Haunted Summer, crash
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
On the first track from Islands’ new album—the winsome, tropicalia-inflected “Wave Forms”—front man Nick Thorburn opens the record by singing, “I won’t ride another wave and I won’t write another word after today.” In light of the rest of the album, the statement is both an admonition and a kind of warning. Ski Mask, the band’s fifth album, is equal parts beauty and venom—an album that percolates with the kind of polymorphous pop and hooky, left-of-center rock songs that have long been the band’s stock and trade. This time around, however, the artful indie-pop comes with a decidedly melancholy punch.
“This record is really about being angry,” says Thorburn. “For better or worse, this record kind of sums up my experience thus far with being in a band. I feel like we’re kind of at a crossroads and this record is kind of me just declaring forfeiture in some ways. Like the third act of a movie—just after it seems like all hope is lost, that’s when the big breakthrough moment happens. For Islands, this is us waiting for the breakthrough moment.”
If Ski Mask is both a personal statement about what it means to be in a band—as well as a statement about the mercurial nature of the music business itself—then it’s certainly well earned. Thorburn, along with a rotating cast of bandmates, has been working under the moniker of Islands for nearly a decade. Formed in 2005 after the dissolution of Thorburn’s previous (and much beloved) band The Unicorns, Islands quickly established themselves as one of the most erudite and forward-thinking pop bands ever to emerge from the Montreal rock scene. Over the course of four albums—2006’s Return to the Sea (inspired by South African high life music), 2008’s Arm’s Way (a study in orchestral pop music and playful psych), 2009’s Vapours (pulsing electro pop), and 2012’s A Sleep & A Forgetting (soulful singer/songwriter fare)—Thorburn and co. showed off a remarkably chameleonic ability to bend a variety of different musical styles to their will. It’s a talent that that historically made each Islands record it’s own very singular listening experience. It’s also a defining quality that made Islands difficult to pin down and nearly impossible to neatly classify (which, one expects, has always been the band’s goal).
“This record is kind of a culmination of all the different things we’ve done over the years,” says Thorburn. “It’s basically a melting pot of all those sounds. So much of this record is about identity—specifically, the quest for finding out your own identity. Islands has always been kind of about that. In a lot of ways, we’ve always been kind of this homeless entity. We didn’t really fit in specifically with any genre and we were really never part of any community. Islands has always been it’s own thing…and I think the frustration of feeling like this very isolated band with no place to properly fit in made everything come to a head on this record. All of these feelings and ideas that have been bubbling up over the course of four previous albums finally came to the surface on this one This record is like a summation of Islands, everything we’ve ever done distilled into one record. It’s basically an essential introduction to Islands—it’s everything we’ve ever been about.”
Ski Mask, while arguably the most sonically diverse album Islands has ever made (which is saying something), also plays out like Thorburn’s personal frustrations writ large. Songs like “Death Drive” “Nil” and “Of Corpse” balance beautiful melodies against some of the darkest lyrical missives that Thorburn has ever written. When he sings, “Are you impressed with how depressed I’ve become?” it’s hard not to register the sting. Still, Thorburn—along with current bandmates Evan Gordon, Geordie Gordon, and Luc Laurent—can’t seem to help but make beautiful music, which serves as a nice counterbalance to the record’s heavier concerns. Even with a back catalog already heavily loaded with gorgeous songs, tracks like “We’ll do it so you don’t have to” and “Here Here” rank among some of the most beautiful the band has ever recorded. The record might also be the band’s darkest—featuring lyrics that flatly state that “Life’s not a gas, it’s a gas chamber” and, more pointedly, elsewhere there is a borrowed quote from Cornel West: “Featherless, born between urine and feces.” As a result, Ski Mask offers beauty and bleakness in mostly equal measure. If the record proves to be Islands’ swan song—a possibility Thorburn doesn’t dispute—it certainly makes for a compelling one.
For Thorburn and his bandmates, the release of Ski Mask is something akin to throwing down the gauntlet. It’s also the first (and one hopes, not the last) album to be released on the band’s own Manqué Music label. Despite whatever reservations Thorburn has about navigating the murky waters of the music business, he remains genuflect about the band. “I feel like I’m still getting better at making songs and making records,” he says. “It took a while for us to find ourselves as a band and so much of this record is about struggling and confusion, but I do think we’ve really come into our own with this record. It feels like the best representation of Islands that has probably ever existed. For the first time in a long while, I’m genuinely excited about what happens next.”
