will refund your e-mail.
Check out the CD on iTunes.