A neurotic 21-year-old transplant to OC from all the way in north county San Diego, Mark rambles about music of all kinds wherever he can. In text form on OCML, in audio form on his podcast Mad Sounds, even in music form in his recent album under the name Fully Involved. To keep up with all the ramblings, he can be found on Twitter @MarkMadSounds.
(UPDATE 1/18/18: Of Ennui has unfortunately had to cancel their set at Friday’s show due to a health issue within the band. OCML sincerely wishes them all the best as we move forward with Hawk Auburn, The Slashes & a TBD replacement.)
This interview was edited down slightly for clarity. No major points or context were changed.
How do you like to describe Of Ennui’s overall sound/themes/ideas for the uninitiated?
Strauss: Of Ennui is dynamic, ethereal music. We play some really heavy music, but it’s punctuated by bursts of really beautiful playing as well as cathartic, melancholic lyricism. We bounce between some really sternum-crushing doom & long dream-like musical tangents.
That dynamic comes through strongly in one of your newest songs, “Doom in Bloom,” really piling on the crescendos & general intensity as it moves along. Can you talk about how that track came together?
Strauss: That track was the last song written before Angus [Garcia] joined us on bass. At that point, our songs were initiated by a guitar riff from Christian [Cate] or myself. In this case, I started the song, and Christian compensated for the lack of bass by playing primarily low tone guitar parts. Christian has an amazing ability to compliment whatever melodies I come up with, and I think our musical chemistry largely stems from the intensity of our friendship over the last 13 years. When you add a musical prodigy like [drummer] Indigo [Machado] to the mix, it takes the song to another level. Angus joined shortly after, and his bass parts proved a monumental force behind the power our songs wield.
I wrote the lyrics as a direct response to [Jack] Kerouac’s claim that he would die an old man with a book shelf filled with works all bearing his name. And I suppose it grapples with the mortality he must have faced coming to terms with the fact that that dream would not come to fruition, and I applied those sentiments to a fictional character.
When you’re writing from the perspective of other people, real or fictional, what would you say you get out of that creatively?
Strauss: I think it’s more challenging, which is where most of the creative satisfaction is derived from. If I just write about my own life, well that’s not very interesting, is it? Anyone can write about their own life, but it takes imagination to write about concepts that don’t directly apply to you. You have to sort of graft these sentiments that you might feel in real-life situations & apply them to how you imagine these fictional scenarios would go. It’s less about the characters & more about the sentiment behind them.
And it’s really silly when you realize how often people will automatically assume you’re writing about yourself when they hear your songs. Take for instance the assumption that because I’m a man, all my songs are written in the character of a man, but really who’s to say my songs aren’t based in a woman’s perspective? Or from a different socio-economic perspective? Sexuality? Race? All of these things are traits we make assumptions of based on how we perceive an author, which is fair to a degree, but it’s also really limiting to the audience and the writer. And that’s how you end up with some dullard collection of songs that are all bland hetero-normative “love” songs pretending to be depressed.
The show you’re playing is in Chula Vista. As a band from that area, what can you speak to about its music scene?
Strauss: Chula Vista is an intense city. There’s a vibrant DIY scene & even more prevalent is the trans-border community. It’s amazing to see it flowering the way it is, and how interconnected all of those individuals have become. We’re going to be at the Manhattan on Friday, which is a little dive bar not too far from where most of us in the band grew up. As a kid I always used to make the walk to Broadway & G to the thrift store across the street, so it’s funny to me that we’re older and still doing so much of the same.
I think the big thing lacking in Chula Vista right now is a stable set of venues. Most shows in Chula Vista are house shows, which is great for the all-ages scene, but it also means there’s a big bridge to cross between all-ages & 21+ scenes because it’s all so geographically compartmentalized. In that way Chula Vista is a bit cut off from the rest of the music community, but damn near everyone in it fights tooth & nail to be heard, to be seen, and to be able to build opportunities if we aren’t finding them from traditional outlets. There’s just a crazy amount of diversity, and I think people are really starting to see Chula Vista as a place that’s fostering all these bored suburban kids who grow up to start these fantastic projects.
Following that show, what do we have to look forward to from Of Ennui in 2018?
Strauss: February will see the release of our second EP, Tone Poems, a sprawling collage of sounds that represents everything we’ve done in the last year. New merch, new music videos, and as always, a ton of live shows. We haven’t done a music video since before Indigo & Angus joined, so that will be especially exciting to premiere. I always tell my bandmates that I want us to be one of the hardest working bands in town, so you can expect us to stay true to that.
