Week in Pop: Delorean Gray, Loi Loi, TMBG

Sjimon Gompers

Brooklyn's ambassadors of love & purveyors of independent pop—They Might Be Giants, from left, John Linnell & John Flansburgh; press photo courtesy of the band.

Loi Loi

Loi Loi’s Kristie Di Lascio; press photo courtesy of the artist.

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Ushering the world into the evolved future of now is Loi Loi who welcome 2018 with the world premiere of the Jen Meller video for “You May Be” found off the BLIGHT. Records EP Viva La Vulva. Emerging out of the red lit luster are Loi Loi’s Kristie Di Lascio & Johnny Fantastic who craft songs of inspiration for everyone from the saddest girl in the room to the folks that have found their own forms of fascination. The Washington D.C. group highlights the universal power of women through sounds & visuals that elevate femme empowerment against all aspects of adversity. Di Lascio & Fantastic move the conversations of activism & creativity toward evolved new artifices that push the expectations & demands of the the obsolete patriarchies out of the way for a new standard of equality & inspired sense of artistry & duty. Pushing past the dismantled kings & their thrones of phallocentric fallacies—Loi Loi shakes up their world to help others realize the self-evident truths of self-care, self-esteem, self-sufficiency & securities for a brighter future for femmes & non-binary identifying folks.

Jen Meller’s video for Loi Loi’s “You May Be” is centered around a blood red noir motif concept created by Li Lascio where they take the audience to an ominous crimson bathed world of confusion & mystery. Starring alongside appearances from Kate Ida & Sean Barna, Kristie’s song of un-reciprocated imbalances felt in relationships on the rocks are taken to art cinema arenas of elusive expressions & affections involved in aberrated attachments. From the disco-ball walls that reflect the low-lit dark rose lights that are present throughout the entire visual; Loi Loi leads you down to an underground layer that is made up like a clandestine night club created out of the imagination from the most fearsome & fierce suspense thrillers. Aspects of the macabre & horror manifested from Kristie’s lyrical delivery are seen in the Meller’s minimalist visual that hones in on aspects of atmosphere & the sparse red lighting effects. Loi Loi’s subject in the song revolves around the sad girl where Kristie & Johnny work to wake their forlorn protagonist out of the nightmare of being caught in a bad romance of unrequited emotions & unreceived passions. “You May Be” is a song for anyone that has ever been in uneven situations, for everyone that has discovered their relationship was a one way street to anybody that has been searching for a conscientious resolve to break from the bonds that hold you apart from everything (& everyone) that you love in life.

Tell us about establishing Loi Loi with your sibling Johnny Fantastic while working in the Peace Corps.

Well, actually, I was in the Peace Corps about 18 years ago! But during that time I got a chance to start doing music while I was living in China. At that point, we were both starting to get influenced by the music scenes in foreign countries. My parents had a massive record collection spanning all modern decades and so we knew our American and British music well, from doo-wop and disco to grunge, dubstep, and R&B, reggae as well. In China, Wong Fei and Cui Juan were my musical idols and after learning all the Chinese pop songs at Karaoke, I joined a small band of Chinese students—our instruments were so out of tune, but we passionately believed we were rocking out. And we were, because this was pre-online China, when we had one tape store in town. I remember getting a bootleg of Blue Lines by Massive Attack at that store and forcing all the local clubs to play it whenever I visited! And we were one of two bands. We played LA Guns and Hei Bao (Chinese band) covers. I still know every word to “18 and Life“, though I hadn’t really known it well it until I got to China! Johnny was (a few years later) heavily influenced by Russian rock—I think that we were somewhat infatuated with communist and post-communist period rock themes and learning our respective foreign languages (Chinese, Russian) better through their lyrics. Listening to bands like Kino and Aqvarium really made us understand how artists may have survived and made the best of some depressing, oppressive circumstances—through clinging to rock music.

How did locales from China, Spain & so forth further inspire your creative visions?

The kind of music I create leans heavily towards synthpop but with lots of coldwave, industrial noises, strong rhythm tracks, and somewhat unexpected melody choices. It was not the most welcome combination in either China or Spain. In China (years later when I lived there from 2012-2014), people would come out to see us in dark, smoke filled indie clubs by the train tracks and thought we were fun, funny, interesting. But I am not sure that we got a lot of die-hard fans from that simply because we did not fit a mold or familiar genre. Equally, in Spain, people would come out to see Loi Loi but they never quite felt comfortable with the idea of me playing three instruments (keys, electribes) while singing—and there was also a general preference for cover bands with female lead singers. Why wasn’t I just making tons of extra money singing covers for three hours a night? Those years were hard because I had to keep writing and performing to keep Loi Loi moving forward, with much less encouragement and enthusiasm from audiences I played to overseas, versus the openness and enthusiasm shown, and dancing done by audiences here when Loi Loi plays. It’s a sweet, sweet homecoming!

