Beachwood Sparks

89.9 KCRW Presents: New LA Folk Fest Kick Off Party with

Beachwood Sparks

Tomorrows Tulips, The Abigails, DJ Kevin Fitzgerald

Fri, August 3, 2012

8:30 pm

The Echo

Los Angeles, California

$12.00 - $15.00

This event is 18 and over

Beachwood Sparks
Beachwood Sparks
Some albums were made to be played on a Saturday night. The Tarnished Gold was meant to be played on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to Beachwood Sparks' first album in 11 years is like being under cobalt blue skies and smelling the night-blooming jasmine on a perfect spring day in Los Angeles. "That's definitely the idea," founding member Brent Rademaker confirms.

The world has caught up to Beachwood Sparks since they came out of nowhere in 2000 with their self-titled debut album, bringing new life to what Gram Parsons famously described as "cosmic American music," and recapturing L.A.'s laidback but vibrant heyday back in the late '60s and early '70s. At the time, this kind of harmony-rich, irony-free music was rare. After their second album, 2002's trippier Once We Were Trees, and the decidedly offbeat 2003 EP Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks called it quits. But during the subsequent half decade, the indie music scene began to change with the appearance, and wholesale acceptance, of multi-voiced throwback groups from Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver to Grizzly Bear. Clearly, the time is right for an album that stands as the purest expression of this hallowed form to appear in the 21st century, as the planets at long last align for this single-minded band.

The Tarnished Gold is the work of the classic Beachwood Sparks lineup: singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, singer/bassist Brent Rademaker, singer/multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher, and drummer Aaron Sperske, with invaluable support from guitarist and longtime friend Ben Knight (The Tyde). For the sessions, the band expanded to seven pieces, with guitarists Knight and Neal Casal (solo artist and former member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals), with Dan Horne on pedal steel in place of Scher, who opted to play organ, key, flying V guitar and electrified melodica. Also lending a hand were Gunst's wife Jen Cohen, Sparks' very first drummer Jimi Hey, Brent's brother Darren (leader of The Tyde) and L.A. indie-rock maestro Ariel Pink. Once We Were Trees producer Thom Monahan returned to his familiar spot behind the console.

"I didn't feel an urge to jump back into that scene," Scher says of his initial ambivalence about picking things up again with Beachwood Sparks. "By 2003, I felt like we'd played our hand. We'd done anything that was in front of us a few times over. When you start out in a band like that, you really are a clubhouse and you're a synchronized unit in terms of what you do with your time. But there's a natural point when you outgrow all that. Some bands just play through it and figure it out, but in our case it went into hibernation."

After the breakup, Brent, Chris, Farmer Dave, and Knight gravitated to The Tyde for a while before going their separate ways. Gunst and Cohen then moved up to Los Gatos and formed the Mystic Chords of Memory; he also got his master's in psychology and became a therapist. Rademaker, who briefly had a band called Frausdots, moved back to Florida and got a fulltime job in Ikea's environmental recovery division. After cutting an album with Jimi Hey as All Night Radio, Scher started making a living playing music, touring with Interpol and Jenny Lewis, while Sperske became the drummer in Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. The four musicians had minimal contact with each other until 2008, when they reunited to play SP20, Sub Pop's 20th anniversary celebration, with Horne quickly learning pedal steel in order to fill in for Scher, who was out with Interpol. The performance went so well that they booked a few dates, including a memorable one at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, right after it reopened following a series of wildfires.

It might've ended there if not for Sperske, who continued to press his onetime bandmates to keep things going, not only because they were sounding better than ever but also because the musical climate had shifted toward their style of music. "After SP20, Aaron continued to call us up individually,'" Brent recalls. "He has this rock & roll energy, and he kept pushing us forward. If we didn't have Aaron, we'd never get anything done." They all viewed it as another favorable sign when their cover of Sade's "By Your Side" from Once We Were Trees was used in the 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Eventually, all four made the commitment to record an album, to the delight of Sub Pop A&R exec Tony Kiewel, who's known Scher, Gunst, Hey, Knight, and onetime auxiliary member Jimmy Tamborello (Dntl, The Postal Service) since they were all students at Loyola Marymount and DJs on KXLU, the school's influential station. (It was during those days that Scher picked up the "Farmer Dave" handle, which he used on the air; he'd picked it up after purchasing a mail order ant farm.)

