Geoff Geis

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Echo Chamber – coming this summer!

Okay, so I’m writing for LA Record again!

conradjoetext96hdark12aI actually quit on my own volition. My column, “Heart of Darkness,” was supposed to be all about my adventures going to underground shows on the East Side. And maybe I did a pretty good job at first, but eventually it became a chore because I burned out on going to shows and stopped being a legitimate representative of the scene I was supposed to represent…

I’m in a different place now, and I’m glad. And so the next print edition of the magazine will include my first column in a while.

I’m really excited about the subject matter of this one: a collaborative art space called Echo Chamber in the former Echo Curio spot on 1519 Sunset Blvd. It taps into history, but it also promises the future. Curators Sarah Cisco and Rhea Tepp have been putting a ton of effort into doing something aimed at expanding our ideas about what communal arts spaces can be.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 11.30.50 AMI was going to post my column here today in order to help them on Kickstarter — but they’ve actually already achieved their goal! So I’ll save my column for the magazine, which should be available all over town in the next couple of weeks. I know I’m excited.

But even though they’ve already reached their own goal, Echo Chamber has pledged to donate the first $400 they receive over their goal to helping out other community spaces: the Smell, Pehrspace, LA Fort, and HM 157. So go and support not just Echo Chamber but the greater DIY/DIT community by donating on Kickstarter. Join the club!

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 11.31.01 AMHere’s a bit of the interview that I did with Rhea to prepare the article. Much of this didn’t make it into the actual column because I had to focus on all the rad events that are coming up! In the following passage, Rhea expounds upon the nature of DIY/DIT spaces and her motivation for putting together projects like this.

The first event is July 3, by the way. You should RSVP on Facebook.

Here’s Rhea:

“There is a sense of urgency within the DIY/DIT community that both empowers its existence and makes it quite vulnerable. For those who choose to create the spaces for individuals to express freely, operating these venues is their art.

I certainly consider organizing Zine Fest and Echo Chamber a facet of what makes me an artist. I find a lot more freedom available as a performer in a space than I do as the space creator. If I use a curse word while performing, the FCC isn’t going to be sitting in the audience waiting to tell me I can no longer share my art with the public. It terrifies me to imagine that as an actual reality, but in a sense, that’s the type of restriction that artists who open independent creative spaces are facing.

Those who want to open a creative space with artistic intentions first and foremost, and business intentions second, third or perhaps not at all, are incredibly restricted in their ability to do so.

There is also a disconnect between artists and our local government, so often the resources feel inaccessible that would allow for an artist who is not also a business person to create that space. It can be difficult as an artist in Los Angeles to know if our local government values independent artistic communities. A number of local venues have been shut down over the years (Echo Curio, Church on York), close out of fear, or reevaluate their initial mission in order to operate.

One space that definitely stands out as one that has had to reevaluate its purpose for the community is the L.A Fort. The space has been open for a year and a half and began with a focus on live music. After being unable to continue hosting shows, the space is now a membership-run collective of individual studios.

I want to create a temporary environment for collaborations between all types of artists, face-to-face. I value the connections I make with people at a live music show, but those moments are often lacking the environment to create and share ideas together. An event like L.A. Zine Fest certainly revealed to me that the desire for these connections exists and is incredibly powerful right now within this culture.

I want people to put down their smart phones for a moment and be open to making a zine beside someone, or maybe even with them. I want people to share stories of what the creative process is like and take time to connect through these experiences.

Check out the next issue of LA Record for more…

Filed under: Art, Events, geoff geis, Human Interest, music, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Say Hello to Soft Sailors

I am delighted to announce that I have a new band, Soft Sailors! Our music is this post, but you have to scroll down to hear it!

We're performing at Pehrspace on Friday, May 30.

We’re performing at Pehrspace on Friday, May 30.

We’ve got our first shows coming up. The very first one, at LA’s esteemed Pehrspace, is this Friday, May 30. It’s being presented by Mountair and will feature Galaxy Kat, Untoward Children, and Flight Crew as well as us. Why don’t you RSVP on Facebook while you wait eagerly for it to start?

So who are these Soft Sailors? What is our story, and how is it that we sound?

