Eclectic LA trio Gothic Tropic never settle down in any genre for too long. The group has evolved significantly since the pre-punk and afro-pop beats of their acclaimed 2011 EP Awesome Problems, embarking on fresh musical territory for their upcoming cassette release. We caught up with singer and guitarist Cecilia Della Peruti to hear about what the band has in store this summer, and to get a first listen of their new single, Bird of Prey.
We’re all clearly excited for the long-awaited follow up to 2011’s Awesome Problems EP. What does the second half of 2014 hold for Gothic Tropic?
We’re doing a summer cassette release with Old Flame Records sometime in August! We recorded two tracks at East West Studios, one we have a music video for so we’ll be debuting that soon after. We went in to the studio with a rough idea of how the songs would go, but I’d say 20% was improvised, we tracked it live in room A so we were able to look at each other for cues. We ended up keeping our first takes so I’m really excited to share that. We’re playing Echo Park Rising in August also, so be sure to cruise to that!
Describe the recording process for the new album– how long did it take to record?
All the songs were realized before we went in, but having the resources to experiment with sounds and ideas made it easy to take a bit longer than expected. We would usually track the whole song together in the live room, and then layer on top afterwards, but because funds were tight, and I wanted to respect Mark Rains’ time, I ended up taking a lot of the songs home to play with myself. So the recording process also included my having to learn Logic and Protools to a point to be able to record myself. Daniel came over a few nights to record my vocals, and he took some stems home to mess with some synth and organ sounds, so it was a lot of patch-working. This record called in a lot of favors whether it was borrowing gear or needing an engineer, so we’re really grateful to everyone who helped.
Can you share the inspiration behind “Bird of Prey” with us? When did you write it?
It’s one of the only songs that imposes an opinion or statement, I rarely go there with lyrics, so I like that about it. “Who’s in your circle, who’s out for you, who’s on your side” is that character focused on social promotion, it’s the guy who misses the mark on human interaction, and what it means to make new friends. I wrote the lyrics while we were recording it, it came out pretty naturally so I must have been thinking about that at the time, haha. Maybe the message of this song is that no matter who you are or what you’re doing, a calculating and methodical socializer is a whack socializer.
“Bird of Prey” definitely has an ‘80s post-punk/cold wave vibe going; can we expect to hear more of your darker side on the new album?
Yes, I think “Flesh Dance” off Awesome Problems was closest to where we were going, but there are definitely sunny tunes on the record in “Cry Like a Man” (which is up on our YouTube channel) and a few more. I’d say it’s about split in half as far as the dark/light jams go. I also think each song carries through that duality, it’s pretty evenly dispersed.
Your sound has been described as everything from krautrock to afro-cuban beats, but ‘Gothic Tropic’ may actually be the most accurate, albeit made-up genre for your band so far. If you were to rename the group based on the musical direction of the new album, what would you call it?
I think the reason “Gothic Tropic” works is because it combines our love for bands like Suicide, Bauhaus, Gang of Four etc, with that sunny tropical psych sound that I guess I can’t help but wanna play. I think we’re steering away from the more plucky West African sound, so if I were to rename the band, I’d probably get a little more evil and sexy and less parodical. I’ve thought about “Fatalesque” which I wanted to keep secret, but since you asked… haha.
You’ve all played in several projects before Gothic Tropic. Can you talk about each of your musical backgrounds and how they influence your current collaboration?
Daniel Denton had an early run with Metric and he’s been playing with Chelsea Wolfe as well. He’s the dark lord of Gothic Tropic, he encourages me to get evil so when I show him the darker songs, he’s always stoked. He brings a lot of progressive and unique melodies to GT, we like getting weird. The bridge in that live video “God’s Pleasure” is him playing this crazy Baroque style shred over my guitar which has this angular Phillip Glass vibe, so he’s rad to play with. Lia Braswell played drums on “Bird of Prey” and has played with a lot of great artists, I think right now she’s playing with White Sea (M83) and Le Butcherettes (Omar Rodriguez Lopez). Rheese Detrow is playing drums with us moving forward and he’s killing it. He has formal jazz training and he’s also played on a lot of studio albums, so he’s bringing such a tasteful feel to GT.
Who is your favorite LA band right now?
I think Fever The Ghost shreds. Casper is a throwback to that ’70s prodigious enigmatic frontman, and their songs are really colorful and dynamic, and not like anything anyone’s doing. They kind of remind me of Magazine mixed with MGMT.
Other than LA, are there any cities whose local scene you really admire these days?
We’ve had a blast touring up the west coast, and I think Vancouver knows how to party. Those shows were always the wildest, haha. Brooklyn always has their local music scene tight, and I love going back as much as possible. (I’m going early August!)
You DJ regularly around LA. What is your go-to song:
You cite a lot of ’60s and ’70s influences like Television and Can; are there any older artists you’ve just recently discovered and are obsessing over?
I’ve been really getting into the traditional Kantele music of Finland and the neighboring local forms of early 17th century Nordic music.
I think the comment I hear most frequently about your band is how energetic the live shows are. Do you have any pre-show routines? How do you keep morale high on the road?
Morale is high as fuck on the road. We actually don’t really do anything before the shows, recently I’ve noticed a growing theme of verbal dick play, I feel like the guys like to have a little fun loving pre-show ego boost. We don’t drink much before hand, I’ll have a beer maybe, but I play sober because I have to do 1000 things. We just goof, it gets us going!
Did you guys go to college? What were your majors?
Rheese went to college for jazz, Daniel went to Hogwarts, and I majored in fine art, studio art etc.
Favorite film or tv show of 2014 so far?
I just discovered Broad City and High Maintenance and I’m obsessed.
What will you be doing immediately following this interview?
I’m sticking it to the man on company time right now, so I’ll probably get back to “work”.
Gothic Tropic play Los Globos this Saturday, July 26 with GRMLN and Sad Girl.