Katy Goodman makes breakup albums. Her latest, Sees the Light, largely concerns her failed relationships with two former beaux. Sure, there are some happy tracks, about a third guy — but she has since split with him, too. “I break up a lot,” she explains.
One suspects the 27-year-old singer-songwriter is a heartbreaker; she certainly has inspired the adoration of breathless indie boys around the country, first with her Brooklyn trio, Vivian Girls, and now with her solo act, La Sera.
With her long, just-unkempt-enough red hair — with bangs, naturally — she's beautiful but not annoyingly so. Over lunch in Silver Lake, tattoos spill out from beneath her black lace American Apparel shirt; she shows off a Ramones silhouette at her waistline, not to mention the logo for seminal hardcore band Minor Threat, a sheep. “But it has a pink bow,” she says. “Because I'm a girl.”
Appropriately, then, La Sera's music is distinctly more feminine than that of critical favorites Vivian Girls, who drenched their garage rock in noise. La Sera has a windswept, surf-rock feel, infused with melody, along the lines of other California charmers such as Best Coast. But the tracks' gentle-sounding harmonies are belied by their oft-violent videos. In “Devil Hearts Grow Gold,” Goodman wields a gun, and in “Never Comes Around,” she stabs an assumed paramour with a butcher knife. Then she throws him in her trunk and dumps him in a garage … filled with other dudes she's gored.
“The songs are so sweet-sounding, it's fun to make really extreme videos,” she says. “It would be easy for me to make pretty ones.”
But Goodman is never entirely convincing as a psychopath. A New Jersey native who majored in physics at Rutgers, she swears she's a punk at heart. She grew up on Black Flag and the Germs; in college she threw hardcore shows in her basement. She believes Vivian Girls succeeded because of their DIY attitude: They booked their own shows and toured in her hybrid Honda Civic, their gear stuffed into a cargo sack on the roof.
New York often feels like the center of the indie-rock universe, but Goodman came to L.A. two years ago strictly for the weather. When she's not touring or writing songs, she pursues some rather geeky ventures from her Eagle Rock home: She's been reviewing video games for Spin, and, with a friend, seeking seed money for a music-tech startup, the details of which she declines to disclose.
“I like nerd stuff,” she insists. “I'm a nerd.”
Either that or a punk, or an indie queen. Most likely some combination of the three, sure to inspire more admirers — and more breakups.