Los Angeles’s Tim Foley and Kate Betuel, also known as Cobalt Cranes, are California through and through, from their washed-out, surf-rock undertones to their utterly unperturbed lyrical tone. Coming after an EP and cassette and 7-inch singles, Head In The Clouds, the band’s debut full-length, will be out this year, and we expect it to be flush with the layered style of distorted fuzz-rock that is not unlike that of Jesus And Mary Chain or, more recently, the Raveonettes. CMJ has the first listen of the duo’s new single, “Salvation,” below, as well as Foley and Betuel’s take on the post-garage sound of L.A.
How did the two of you come together to form Cobalt Cranes?
Tim: I had just come back from a trip to New York where I was recording some music. I had some guitars and other instruments at my apartment, and one day I left a bass at Kate’s house. We started writing and recording lo-fi songs in my apartment. We were lucky that the neighbors didn’t mind!
Kate: We met at a party and talked about music and recording all night. Soon after we began to jam together. Tim lived in an apartment in a seedy part of town. His neighbors were not the types who would call the cops. They wouldn’t want them sniffing around. So there were never any noise complaints. He had a guitar amp and full drum kit set up in his little studio apartment. We were so loud! We’d play for hours and began writing songs.
What inspired you to move away from the scuzzy rock ’n’ roll of your EP, In Media Rez, to a cleaner, more expansive pop sound?
Kate: If you stay in the garage long enough you’ll die from the fumes. We were gasping for air. We were ready to get out of the garage, so to speak. In Media Rez laid a lot of groundwork for our sound. I can hear us searching for our identity. Head In The Clouds is the middle ground, the sound we were looking for.
Tim: Our goal was to make a record that we really wanted to listen to. We wanted the songs to have a magical quality that transported the listener to a surreal world. We kept some elements of our garage sound, like crunchy guitars, catchy bass lines and big drums, but wanted to push the limits of what we could do with songwriting and recording.
Your body of work carries elements of garage rock, shoegaze and alternative rock, among others. How do you strike the balance between influence and maintaining originality?
Tim: We wanted to make a record that has elements of everything we love. We experimented with different shades and layers of sound, and drew from nostalgic as well as contemporary influences. The recording process has a lot to do with this blend: We used a combination of vintage and modern techniques to give the record elements of different eras and inspirations. We also do a lot of home recording, so all of the songs blend studio methods and homemade sounds. And when it comes to songwriting, we just try to write songs that we love, without thinking as much about influences or references.
Kate: Our favorite bands always brought something new to the table. It’s easy to be influenced and sound like your favorite band, but where’s the art in that? Our most beloved musicians and bands act as an inspiration to us, not necessarily an influence. I think that’s what makes our sound original. We know we’re done with a song once it sounds like nothing we’ve heard before. There are familiar elements, but you can’t pinpoint it. That grey area is where we like to be and can be the most creative.
On “Devils All Around,” Tim sings about “this made up town.” How would you describe your relationship to L.A. and the role it plays in your music?
Tim: On “Devils All Around” and on this whole album, we did our take on the “L.A. sound.” There are so many inspirations here, but at the same time it’s all made up, it’s make-believe. There’s all of the good and all of the evil in one dazzling, neon-desert oasis.
What’s up next for you two once the album drops?
Kate: We’re going on a spring and summer tour. We have some more videos coming out too. We want to begin recording our follow-up album by the end of the year. It’s already written. I’d like to befriend Jimmy Page and open for Led Zeppelin. We still got nine months left of 2013—let’s make this shit count.
Tim: We have our album release show on April 9 here in L.A., then we’re coming to a town near you! Well, if you happen to live in a town that’s on our tour route. Then we have a May residency back in L.A., and after that we’ll start recording some of the songs that are burning a hole in our hard drive.
Tour Dates For Cobalt Cranes:
04/09 – Los Angeles, CA – Lot 1 Cafe
04/15 – San Francisco, CA – Elbo Room
04/17 – Portland, OR – The Tube
04/18 – Portland, OR – Kenton Club
04/21 – Seattle, WA – Comet Tavern
04/22 – Boise, ID – The Shredder
04/23 – Salt Lake City,UT – Deluxe Bar
04/24 – Denver,CO – Merchant Mile High Saloon
04/25 – Lawrence, KS – Eighth St. Taproom
04/26 – Tulsa, OK – Sound Pony
04/28 – Austin, TX – Beerland
04/29 – Dallas, TX – Club Dada
05/01 – Tucson, AZ – HangArt