Meet the Cochina Fest bands, part 1

For the better part of the last decade, avant-folkist Chris Payne (aka Whitman) has asked handfuls of his favorite LA bands to join him for the annual Cochina Fest. Boasting an alumni roster that reads like a “who’s-whom” of the best in Southern California’s millennial underground, the festival encourages bands to creatively re-think their approach and utilize acoustic instruments, toys, and even the environment around them to present their tunes in an entirely electricity-free context. In Cochina’s press release, Chris states that the goal of the fest is “not only to poke fun at large corporate festivals, such as Coachella, but to provide a solution to them.”

This year’s installment of Cochina takes place the weekend of June 5 and 6 at Higginbotham Park in Claremont. It’s free to attend, and it features performances by many heavyweights from the Monday night Pehr scene. In the lead-up to the festival, I’ve asked a few of the participants to tell me about what they’re doing to prepare for the lack of electricity at the fest. What follows is part one of a three-part feature, with more bands to be profiled next Tuesday on this site. Make sure to come back on Friday, June 4 for part three, a video playlist of the bands’ favorite moments from the greatest on-going acoustic festival in history: MTV’s Unplugged.

Band: So Many Wizards

MP3: Night Terrors
from the new EP Love Songs for When You Leave Me.

Long Beach group So Many Wizards has been critically acclaimed since their single “Fly a Kite” started burning up the airwaves on KXLU last year. While the group originated as a minimal solo project by songwriter  Nima Kazerouni, it has since blossomed into a three-piece that relies heavily on the powerful drumming of Erik Felix and the emotive guitar and bass of Warren Woodward. I asked Nima about changing things for Cochina, and he wasn’t particularly worried:

“We love to change it up whenever we can. For Cochina, we’re still going to bring the trusty old  battery powered Yamaha PortaSound for songs with keys and of course my acoustic guitar. But we’ll also be introducing some fun children’s toys on some of our more rare songs.  A glockenspiel will also be taking a more pivotal role in the song set. As far as percussion goes, Erik will be stripping down (both physically and equipmentally) and using more parts to strike down on less equipment. Last year on tour, this kind of playing was how we kept it real throughout the various mean streets of this grand nation. Can’t wait to do it again.”

Band: Moses Campbell

MP3: And It’s Over 1
from the album Who Are You? Who Is Anyone?, just released on Static Aktion/olFactory Records.

Similarly nonplussed about the festival is Moses Campbell, a six-piece of incredibly active youngsters who have recently become the darlings of the Smell scene with songs that are more influenced by groups like Neutral Milk Hotel and Belle & Sebastian than they are by the traditional noise and hardcore musics of their Smelly forebearers. Here’s guitarist Miles Wintner:

“We’re used to playing without all our members so rearranging our lineup to accommodate the acousticness isn’t that big of a deal. When Big Whup play without all their members, they are Lil’ Whup. When we do it, we’re Fauxses Campbell! Cochina is going to be particularly special. We all have hamsters, and we’re bringing them to the park to run in wheels and generate our electricity for us. We’re going to plug our amps into potatoes.”

Band: The Monolators

MP3: Anxiety
from 2009’s Ruby, I’m Changing My Number.

Highland Park indie rock stalwarts the Monolators should not be unfamiliar to anyone in the Monday night crowd: Mary and Eli Monolator are regulars at Pehr, and in November of 2008 they even played Carnage-sponsored residency that acted as a retrospective of an illustrious career that predates Cochina itself. The two of them had the following to say about their upcoming trip to Higginbotham Park:

Eli: “We will drink beer and then eat carrots wrapped in seaweed. Then everything will work. I recall one ‘unplugged’ radio session where Mary played some kind of Senegalese bongo and Tom, our guitar player at the time, played his regular electric guitar through a huge ’80s battery-powered boombox that had multicolored flashing lights that blinked on and off depending on how hard he shredded. The lights seemed to flash a lot so I think he shredded pretty hard. We don’t have that boombox anymore, but that would be the ideal–all of us shredding through a boombox simultaneously. I found a cheerleader’s megaphone abandoned in the gutter a while ago, so we might use that. It says ‘Maria Varsity Eagles ’89 on it. Thanks Maria!”

Mary: “When we have played acoustic in the past, I have played snare, Eli played banjo or guitar, Ray played guitar, Ashley played glockenspiel, and Jillinda played accordion. Jillinda can’t be with us at Cochina so we have to do some rearranging but that’s cool. We like trying out new things.”

Band: Manhattan Murder Mystery

MP3: I Can’t Complain
from an upcoming release.

Manhattan Murder Mystery is known for a chaotic and self-abusing stage show that involves quite a bit of movement. Singer Matthew Teardrop wears an army helmet onstage, an accessory that may be a gimmick but might also be a practical measure of protection during percussion-filled freak-outs that often include him flailing himself into the audience. Teardrop says that they’ll pretty much follow their regular formula at Cochina:

“I’m sure whatever we do acoustic will be just as ridiculous as what we normally do. Less electricity, more whiskey!”

Read part 2 of our Cochina coverage

Attend Cochina Fest June 5-6—click here for the full info

And don’t miss the Cochina After Party this Monday—you’re invited!

Nora Keyes
No Babies
John Thill

Starts 9:30pm / $5 / all-ages

Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd., in Historic Filipinotown

See you there?


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