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The Funeral Party

6 Apr

Photo by Jeremy Adams via MySpace

Swagger might come easy to New York City rich kids like Julian Casablancas, but when you are from hard-scrabble East L.A. like dance punks like The Funeral Party, you have to fight for it. The Funeral Party are opening for Casablancas at First Avenue Thursday night, which is a rise in prestige from the explosive backyard shows where they cut their teeth and built a rep as a fast-playing, hard-dancing mash of Southern California punk and New Wave, but when talking to lead singer Chad Elliott, he almost waxes nostalgic about those shows. The crew debuted their Bootleg EP in 2008, getting buzz from MTV and the Los Angeles Times and have their first full-length on the way this summer from RCA. CakeIn15 caught up with Elliott to talk about those first backyard shows, getting pissed off at The Rapture and being from Whittier, CA, former home of Richard Nixon.

CakeIn15: How did the band form?

Chad Elliott: We all knew each other in high school and we met one day, I got hit up by [James Torres] the guitarist, he asked me to join his band and he told me that he had a bunch of members so I joined his band and I found out then that he had nobody and couldn’t play anything. I was in a band previously with [Kimo Kauhola] the keyboardist and [Tim Madrid] the bassist, and so I suggested them. When I was asked to join the band, I was asked to join as the keyboardist and the guitarist was singing and we kind of recorded something, because he couldn’t really sing, so we recorded something to tell him in a nice way, “Hey, this is what you sound like,” so I just became the singer by default.

C15: You started off playing backyard shows, how has the audience changed now that you are on the road?

CE: Nothing really compares to a backyard show as far as playing on stage because when you are playing a backyard show you are in the midst of it, it’s fucking crazy, I can’t even think of any place that would have a vibe like that. But audiences still respond in the same way, but they’re not really in your face. I remember we would play backyard shows and we would have to push people because they would push towards us and they would start knocking out stuff down, so we had to play faster or our shit would get torn apart.

C15: That’s the real motivation for playing fast, making sure you don’t lose an amp in the process.

CE: Yeah, or an arm.

C15: One of your first tracks get attention was the confrontational “NYC Moves To The Sound Of LA”; how’s that playing out now that you’re on tour with the quintessential 21st century New York rocker?

CE: He’s actually pretty cool. When we wrote the song it was more of a “Fuck You” to a band that we kept getting compared to, The Rapture. I really like the old Rapture stuff but I got kind of pissed off that they don’t claim they’re from San Diego, which is where they originated from, all of a sudden they’re a New York band, so I just thought it was kind of stupid and I was like, “Fuck this,” and, “Fuck that.” Julian came up to us and said, “I’m surprised you don’t claim you’re from New York,” and I was like, “Well, we gotta make sure our shitty town has something to be proud of.”

C15: What else does Whittier have to be proud of?

CE: It used to claim Richard Nixon, but once the scandal happened they took down the signs, it used to say “Whittier Welcomes You, Home of Richard Nixon,” but it doesn’t say that any more. To be honest, we fucking have nothing.

C15: Which is a good reason to make music, if you have nothing else to do.

CE: Yeah, seriously.

C15: If you weren’t making music, what would you be up to?

CE: I don’t know. Probably back then we’d be selling drugs or something. Making music? I know none of us thought about going to college. Making art? Making a movie? I don’t know, something else.

C15: Where else have you enjoyed being out on the road?

CE: I really enjoyed the UK when we went, personally, a lot of the bands that I like and look up to come from over there.

C15: Which bands?

CE: I like a lot of older bands, like 80s New Wave sound came from over there and David Bowie’s from there, Brian Eno and all those came from over there.

C15: How does their music influence your sound?

CE: We all have different influences, everything meshes together and that’s how our sound has developed. I try to put in as much of my influence as I can, but it’s not that evident, you couldn’t really hear a David Bowie reference in one of our songs.

C15: What was it like to go and record in The Mars Volta‘s studio for your debut EP and then again for the full-length?

CE: It was cool. We recorded our first demos there, but we didn’t go into the studio, we recorded in the storage room because we couldn’t afford it. The guy who recorded us [Lars Stalfors, engineer for The Mars Volta], saw us at a backyard and was like, “I really want to capture what you guys sound like right now, so I need to get you in a studio, can you get into the studio?” So we had to scrounge up all money that we had and we did it really, really low budget. It’s cool though, it was a cool experience. I remember there was a train that passed by and every time the train passed by we had to stop because it would pick it up on the mics, so pretty funny. Going back in the nicer part of the studio was a pretty cool experience, there was couches and stuff, it was totally different.

C15: Did you take the band name from The Cure song?

CE: Yeah. The story was I went over to my friend’s house and she was listening to that song and I walked in- she’s a really good friend of mine so I could just walk in- I walked in the room and she was laying down listening to it and I was like, “Jesus Christ, this is so fucking depressing, what fucking song is this?” And she was like, “It’s “The Funeral Party” by The Cure,” and it just clicked in my head, and I was like, “That’s it, I’ve got the name!” I ran home and I called the guitarist and told him I got the name and everybody was not excited and they were planning on changing it but we just got lazy.

C15: If you’re in a dying suburban town and trying to stay up, you could do worse than “The Funeral Party.”

CE: Yeah, everyone’s got different views on it. Another reason we used it too was because there were a lot of metal bands and a lot of hardcore stuff going on and to trick people into coming to see us play, we picked a name that would sound reminiscent that we were a hardcore band.

C15: Is there tension between the hardcore scenes and dance band kids in Whittier?

CE: Well that shit all died. I think everyone in Whittier is popping E and raving out, that was like in the beginning when we were starting but it’s all changed now.

C15: Is it 1992 in Whittier?

CE: Yeah man, it’s 1992.

C15: That’s scary as hell.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. 22tracks – blog » Funeral Party love to mess around with a sound - May 14, 2010

    […] with the L.A. sound,” sings Chad Elliot, while his bands sounds a bit like The Rapture. Speaking to Cake In 15, he […]

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