Breakin’ the Law

Ryan Pollie is Los Angeles Police Department

On a new self-titled album, Ryan Pollie’s Los Angeles Police Department project takes the bedroom pop tag to heart. We talked with Pollie about recording on his own terms, nostalgia, Philly cheesesteaks, and that band name.

Bandcamp: On Los Angeles Police Department, you take the bedroom pop tag very literally. Did the comfort and convenience of being at home help the recording process? And do you think that there is a sound or vibe from a small personal space that you can’t replicate in a studio?
Los Angeles Police Department: There’s a massive difference for me between going into the studio and recording at home. I think recording at home can never sound as “quality” as something that’s done professionally, but I tend to get super anxious when I’m doing takes in the studio. At home, I’m never worried about fucking up while experimenting or how long it’s taking to get a drum part right. Also, engineers and producers would probably hate working with me, because I’m often writing the song as I’m recording it. So they’d have to sit there while I figure out a chorus or sing gibberish. It would probably be a really uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

BC: On Facebook, you refer to Los Angeles Police Department as “we.” Who else is in the band and who plays what on the album?
LAPD: I think when people are talking about Los Angeles Police Department recordings, they’re talking about just me. All the instruments and vocals and everything on the record are me, except two bass tracks were done by Justin, who lives with me and has been writing and playing music with me since I was 14. The live band is like the other side of the same coin and I’m really proud of it for different reasons. It’s way more energetic and fun, partially because our drummer Brendan is an animal and loves Keith Moon, and because our guitarist Will is super shreddy.

Ryan Pollie is Los Angeles Police Department

BC: Can you please spill the beans on why you chose the name Los Angeles Police Department for the band name and album title? (We did giggle at your Facebook page, which lists you as working at the LAPD.)
LAPD: I think that giggle factor is definitely the main reason I chose that name. It cracked me up. As far as the album being self-titled, it was always my intention to have sesos design the artwork as a kind of busy, micro mural thing that would stand alone without a band name interfering with it. So it didn’t allow for any album title brainstorming. I got the records the other day and the artwork is incredible.

BC: How did you arrive at the idea of recording each song in a day, and how many days did you do this? Were there any 11:59 p.m. “not gonna’ make this deadline” emergencies?
LAPD: I write a song pretty much every time I’m by myself and pick up an instrument. When it came to recording, I would just get in the practice of opening up my computer and setting everything up as soon as I would write the skeleton for the song. In my head they weren’t going to be released and be talked about, so it allowed me to just get something down and mess about without thinking too hard about getting the right take. It was never like, “oh I have to finish this one by tonight or fuck it.” It was more that I wanted to get everything down while the energy was there. I have a much tougher time writing a song and recording it a month later. The more I play a tune and think about it and practice it, the more I doubt how good it is; I get insecure about it. So it’s just easier for me to try to finish everything at once. Then I can just look back and think, “that was that song that I did that day.” If I had a vocal or something left to do, often times I’d never do it.

I’d say when I decided on the final track list, I had probably around 30 or so that all had dates as names. I narrowed it down to 20 and asked Brendan, Justin, and our friend Jake to create their ideal album out of those, but it was so confusing. I’d say “guys, what do you think about 8/31?” and they would reply “which one is that again?” And we’d have to listen to it, and be like, “oh yeah that one, but then which one is 8/30?” And then we’d have to play that.

I was working a shitty retail job that sometimes would give me four shifts out of seven days, so when the album was being made I’d record multiple times a week. Now I have less time and just try to record once every weekend, unless I go to Disneyland. Then fuck that, I’d rather go to Disneyland.

BC: Your press release says the album is “the perfect distillation of where the project is currently at and where it could be taken in the future.” Where do you see taking the project in the future and do you envision using the same song-in-a-day routine again?
LAPD: I think my buddy Matt, who runs Forged Artifacts, came up with that. And he totally cheated because he has a bunch of my newer demos. I don’t want to say too much about the direction we’re going in, but I think it’s safe to say it’ll be a little more rockin’ and less chill. I’ve been recording the same way I always have and probably have about 15–20 new songs since the record. I’m not sure if any of them will make the next album, because maybe I’m going to hire a blind orchestra, and a South African a cappella group, and I just haven’t signed with Usher yet to get that Bieber money.