This time around, they were determined to max out their strengths. "When we get our instruments on and have somewhere to play, it's just supernatural, and it always has been," Brent marvels. "But this time, I thought we could pull off something unprecedented—for us, at least—where we make a relevant album but not make the same mistakes or live the same rock & roll lifestyle."

When the time came to prepare the material and track the album, everything fell right into place. "We definitely got our sound together, which isn't hard to do," says Farmer Dave. "It's our own nature, so that part took care of itself. And people brought in solid kernels of ideas." Brent picks up the thought. "The way we did it was, we'd bring in songs and let the band paint them in," he says. "The seven of us played everything live in the studio, and Thom cut it to tape. When we recorded a song, we didn't labor over it like we had in the past—this time, once everybody knew it, we'd get a keeper in one or two takes."

Right after the Gunst-written opener "Forget the Song" which Rademaker describes as "classic Beachwood Sparks," comes what serves as the reformed band's ecstatic statement of purpose, Scher's glorious "Sparks Fly Again," on which he takes a rare lead vocal. "I wrote the chords and ideas to actually reference a bunch of the things we did way back in the roaring '90s," he explains. "I really tried to make chord changes that took elements of different songs that we had done before; I tried to write in our vocabulary, our idiom. And with the lyrics, I thought it would be fun to make it a description of what was actually happening, to do a full send-up of the kind of structures we used to really be into at the start, when we were our own strange little mini-culture. It was my way of saying, 'Let's light this baby up again.'"

Brent wrote "Mollusk" about the Venice surf shop where musicians from around town gather for jam sessions. Being a lifelong surfer and a highly regarded player, it's no surprise that Farmer Dave is a fixture. "Now that there's no Jabberjaw, and we don't have the house on Sparks Street in Burbank or the one in Echo Park anymore, the Mollusk Surf Shop has become the epicenter," Brent points out. "That's my headquarters," says Farmer Dave. "At the base of it, aside from surfing and the culture of California, there's a big love of music there. I also started doing a club night just a few doors away in this old Prohibition-era speakeasy called Club Pacific."

Chris' title song "just played itself," says Brent. "That's the first take, and it was just magic." "Water From the Well" and "Nature's Light" reflect Gunst's knack for coming up with vivid imagery inspired by the natural beauty of Northern California. "Chris has a gentle spirit that really comes through in the music," says Brent.

Though Rademaker wrote "Talk About Lonesome" while still living in Florida, it's about the band and the ache he felt having concluded—wrongly, it turns out—that his life in the band was in the past. With its mariachi vibe and lyric entirely en espanol, the Gunst-penned "No Queremos Oro" reflects his family's multi-generational history in Los Angeles, partly inspired by the music blaring out of the food trucks on the streets of the Eagle Rock neighborhood where they cut the album. The band rehearsed "Goodbye," the perfect closer, on the back porch of the studio, then went right into the tracking room and nailed it, encapsulating the inspired but unforced vibe of the album, which seems to exist out of time, floating in some sun-dappled parallel universe.

"Everybody thinks our dream would be to have a time machine and travel back to hang out with the Burrito Brothers," Brent says. "That would be fun. Chris and I even used to joke about being Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons. 'Which one am I? You don't sound like Gram, and I don't either.' But you could picture Farmer Dave all the way back in the Gold Rush era—he's got such an old spirit. Chris has that too. It would be impossible to do this without each one of those guys."

"We're treading in areas that we never thought we'd go on this record," Brent continues, sounding like he's still somewhat surprised by what the reunited band was able to accomplish. "The theme has probably been touched on by some other bands, but it's our own way of looking at it. And we actually lived this. For a lot of years now, we've represented this part of the country, this town and music in this town. We've been through a lot of struggle in terms of money, music and the lifestyle, and I think The Tarnished Gold really gets into all that—the meaning is right there in the title. On top of that, we can relate our plight to the plight of the country; it all ties together."

