It's difficult to put a finger on just what makes LA trio Gothic Tropic so appealing. On the one hand the band's brand of krautrock inspired garage pop sounds are as raw and exciting as they are ludicrously infectious. On the other, there's something enviable about their free-spirited LA semblance that is splashed lovingly over the band, encapsulating everything from their name to their press shots to their videos. The brainchild of Cecilia Della Peruti, Gothic Tropic is an irresistible world constructed in energetic afro-beat drums, vibrant psychedelic guitars and idiosyncratic reverberant female-fronted vocals.
We at The 405 have long championed Gothic Tropic and with an album and various singles coming soon, it feels only right to feature them in this edition of Lead Off. The band, made up of Cecilia, bassist Daniel Denton, and drummer Lia Braswell share their influences, experiences of being an emerging band in today's climate, and also some brilliant picks of new bands from the LA area.
Could you start off by giving us some background about Gothic Tropic?
It kind of started and established itself all in about 30 min haha. I was in my friend's practice space, and I saw a loop station, which I assumed was beyond my understanding, but I jumped in to my first loop station jam and out came 'Monkey Bars', 'Kitty Baby', and 'Stigmata Jazz'. I decided to form a solo project around my new contraption, so I ended up dive bombing into a week of endless loop station jams, wrote the EP, and started playing live by myself. After a few shows I met Sam Lopez who played guitar on the EP, and found Liv Marsico (drums) and Daniel Denton (bass) to play with me, and the machine kind of became obsolete. I came up with the name Gothic Tropic as a kind of joke-comment on how I love everything from Suicide to Fela Kuti, and knew the music I'd be making would probably be my bizarre version of that fusion, I knew it could have been goofy but I kept the name anyway haha.
What are some of your influences (music or otherwise)?
A lot of the music I listen to doesn't really inform my writing, but some artists I really look up to are Sonic Youth, Television, Talking Heads, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, Can, and a lot of prepunk & krautrock bands. I love Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, she's my favorite female vocalist, and Tom Verlaine is probably my favorite guitarist. All these folks are kind of in my category of divine tastemakers, and really nail my taste too. I'd be a fool to exclude Bowie & Byrne also. When I'm in the writing zone or playing a lot I really try not to listen to music at all, and if I do it's everything from Mahler or Strauss, to Little Dragon, something I won't be influenced by, and rather absorb and enjoy and reflect and get weird to.
What do you see as being the advantages and disadvantages of being an emerging band today?
It's really a winner takes all kind of reality, so if you're making music right now and emerging in your home city, it's wise to remind yourself that you're a grain of sand in ratio to everyone else doing the same thing. And that fact shouldn't be discouraging, it should free you from the pressure that can poison your musical process. The thing is it's a lot easier to share grains of sand today, so that's an advantage. I think the potential to discover new music is always aiming to match the supply and it's easier for music lovers to customize their 'find a new band' filter, and whoever does, will most likely already like you. As far as making music goes, the advantages are; vintage gear, human beings, and tape machines still exist. (I say that, betraying my inner electro-techy cool kid.)
The indie world still seems to be male-dominated, has this affected Gothic Tropic in any way?
I guess it is male-dominated but I've never thought about it. At this point, if you're surrounded by decent people, who doesn't feel like they're all just puppies in a basket? I will say, I remember starting out, and saying "let's jam" usually seemed futile haha, but I think people are changing, there have been so many female musicians who've gone through worse to get us to this point. Also I think if a person isn't easily threatened or isn't a dick, they'll like any lady who can shred, it's inarguably awesome. Also female musicians should support each other, and build each other up rather than feel competitive, that's huge.
How has LA influenced your sound or ethos?
I don't really know objectively, I think if LA started a band it'd be a surf rock band, right? I don't know, that's me as a man in a suit somewhere far away sitting at a conference table thinking of the distinctive "LA" vibe. It's hard to say how we've been influenced by living here because we all grew up here, and didn't experience moving here and adjusting. The weather, lifestyle, music or party scene here doesn't really influence our sound, I think it's more a mood, experience or emotion, and just personal taste. I think it's easier to say that Norway might generate more black metal music than LA produces sunny music. I love living here, and I've had family and life long friends to support my culture, so achieving supreme good vibes is always a realistic goal, but I think you can get that anywhere.
Which new bands in and around LA should we be looking out for?
I love this question! James Supercave, Body Parts, Norse Horse, Incan Abraham, Hott MT, The Happy Hallows, Races, Deap Vally, Hands, Mini Mansions, Dahga Bloom, and Tropical Popsicle (San Diego). These are off the top of my head, please keep referencing me for more. James Supercave & Body Parts are next level in my opinion.
What’s next for Gothic Tropic? Can we expect an album in 2013?
Yes you can! We'll be releasing our first full length very soon. I'm festering with excitement about this, I'm the kind of person who would leak our own stuff out of excitement, so I have to be careful. Without putting us on blast, I'll admit that we have around 3 generous album's worth of material right now, and we can't stop writing haha. Cannot wait to find the right label to share these with everyone! In the mean time, stay updated because we'll be releasing some singles.