BC: According to reviews and comments from fans, you seem to have struck a nostalgic chord with some listeners. Your music reminds people of something, which I think is often a mark of something great. What were you listening to leading up to the recording of LAPD?
LAPD: I never really make conscious decisions to try to write or sound like anybody else. Granted, it definitely happens sometimes. I’ll write something and be like, “why is that so familiar?” And then I realize it’s a melody from a Raffi song. But for me, it’s the biggest bummer when someone says, “yo, check this song out; it sounds like the song you thought you wrote.”

BC: You were previously in a band called Cereal Heroes. How does the sound of Los Angeles Police Department differ?
LAPD: Wow, how did you know that I was in a band called Cereal Heroes? Damn. Justin and I were in that band with our friends Eric and Anthony from eighth grade until senior year of high school. It went from pop punk to classic rock and everywhere in between. As a songwriter, it was probably the best possible thing for me. I wrote so many different types of songs and probably wouldn’t have found my own voice without that band. Los Angeles Police Department definitely sounds a lot different. There are some Cereal Heroes records I have where my voice hadn’t changed; they sound like a punk band fronted by a small child.

BC: Philadelphia and LA are obviously very different places, each with its own music scene. How do you feel the West Coast shift affected your sound, and are you digging LA?
LAPD: Before Los Angeles, I was actually writing most of my music in Maine, where I went to school. I did an album called Snow Day, and it was all electronic with a lot of orchestral instrumentation. I did it all on Reason 4 with Vienna Instruments in Pro Tools, and did all the vocals in this little closet in the music building of my college. I think environment definitely influences art. When I’m back in Philly, I’ll write different music than when I’m here, for sure. I need to change my surroundings more, actually. I think it’s healthy for a writer to not stay in the same place. I like LA, though. I have a lot of friends here.

Ryan Pollie is Los Angeles Police Department

BC: Philly cheesesteak or Korean-Mexican taco?
LAPD: The Philly cheesesteak probably makes it in my top 5 meals ever.

BC: What is next for you and for Los Angeles Police Department?
LAPD: I really want to fix this tape machine I bought off eBay. I want to find Village Green on vinyl. I need to set up my guitar because it sounds really bad up the neck. I should probably clean my room and drink less beer. I want to try smoking pot again soon; it’s been since Christmas. I want to get into more bands that I always thought I hated. I always thought I hated Hall and Oates and I’ve been listening to Abandoned Luncheonette a lot recently. My mom would be so upset at me if she knew this. Maybe I’ll start liking other bands I’ve always hated, like Billy Joel or U2, and it’ll wildly change my writing. Then I’ll time-travel and give my younger self my new record. Young me will hate it, but then he’ll go back to it later in life and really like it. I think I’ve just created a paradox.

Psychedelic Journey

Moodoïd
Photo by Fiona Torre

“It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.”

“Moodoïd is a laboratory project,” wrote songwriter and bandleader Pablo Padovani in a recent email. “I want to have fun and make music just like my eclectic tastes. The EP [a dazed and festive four tracks released last year] was a presentation. Now this is the first trip. We discover the different facets of Moodoïd.”

It’s a trip in both senses of the word—an omnivorous journey, moving outward from Paris to embrace a global cross-section of sounds; and a psychedelic experience, with outlandish imagery and uncanny music. Moodoïd’s first full-length, Le monde Möö, embodies its title. For nearly fifty minutes, we are brought into Padovani’s weird world, a sonic and visual wonderland. Perhaps one of the band’s music videos from the EP gives some indication of that vision:

In the album’s opening track, “Les garçons veulent de la magi” (The boys want magic), we get a tour of Möö, as Padovani whispers incantations atop an electronic shimmer. The music is at once laidback and tightly constructed, but consistently gregarious.

“I think you may like it if you like childhood, sex, dreams and surrealism,” Padovani told me. “It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.” That perspective is audible on the wide-eyed “La Lune,” in which his female bandmates coo an ode to the moon. The album’s soundscape, however, is broad; prog-rock riffs flit in and out, adding an edge to the luminescence (the ’70s French prog band Gong was a major inspiration).

Where did this bizarre world originate? Though Padovani is only 24, his artistic voice feels fully developed. He is best known as the guitarist in Melody’s Echo Chamber, another psychedelic French pop band; and he draws inspiration from his father, the established saxophonist Jean-Marc Padovani, who can be heard on the album. He studied cinema and has a day job directing short films and music videos, and that visual acuity informs the iconography of his music. “Moodoïd arose from the need to express a lot of emotions,” he wrote. “It was a lonely time, I started writing full songs, and I told myself that I had to sing those every day if necessary. I wanted to share this experience with girls. So I looked for musicians all over Paris.”

