Company of Thieves
DRÆMINGS, Psychic Love
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
Company of Thieves
There’s a well-known saying that can make a lot of bands uncomfortable while embarking upon their second album: Musicians have their entire lives to write their debut, and a year to complete the follow-up. But in the case of Company of Thieves, the Chicago outfit couldn’t wait to record its sophomore full-length, Running From A Gamble. Even though Company of Thieves’ famously feverish fanbase is exponentially larger than it was when the band released its first album, the only pressure felt during the making of Running From A Gamble was due to the explosive nature of the songs themselves. And the tremendous results are a testament to how far the band has come in such a short period of time.
“We were very eager to get things moving quickly because we were so excited about the new songs,” says guitarist Marc Walloch. “There’s a sense of urgency in this record that comes through the speakers.”
“This record needed to come out of me,” says frontwoman Genevieve. “It was extremely confrontational in a healthy way, and I think that’s why I wasn’t too concerned with what people were expecting.”
The past few years have been busy and fruitful for Company of Thieves, which is now rounded out by drummer Chris Faller and bassist Marcin Sulewski. Founded in their teens, Company of Thieves’ members already conduct themselves like veterans, even though they’re still just in their mid-20s. The band’s first record, Ordinary Riches, originally issued independently in 2007, was re-released in early 2009 by Wind-up Records and debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart. The band toured nonstop, hitting the road with groups like Annuals, OK Go, and The Hold Steady, and along the way played Lollapalooza, Last Call With Carson Daly, and Live From Daryl’s House.
“It was really cool to hear Daryl Hall talk about how he liked our writing,” says Walloch. “All the musicians are absolutely amazing—right when we walked through the door they made us feel good and comfortable. It was really cool to be around people of that caliber and not have any fear of playing in front of them because they’re so good.”
When the time came to start writing the new record, Walloch and Genevieve found that ideas were already flowing out of them. Inspired by their diverse influences—including The Beatles, Billie Holliday, Fiona Apple, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, and Nirvana—they inject their triumphant, catchy music with their own energy and soul, making for a deeply dynamic sound that can turn from sweet to searing on a dime. All the time spent on the road not only gave them plenty of opportunities to play around with melodies and chords in the van, hotel rooms, and backstage, it offered a new perspective on America and, ultimately, life in general. That’s when Schatz began to form the narrative that drives Running From A Gamble, a 13-song coming-of-age story about a girl who, if you listen closely, sounds like she has a lot in common with her creator.
“Karen is the prototypical girl who grows up in the suburbs and feels like maybe she’s destined for bigger things,” says Genevieve. “She leaves home early and goes on this wild adventure of what happens in life, and the relationships that you get into and how you learn about yourself. It’s the realization that we are not our problems, we just struggle with them. And our identity doesn’t have to be consumed by the hardships that we are experiencing.”
The “gamble” in the title can also be referred to as a risk, and instead of running away from anything, Karen runs from risk to risk, the kinds that must be taken by someone who’s moving from a life of dependence to one of autonomy. As Genevieve sings in the peppy, organ-fueled “Look Both Ways,” “You never feel alive until you are risking your life.” Some of the gambles we find Karen taking include facing up to old habits, embracing compromise, risking ostracism by being honest about who she is, and putting herself on display as a performer, which can result in, as Genevieve puts it, “being treated like a marionette in the circus that is life.” All of the blood, sweat, and tears that the singer poured into Running From A Gamble can be heard in the gorgeous wailing during “Won’t Go Quietly,” a song that starts off gently but eventually explodes with unbridled emotion.
Another topic confronted on the album is the environment, and understanding that to every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. The horn-filled Motown-esque extravaganza “Tallulah” was inspired by a small town in Louisiana that the band passed through while on tour.
“There was no one on the main street downtown,” says Genevieve. “All these buildings were completely abandoned, and yet there were these vines growing up from the earth, wrapping themselves around the structures. It looked like they were taking them back into the earth, and it was this amazing feeling that the earth prevails.”
