Week in Pop: Baywitch, Laurel Saints, unhappybirthday

Sjimon Gompers

Stockton sons Laurel Saints, from left, Jose Medina & Marcos Gonzales; photographed by Jameel Rasool.

Laurel Saints

Laurel Saints from left, Jose Medina & Marcos Gonzalez; photographed by Jameel Rasool.

The Stockton, California sector & legacy is alive & well here in the summer of 2017. A scene that was spawned around a power clique of creative childhood friends based out of their hometown, to the greater Bay Area & up toward Seattle continues their own paths of proliferation where everything from rudimentary to elaborate pop methodologies are championed by one another in a compendium of encouragement & unlimited support. Despite the state of the independent & DIY struggles in the face of limited monetary means & dwindling showcase spaces & venues; those that call the 209 area code home illustrate a staying power that inspires not only the sprawling west coast, stretching outward to the east seaboard, overseas & more that casts a reflective glow & shine across each of the shining seven seas.

And this is not be accident, nor by some sort of A&R/PR design or setup but based on a tradition of lifelong friends who have remained committed & dedicated to supporting one another through all the ups & downs. Introducing Laurel Saints, an offshoot from Surf Club comprised of members Jose Medina & Marcos Gonzalez who have graced us with the world premiere of their remarkable debut single, “All of Us” available today from Beko Disques. This is the latest chapter of sophisticated sounds to emerge from the formally connective artists of great distinctions that include (but certainly not limited to) Craft Spells, Baseball Gregg, Satan Wriders, Nicholas Fisher, Confident Hitmakers (fka MLTD), Boy Romeo, Monster Treasure, Kismet Aura, Loftons, and so many more that compromise one of California’s most storied cliques (as detailed in Impose’s “The Stockton Report“). A generation of devout DIY believers that saw the rise & fall of makeshift spaces (the Stockton underground prospered over the past decade by playing after-hours at thrift stores, restaurants, closed storefronts, etc); the tight-knit crew wield whatever instruments of inspirations that allow aspirations to win in the face of all odds.

Laurel Saints’ Jose & Marcos arrive with a fanfare of their own arrangement & choosing. With incredible cover pop art created by Jess Krichelle (iconic multidisciplinary artist from Crescendo, UNBLOOM, etc), the aesthetic of “All Of Us” is already seen in the reclining figures posed around a trinity of exotic potted plants that invite you to enter the elusive wonder of what is truly one of the most gorgeous songs of the summer. Having cut their teeth with Craft Spells/Surf Club luminaries Justin Paul Vallesteros & Frankie Soto—Laurel Saints do not take the subject of pop sainthood lightly and embrace an inclusive & natural order that shines a light on where Jose & Marcos have been with some fascinating indications about where their headed. Working to perfect the perfect arrangement of keyboard to guitar relationships & ratios; “All Of Us” is a beckoning call for all to attend a table of timeless friendship & kinship among artists sharing & comparing notes & techniques that ultimately build & lift one another up as one massive transcendent group. Laurel Saints embody the ethereal paths of infinity that will remind you why you fell in love with pop music to begin with. “All Of Us” is the ultimate ballad of the band that balances inward woes & fears with a shared state of collective consciousness that extends open arms that reaches out to fellow fans & artists with an overwhelming intuitive & psychic sense that we’re all not alone. Laurel Saints have arrived to save our souls. Right after the following debut, we caught up with Jose Medina to talk about their new big anticipated single in a candid interview featured after the jump.

Jose, I remember last New Year’s eve you were super excited to share demos of what would ultimately become Laurel Saints. Describe the origins of how you and Marcos first began this new musical outfit.

Well, we sort of have always shared ideas for songs since playing in Surf Club that were slightly distanced from that projects core. Back in 2015 I was living in Berkeley finishing up school, and Marcos was in Santa Cruz, so we both ended up with separate rosters of material that we wanted to stitch together at some point. Eventually, Marcos decided to come up to Oakland and we immediately began trying to make some sense of this new outfit.

Having also played in Surf Club, how has that experience informed Laurel Saints and also too, how have your fellow Stockton peers further inspired your latest creative endeavors?

Perhaps it’s appropriate to say that it was a transitional experience. I think it served as a transformative opportunity. Most of our music then had a guitar centralized direction where everything else felt secondary, I think largely because we were heavily motivated by older and contemporary shoegaze bands. However, even back then, the both of us were already listening to a lot of other material away from “shoegaze” and “dream-pop” that seemed to parallel other ideas for different projects that perhaps wouldn’t have well suited Surf Club. We grew very a kin to wider stereoscopic instrumentation and sounds such as the latter work of Tatsuro Yamashita, Prefab Sprout, New Edition, Junko Yagami and other older new wave artists, and with this came the movement towards piano centralized writing. We actually share a lot of new findings with each other, our friends Frankie Soto and Justin Vallesteros have an incredible ear for this, and so that has helped us discover new avenues and sounds that really make you say, shit, I need to fuck with this.

Laurel Saints & Surf Club’s own Jose Medina; photographed by Jameel Rasool.

What can you tell us about other Laurel Saints recordings that in the works?

For now we can really only say that we hope to cultivate a trajectory in our music. There are songs and sounds we would like to share, but I think we have to “progress” into that. Some of these songs are still slightly what we didn’t want to in a sense, end up doing, but in time I suppose. Right now we’re working on possibly getting an EP out later this year, it’s been a lengthier process but we don’t really want to rush out anything that isn’t true to ourselves.

Provide us with insights into how the two of you collaborate on Laurel Saints songs.

Mostly we sit and “jam” out ideas that we bring to each other on a keyboard and guitar, but since we both know enough on different instruments, we also take lead on separate songs and finalize them together, and it’s crucial that we work together at some point. You’d be surprised at the uncertainty and time you’ll spend scrolling through sounds on a synth or VST, so having someone to revisit a song helps solidify things, we share “writing” and “producing” roles.

Laurel Saints cover art created by Jess Krichelle.

Those chords that you two employ are very haunting & memorable; how is this achieved?

On a piano, chord voicings and transitions are more expansive than we’ve been able to accomplish just using a guitar, and a lot of times those piano voicings develop a surprising translation and relation once you bring in other instruments. A large contributor towards the move to piano based song writing was the elasticity and ability to create songs with more expanded chord sections, colors, and openness to varying emotional perception.

What is the story behind the inception for the single “All of Us”?

Well, I think at times our own insecurities make it quite difficult for us to vocalize and convey an accurate manifestation of our current state of mind. However, it was through long and meaningful talks with a wonderful person and friend of mine, Annie W. Kastler, that I realized she was beautifully able to capture something that I was trying to express musically, I just felt this natural gravity towards her and wanting to collaborate. Annie, fortunately, was open to the idea, and the end result was not just a representation of my own personal narrative, but also something that’s open enough for others to mold into their own experiences.

Other artists and groups you two would like to recognize?

The last releases from Porches, Ablebody, Tamaryn, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were absolutely great. I really admire when an artist or band is able to create a degree of emotional depth and variance in a song that can be experienced differently, rather than “bluntly telling” the listener how to feel. Porches in particular has been captivating, they’re the sort of band you can really just dance to, but experience such beautiful and transcending sentimental modalities.

Summer & fall hopes & dreams?

For now just finish and release more music, hopefully play some live shows by the end of the year!

Laurel Saints debut single is available now from Beko Disques.

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