Perhaps you remember the band Pizza!, of which I was a member for several years. We were five best friends and the band was a truly collaborative experience — we were all in our mid-twenties, in that fun space between college and real life, and we lived together and were constantly being creative together. At the same time, I was in a band called Big Whup with a similar background and process and a similar personal bond — we even got matching tattoos!

But you know how it goes, don’t you? Time, proximity, and the trials and tribulations of growing up cause people to move apart. Eventually the halcyon days gave way to interpersonal drama, and eventually we stopped being able to operate the way we used to.

Pizza! was a sick band, and by the way no one ever booed us offstage during our entire run -- fuck you, Culkin! [photo by Jed Johnson]

Pizza! was a sick band, and by the way no one ever booed us offstage during our entire run — fuck you, MacCaulay Culkin! [photo by Jed Johnson]

With Pizza!, we stopped living together and creating became a chore. We held on, in name only, for a while, before officially calling it quits in 2011 with an album (We Come from the Swamp, available here on Spotify) yet to be released. With Big Whup, the other singer decided that she wanted to focus on other things but didn’t bother to say anything  — I read about her decision secondhand in LA Record.

The whole thing was depressing.

Both bands had something pretty special, and we even had a little bit of momentum. Each group went out with a fizzle, rather than a bang.

Here's what I looked like when I was with So Many Wizards. In this photo, I'm Frank Maston. [David Uzzardi]

Here’s what I looked like when I was with So Many Wizards. In this photo, I’m Frank Maston. [Photo by David Uzzardi]

Anyway, in the ensuing years I kept doing music. I made a solo album, Princess, by finishing up some scraps of songs that I’d written for Pizza! and Big Whup but that never got produced due to our calcifying process. I played bass in my friends’ band, So Many Wizards, for about a year — we toured England and made a pretty cool record, Warm Nothing. I also started spending a lot of time creating covers and instrumentals to upload to my SoundCloud account, which started to build a bit of a following and helped me connect with musicians around the world.

All of those experiences were really fun and educational, but I must admit that none of them gave me the same thrill that I got from collaborating so hard with my best friends in Pizza! and Big Whup. As the time passed, I started to wonder if I even should continue making music at all. When I left So Many Wizards, I was intending to bow out and do something else – maybe even leave Los Angeles. I was working with Pizza!’s drummer Tyler on an album of solo songs that I thought would be my farewell to music as an attempted career.

Tyler doesn't look anything like this now, but he did once.

Tyler doesn’t look anything like this now, but he did once.

One song for that album, “Shake it Up,” was an early Pizza! jam we’d never recorded. Most songs fall away after a while, but this one always kept coming back to me. It’s a song about turning away from dependence on a wrecked relationship, no matter how comforting you may be deluding yourself into thinking it is. Perhaps it keeps coming back to me because the premise keeps repeating itself in my life.

We decided to record it with Pizza!’s bassist, Alex. He did such a good job that we asked him to play bass on the rest of the record.

Duncan, at practice.

Duncan, at practice.

And then the Smell, which is the lynchpin of the entire Los Angeles DIY scene and one of our band’s chief inspirations and motivators, wanted us to reunite for their 16th birthday this January. We accepted the offer, and it felt so good to play again! As we prepared for the show, we all realized that we’d been missing each other’s energy. Duncan, who’d spent the ensuing years getting a Master’s Degree, started talking about writing together again.

Jenna, on bass.

Jenna, on bass.

This was around the same time that I started hanging out again with Jenna, the bassist of Big Whup, who had spent the years since that band’s demise getting a law degree and playing in a great new band called Sweet Bump It. She was really enthusiastic about the new songs we’d been working on and offered to help — which was perfect, because a couple of brutal world tours with Liars and Fol Chen had burned Alex out on the idea of doing anything other than recording.

So Jenna agreed to take the bass, not only solidifying rhythm section but infusing the whole project with both energy and professionalism. And that completed the lineup — Rand, who was in both Pizza! and Big Whup, is too busy being a robot genius at Jet Propulsion Laboratories to be too involved this time around; but fortunately he’s agreed to do engineering stuff for us. His first task is installing an electric pickup onto an acoustic banjo.

And now, we’ve got a handful of shows and a couple of songs.