Moodoïd
Photo by Fiona Torre

Padovani cited influences as wide as the Brecker Brothers and the Dirty Projectors. Inspired by the writing process of Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, he wrote out instrumental parts for all of his bandmates. “I was able to invite people I greatly admire and the studio was a thoroughfare where we took the time to choose the right sounds. All the songs were ready, we just had to sublimate.” Nicholas Vernhes, who has worked with indie bigwigs like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, produced and mixed the album, except for “Yes & You.” This track marks the return of Kevin Parker, who shaped the original Moodoïd sound on the first EP. “Yes & You” begins as a straightforward but heartfelt love anthem, closely whispered atop strumming guitars. Halfway through it takes on a punkish roar, with Padovani’s bandmates snarling in the background. It makes a perfect transition to the rapid-fire hits of “Bongo Bongo Club.”

Then there are the album’s fantastical and jazzy moments, like the opening of “Les chemins de traverse,” a thoroughly Sun Ra minute of wordless, meandering vocals and rustling saxophones. “I am very inspired by the surrealist movement,” Padovani said. And “Heavy Metal Be Bop 2”—the track title speaks volumes—begins with a classic free jazz freak-out before settling into a thick groove.

The Moodoïd world might be best represented in “Les oiseaux,” with its sinewy instrumentals, chanting voices atop tricky meters, and straight-ahead blues sung by Padovani.

“The disc is a walk in the world Möö. This is a soft world made of cream hills and Turkish delight mountains. There are also Camembert mattresses and waterfalls of wine. This is a great, epic adventure,” Padovani wrote. “Les oiseaux” is richly textured and concludes with a guitar fade-out that is best described as, well, trippy.

Humble Pie

Michael Cera

“I just wanted people to know that I don’t expect anyone to consider this anything more than a humble effort. None of the songs were born of any particular ambitions. They’re just sketches I’ve made that I felt I wanted to share with anyone who’d want to listen.”

Earlier this week, someone called Michael Cera posted an album to Bandcamp. Confirming this was the Michael Cera, the amiably awkward, witty, and dapper dude from Arrested Development, Youth in Revolt, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Juno, was no easy feat. But thanks to Cera’s persuasive emails, a call from his management, and a Jonah Hill tweet, we established that this was not the work of an attention-seeking crackpot.

True That is a lo-fi and eccentric outing of 21 tracks – many of which are instrumental guitar and piano doodles. There are some sweet, folksy-leaning songs, too. It sounds exactly like the reflective, occasionally melancholic, and introspective music that would accompany a movie like Juno. This is not Cera’s musical debut. He has previously played and collaborated with Weezer, The Long Goodbye, and Mister Heavenly, and has had a hand in creating and curating the soundtracks to his films.

Cera was kind enough to eek out some time for a quick interview between day-long rehearsals for his Broadway debut in This Is Our Youth, which starts this September.

Bandcamp: Where and when did you find time to record this album?
Michael Cera: Basically, hanging out at home over the years and goofing around.

BC: Do you ever see yourself performing this music live?
MC: I don’t think so, the makeup of much of it is in the spontaneity of the moment I made it, and most of the tracks are not something that I would call real songs.

BC: The piano pieces remind me of being a kid, listening to the sound of piano drifting through the house as my dad tried to lull my brother and me to sleep (thanks for the memory). What inspired you to record those?
MC: Just sitting at the piano and trying to see something through. There were hardly any sleepless children involved in the origin of those songs.

BC: You tagged the album “modest music.” Can you explain what this means – did I miss a sub-genre?
MC: I just wanted people to know that I don’t expect anyone to consider this anything more than a humble effort. None of the songs were born of any particular ambitions. They’re just sketches I’ve made that I felt I wanted to share with anyone who’d want to listen.

BC: Most people, I think it is fairly safe to say, “know” you through your films. Is it important to you that recording music gives you a different way to express who you are?
MC: That’s not important to me. I just enjoy having music in my life.

BC: Who have you been listening to recently and do you get to see much live music?
MC: I hardly see any live music, and I’ve been listening mostly to the Kinks for the last 4 months.

BC: Did any artists in particular influence the album?
MC: Alden Penner, Paul McCartney, and KMD.

Michael Cera

BC: Kudos to you for doing so, but why did you DIY this release?
MC: There wasn’t much thought put into it other than wanting to share these songs I’ve been working on.

BC: Will there be more?
MC: I’m sure I’ll keep making songs, I enjoy it so much.

