This Monday, September 5, was the six-year anniversary of Sean Carnage’s Monday DIY showcases in Los Angeles, with Dan Deacon and Future Islands headlining a secret show at Pehrspace. Carnage is a large part of the DIY scene in Los Angeles, booking shows every single Monday, currently at Pehrspace, but in the past at the Smell and Il Corral. Openers this week were locals Lucky Dragons and ex-local Jon Barba, with DJ Kyle Mabson on the turntables between sets. The show was hosted by Deacon’s friend Val Kilmer—yes, that Val Kilmer—who pretended to be Hector, an astral planning motivational speaker, who gave out pizza to the long line of people waiting outside the venue before doors opened.
For those of you who don’t know, Pehrspace is an 80-person venue in a Dunkin’ Donuts-sized space located in the back of a strip mall. It’s run completely by volunteers, and ticket sales all go directly to the artists and the space’s rent. The entrance is almost hidden behind a palm tree, and the space could easily be viewed as unoccupied to someone scanning the strip mall parking lot when there aren’t any shows happening. This DIY spirit is great, but it is not as widespread in the city of Los Angeles as it is in Deacon and Future Islands’ Baltimore. CMJ sat down with the Charm City musicians before the show on Monday and talked about the current state of Baltimore’s sound scene.
CMJ: Both of you have an electronic-influenced sound, but now there seems to be a transition into more raw rock sounds with bands like Dope Body. Do you feel Baltimore has a distinct sound, and if so where do you think it’s heading?
Samuel Herring (Future Islands/Vocals): I’d say Baltimore’s really special because I don’t feel like it really does have a particular sound. There are a lot of bands in Baltimore. Maybe it’s a good thing that some of the harder bands are getting some attention right now. There are just some really great bands, younger bands that are coming up, and that’s important in any city that you have a cycle. Dan Deacon has been flying a flag for Baltimore, and it’s allowed bands like us to come up, and now we’re one of the Baltimore bands, but it’s important that a scene replenishes itself. Keeps a cycle going. But I don’t know where it’s headed.
Dan Deacon: I don’t think Baltimore has a sound as much as it has a drive. You have a band like Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and another group like Lower Dens and another group like DJ Dog Dick, and all three of those bands have very different instrumentations and styles, but they’re all within the same community. Baltimore’s not an isolated city, but it’s a city that’s often overlooked and passed over. So it’s a city I feel needs to really bust its ass to get out there and to get known. That’s the drive that gives Baltimore bands that unity. In New York there’s a drive because you need to hustle just to get noticed. In Baltimore it’s different; you are not even in the room to a lot of people. A lot of people are like, “Baltimore?”
CMJ: Dan Deacon and Future Islands did the Baltimore Round Robin tour in 2008 pretty soon after Rolling Stone declared Baltimore to have the best music scene in the country. What’s the importance and the truth to that if there is any?
DD: Truer words have never been spoken.
SH: It’s really important that smaller cities get love for those certain types of things so all the bands don’t move to New York or L.A. and leave their cities or their states. As long as people are putting on shows in their houses then they’re keeping a scene alive and making something happen. [In that sense] Baltimore’s a great scene for music.
CMJ: Is that why Future Islands moved from North Carolina to Baltimore?
SH: None of us could agree on any city to move to in North Carolina. We fought about it. [We] wanted to be somewhere where people were doing things and be a part of something happening. Stuff happens in North Carolina, but we were definitely the weirdos in our scene. Once we moved away, we garnered a lot more respect because we worked hard.
CMJ: Dan Deacon, when you moved to Baltimore, you moved into the Copycat building. How did being in that space influence you as an artist, and what influence does that building have on Baltimore?
DD: I don’t think Wham City would have ever emerged if we hadn’t moved into that particular space. It’s a constantly in-flux and changing building. Some years it will be really dark and there won’t be much going on, but right now there’s a huge vitality in it. At the time when [Wham City] moved there, Jeremy from Ponytail lived there, there were a lot of shows we were putting on, and Nolen from Double Dagger was there too, and now that those things don’t exist in the building there’s this whole new crew. The Dope Body guys live there, and there’s this whole space called the Soft House. But because it’s completely illegal and the landlord hates it, things come and go in waves. They need to exist within a realm of secrecy, but then it gets so popular it’s impossible to keep it secret. So then it needs to stop for a while. It’s like a stagnant pool of water; when it’s full the bacteria gets a chance to grow and there’s more and more bacteria. That’s analogous to the building. When the water lowers, that’s when the landlord comes, and he’s like, “I gotta drain this shit out!” It’s very cyclical. But my music was different before I moved into that building, and it was definitely a huge influence.