Here’s the second song we released, called “Work Doesn’t Pay.” I wrote this one during that time I was telling you about earlier, when I was thinking about quitting music and ditching Los Angeles.

Lyrically, it’s a pretty heavy number and reflects some pretty heavy thoughts. I’m proud of it because it’s more direct and honest that I usually am, and clearer. The story’s there: I was demoralized. I’d come to this city because I thought I could accomplish things here, and I’d started to accomplish them but now they were crumbled and all I had left was this go-nowhere day job that I’d gotten in order to sustain myself as I tried to accomplish what I was no longer trying to accomplish.

Soft Sailors photo by Dalton Blanco.

Soft Sailors, from left to right: Tyler Sabbag, Jenna Eyrich, Geoff Geis, Duncan Thum. [Photo by Dalton Blanco]

That’s not where I am now — and I sure am glad. For one thing, the job’s better. But mostly, it’s really great to be playing with these guys again. And I’m really excited about the material.

What started as a farewell now seems like a new beginning. And thank goodness for that; as much as I wanted to try and do something else, I sure as hell couldn’t figure out what. Music just keeps calling!

So please come see us, and don’t put it off! We”ve got three shows coming up in rapid succession, and then we’re taking off for a couple of months while we complete more recordings, tend to our personal needs (Jenna’s even taking the bar exam), and find a publicist.

Here’s the schedule:

May 30: Soft Sailors at Pehrspace. With GalaxyKat, Untoward Children, Flight Crew. Presented by Mountair.

June 6: Soft Sailors on KXLU’s Demolisten. Streaming online from kxlu.com and on the air in LA at 88.9 FM between 6-8 pm PST.

June 13: Soft Sailors at the Smell. With Post Life and more. Presented by KXLU 88.9 FM.

Like Soft Sailors on Facebook for music, images, events, and nautically-themed jokes.

 

Filed under: geoff geis, get excited, music, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Steppe People + Alone at the Five Star Bar

Last night, I went to see my friends’ bands perform at the Five Star Bar downtown. I took a couple of pictures but I took them on my old crappy phone and put them through Instagram filters so they’re pretty worthless for actually seeing what’s going on.

The Five Star Bar is pretty cool, I guess. It’s next to Jalisco Bar, which is very cool.

It’s also the kind of bar that plays the entirety of albums like “Damn the Torpedoes” and “Exile on Mainstreet” between bands. It’s very loud. Yes, I realize that bars are supposed to be loud — but the Five Star Bar has tile floors and seldom very many patrons, so the sound really bounces around in there in a nasty way. Always bring earplugs if you go to the Five Star Bar.

The Steppe People.

The Steppe People.

Anyway, the between band album choices were a perfect compliment to the Steppe People’s music. This is a very “rock n roll,” rough n tumble band… although their song structures are more novel than Petty or the Stones. There are big drum fills and hella guitar shredding, but it’s not tacky because there aren’t any extended solos and the songs are still nice and short.

Onstage, they seem kind of like how I’d imagine the Replacements were on a good night, but I’ve heard that the Replacements were typically very messy and these guys weren’t messy except in demeanor. Their repertoire is also pretty varied, which I appreciate.

But yeah, this band is really good. Here’s a recording of them live at Pehrspace at some point in the past:

I’m listening to that recording as I type this and really giggling at Bill Gray’s between-song banter. The two of us apparently ask for the exact same thing when we go to the barber shop. For the record, Bill, I think that your hair looks really good.

After the Steppe People came Alone, which features my friends Sean and Liz. They seem to be really in tune with each other when they’re onstage and they’re engaging to watch.

Alone

Alone

Alone presented a very different vibe than the Steppe People.  Sean plays acoustic guitar through an amp, sometimes with a lot of crunchy fuzz, and Liz plays stand up drums with mallets. Before they began to play, Sean asked for a “shitload” of reverb on his voice, and that’s what he got!

Like the reverb on Sean’s voice, Alone’s music is made to wash over you. And last night, it washed over me good. I realize that saying that someone’s band put me to sleep doesn’t SOUND like a complement, but it actually is. They lulled me, and brought me to a very peaceful place; I’ve had insomnia lately so I appreciated it.