Interested in hearing about the making of Viva La Vulva, the statement behind the EP name and corresponding mission & inspirations.

The Woman´s March inspired this EP title. A few of the songs on the album were in direct response to my re-entrance back to the United States which took place in August 2016, as I moved back from Spain into a very intense period in U.S. history and politics. I had been reading the news but was so steeped in my own relaxed pace of life in Spain that I hadn’t realized how polarized things had gotten back home. I found myself asking everyone around me, How did we get here? and everyone’s responses just didn’t quite satisfy me. And I didn’t understand why there were people—women especially—who were calling people like me who really fiercely fought to find my own independent way, libs, dems, aggressive, and worse. But it’s funny, I felt the same bewilderment when I returned from Peace Corps China in 2002 to post- 9-11 America—it had become a permissive environment for people to admit extreme and exclusionist views, which I always had rejected and which are unequivocally detrimental to all. I felt that same resurgence of support for close-minded, assumptions-based thinking when I came back from Spain in 2016. I poured all of my confusion and anger straight into this EP. When I went to the Woman´s march in January 2017, someone was holding up a sign that read Viva La Vulva! This is a bilingual album with tracks in Spanish and English and so I wanted the title to represent both the tie to Spanish as well as the connection to figuring out how I felt as a woman…as well as my desire to to fly that flag high.

The videos made with Jen Meller bring the music to further kinetic, visual life where the intensity feels even more immediate. What for you is it like bringing your art from sound to the visual medium?

I am a visual and conceptual person—I give free reign to my imagination and I’m often dreaming of what the video storyboard will look like when a song is recorded and done. I’m very tied to my lyrics in that way—there are no lyrics to my songs that aren’t based on reality or reality-based fiction playing in my mind. But I am by NO means a great visual artist, videographer, director, genius of scene and spatial design. Jen Meller is, and what’s more, she brings the aesthetic to the often unusual and ever evolving concepts and storyline I’m trying to communicate in my videos. In “Trying to Remember” (BLIGHT.Records, premiered on All Things Go in November 2017) we used the Snorri Cam to capture these scenes in which I´m running dizzily from a bedroom to a forest, trapped in my own nightmare sequence.

This camera is rigged to my body so that when I was running through the woods, the background was in a chaotic moving state of vertigo, but the focus stayed on my face which was twitching with fear and bewilderment. The Snorri cam was exactly what we needed in order to make this nightmare all too real on film. Jen Meller, in an artistic way, completes my visions and brings all the color and effect to them. She knows how to listen and she knows her stuff when it comes to filming long and short things. She’s done every Loi Loi video, and I can´t imagine working with anyone else!

How was your recent tour through the south and beyond?

It was really, really great. We visited some places that neither of us had ever been to, including Birmingham, Alabama, where the welcome mat was rolled out very graciously by our hosts and we had a large audience who really got into our set. We have to thank The Syndicate Lounge as well as members of the Soft Rock House and the other bands we played with for getting the word out that Loi Loi was coming to play Birmingham on a late Tuesday night. That was pretty special, and afterwards, we got to talk about our music and impressions of the South on a local Blog (The Earth Hotel). We also got to listen to these musicians share their own thoughts on Birmingham and Alabama, and the challenges they face creating a scene that is diverse and inclusive to all. These guys are my heroes, they are really making it happen and standing up against some tough themes and history that, as one of our hosts described, is in the pavement. But they are doing something about it, and I wanted to go down there because I just knew that it had to be so. We also got to play a show near Nashville which was pretty amazing, and connected / played with amazing bands on our tour such as Hudson K, Sarah and the Safe Word, and Brineaboy.

Reflective meditation sessions with Loi Loi; press photo courtesy of the band.

Next moves for Loi Loi?

We are coming out with a full length album (with BLIGHT.Records) slated for Spring/Summer 2018, and possibly touring again in the north/ northwest. I’d love to go back down South again, too!

2018 goals, hopes & activism that you want to drive home?

I can frame it this way- Viva La Vulva was an admission of my experience of bewilderment, loss, and even celebration of that which we still had left after 2016. I believe many people felt this way too, which is why the songs did resonate with many listeners and people we have met along the way in the various places we’ve been to. The 2018 album dives more into that inward experience of picking oneself back up over and over again like dealing with a bad case of vertigo. It’s never going to be the same sequencing as always, and sometimes we just don’t recognize where we are and maybe we’re never going to. But we have to keep living and have to keep fighting. We have to find new things to enjoy as long as we are able to, and hope that next time, the cards will fall into a heart-shaped house. Impossible to dream, but we still do it, don’t we?

Catch Loi Loi playing Washing D.C. tonight January 19 at the Rock & Roll Hotel with Yacht & Alex DB, tickets available here with further information available via Facebook.

Loi Loi’s Viva La Vulva EP is available now via BLIGHT. Records.

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