BC: I want to apologize for the hoops we had you jump through to prove you were the real you. Does this happen much?
MC: No, mostly when I tell people who I am they just say “ok, that’s great.”

BC: Can we ask what is happening on the album cover?
MC: I’m laughing with my friend.

Africa Special

BBrave, aka Benjamin LeBrave, is a regular contributor to Fader, runs the Akwaaba label, and is a DJ whose sets reflect his wide knowledge of African music – from hiplife to afrobeat, kwaito to azonto, and beyond.

Benjamin Lebrave
Benjamin LeBrave

A combination of easy access to the internet and affordable digital tools is liberating music production in Africa. Armed with a laptop and a 3G modem, anybody can take part in the creation of music. There is no shortage of talent willing to create catchy tunes on this continent where dancing is a significant part of social life.

My picks below reveal a couple of trends in African music. First, the overwhelming majority of pop music in most African nations is comprised of vocals laid over sequenced instrumentals that have been assembled on a computer. I call this Fruity Loops music and from Dakar to Durban, Fruity Loops is the music production software of choice. Second, there is a lot of independent music being produced in this very DIY way, without the input of a major producer or funding entity, like a label.

Waga 3000

Art Melody Waga 3000

Waga 3000 is comprised of seasoned MCs Art Melody and Joey le Soldat, along with French beat maker DJ Form. On this track they decry the Ouaga 2000 urban development in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Fouma System

Fouma System

Another great collaboration between continents: Senegalese vocalist Mustaf Mbaye and Danish producer Exampler have been cooking up tunes for a few years. On Xamal Sa Bopp, the two merge their worlds to create something unique – and Dakar is all over it!

Noura Mint Seymali

The combination of Seymali’s voice and the guitar, played by her husband Jeiche, make me melt. Tuareg music has received its share of visibility, but somehow the Moorish music of Mauritania (which shares similar aspects of African and Arab music), is not quite as well-known.

Fredy Massamba

Masamba is an open-minded musician who grew up on Congolese music. I see his name everywhere. He’s taken part in so many projects, I can’t count them all. He is the quintessential African diaspora artist and he is kicking serious arse!

Dumyarea

Back in 2011, this song was a national anthem of sorts in Liberia. It was even used by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her campaign. Politics aside, this song exemplifies gbema, the computer-sequenced adaptation of traditional Liberian rhythms and melodies.

King Ayisoba

King Ayisoba

A one-of-a-kind musical hero from the north of Ghana, Ayisoba plays the kologo, a one- or two-stringed fiddle from West Africa. However, he is the only one I know who sings with two distinct voices, and he sports the inimitable Frafra swag.

discobox

This is a UFO. I have no idea where it came from, but it landed in my Bandcamp recommendations and I love Congolese guitar in any shape or form.

Oscar Neves – Mabelé

Toward the end of colonial times, Angolan music was unbelievably prolific. Semba, the Angolan evolution of traditional music with guitars, became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s as it carried pro-independence messages. Oscar Neves is a key figure of this golden age of Angolan semba.

DJ Balani – Balani Sanga

Coupé décalé is a dance genre that emerged from the Ivorian scene. In the past decade it has taken over most of Francophone Africa and has inspired the emergence of local equivalents, such as balani music in Mali. Balani refers to the energetic environment of a street party.

FOKN Bois

Fokn Boiz

Ghanaian MCs Wanlov the Kubolor and M3nsa team up as FOKN Bois to humorously challenge – and often shock – Ghanaian society. This song is from their fantastic soundtrack to the Coz Ov Moni 2 pidgin musical.

Onyenze – Ogidi (Djeff & Silyvi Remix)

Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe was a legend of the Igbo Highlife genre (a fusion of jazz and traditional music). Osadebe’s nephew, Onyenze, bears a voice reminiscent of his uncle, and is now heir to his uncle’s musical throne. The Ogidi Inwelu remix was produced by Djeff and Silyvi, top afro-house DJs from Luanda, Angola, and became a huge hit there, even though it is unusual for a Nigerian artist to make his voice heard in Angola.

Skeat

The sound of Botswana is nestled between South African kwaito and the permeable guitar melodies of the Congo. Skeat draws from both worlds in what he calls kwaito kwassa. Dumelang means “welcome” in Tswana, the main language of Botswana.

Just a Band

Just a Band are the leaders of a new school of African artists. Their music reflects Nairobi’s cosmopolitan and tech-savvy nature.

 

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