Despite its varying moods and textures, Running From A Gamble is a cohesive, fully formed album, one that Walloch says “you don’t want to skim through.” The band spent a couple of months at the beginning of 2010 fleshing out the acoustic demos made by Walloch and Genevieve. By the time they’d moved operations in the summer from Chicago to L.A., where they hooked up with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Saves The Day), Running From A Gamble was ready to be recorded. Schnapf helped Company of Thieves capture its live intensity in the studio, which included documenting the power of Schatz’s booming voice. However, at first the band wasn’t sure if they were in the right relationship.
“Our initial conversations with Rob were bad, because he didn’t really give us any answers to our questions, which is what turned out to be so great about him,” says Walloch. “Anything we would ask him about the process, he’d say, ‘I can’t tell you, it has to be whatever it naturally needs to be. I don’t have any plan.’ And we just loved that.”
“I felt like Rob really let me do my thing and would encourage me to get to the point where I felt like I had to sing songs to get them out of me,” says Genevieve. “I don’t know what more I could have asked for.”
Having recorded in L.A., toured the country numerous times, and played overseas, the members of Company of Thieves are certainly a worldly bunch. But they also know where they came from and aren’t about to lose sight of what got them here.
“There’s definitely a hard-work ethic in the Midwest,” says Walloch. “The seasons change your inspiration, they change your mood, they change how productive you are. It’s good to not be conditioned to any one thing or be like a robot and always feel or be the same. I guess that’s kind of like our music.”
Like all great bands, DRÆMINGS began as an outlet for heartbreak – the opening track of their debut EP, Nevada, repeatedly pleads “oh stay with me / please stay with me” – and has spent the last several years evolving from vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and sometimes-producer Kimi Recor’s alter ego into a tightly knit band of four whose new EP explores the many ways you can find your voice and mine your own inner strength. This drastic change in theme reflects not only the similarly drastic changes in the world as a whole, but also this movement away from a single spotlight and toward a group effort.
Recor started DRÆMINGS as a solo project in 2012 and wrote, recorded, and produced the five-song Nevada EP over the span of a weekend. It was the first time she had ever released music on her own, rather than as part of a band (of which she had been a member of many). Not long after posting the lo-fi dream pop collection on Soundcloud and playing a few shows around Los Angeles’ east side, Sumerian Records approached her with a label deal. The relationship started off with excitement on both ends as DRÆMINGS was going to be the label’s first foray outside of the hard rock and metal world and into the radio-friendly alternative space. Despite this honeymoon phase, a subsequent national tour with Night Riots, and a couple single releases, the arrangement began to make Recor feel caged. It took over two years after its completion for DRÆMINGS’ sole Sumerian release, the full-length The Eternal Lonesome, to see the light of day. Recor celebrated the birth of the record with a sold out show at The Echo in Echo Park in August of 2017 and a full west coast tour (including an opening slot for Juliette Lewis), and set her sights on changing the DRÆMINGS story.
The 2017 self-titled EP is akin to a rebirth for DRÆMINGS. Its new evolution brings Recor back to her band-oriented roots, cementing DRÆMINGS as a four piece comprised of herself (vocals/guitar), Thorson (bass/synth), Christopher Vick (guitar), and Nathaniel Meek (drums). The band returned to being independent (the EP will be released on Recor’s own PLAG Records) and wrote DRÆMINGS as a collective, self-titling the EP to make that point clear to listeners. Thorson stepped forward to helm the production and mixing of all six tracks in his Underwater Studios. He says of the process: “Making records gives you a chance to make a futuristic statement, to fabricate an imaginary emotional and conceptual landscape. And when a record is successful, that imaginary space can actually become a real space for people to live in and use in their lives. In that way, I see music production as a highly political art form.”