Now that the new album is ready for the world, Farmer Dave is cautiously optimistic about the future. "Our expectations were not just to get together and do this record," he says. "All of us innately felt that, with all the effort we put in and how much of ourselves we contributed to try and make something special the first time around, some people don't even know it existed. So, in addition to us getting back together, maybe more people will get to know about what we accomplished and even go back to the old records. This record closes a circle for us."

"It's great to be making the kind of music that I like with my best friends and favorite musicians," says Brent. "The triumph was not only that it came out so listenable and good but also that we made the most of just being together. And if this turns out to be the last Beachwood Sparks record, we can take satisfaction in the fact that we went out on a high note. At any rate, I know I'll be listening to this record for the rest of my life."
Tomorrows Tulips
Tomorrows Tulips formed on August 15th when alex bought a piccalo snare drum at the thrift store and handed it to Christina. The two spent 3 nights at Mike McQ's distillery studio organizing some sort of an idea on how to play together. While socializing with Mike and discussing what to call the group it became vaguely clear what to do. The duo consists of stripped down pop that often disregards professionalism in anyway shape and form. Absolute Fearlessness prevails in creating songs that revolve around subject matter that consists of flowers, happiness, love, haircuts, friends, and un-macho-ism. TT will continue to make songs on cassette tape and post them on the internet until the release of the full length album that will be recorded at the distillery in late September and released on vinyl, cassette and cd in October 2009. Then with a vw bug tour across America to follow.
The Abigails
The Abigails
There are hobbies, and then there are lifestyles. The former tends to come with the non-committal ambiguity of something to merely pass the time, to fool the world that something is giving you an identity - while the latter takes the urgency of emergency, of pre-destined presence that is already encoded in one’s own DNA.

For Warren Thomas - undisputed harbinger of debauched Zen and man behind Southern California’s elegantly-wasted country act The Abigails - it would be an emergency if it didn’t come so damn easy; as there are certain people that just can’t be anything else besides legends in real-time. “It just kinda comes naturally to me,” he told L.A. Record. “You know what they say: ‘Country music is just the white man’s blues,’ and Satan’s always lurkin’ in the shadows and I’ve been around the block a few times now. So I’d say it all kinda makes sense.”

After cutting his jagged-teeth for ten years leading the Doors-esque GRAND ELEGANCE and a brief stint on percussion with kindred spirits THE GROWLERS, Warren picked up a guitar in summer of 2011 and learned all five-chords for the first time – and wasted no time to record a full album perfectly crafted, mean-spirited yet somehow vulnerable classics that surprised everyone except his inner circle who knew this day was inevitable. “Songs Of Love And Despair” was co-released by Burger and Mono Records in 2012 and sold out quickly – proving that the Abigails brand of LEE HAZLEWOOD/GUN CLUB/COUNTRY TEASERS-inspired cruelty was filling a void that was screaming to be sewed up.

By the time the tireless gigging in support of the debut was in full swing, Warren already had his next round of tarnished golden-bullets in the chamber. “Tundra” is almost savant in its creaky perfection – an album slightly heavier on the ballad side that makes it easier to soak up all the bottlenecking wisdom throughout. Never has impending doom felt so comforting – Warren was gifted the distinction of effortless, story-telling baritone (once thought only reserved for icons like LEONARD COHEN and NICK CAVE) that oozes out speakers and consumes a room as he spins tales of his misadventures with minor glimmers of accidental redemption on songs like “29” and “The Calm Before The Storm”, while “The One That Let Me Go” ventures into ROGER MILLER territory where its hinge on zaniness swings in defiance. The Abigails take on Leon Payne’s “It’s Nothing To Me” and make it their own as it begins with a chilling, non-fiction answering machine message from Warren calling his engineer from a jail in Boise before crashing into a haunting twang-tangled fuck-all, confirming all of Warren’s confident threats that this may be his masterpiece. Until the next one…
Venue Information:
The Echo
1822 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, California, 90026