‘Noise is the answer’
HEALTH makes its case loud and clear
When I used to work in a record store, I kept a mental list ready to recommend albums to anyone bold enough to take a chance on something new. If I still worked for chicken scratch among the CD racks, Los Angeles band HEALTH and its recent self-titled release would be the first thing I would lead the customer to today.
The best part? It would truly be no gamble at all for the consumer. Everybody wins … especially Chico, when HEALTH lets loose its artful musical violence upon the Crux Artist Collective this coming Monday.
The four members of HEALTH—Jacob Duzsik, Jupiter Keyes, BJ Miller and John Famiglietti—are an important reason the world is waking up to the brilliant music percolating from within the dank walls of celebrated all-ages venue The Smell and out onto the fault-ridden asphalt of Los Angeles. In addition to HEALTH’s success, fellow southlanders No Age recently signed with Sub Pop, while upcoming bands Captain Ahab, Anavan and Abe Vigoda are also attracting attention.
HEALTH has garnered rabidly enthusiastic reviews across the board, from a multitude of rock blogs to Pitchfork favorably comparing the band to the Boredoms, Deerhoof, Liars and Black Dice. The bands cited as sharing commonalities with HEALTH could extend into the twilight and back, as the band, strangely enough, sounds like everything familiar, and yet everything alien all at once.
The schizoid appeal may also come from its combining of electronic music with aggressively unhinged guitar terror. “We are continuing to move in these directions more and more, but one does not threaten to outpace the other. In other words, ‘Yes we are getting dancier; no we are not becoming a dance band.’ Opposing aspects are how we roll,” said Famiglietti.
The split personalities are made more evident as the band releases remixes of tunes and does split-albums with Canadian experimenters Crystal Castles. There’s also an upcoming tour with eclectic electric wunderkinds White Williams and Dan Deacon.
When mentioning the resurgence of great bands in L.A., Famiglietti responds, “It’s been a long time coming. When I moved to L.A. in 2002, the awesome vibe we have now didn’t exist and there wasn’t much local excitement at all. That began to change by 2003 with new bands led by the Mae Shi [excellent noise-pop experimentalists], who are really an unsung catalyst for a lot of what’s going on now …
“By 2005, it really changed—really young local bands formed of Smell volunteers like Mika Miko were attracting a really excited young following, and shows were getting better, bigger and more often. … It kept accelerating from then to now, but it’s not from anyone moving to town. L.A. is not considered a hotspot to move to anymore for young hip people wanting to be special. All of our bands are actually from the city.”
Famiglietti refers to The Smell as “the center of the scene,” and “for L.A. bands, an ‘oasis of awesome’ among shit venues.” The affection HEALTH members have for the venerable site is evident in their choosing to record their album within its walls. The choice was easy for the band, considering the quality of the room’s sound. Famiglietti remembers the experience did not come without its difficulties.
“The gay vaquero bar next door would bump reggaeton from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day, so we would come in to record at 4 a.m. and have to break down that night so as to not interfere with the show schedule. Also, humidity, crazy bums, crazy bum shit, giant rats and thug dudes trying to rob you suck, too.”
Released by indie label Lovepump United (AIDS Wolf, Clipd Beaks) HEALTH’s debut impresses with its limitless ferocity and intuitive attack that.
The album’s opening track, “Heaven,” swirls and escalates, using the band’s own unique invention, The Zoothorn, which melds the microphone and a guitar pedal to reproduce feedback and odd sounds not unlike a steel drum or keyboard. The album’s centerpiece and inarguable classic, “Crimewave,” rides a pummeling wave of tribal drums against churning guitars lacerated by jarring shards of liberated noise. HEALTH has fashioned a memorable debut that predicates a staggering potential and it should be fun to watch the trajectory of what follows.
What HEALTH brings to the forefront might also be what’s needed in the current risk-free culture of rock music. Famiglietti mused, “The only thing lacking, I guess, is that few bands are trying to sound new at all, and many seem afraid of anything fun … like rocking. We think noise is the answer.”