To build up hype for this Friday’s no-cover showcase at Chula Vista’s Manhattan Bar (courtesy of our sister company, the San Diego Music League), we’ve talked to a couple of the bands on the bill. First, we chatted with The Slashes’ lead singer/guitarist Esteban Rene about their vintage post-punk style, their position as outsiders of the scene, and how his time as a bay captain inspired a song off their last album.
How do you like to describe The Slashes’ overall sound/themes/ideas for the uninitiated?
We are best described as post-punk, like we walked the wet London streets circa 79/80’s. So there’s a bit of the Britpop vibe as well. Lyrically like Edgar Alan Poe meets Iggy Pop. A 3-piece band from SD. All members are of Mexican decent. We all wear black, and song themes include love lost, disaffection, nautical life.
Nautical life stands out as a pretty interesting topic. What song comes to mind first as exploring that, and where did you draw the inspiration from?
I’m a licensed captain. The song is called “Compass Rose.” It’s on our debut self-titled record. I wrote it while on a cruise around the San Diego bay. The story is about 2 people trying to escape this city, specifically San Diego. She is stuck, and he’s coming to rescue her and take her away via ship- it’s that simple really. However, she disappears…
Definitely feeling the post-punk influence in the guitar tones & vocal style. Now like you alluded to, most of the songs you have out are from your 2015 album. What about your style has changed between that & the material you’re working on now?
We’ve simplified. Songs are shorter, faster, a little more aggressive & punchier. [We’re] working on a new EP. We have one [song] ready for listening [on our website] called “NuNu’s.” It’s about a once-popular bar, our hangout. It’s about living it up & enjoying a night out.
Speaking of bars actually, you’re kicking the new year for the band off next Friday at Chula Vista’s Manhattan Bar. What can you say about how that area’s local scene has helped/treated you guys?
Well we haven’t played Manhattan Bar before, [but we] have heard good things about it! There’s a lot of bands that play in the SD scene. Not a lot of bands like us, but that’s cool.
It’s been challenging getting decent gigs. We are by far not the darlings of the scene… if you’re not kissing the right arses, well, you know how cliques work. We have had [91X Loudspeaker host] Tim Pyles & [Casbah owner] Tim Mays help along the way. We just haven’t gotten a major push by the gatekeepers, if you will. We are the outsiders.
And following that show, what do we have to look forward to from The Slashes in 2018?
Currently booking a west coast tour, still in the making. Some possible gigs in NYC. We have new material recorded; just trying to find the right price to mix & master! [We’ll] keep you posted!
Catch The Slashes this Friday, January 19th at Manhattan Bar!
When coming up as a rock band, it’s one thing to come from a different scene. It’s another to come from a different country. Fortunately, The Revies have made great strides over the years to integrate themselves at a few musical hot spots along the southern U.S. border. Their next stop: opening at this Saturday’s no-cover showcase at the Rush Bar in Lake Forest. So ahead of the event, we talked with lead singer/guitarist Etienne Rosas about the history of the band, how their cultural identity affects their music, and the new material this prolific trio is prepping for 2018.
How do you like to describe The Revies’ sound/themes/ideas for the uninitiated?
Rosas: The Revies formed in Monterrey, Mexico in around 2007, so you can be sure that the band’s sound has undergone several phases and taken from varied influences. Generally, we have a classic garage rock feel with some “alternative blues” mixed into it, along the vein of Jack White and Audioslave, but borrowing heavily from old greats like The Beatles and [Led] Zeppelin. The band’s underlying Mexican-American-ness shines through a lot in our musical ideas, not just through Spanish lyrics, but through the themes of dual identity the band itself has grappled with over the years. Ultimately though, these themes have given us a compelling reason to develop a unique sound that captures who we are.
What’s a recent case where you especially felt that identity shine through as an inspiration?
Rosas: Our most recent EP was titled Heartwoken, and despite that being the name of 1 of the songs on the EP, we thought it was a really apt and all-encompassing name for our first EP in Los Angeles. The idea of Heartwoken is about hope in the face of defeat: the notion that apparent failure or disappointment lights a bright fire for reinvention, and in many ways, sets you free. This EP came out right after the 2016 election, and during an emotional time of our music career with our first steps in LA. Despite how bleak the environment could seem, I suppose this was our way of pushing forward and keeping faith in ourselves.