I started each song with an attentive attitude, but by the middle of every one I’d become immersed in the vibe and I was starting to drift away… but in a pleasant way. It was really great, actually, and I took the vibe home when me and fell right asleep.

Is that what heroin’s like? I’ve never done it.

Here are two nice Alone songs from Soundcloud:

Filed under: Reviews, , , , , ,

Letter to my city councilman

Today, LA Weekly published an article about the myriad difficulties facing independent arts and music spaces in Los Angeles’ East Side. Reading the article made me angry again about the 2010 closing of Echo Curio and scared anew about the future of spaces like Pehr.

We did just elect a new city councilman, though. Thus, now is a great time for those of us who care about these venues to express ourselves. Mitch O’Farrell, the new councilman, campaigned on his knowledge of the district and his engagement with the citizens therein – so we have every reason to believe that he’ll listen to us.

As the LA Weekly article suggests, there are several people making a concerted effort to destroy what we want to protect. Certainly, these folks are making their cases to the councilman-elect. We should also make our case to him, so that he doesn’t see it as a one-sided issue.

So, if you care about independent art and music in LA, I hope that you’ll take some time to tell Mitch O’Farrell that you do. His campaign email address was Mitch@MitchforCityCouncil.org, but since the campaign is over I decided to send a message to his Facebook account. I’m really not sure what the best method is.

This is the letter I wrote:

——–

Hi Mr. O’Farrell:

Congratulations on becoming the next city councilman for District 13. I supported your election and I’m not only happy that you won but that you did so with grassroots support against a well-financed machine candidate, John Choi. That’s awesome.

Now that you’ve been elected, I’d like to draw your attention to an article in LA Weekly about the difficulties faced by independent arts and music spaces that operate in District 13. While I understand that there are legitimate concerns from both residents and club owners in Echo Park, onerous fees and aggressive legal tactics have had a deleterious effect on the creative capital of a region that is known and admired for its creative capital.

As a long term participant in the venues here, I can attest to the positive impact of spaces like Echo Curio, Pehrspace, Sancho and the Echo Country Outpost which have unique value as magnets for the types of thinkers and artists who make Echo Park such a vibrant, desirable communities. The Echo is certainly expert at making money and drawing big acts like the Rolling Stones, but part of the reason it’s so successful is that the ground here is so fertile. The artists, musicians, curators and promoters that make the independent scene work are responsible for that fertility, and many of them will use the lessons they’ve learned and connections they’ve made to create profitable creative ventures (many of them, ironically, hosted or produced by people like Mitchell Frank) in the near future.

So, as you look at this issue, I sincerely hope that you take take both sides into consideration. Surely there are things that can be done to create a strong and legal balance that takes everyone’s concerns into account and keeps our creative culture vibrant! I don’t presume to have a specific solution, but I sincerely urge you to work for one.

Thank you,

Geoff Geis, Glassell Park 

Filed under: Art, Human Interest, , , , ,

This Saturday at Human Resources

On Saturday, June 23, I’ll be playing my songs at the illustrious Human Resources in Chinatown. The bill was put together by Dylan Doren and features him as well as fantastic friends Michael Nhat, K the I???, Paper Slag, Orbless, and C Will. You can RSVP on Facebook!

Filed under: Events, geoff geis, , , , , , , , ,

About


I'm a musician and writer from Los Angeles. When I feel motivated, I use this website to share my creative output and give my thoughts on the world around me.

Vanity Projects

I release cassettes and zines under the Vanity Projects label; I've done things by myself and also things by friends. Visit Vanity Projects on Tumblr.

@GeoffGeis on Twitter

Music

This is Soft Sailors! We're a new band from Los Angeles. We don't have any upcoming shows scheduled, but you can hear us online:

Also, here are some solo songs I've uploaded recently to Soundcloud. I'm playing solo July 19th at the Pickle Factory at 647 Lamar Street in Los Angeles and September 1st at Los Globos in LA for a KCHUNG benefit.

In 2011, I released my first solo album, Princess. You can listen to it and download it on Bandcamp:

From 2005 until 2011, I was in the band Pizza! This is our album We Come From the Swamp:

From 2008-2010, I was in the band Big Whup. Here's one of our songs that I sang, called "Cover My Eyes:"

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