of the South Florida Scene is a weekly column devoted to the
artists thriving within Broward and Palm Beach counties featuring
interviews with the folks making it happen. This week, West Palm Beach's Lavola.
Lavola was picked from a slew of equally great bands to open for Silversun Pickups last
month, which hopefully earned it even more of the attention it so deserves: Its
EP, Black Sea of Trees, sold out shortly after its release, and the band has drawn comparisons
to the likes of My Morning Jacket and Dinosaur Jr. Dead Meadow wouldn't be a far cry either -- something about their sound, even
with its fresh crispness, is distinctly old-school. Drawing on the heavy-duty riffs and
sweetened melodies of decades past, Lavola's tried-and-true rock is undeniably its own. All three
bandmates -- Julian Cires (vocals, guitar, songwriting), Matt Hanser (bass), and Brian
Weinthal (drums) -- teamed up to answer some questions and even spoke a little bit about
New Times: Where and how did Lavola come into being -- was there something else any of you were working on before?
Julian Cires: Around 2003, Matt and I played in a local band called Soma. I played drums in that group, but I had been stockpiling my own material and ideas that would eventually materialize as Lavola. Eventually, Soma dissolved and I moved to Tallahassee and Matt to Colorado. We didn't really keep in touch. Around 2009, we both had moved back to West Palm, and I asked him to play bass for my music project. We recorded the first EP, Black Sea of Trees, and shortly thereafter began posting ads looking for a drummer so we could actually perform these songs live. Brian responded to one of the ads in December of 2009. He had just left college and was all set to move to New York to pursue music but changed his plans so he could audition. We played our first show as Lavola February 23, 2010, in Miami.
How did you guys come up with the name Lavola? What's its origin?
Matt Hanser: A Lavola is actually a term for an elusive mammal that is closely related to the Chupacabra. The genetic structure between the two creatures is 99.98 percent identical. The only difference between them is that the Lavola has evolved to thrive and live in cold-weather climates (mainly Northern Siberia). There are only about 10,000 of them known to man, and they are known to feast upon small game as well as caribou. We thought it was a cool band name.
Tell me what it was like opening for the Silversun Pickups and how you got picked to be
in the lineup of bands that were in the running for that space.
Cires: It's difficult to put into words how appreciative we were to have had that opportunity. It was a very memorable evening, to say the least. We sold the remaining copies of Black Sea of Trees that night, and hanging out with the other bands after the show was really cool. Regarding how the bands were selected for the AEG showcase, Steve Rullman (thehoneycomb.com) chose the lineup, as far as I know. I received a call from Steve some evening in May, during a "crab-core" show we performed. Look it up. The call could not have come at a better time.
Black Sea of Trees -- great name, great artwork, great album. When and how was it put
together? Who produced it?
Cires: Thanks. When I invited Matt to play bass, I would teach him the songs, and he would come up with his bass parts to accompany the music. I chose which songs to track, and we both agreed that they were an appropriate introduction to Lavola. We began tracking with our good friend Tom Barthle (who mastered the record) and finished tracking at Echo Beach Studios during the fall of 2009. It was mixed and engineered by Steve Smodish at the studio except for the title track, which was recorded in my bedroom. I produced the record. The artwork is by Angela Petsis (ajpetis.com). Her art is a huge influence in the songwriting, and she and I are very excited to have her art be an extension of the music regarding future releases. I wrote "The Philosopher's Daughter" the same evening I discovered her mixed-media work on display in Tallahassee.
Julian, your lyrics are intense and visual. A lot of your songs read like stories -- are any
personal? Tell me about the inspiration behind the title track of your EP.
Cires: All of the songs are very personal to me. However, I've never been one to articulate my feelings very well. The lyrics are thinly veiled with fiction. They resonate with me because they are personal and refer to something specific. However, I enjoy the distance that a narrative affords me. Every song on the EP as well as the short story included within the physical release generally deals with an inability to adapt to sudden change -- when you've fully invested your identity into the future or an abstraction and suddenly it's gone.
Which bands -- and even movies or books -- do you guys feel influence your music? Furthermore, what have you been listening to lately that you feel is wonderful?
Cires: There are way too many bands to list! But I'd say some major ones are Radiohead, P.J. Harvey, Jeff Buckley, Queens of the Stone Age, the Dillinger Escape Plan, a Perfect Circle, St. Vincent, Blonde Redhead, Aimee Mann, Autolux, Portishead, Bjork, and Nine Inch Nails. Moreover, Angela Petsis (artist) and Haruki Murakami (author) are a huge influence in the songwriting. I've currently been listening to Daughters' latest album and Centuries, a local band from West Palm Beach.
Hanser: I've actually been on a huge Pixies and Sonic Youth bender for the past couple of weeks or so. As for newer stuff, I've been enjoying Daughter's newer stuff as well as Them Crooked Vultures. Josh Homme is a beast.
Weinthal: Broken Social Scene, Grizzly Bear, the Middle East, Late of the Pier, Mew, LCD Soundsystem, and the Now Breathers.
You guys are from West Palm Beach. What do you like most about the local scene and
being a part of it -- and what aspects of it kind of suck?
Cires: I find that just being a musician, in general, has become more challenging in context to thriving within certain paradigm shifts. We offer our music for free online because we want everyone to hear it, but it also feels like we've been strong-armed to do so. The support for music, local and otherwise, has been dwindling as far as numbers are concerned. That's not to say that people are less enthusiastic about music. There's just some sort of disconnect between the numbers and the enthusiasm. It's puzzling, but that's reality now, and we have to work around that, finding other means to finance our band expenses such as studio time, practice-space payments, gas for shows elsewhere, etc. That's not so much a local scene issue as it is a universal one, and the recession has perpetuated it even further. It sucks, but I am also fascinated by it. It's cool to see other musicians experimenting with means to share their music in ways that respect the fans as well as the artist, and we're no different. We're still trying to feel it out.
Hanser: There's definitely somewhat of a scene down here, although I would say the vast majority of it is musicians from other bands. The thing about it that I really like is that it's a tight-knit group of people who support each other. Historically, outside of that circle of people, it sucks because it seems like most people don't really care about local music, although that appears to be changing recently.
Weinthal: The West Palm area has a few really solid music venues, which is great, but it seems people come out to shows to see a specific band and then bail once they're done. This isn't good. What is nice to see are the projects of friends and people I've grown up around and how they've developed and improved.
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What else can we look forward to from you guys... Is a tour in the works?
Cires: Initially, we wanted to tour the East Coast this summer. I think we were really excited with the momentum that was already built behind us. Procuring the "Schwagon" for $600 from ex-Russian Mafia was also gratifying. But there was still a lot we needed to establish in Florida. Like recording a new EP, which we are currently working on.
Hanser: Pyrotechnics, and crazy amounts of them. I'm talking like Civil War cannons
and Napalm, the works and more. No, but seriously, the next EP should be good.
Three Lavola concerts of note coming up: Wednesday, July 28, at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach (opening for Dead Confederate); Thursday, July 29, at Roxy's in West Palm Beach (opening for TR3); and Saturday, July 31, at the Respectable Street 23rd Anniversary Party.