Haunted Summer crafts languid pop music, adorned with orchestral strings and electronic textures that recall Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips.-Candice Aman (KXSC Radio)
Their brand of dream pop feels timeless, with just the right amount of youthful nostalgia to woo your ears into submission. Moody's smooth, light as air vocals captivate like a siren of the sea, while the arrangements are lush and seductive, but never pushy. It's a delightful combination that has the power to fill any lazy summer day with an extra bit of magic. -Jacqueline Caruso (The Deli Magazine LA)
There's no question that whatever is haunting Moody and Seasons is steering the duo toward a beautiful place. -Kevin Bronson (Buzzbands LA)
Windswept vocals, sultry strings and spacey guitar blend together beautifully. The whole thing is mysterious and engrossing enough that it gets under your skin and stirs your own private nostalgia. -Billy Gil (Amoeba Blog)
Haunted Summer features Bridgette Moody and John Seasons, who share songwriting and performing duties in a true collaboration. The result is a very pretty, psychedelic sound with ethereal vocals from Bridgette, who comes into her own as a lead vocalist. -Julia Stoller (The Boston Music Survival Guide)
"It's like falling asleep in a bathtub of cough syrup." - Wayne Jessup (The Owl Mag)
"Just two days after the release of their eerily-named EP, Something In The Water, dream pop duo, Haunted Summer, will make the room echo and whirl to the tune of their supernatural anthems, already quite a hit amongst fellow Angelenos." - Cynthia Orgel (Santa Cruz's Good Times Weekly)
Haunted Summer is John Seasons & Bridgette Moody. Together they are heading in directions they couldn't pursue in their former bands, making eerie psychedelic orchestral pop.-Kathryn Pinto (Radio Free Silver Lake)
Together, the Silver Lake coed duo makes digi-folk pop that's as enticing as it is spooky. Like an echo in a cave, Moody's voice carries an eerie yet seductive vibe over soothing strums or gentle beats. This is the sound of dew forming on a chilly morning…-Dan Frazier (Free Bike Valet blog)
The sexy, head trip music of Bridgette Moody and John Seasons seems to take shape somewhere in the space between your ears. They feed you all their hypnotic sounds and leave your brain and senses to figure it out. -Brad Roberts (Feed Your Head Blog)
“I hope my songs evoke the same laissez-faire I grew up witnessing and am always jonesing to be around. My lyrics are simply a diary telling the story of my history; boating in Lake Maurepas in the pouring rain, listening to George Jones and eating chili beans in muddy clothes, hearing Robicheaux sing the blues from the sidewalk, gutter-punks busking anti-war folk standards on Royal, Baptist gospel healings, the erotic passions of Bourbon Street and Storyville, hearing that riverboat calliope up and down the Mississippi all day long like a wind chime in the breeze…”
crash’s story unfolds with that particularly Southern swagger and wit, a tale of a Louisiana boy bred on Waffle House breakfasts and monster truck rallies, local rodeos and the flicker of family bonfires. As a youth he pulled slingshots and shot bb’s at the Popcorn trees, swam, fished and stomped his feet to the tune of his own Pawpaw’s country band.
As adolescence crept in, crash found he had an itch for singing, passing through the French Quarter to learn at the feet of the New Orleans’ legendary street performers, a young man searching for inspiration among the sodden Voodoo alleys of America’s most soulful city. Later, he would steal his Mom’s car to play the open mic nights at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, or to sneak into Nick’s on Tulane, or shoot pool at Dixie Tavern. He started a folk act, a punk group and finally, just after high school, started singing on the regular and was appointed “Congregational Song Leader” in a Southern Louisiana Gospel Choir, which had him performing for hundreds at a time.
There was college for a hot minute, there was a move to the Irish Channel, there was the soaking in of all that is New Orleans, wet heat and Sazeracs, the wailing horns of jazz funerals, the teetering handmade floats of Mardi Gras, crawfish and etouffee and howling at the moon. There was work where he could get it, toiling as a PA on the studio sets, Hollywood coming south for the tax credits.
It was on these film productions where crash earned his nickname, something to do with a questionable work ethic and repetitive tardiness (he admits you’d have to ask one Ms. Rita Wilson for the real deal details). And yet despite his reputation (or perhaps because of it), he was anointed “assistant” to Johnny Knoxville during The Dukes of Hazzard’s run. (One can only imagine…)
Then, the rains came, Katrina bearing down hard and fast and the New Orleans that he once knew vanishing forever under poisoned water. Lost, crash reached out to his pal Knoxville, who responded with an offer of help – a job, a place to lay his head– an invite to head west, to Cali. And so he packed his guitar and went, straight into the heart of Tinseltown, to the sweet promise of a Golden State.
crash brought his music with him, quickly joining the critically adored local act Deadly Syndrome as lead singer and frontman, bringing his gris gris into the beautiful belly of the L.A. beast. Since then, crash has been barreling ahead, recording prolifically with Deadly Syndrome, working with famed producer Daniel Lanios, composing a live stage score, acting in a few national commercials, and finally, after Deadly disbanded in 2013, heading out on the road with his pals, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, as percussionist and angelic vocal accompaniment.
And somewhere in that heady mix…in that combination of the rolling road, of California eucalyptus sway and dark NOLA mysteries, he discovered his true self– the wild-eyed, sly-tongued, strutting, winking and wonderful ‘crash’ of this here solo debut.
Produced and engineered by the multitalented Ed Sharpe lead guitarist, Mark Noseworthy, (and featuring friends from the Zeros, Dawes, The Mystic Valley Band and more…) Hardly Criminal is the culmination of all that is strange and sad, hilarious and harmonious, about crash’s own true tale. It is story – moving, funny, weird, and stunningly beautiful.
You can hear the South, yes, Neville swing and Dr. John ju-ju, but you can also hear smooth soul, booty funk, and ragged folk, a mix of sounds taken from his past and pushed into the future, all accompanied by a deadpan storytelling prowess and a voice like a Cajun Prince (as in “The Artist Formerly Known As”). Hardly Criminal is the sum of crash’s best parts – the sonic celebration of his story so far. So, set down a spell, cool yer bones, cher… and listen.