By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Singer/guitarist Brian Aubert is a delightfully gloomy little peanut from Topanga. Elliott Smith hair, tight brown T-shirt and black jeans. Thin and pasty. Perfect for the job. Bass player Nikki Monninger has a more reserved art-school thing going on. She’s the “quiet as a church mouse” singer who has every Eastside indie girl’s dream job.
“Brian keeps reminding me. He says they got a list if I hit any bad notes,” she says and he laughs, but she doesn’t.
Brian, Nikki, nerdy keyboardist Joe Lester and cute man/boy drummer Christopher Guanlao are the reigning champions of Silver Lake. It’s straightforward, indie-rock, guitar-bass-drums stuff with some trippy keyboards and melodic, sometimes-snarling vocals. Surprisingly clever, the winning formula here is classic pop-song structure with easily accessible choruses. When the day’s done in this particular genre, you can either write a chorus or you can’t. If you can’t, you better find somebody who can or keep your day job at Millie’s.
Brian’s favorite band right now is Darker My Love. “I was in Earlimart, helping for a while,” Brian says. “I accidentally joined them on a tour. Sort of helping out. They’re friends of ours for a long time, so that’s always fun.”
I ask him if there was a particular magic moment in the past few years.
“The funny thing about magic moments,” he says, “is they just keep on happening. Before we used to talk about . . . one day if we could play the Silverlake Lounge with this band Pine Martin.”
The Pickups opened up for Elliott Smith and Rilo Kiley at the Music Box a couple of years ago. “Elliott asked us to do that, and I thought, This is going to be scary,” Brian remembers. “Our set was short, and we played really fast . . . when we finished we still had extra time and people started calling out names of our songs and it made us feel really amazing. We know Elliott from around. We had friends who were friends with him. He was a local guy.”
Earlier in the night, Brian and Annie from Giant Drag played on the main stage at the Echo for the Fuck Yeah Festival, where the gathering storm of shoe gazers is still growing and waiting to get inside. Annie is still propped against the building, chain-smoking and snake charming.
Just down the street at the Rec Center things are a little more teenage and testosteroned as Hit Me Back, Latino thrash-’n’-roll vets from South-Central, tear shit up for reals. The raucous combo are a real independent band in the authentic sense. Stick breaker Danny Diaz (a.k.a. Dingy Danny), hyperfrenetic singer Abraham Garcia, austere, straight-edge guitar player Alberto Gamboa and headbanging bass player Bogar Garcia have toured the States, Canada and Japan and have just lined up a South American tour that includes dates in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina. They put it together themselves.
Spiky-haired 19-year-old front man Abe always gives it up. “Like if it’s the last time we’re gonna play and shit,” Abe says. “The lyrics? They’re, like . . . social. About, like . . . hating shit.”
Danny interjects, “Everything we play comes from the heart. If we feel it, we do it. Being alive and being there. That’s what we’re doing in Silver Lake.”
Like a lot of self-propelled touring acts, these young punks manifested their transcontinental vision outta dust and nuts. Now materialized, it’s held together by spit and jism, fueled by vigorous impetuosity. The omnipotence of youth. One element always present in the DNA of these high-functioning, self-contained creative organisms is a superorganized expediter. In Hit Me Back, Dingy Danny is the one with his head screwed on straight, but Abe doesn’t mind being the mouthpiece.
“We just did it,” Abe says. “We booked and went.”
Danny fills in the blanks. “We have a release in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, so hopefully we’ll be there soon, too. We got a split 7-inch with [Tokyo speedcore legends] Crucial Section on 625 Thrash out of San Francisco. We’ve had releases on some European labels, and we got one coming out on a South American label. We do it all independently. DIY. Do it yourself.
“We’re from South-Central,” Danny continues. “We’ve seen parts of the world we never thought we’d see. We’re not from the rich neighborhoods. With us, everything we’ve done is truly amazing. We’re from a place called poverty level. We save our money and we work for it. It’s not like we have tour support. I paid for the Japan trip with the insurance money from a car accident.”
Oddly, with a five-year history, the globetrotting and the releases (seven total), these tambourine-thrash all-stars seem to feel a little alienated being so far away but so close to home at the Fuck Yeah Fest here in Echo Park.
“We go to the Echo on Sunday for the Part Time Punks things. We show off our dance moves.” Danny laughs, but the veil is thin and you can tell they don’t feel particularly embraced here . . . this isn’t their scene.
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