Few empty spaces exist in the cramped Echo Park apartment of noise-pop duo Spaceships. A drum kit blocks a massive bookshelf overflowing with outsider literature, Carl Sagan books and '80s disaster movies on VHS. Two end tables are covered with production mixers. Two gray-black cats scale the thrift-store furniture. A guitar poses underneath a lamp. The dining room table doubles as a factory line for the bedroom-garage rock band's self-designed T-shirts and self-pressed 7-inch records.
“Doing it yourself is easier because …,” says Jessie Waite, Spaceships' guitarist, singer, engineer, mixer, producer, co-songwriter, shirtmaker, logo designer, publicist and show booker.
“… It's definitely not easy,” imparts shaggy-haired Kevin LaRose, the soft-spoken but powerful drummer, co-songwriter and co-conspirator.
“It's not easier,” the pixie-ish Waite corrects herself. “We wanted to do this and had no money or other options. We recorded the guitars and singing in our apartment and some drum parts — with the silencers on. We bought plastic sleeves for vinyl, burnt CDs to sell on our Bandcamp page, and watched an instructional video on silk-screening. There was a lot of trial and error.”
To accentuate the point, Waite grabs two wooden shirt-making panels etched with the band's emblem, a UFO soaring over a pair of pyramids, only one of which matches the precise Spaceships tattoo on her left forearm.
Spaceships' goal is permanence, or at least making enough from music to quit their day jobs. (He works at Amoeba, she works in postproduction.) Waite and LaRose, both 28, have been together since they met as freshmen at Boulder, Colo.'s Naropa University, a school inspired by Buddhism and the Beat generation. They were kicked out of their dorm — the “intentional community” — one Halloween.
“They brought witches to our hall meeting to lead us through meditation,” Waite says, laughing. “Then they brought out a 'talking stick,' and each person took turns telling why they were pissed off at us.”
The pair left the school soon after, sparking an eight-year odyssey that included a half-dozen colleges and several parental evictions. They finished at San Francisco State in 2010 and moved to Echo Park to start Spaceships. They'd been writing songs independently for years but only decided to work together after attending 2010's FYF.
“We just looked at each other and said, 'Why don't we do this? And we haven't been able to afford FYF since,” LaRose half-jokes.
Spaceships' first year featured innumerable discarded songs, nearly empty support gigs and practice sessions. They released nothing. But their eponymous January EP and last month's similarly titled 7-inch are lo-fi, raw and irrepressibly catchy: a sweet spot between early Veruca Salt and former L.A. DIY queens Mika Miko. Spin hailed Spaceships as “the perfect combo of nasally disaffection and defiance.”
No labels have yet shown serious interest, but Waite and LaRose are recording their first full-length and have begun playing bigger shows and helping to build a like-minded community.
“We're working with [art collective] FMLY to build a D.I.T. [do-it-together] venue downtown. It's going to be a co-op-type arrangement and really democratic,” LaRose says.
“Hopefully, we won't get kicked out,” Waite concludes.