Josh Landau has just eaten shit while skateboarding in the deep end of an empty pool somewhere in Burbank. His bandmates, bassist Court Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray, sit watching from the pool's steps, cringing as the guitarist-vocalist sacrifices some skin to the concrete. It's an oppressively hot day in the Valley, and they've driven here for the sole purpose of hopping a fence and skating a pool.
Landau, Murphy, and Murray are the longhaired hessians behind Venice hard psych-rock power trio The Shrine, and they possess a trippy, driving sound. “For whatever we are, there's not really another band in L.A. like us,” says Landau. “We play metal shows and people call us punk, and we play punk shows and people think we're these weird long-haired metal dudes.” They classify themselves as “psychedelic violence,” a collision of '70s headiness and '80s hardcore angst.
It's a term that's not entirely off the mark when listening to “Primitive Blast” or “Run The Night,” both tracks from their newest full-length Primitive Blast, but it's hard to not get a strong Thin Lizzy vibe when taking in the album as a whole.
In any case, there's no doubt that their three-man assault is effective. The power trio sprung from Landau and Murphy's high school friendship; Murray joined through a Craigslist ad, after moving to L.A. from Baltimore. They've been playing together for four years, but they're not trying to reinvent the wheel; Landau is steeped in the tradition of L.A.'s seminal punk era, and even recruited Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski to produce their 2010 self-titled single. They're also intimate with the skate rock scene as well after becoming musical darlings of sort for iconic skateboarding magazine Thrasher.
Landau emphasizes that the group is from Venice Beach, “not just L.A.,” and wish to hearken back to a heyday of pool skating and punk bands. “There's a few ruins left of the awesomeness that went down around this area,” he says, “but it's granola bars and yoga now. It's weird that we're here in this place, playing the music that we do.”
Murphy's also quick to denounce most of L.A.'s scene, slagging East side “spastic art kids” and lamenting that the West side doesn't embrace The Shrine quite like they should. “Wherever we go that's not L.A., everyone's awesome,” said Murphy. “They're people whose dopplegangers in L.A. wouldn't really want to have anything to do with us.”
Part of the issue is that their music is, in its simplest classification, really just straight-ahead rock, with no pretention or easy label attached. However, it's something that Venice Beach could really use again. The skate punk image is being embraced once more, and The Shrine provides a necessary soundtrack to the revival. “Rock and roll's pretty tried and true, but we're kind of doing our own version,” says Landau. “This is what we've been about for years, but no one was playing to it, really. In a weird way, I more and more see us fitting in.”
The Shrine are playing the Bootleg Theater tonight with guest Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound.