Chico’s favorite indie-instrumentalists plan their last show
La Fin du Monde is one of the longest-running active bands in Chico. The instrumental five-piece began playing together in 2003 and have been an energetic constant in the local music scene ever since, making a name for themselves with a complex, powerful brand of experimental rock. Yet, despite the band’s very active creative presence—marked as much by a penchant for organizing eclectic local shows featuring some of the most exciting touring bands (everyone from Giant Squid to Judgment Day) as they were for their own bombastic live performances and well-crafted recordings (three albums and two EPs)—the Chico News & Review has never done a proper feature on La Fin du Monde.
And even now we are just sneaking in under the wire.
With bassist Josh Kinsey moving to Austin, Texas, the band is about to come to an end: La Fin du Monde will play its last show on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the El Rey Theatre. While the local-music community will experience a major change as a huge chunk of the scene’s foundation disappears, the longtime collaborators will be facing the reality of no longer playing in the band they’ve been in for all their adult lives up to this point.
“I’m pretty sad. It’s a bittersweet kind of thing,” said drummer Dan Elsen, adding that after nine years together, “It’ll be strange in three weeks.”
All of the guys in the band grew up in the Paradise/Magalia area, and came together as La Fin du Monde in the aftermath of the breakups of the members’ two different high-school bands—Lurgee and Fenix Down. Those left standing—drummer Elsen, guitarist Adam Scarborough, bassist Kinsey, second bassist Mike Crew and second guitarist Jeremiah Root—initially were just going to do LFDM as a temporary project, but encouraged by positive audience responses, the new band stuck.
After guitarist (and occasional vocalist—yes, LFDM had a few vocals way back in the day) Root left the band after a few shows to join the Marines, Chris Roberts joined and solidified the permanent line-up.
Scarborough praised Roberts as being one of the keys to the bands development, citing his classical-music background and “technically difficult” style for pushing them to get better at their craft.
And it is definitely a craft, one that they worked at religiously one day a week over the course of the band’s existence. From the start, LFDM tried to eschew playing to any one genre. Even though they’ve been described as experimental, post-rock, math-rock, jam-rock and even metal, they never deliberately wrote in any of those styles. They simply agreed to say, “Let’s not set up any rules,” Elsen explained. “We didn’t feel like we could define the music. It’s obvious that it’s just weird rock.”
As the band progressed, the process of writing their often long and rhythmically complex compositions started to change. Instead of the guitarists each coming in with semi-fleshed-out tunes, the band started presenting one idea at a time and just building from there, with everyone adding on parts until they were satisfied that the song was done. “It’s painstakingly composed,” said Elsen. “[And] it’s very linear—point A to point B.”
The approach itself, writing as a collective, has been key to the invention and creative spark. “What other people are playing will change the way that you’re playing,” said Roberts. “In the early days it took five to six weeks” to write a song, Elsen added. “Now it [can take] three to four months.”
And all that time working together really shows on their latest album—the just released Embers, recorded at Louder Studios in Grass Valley with well-known engineer Tim Green (who has recorded everyone from The Melvins to Wolves in the Throne Room). The eight-song CD is a shape-shifting beast, with two songs over nine minutes long and one, “Grey Skies Shade Bombs,” breaking the LFDM record for epicness with nearly 13 minutes of sustained sonic exploration.
The final show will also be a dual CD-release party, for both Embers and an EP of previously unreleased first recordings made in Elsen’s kitchen.
Even though it wasn’t logistically possible for the final show to take advantage of the synchronicity between their band name (which translates as “the end of the world”) and the apocalyptic hoopla surrounding 12.21.12, they will nonetheless be going out with a bang a couple weeks before the world follows suit. In addition to CD releases, they’ll be filling up the stage in the grand El Rey Theatre with some of their longest-running local musical friends—The Americas, Aubrey Debauchery, West by Swan—as well as playing two long final sets of their own.
“We’re all friends,” Scarborough said. “We’re not leaving on bad terms. Life happens. We’ve had a good run.”