The Death Letters and Cameras
321 Lounge at TAIX
October 8, 2011
Better than...that high school house party where you tasted your first beer.
The Death Letters
It might've been the extra empty bottles of Bud Light on the floor, framed paintings of the French countryside on the walls or the blue vintage wallpaper, but this part of Culture Collide felt like watching bands in a family's living room.
Which is a good thing, because the homey, familial decor juxtaposed with the howls and rapid-fire punk of band The Death Letters (who went on at 10 p.m.) was, to put it bluntly, pretty badass. The Dutch duo's sound is at times slow and melodic. Other times it's loud, moody, and booming with schizophrenic noise bursts. For just two people, they make a ton of racket.
Still not even old enough to drink in the U.S., singer Duende Ariza Lora, 20, and drummer Victor Brandt, 19, formed Death Letters in 2006 when they were barely teenagers. They originally started out with a blues-rock sound, and in fact are named after American blues singer Son House' song "Death Letter." As they've gotten older, however, their blues-rock influence has become less prominent.
While they haven't exactly abandoned their roots, it's evident that their exploration of punk and complex, psychedelic-driven rock has taken over, such as in mosh-worthy "Fear's Face," which featured Lora frantically whipping his shaggy hair and roaring murderous screams.
Yet at times they defied their hard rock sound. Lora and Brandt capped their set with the arena-rockish, almost sweet-sounding "Pebbles." And it was obvious the shaggy-haired, sweaty, young Dutch lads couldn't hide their excitement to be playing on American soil. "It's so nice to be here in L.A.," said Lora in the most friendly tone and seconds before ripping into "Your Head Upside Down," probably the loudest, hardest and fastest track I heard all night.
Cameras review below.
The first thing you'll notice about this Sydney-based group is that they're sharp dressers. Most of the band looked post punk-ready, wearing crisp and well-fitted grey and black suits with black ties. (Extra points for vocalist/guitarist Fraser Harvey, who sported the hipster accessory du jour, a bolo tie.) Having just flown in Saturday morning from their native Australia, they hit the stage at 11 p.m. Vocalist/keyboardist Eleanor Dunlop said they were tired, but it seemed they fought their fatigue with vigor by plunging right into the stirring "Polarise," the opening track off Cameras' upcoming debut In Your Room.
With Dunlop's '70s-influenced piano and airy bellowing, she sort of has a Carole King-channeling-Karen O thing going on, especially in tracks like "I Know," which are so haunting they can double for sweeping film scores. All was well even when guitarist Harvey took the lead vocally. He channeled a hypnotic David Bowie-mated-with-Dracula and-had-a-baby-named-Interpol persona in songs like the goth-tinged "Kreuzberg" and on "Defeatist," their closing song and first single off their debut. Both wintry and heartbreaking, "Defeatist" seemed an appropriate way to sum up the kind of music they create: It's sometimes tinted with New Romanticism, other times baroque pop and on rare but welcome moments, surf rock. It's both vampiric and faerie-like, and Cameras have the ability to translate these polar qualities into gorgeous musical notes and chord progressions.
The crowd: Noisy, beer drinking kids of all ages who were also at SXSW. But this time around they were all wearing hats. It's obviously hat season, everyone! It was also a sea of everything I find insufferable about Echo Park/Silver Lake, like stripes and flannel.
Personal bias: I was wearing flannel. But not a hat.
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Random notebook dump: While walking through the backstage artist room where band members mingled and drank beer, I heard like five different languages being spoken. It was neat.
Set lists below.