Los Angeles is crowded with events promoting emerging talents in music and, on Wednesday night, a Mighty Lamb Production was hosting a new ‘Breaking Sound’ episode at the Study, featuring four young bands, Elle Belle, Paper Pilots, the second Howl and the Gromble. It was the occasion to check out more bands and the Study, a historic bar-lounge on Hollywood boulevard with its walls covered with bookshelves, a sort of vintage library, which can give you a different vibe than the Silverlake venues where I usually hang out.
Elle Belle was the only band I had seen before, during one of their Monday residency at the Satellite, and I remember them to have energized the audience with an eclectic set of music. They certainly had the same dynamism and their frontman Christopher Pappas sang his powerful psych-pop songs with the same charisma. Their black and white striped-around-a-silhouette sheet has to be the best stage background ever, and Pappas’ stage presence is undeniable. The music is all over the place in a good way, while it is often cinematic with memorable hooks (try ‘San Francisco’), although it can take a garage-rock 60’s vibe, or leaning toward psychedelia or R&B, or even turning toward dense fuzzed-out white noise. They were certainly mixing up genres, while empowering the crowd with driving rhythms and muscular riffs like during ‘Failed Dreams’. I still don’t fully understand the tribal make-up and the feminine moniker but I suppose Pappas is one of these musicians who needs to create a character to free himself… if Father John Misty has the beard and the trolling sarcasm, Elle Belle may keep the crazy make up and the mysterious moniker to enhance the experience… mystery is good for rock & roll, so if you see them, be prepared for an eclectic wild ride.
Paper Pilots played their set with a true enthusiasm and a lot of arms in the air, something that I would never discourage, and I must add that this dynamism suited very well their power-pop songs. Some tunes had abrupt changes in tempo combined with layered guitars, but the hooks were there, big enough to appeal many indie LA radio stations like Alt 98.7, and for this reason, the song they announced as their new single (‘The Weather’, a pop song with an almost Crowded House vibe) sounded a bit familiar. ‘This song, as heard on ABC tonight’, said frontman Justin Bocchieri before playing ‘Free Ride’. The band had effectively the chance to get placements for several of their songs in TV series. They also played their now famous cover of The Zombies’ ‘She Is Not There’, a song which is featured in the soundtrack of HBO’s True Blood. The girl on guitar could do distortion and it was poppy hook galore and super dynamic delivery till the end. They had a carefree attitude, some grand gesture and funny harmonies, but especially an explosive style, reminding a bit this other indie LA band, Saint Motel, especially during their last song. These guys are probably in heavy rotation on KROQ.
The Second Howl was another great surprise, a band which had a real rocking heart and a great sense of performance, mostly due to their frontwoman Natasha Jeanne …. It was almost pop metal, the riffs were strong and heavy while Jeanne was howling like Robert Plant with Gwen Stefani’s strong voice,… and it was working. It was arena rock on a small stage with fog effects and theatrical antics, and the entire set was unapologetic rock & roll with Jeanne’s powerful screams, going as dark and sinister as Ozzy Osbourne’s… so that I was kind of expecting the DJ to play something from Motörhead or Black Sabbath after their set. . But Natasha Jeanne (or formerly JD Natasha) is not a newcomer, she was nominated three times for Latin Grammys (for ‘Best New Artist’, ‘Best Rock Solo Album’, and ‘Best Rock Song’) while signed to EMI earlier in her career. With this new rock outfit that she has formed with guitarist/ multi-instrumentalist Alex Darren just a few years ago, she has decided to go for the hard rock road with a touch of darkness and frenetic intense performances. They surely blew up the place very fast.
The Gromble, a band from Laguna Niguel, closed the night with another explosive set, and if I first thought they were another power pop band with keys, they rocked much harder than your average pop band, and soon the poppy side turned into fast and mad fury. They were certainly moving a lot during their set, except their calm keyboardist, who also took a sax for a surprising and interesting solo during their last song. The rest of the band was damn intense, especially frontman/vocalist Spencer Askin who was doing all the right rock & roll moves with his guitar. Their songs could start in the quietest manner with poppy harmonies and gentle synth-pop tempo, just to explode in fuzz a few second later, as if the band wanted to pack as many influences as possible in the same tune, old and new, pop and rock. They mentioned they had finally released an album, ‘5 years in the making’ Askin added. Nothing is easy for indie bands, but most of them are tenacious. They have mentioned Neutral Milk Hotel, Weezer, Pavement and the Smashing Pumpkins as influences in interviews, and, if none of these names crossed my mind during their set (actually, may be Weezer), their alternative sound was as eclectic as their performance was energetic, all fuzzed-out, synth-saturated as if there was no tomorrow… But it was very late, and unfortunately the crowd had to think about tomorrow because it was a Wednesday night.
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