West Palm Beach trio Lavola and its sonically charged rock 'n' roll are perhaps too brazen and piercing to fit alongside the quirky indie pop that reigns supreme in Palm Beach County. But even without piercings, tattoos, circulation-clogging skinny jeans, or other accouterments, the trio's music speaks volumes for itself.
Recently, New Times sat down with vocalist/guitarist Julian Cires, bassist Matt Hanser, and drummer Brian Weinthal at the preeminent Lake Worth indie stage of the moment, Little Munich. There, the guys knocked back a couple of frothy German brews and illuminated how such approachable dudes transform into an onstage blur echoing the jolting alt-rock group At the Drive-In and its psychedelic offspring, the Mars Volta.
"I don't find us to be indie at all," says the blond, easygoing Hanser. "Not to demean [indie rock], but when I think about [indie rock], all that comes to mind is crazy amounts of reverb, and that's just not us."
Even if the music sounds nothing alike, Lavola appreciates the work-ethic precedent that West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood set for other local bands that wish to find success outside the region.
Serious devotion makes Lavola possible. Cires says the band practices at its warehouse space in Jupiter two to three times a week — occasionally at the very unhip hour of 8 a.m. — and performs at least twice a month, all while maintaining part-time jobs and schoolwork. Both Cires (commercial music master's program) and Hanser (finance) are students at FAU, and Weinthal is a marketing major at Palm Beach State.
The guys' commitment paid quick dividends only five months into the band's performing career. The sweat-soaked set that became Lavola's Live at Propaganda EP wowed booking giant AEG Live's reps at a local showcase last June and earned the guys a slot opening for the Silversun Pickups at Boca Raton's Sunset Cove Amphitheater the following week.
"Opening up for the Silversun Pickups was an experience that we were both appreciative of and shocked by," says Cires, while sipping a Franziskaner Dunkel. Scratch the surface of this unassuming frontman, who has a bachelor's in creative writing from Florida State, and a hefty intellectual side comes out.
"Most things don't necessarily need to be born from meaning or intent of creation," Cires says in regard to stumbling upon the nonsensical name of the band. "That's what I love about surrealism and absurdism: the acceptance of constructs that don't necessarily have an imposed or predisposed meaning."
Unsurprisingly, the lyrics he pens for Lavola are cryptic too. When asked what the main character is fleeing from on "I'm Leaving Paris," Cires states, "Paris isn't so much a reference to the city but more to the idealism, romanticism, and deconstruction of it." The track is featured on the band's six-song Leaving Paris EP — available at Friday's release party at Propaganda.
Throughout the EP, Cires' searing, Thom Yorke-inspired (by his own admission) vocals and jarring fretwork will jump out at listeners. On opening track "The Queen Is Dead," he shifts seamlessly from scathing howls to soothing, dulcet tones to earsplitting falsettos in the span of four minutes. Add Weinthal (an ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore devotee) vigorously bashing the snares and Hanser's limber bass work and it's colossal.
This configuration was completed in late 2009 when Weinthal was recruited via a Craigslist ad posted shortly after Cires and Hanser had finished a debut EP, Black Sea of Trees — essentially a collection of older material that Cires had written since graduating from William T. Dwyer High School in 2003. Weinthal had contemplated a move to New York City but was so blown away by what he heard that he decided to put his Big Apple dreams on hold.
After another performance at Propaganda back in August, the fellas were approached by a representative from Warner Bros. Records. The rep invited the guys for a cup of coffee and chatted them up. Cires says that the encounter was simply a meet and greet and that "not much business was discussed." Although he tells us that there is no deal for Lavola in the foreseeable future, the guys still talk to the unnamed rep from time to time.
Lavola's current plan is a summer U.S. tour with progressive Sarasota quintet Lion Choir. As for other planned gigs this year, the Buzz Bake Sale is a goal for 2011. (Apparently, a tape submitted late didn't make its way to the proper hands in '10.)
In the meantime, the group will keep mesmerizing audiences with ambitious, emotional performances underscored by a massive barrage of noise — never limited by their three-piece membership. Hanser notes that an offbeat fourth member can be just as limiting to a band. And if it weren't already apparent, genuine chemistry is the main impetus behind Lavola's oomph. Cires adds sagely, "Limitations can create more possibilities."