From the dark side of California to consciousness and being political. Snapshot of SEXTILE’s crazy European tour and first ever Hungarian gig. Interview.
OMG! F…ck it. I mean, f…ck it. Literally. SEXTILE is a band you must listen to before you die. Even if you don’t like the post-synth-punk kinda feelings, you must check them out once in your lifetime. Period. They are basically a nuclear blast in pill form. Their music is full of energy, you cannot have a rest, not only a second during their gigs. I’ve heard some rumors from LA that they are the real BOOM nowadays. With caps. (Some say they are overhyped but I don’t care.) That was one of the reasons why I was curious about the band’s first ever Hungarian live show organized by New Beat. And after jumping for 50 mins, I could only repeat myself: F…ck it, OMG!
Their music is instinctive as hell. If you are a mid-aged punk, like me, you basically become a teen again. Or if you are too young to remember the ’90s, you can experience it first-hand.
Before their performance, we had a cool conversation with Melissa Scaduto (drums), Brady Keehn (vocals, guitar), Eddie Wuebben (synths) and Cameron Michel (guitar), who joined the band for 8 months but appears to be one of them from the beginnings. (This time he acts like a UN observer – not speaking too much, just listening!)
I had to start with the most interesting part. Most of the people, especially in Eastern Europe think that California is nothing more just a sunny paradise with full of pink unicorns. But listening to their music, I’m wondering, what’s the dark side of sunny California? I mean is there a dark side at all?
‘Well, you know, California, it’s bigger than a country and has many different parts’ starts Eddie. ‘Large cities are very expensive. But there is other stuff, like meth, crazy shit like that’ adds Brady. But the best definition comes from Melissa: ‘Easiest way to describe it: it’s like a David Lynch movie, meth-heads and dark mobs all around the streets and Hollywood smells like piss.’
So, after Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal, what about the holy-mighty Hollywood? I love Eddie’s summary: ‘A misconception about Hollywood is that it’s a nice place but it’s actually very dark and dirty.’ (Just like a politician!)
‘We are aware of the situation’
There is a big debate on talking or not talking about politics inside the music industry: is it important to be political? Especially, how can you translate political messages into the language of music? So, what about the SEXTILE?
‘Yes. If you are not doing anything, you are part of the problem’ believes Brady. Eddie replies that ‘It is the responsibility of artists to deliver a message. Our message has connotations, that things are not right in the world’.
They think the world seems to be more conservative, which is not the direction they want it to go. ‘As the world becomes more liberal, the alt-right gets fuelled – it’s not right for the future’ says Eddie. He adds: ‘We are not in denial; we are aware of the situation’.
‘We started a new life when we met’
Turning back to music, I’m always interested in the question of consciousness in the music? Do they plan out their way of expressing something? So, I asked them: Did they have any plans when they decided to form the band and did they want to write music they’re playing now? I was especially interested in their synth-sounds.
Brady says ‘Yes, absolutely! Overarching plan, that we all agree on but when creating, it can come from out of the blue, but that idea fits into greater things. Sometimes it’s planned out, sometimes you just let it flow. All music is a lot of that, I mean spontaneous stuff. Sometimes it’s just a sound, a rhythm you catch, to create something new. ‘
Melissa believes that their last records are less dark, got more synths so it became more colorful, more ‘sound- like’. She adds: ‘I met Eddie at a spiritual meeting in Pasadena. I think we started a new life when we met. But we’re still figuring out what SEXTILE is.’
But the funny part is when Eddie interrupts: ‘Three of them met through getting better from drugs and alcohol. So, it’s a recovery and it’s cool.’
‘Nobody cares about modern rock’
We’ve heard so many concerns about the lack of opportunity for young bands today. Some said ‘it’s tougher than ever to earn a crust doing it’ even if they can be streaming, torrenting, whatever. I guess it’s an important point but why is it so hard?
‘I always feel like throughout time, musicians always struggled to make money, only the way changed through how they do it. In terms of survival, it’s still definitely hard to gain huge success, ‘cause the percentage from streaming is very low. I would say our band has a bit easier way compared to other bands. But we have to understand that the whole industry changed. You gotta work very hard. You just have to keep working at it – no money from record sales, difficult for new bands, small, independent labels – even the bigger ones don’t make money. But there are new ways: selling your stuff to commercials and movies, etc. There is also Youtube – it balances itself out.’ believes Melissa.
I also discover that compared to the ’90s, we are seeing sometimes better quality now with smaller success.
‘Nobody cares about modern rock, signing a record deal doesn’t mean anything anymore. There’s no huge rock band with global success. I mean Oasis was the last big classic rock band.’ replies Melissa.
Whoa… as a huge fan of Gallagher bros, I admire them, but I had to fire back: ‘What about Kasabian or The National for instance?’ She says ‘Of course I know them, ‘cause I worked in a record store in the mid-2000s in New York, but I never responded to that music. I don’t know why but other stuff hasn’t touched me. Or just they are not so big like the Gallaghers, who had great pop-rock songs and they could and can understand what is rock and roll all about.’
No more questions. Maybe the last one, at the end of a really crazy European tour, when will the next SEXTILE’s LP be published? ‘No date but we are recording in the van, haha’ they’re laughing. But, honestly, as Brady says, they hope to finish it before the end of the year.
Looking forward to listening to it. And I hope for the best till the forthcoming reunion.
EDITED by Károly Gergely