What was your experience like finding your way in the rock world in SoCal?
Rosas: We had actually played quite a bit in the US before (especially Austin) and always got a great response from American audiences, but SoCal and LA in particular were pretty different than what we expected. Initially, it was hard to land gigs that were not pay-to-play, and the gigs we did land were often not the kind that had built-in crowds. It was tough going from a comfortable and compact scene in Monterrey, where we had built a decent following, to a pretty spread-out and competitive city like LA where we essentially started from scratch.
That being said, we found some encouraging solidarity with other great bands and little by little played our way up to better stages, and that ball seems to be rolling a lot smoother now. It’s definitely a tough cookie to crack, but as big and daunting as it is, it also provides a ton of opportunities if you know where to look.
Coming off that recent EP, what do we have to look forward to from The Revies in 2018?
Rosas: We’re actually working on a new set of tracks that we plan to put out around March, and we’re really excited to play new material live. So short answer would be a lot more kickass shows. Our plan is to have a West Coast tour in the summer to present that EP, and in the meantime expand our stomping grounds to areas outside of LA. We don’t really know where any of that might lead in the bigger picture, but we really enjoy the ride. So we’ll keep it going as long as we can.
Catch The Revies this Saturday, January 13th at the Rush Bar!
The Naked I proudly call themselves “your mom’s favorite local band,” a label accurate in all the right ways. Ahead of this Saturday’s no-cover showcase at the Rush Bar in Lake Forest, we chatted with lead singer Dakota Ringer about the old-school rock sound they bring to the scene, the artistic music video they just filmed, and 1 very productive shower…
How do you like to describe The Naked I’s sound/themes/ideas for the uninitiated? Dakota: We are a 5-piece rock band that all grew up on classic rock, blues and funk! Those genres are very apparent in our songs, but we like to give them a contemporary kick in order to make them more appealing to a larger audience!
What bands did you really feel the influence of while making your new EP Grin and Bear It? Dakota: I wouldn’t say there was one band that influenced us in particular, but one band we get compared to a lot is the Spin Doctors. Aside from the 2 songs that everyone knows by them (“Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t be Wrong”), they are a RAD jam band with a lot of our same sound; Up-tempo blues rock with a funky rhythm section. We rely heavily on Sean and Alexander (bass and drums) to really spice up our tunes.
What track stands out as starting from an interesting place? Dakota: One of our new songs “Sunglasses Song” definitely has a pretty cliché story attached. The main riff of the song came from a shameless shower-jam session, and as soon as I got out, I grabbed a guitar and wrote the whole song in about an hour or so. It’s a fun, upbeat, beer-drinkin’ party song that I wrote in the shower…
As a band originally from San Diego, playing both there and OC, what do you think makes each of these local scenes special? Dakota: The music scene in Southern California is a tough ocean to wade through! There are so many good bands hidden within this place and you’ve gotta hustle extra hard in order to break through at all. The bands within the scene are so supportive though, no one would ever step on a smaller guy to gain success. They’d rather help the small guy try to grow to their level, because they deserve to be heard!
What do we have to look forward to from The Naked I in 2018? Dakota: 2018 should be a good year for the band! We ended 2017 on a very high note, getting radio play on local stations like 91X and an on-air interview where we got to discuss our album release party at the Casbah on January 15th. We are starting the year off with a bang, releasing our first major EP!
And coming soon is a music video for our new song “Further from Freedom,” which we just wrapped the filming for. The local art scene in San Diego and LA came together to create a music video that would make people think we had a very high budget. We had top of the line cameras, lighting rigs, a professional film crew, and actors willing to work for food! The passion for creating amazing art down here in San Diego is sometimes overwhelming. We are so lucky to have everyone we had working on it and its gonna be a stellar release! Should be releasing within the next couple weeks we believe…
Catch The Naked I this Saturday, January 13th at the Rush Bar!
To put it simply, a lot of great records came out in 2017. Whether they were smartly-crafted critical darlings from the indie world, instant chart-toppers that soundtracked the whole world, or a rising OC favorite playing the club down the street next week, we left the year with some real potential classics in our libraries. So naturally, a handful of us at OCML want to go over the albums we obsessed over the most, locally or otherwise. We also included plugs to each team member’s socials or other projects, for if you really like what they had to say. Enjoy the lists, and here’s to an even better 2018!