Recor echoes the political sentiment of the new music, stating that the EP as a whole is about “taking back your power, speaking up for yourself, and most importantly speaking up for others…in the past, I would’ve never considered my music political. I've always been more introverted and self-documenting when it comes to writing lyrics and songs. But this heavy shift has occurred, and more and more of my songs are turning towards political themes. I feel like my voice hasn't been heard for a long time, and I know I'm not the only one.”
This is most obvious in “Holy Land,” a song that confronts the alarming rise of fascism and violence against marginalized communities and the earth itself, and reminds us that we need to study the lessons of history and learn from the actions of those who came before us. “We have this whole generation of young people who are being led by the old guard. I can feel the unrest. I think it is essential that people let their voices be heard, in whatever medium that may be. For me, it’s through music and writing. I think the greatest artistic or musical movements have started because people were fed up with how the system treated them. Art and music give a voice to those who need it the most,” Recor continues.
The remainder of the songs on the DRÆMINGS EP stray away from the literal and side with the more figurative. “Fire in Hell” and “Great Escape” are the fraternal twin dark and light mirrors reflecting the power imbalance in a relationship and the ways of building yourself back up once you break free, reclaiming your power and your confidence in the process. The dark, left hand path is the cold burn of vengeance and vindication; the light mirror showing the no less valid joy of the jailbreak and leaving it all behind. “Drowning World” is a ballad that, from the start, will almost physically pull you down, using the ocean as an allegory for the fight our youth are waging to maintain their sense of self in a world where, as Recor says, “everything is accessible and nothing is sacred.” “Don’t Even Worry” may be the most emotional song on the EP, though not obviously at first, delving into Recor’s reaction to her friend’s suicide attempt and ultimate survival. DRÆMINGS ends on a surprisingly uplifting note with the borderline new age ballad “Tides,” concluding the EP with additional water imagery and an ode to the strength and endurance of unconditional love.
Thorson perhaps summarizes the new record’s diversity best: “The EP is an aggressive mix of totally different sounds…I want the listener to not know if it's 1975 or if it's 2040 when they hear this EP. There's a lot of love for the past here, but we've always got our eyes on the future.” From the heavy, thrumming bassline in “Fire in Hell,” to the dancefloor-worthy “Great Escape,” to the crooning Enya-esque EP closer, “Tides,” there really is something for everyone on DRÆMINGS, all without losing the band’s trademark sound that ties it all together.
DRÆMINGS will be available digitally worldwide on April 21 and on vinyl via their web store and at live shows thereafter.
"It's fitting that Psychic Love emerge from Los Angeles, the one city where the hollow prophesy of the psychic hotline might come true. The band offers an ethereal soundtrack to a city dotted by as many medical marijuana dispensaries as DIY-Spanish-language Pentecostal churches, sometimes side by side in its endless strip malls, all patrons blissfully numb from self-medication, where the realest pain affects phantom limbs and "in a hall of mirrors / everything gets much clearer.
Their single's cover art, a simple black-and-white photograph of masked men descriptively titled "Nixon, Ford, Death, 1976," snapped by noted Los Angeles '70s youth culture photographer Mark James Powers at the Human Be-in in Sacramento, sets the tone for Mirrors // Medicine. The first track on their new 7-inch, "Mirrors," couples dark guitar with frontwoman Laura Peters' lush and textured vocals, which manage to balance world-weary knowing with hopeful naïveté. The syncopated beat of B-side "Medicine" endows its creepiness—Exhibit A: it's recurring chorus of "You would be so much happier if I'd just drink my medicine"—with enough propulsion to arrive at the imagery of everyday speech, "killing ants on the tile floor," and then our ordinary hyperbole, "you love all that blood and gore."
Though thus far confined to Silver Lake clubs including El Cid and Satellite, you don't have to call Miss Cleo to know that Psychic Love will soon be headlining much larger venues, showcasing their sexy, slightly eerie brand of LA alt-rock. Be warned, once you've heard Psychic Love, as Peters herself reminds us in "Medicine," "You can't go back." "- Vlad Osso, Molussus
Adv tix $12.00 / DOS tix $15.00