Sunny times with La Sera
Ex-Vivian Girl Katy Goodman reflects on musical and spatial influences.
Katy Goodman is reminiscing about her childhood love of country singer Iris DeMent when a skirmish breaks out between her two cats. The singer-songwriter of La Sera admonishes one, Miles, to “chill out, bro.”
It’s a cozy, domestic scene in her Los Angeles home, and one befitting the sunny, beatific vibes of indie rock outfit La Sera’s latest record, Music for Listening to Music to.
Goodman’s husband and bandmate, Todd Wisenbaker, had just stepped out to get an amp repaired in preparation for the five-week U.S. tour they’re currently on. It’s Goodman’s longest tour since 2009, which was with her first band, the influential and critically acclaimed Vivian Girls.
With Music for Listening to Music to, Wisenbaker rose to greater prominence in the band. For the first time, he’s pictured on an album cover. He also makes his La Sera singing debut on three tracks. Goodman sounds just a teeny bit annoyed when that issue is raised, probably for the 100th time, and points out that Wisenbaker has been in La Sera for four years, “almost the entirety of the band,” but concedes that for the first time, the album is “showcasing his voice.”
He’s also partially responsible for the country-ish twang found on much of the record.
“I probably wouldn’t listen to as much country as I do if I wasn’t married to Todd, but I did kind of grow up on country. Or, like, country folk,” Goodman says. “My mom is from West Virginia and her influence on my musical tastes growing up was very country-based.”
That includes the aforementioned Iris DeMent. Goodman says she listened to DeMent’s classic album Infamous Angel every day in elementary school.
Another influence on the album was producer Ryan Adams, who brought the band in for a whirlwind, weeklong recording session in his studio. Goodman first bonded with Adams over their shared love of early ’80s hardcore. Over the years, they’ve toyed with the idea of starting a hardcore band, even going so far as to write a few songs. Those songs are lost now, having lived on a computer that has since died.
Wisenbaker was independently introduced to Adams by Jenny Lewis when he was producing her album, and the two men became, in Goodman’s words, “phone friends.” When it came time to pick a producer for the album, Adams was the logical choice. His response? “Fuck yeah, let’s do it!”
Adams pushed Goodman to let loose with her voice. And for the first time in La Sera history, she also sang live while the guitars and drums were being tracked, which lent a coherent mood and a notable warmth to the 10 tracks. Plus, Adam’s studio lacks high-tech recording equipment.
“It’s all a very analog, old-school studio. Based on the equipment there and the vibe, it was like we were recording an album in the ’70s,” Goodman says. “It was all tape. It was like creepy, weird lamps. … Not a Pro Tools scenario. Very old, L.A. rock and roll.”
Does Goodman, a New Jersey native, think she’ll stay in L.A., a city that’s been so influential on her sound in the last few years?
“L.A. is definitely the background for La Sera,” she says. “I started La Sera and a month later moved to L.A. and it was like that was the next phase of my life, kind of like it started all at once. I feel like I’m still in that phase.”