5) ’68 – Two Parts Viper
Subverting everything you thought you knew about garage rock duos, frontman Josh Scogin screams his brains out with the same intensity and abandon as he did in his hardcore past, with some of the thickest, meatiest guitar tones you’ll hear all year. On this sophomore album though, it’s a tighter, more controlled chaos, balanced with subdued melodic moments that add an extra emotional weight. I already wrote about these guys’ live show for my first article on OCML, so you can get more details on what they’re all about there.
4) The Regrettes – Feel Your Feelings Fool!
I was pleasantly surprised to see more female-led acts in my year-end lists than usual, and none exemplify that ethos more potently than The Regrettes. It’s rare that a band establishes themselves this confidently on their debut outing, combining earworm hooks and harmonies reminiscent of 60’s girl groups with righteous punk fury in the tempos and messages. If I made a list of the Top 5 “Get the Hell Away from Me, You Creepy Condescending Dickwad” Anthems of 2017, selections from this record would take up at least 4 spots.
3) Jillette Johnson – All I Ever See in You Is Me
On the other side of the spectrum from the last pick, this is the best soundtrack for quiet introspection you’ll find all year. The organic, deceptively low-key sonic landscape (courtesy of producer Dave Cobb) lends it all the warmness of a timeless country/folk LP, only with more piano and absolutely none of the kitsch. The way she dissects disconnects in relationships with lovers & family members is sure to strike a chord in some way with anyone who listens to it.
2) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Reverb-soaked indie rock can be hard to make stand out track to track, but this Canadian group brings all the variety, songwriting chops and ear-grabbing melodies to pull it off fantastically. Whether sounding like a more energized Beach House or a more chilled-out Regrettes, frontwoman Molly Rankin ties it all together with a dreamy vocal presentation and a charmingly nuanced sense of storytelling. Also a big highlight of Long Beach’s Music Tastes Good festival in 2017.
1) Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Coincidentally, I’m bookending this list with garage rock duos, but comparatively Japandroids bring more motivation than madness. 5 years removed from Celebration Rock and these guys (also Canadian, also coincidence) pack that same earnest anthemic bombast into another 8 tracks and 35 minutes. This is music to take that next step and make a bold life decision to, only with a wider sonic palette to dissuade any detractor who called them one-note. Welcome back.
5) Ghost Key – If I Don’t Make It
One of post-hardcore’s best bands finally made a new album, and it couldn’t be any better. From chuggy hardcore riffs to incredibly sad lyrics, this is the album to listen to when depressed….or happy….or when driving…..basically whenever.
4) K.Flay – Every Where Is Some Where
K.Flay is an incredibly talented singer and rapper. This breakup record will hit you in the feels, and make you regret any bad thing you’ve ever done in a relationship. It’ll leave you texting your exes at 2:16 a.m. telling them you’re sorry for that one thing 6 years ago.
3) Bleep Bloop – The Fifth Pupil EP
One of the most disgusting bass producers out there. Santa Cruz’s Bleep Bloop produced this EP that will take you straight to bass hell and leave you ghost rolling for days. If you want to know what a dark acid trip feels like, listen to this EP.
2) IDK – IWasVeryBad
This is THE rap/hip-hop record of 2017. He used to go by Jay IDK, but shortened it to just IDK when he released this album. One of the most heartfelt stories you’ll hear in any rap album this year. Some songs are hip-hop, some songs are a little more R&B, and some are just straight trap.
1) Fit for an Autopsy – The Great Collapse
By far the best heavy record of the year. Fit for an Autopsy have always been a great deathcore band, but with this record, they matured into one of the best metal bands in the U.S. If you’re a fan of heavy music, you’re a fan of this record.
5) 2 Chainz – Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
This album takes the new age beats and puts context to the trap music scene. Overlooked for not being heavy melody driven, and repetitive with the lyrics.
4) Aminé – Good for You
Great original artist and humble performer. His style and delivery remind me of 90’s hip-hop. For that reason, he was overlooked and only known for his single “Caroline.” Saw him live at The Observatory, and he wasn’t singing over vocals, which is sadly rare with new rappers.
3) Khalid – American Teen
This Canadian rapper is affiliated with Lorde and shows that young men aspire for more than sex, money, and women. American Teen is a refreshing album from a new generation that is looking for love.
2) Kelela – Take Me Apart
This woman brings back the true style of R&B. Smooth beat with powerful words is what she presents. A great album for a date night, and for when you end up back at the house. One of the new R&B artists of the year that big things should be coming from.
1) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
This album has set a standard to the hip-hop music scene that many choose not to acknowledge. The album tells two different stories that can only be heard listening to it forward and backwards. Lyrically amazing album with rap DJ icon Kid Capri laying vocal intros. Great album if you’re looking to find some conscious hip-hop music in a day of mundane lyricists.
5) AJR – The Click The Click is an incredibly impressive feat when you consider that the entire album has been written, arranged, composed, and produced by three brothers in their twenties. The opening track “Overture” beautifully sets up the mood of the entire album by mixing every song on the album onto one track. Though the album does suffer from a few what I presume to be “filler” songs, every subsequent song feels new, exciting, and refreshing. I can only hope that AJR continues to successfully combine orchestral grandiosity to the modern electropop times.
4) Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
Tyler has finally created an album where every song feels purposeful and so incredibly personal to him as an artist. Whereas in albums past, Tyler has brought his “fuck it” persona forward, Flower Boy feels so intimate and raw. From the hard hitting “Who Dat Boy” to the softness of “See You Again,” Tyler shows us we’ve still got so much to learn about him.
3) Daniel Caesar – Freudian
If butter spread thinly onto a just-out-of-the-oven loaf of bread was transposed into music, the result would be Daniel Caesar’s Freudian. There seems to be a very thin line for R&B artists to walk across to keep their work from sounding “cheesy”; Daniel Ceasar has managed to pole-jump the line altogether. Each song dumps onto the next in smooth transition, and I found myself not even realizing when the next song began. So the next time you find yourself overlooking the ocean, or passing by buildings on the train as the sun sets, pop in this album and you’ll be sure to end up feeling at peace.
2) Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
There is no other album that has made me want to dance, belt out, groove, and plain old have a good time like Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. Bruno Mars has ushered funk back into pop, and I for one am so here for it. He already showed us he’s got the voice in his past work in power ballads, but 24K Magic cemented that he’s got the rhythm and energy to be the next Pop God.
1) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
What can I say about Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album that hasn’t been said ad nauseum already? When you’re at the top of your game, there seems to be nowhere to go but down (see Drake’s More Life), but Kendrick has managed to beat the odds and reminds us why he’s “king.” DAMN. has the ebb and flow in the arrangement that lets you belt out hard-hitters like “HUMBLE.” and take a breather for softer songs like “LOVE.” He takes subjects like “LUST.” and “PRIDE.” and tells us what they mean to him. Just like the finality of the period and the intensity of the capitalization, DAMN. is a masterpiece of lyricism, production, and composition.
5) The Shins – Heartworms
A band that I can recognize by just the tone. They continue to do so with this album, and brought a little extra in the background when it came to the music.
4) The XX – I See You
From the songwriting to the vocal melodies, this album really brings you in as a relatable character.
3) Depeche Mode – Spirit
The tone of this album really set it in for me. It’s different and really shows the talent from all parts of the band. Great lyrics as always and really keeps the listener thinking.
2) Tycho – Epoch
This album is beautiful, as its filled with uplifting tracks and can bring a deep connection. You can truly feel the emotion in every track.
1) Bonobo – Migration
A very nostalgic album that really hits your inner soul and puts you in a daze. From the live instruments to the guest vocals, this amazing downtempo/worldly album really shows Bonobo’s talent following all his other albums.
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(Note: List is in no particular order.)
August Burns Red – Phantom Anthem
It goes without saying that one of my favorites was from my favorite band. This is angry music for happy people at its finest.
Gravler – Give Up the Ghost
Close to home because it was the first official OCML Records release. They helped us sell out our first show at the House of Blues Anaheim in The Parish. It’s a perfect mix of modern pop-punk with an old Rise Against feel.
Incubus – 8
Incubus has been a favorite of mine since I was in middle school, and Brandon is one of my favorite lyricists. The lyrical poetry of Incubus is a large part of what inspired me to start writing my own poetry. I finally got to see them at the Hollywood Bowl, and that was a highlight of the year, ending the night hanging with Brandon at the after party.
In Urgency – Painting Parallels
This is one of my favorite local bands by far. This album was stuck on my playlist for most of the fall. If you haven’t heard of them, show some urgency and check this album out on Spotify!
Obey the Brave – Mad Season
I’ve been hooked on OTB for a few years. I can’t deny my love for driving hardcore with good chants and heavy breakdowns. If you’re into that, this is an album for you!
Honorable Mention: MyChildren MyBride – Vicious World