Friday, April 18, 2008

Mini-Interview: The Weather Underground

Mouse from Classical Geek Theatre recently wrote about The Weather Underground that “it's unfair, really, that some bands can play around town for years and years and not be as good as these guys are right now.”

Strong words, to be sure, but the southern-inflected indie rock act will be working to back them up at the release party for their latest EP at The Troubadour next Tuesday night with Aushua, Karin Tatoyan, and Oliver Future. We checked in with singer/guitarist Harley Prechtel-Cortez over AIM to discuss.

RFSL (1:01:28 PM): Harley!
WeatherUnderground (1:01:56 PM): HEY! Salutations.
RFSL (1:02:18 PM): How's it going?
WeatherUnderground (1:02:26 PM): Good. Just writing a little bit here...
WeatherUnderground (1:02:55 PM): You?
RFSL (1:03:35 PM): I'm doing pretty well today. It’s gorgeous out.
RFSL (1:03:48 PM): What writing were you working on?
WeatherUnderground (1:04:38 PM): Believe it or not, I am working on a finishing up a book of short stories...
RFSL (1:05:04 PM): That's great. Do you have a publisher lined up or do you plan to shop it around?
WeatherUnderground (1:06:30 PM): No publisher... I have a few friends who have published random works (poetry, sociology, text books, etc) who want to help me with that later when I feel it is ready…
WeatherUnderground (1:06:51 PM): Days like this it’s really a shame because it’s so beautiful out!
RFSL (1:07:25 PM): I hear you. Writing is a solitary thing, but especially on a nice day.
WeatherUnderground (1:07:31 PM): I generally end staying in writing music and working on stuff...
RFSL (1:08:29 PM): Did you start song-writing or story writing first?
WeatherUnderground (1:09:22 PM): Story writing... I've always written stories, even as a little kid... In cartoons, little rap diddies, and later poetry and prose became very vital and important to me.
RFSL (1:09:48 PM): When did you start writing songs?
WeatherUnderground (1:10:47 PM): Probably when I was 15 or 16 years old....
WeatherUnderground (1:11:08 PM): At least trying to write songs.
WeatherUnderground (1:11:59 PM): I actually couldn't have really considered myself an enabler of song crafting… hehe… until I was about 19 or 20.
RFSL(1:12:56 PM): Were you in a band back then?
WeatherUnderground (1:14:41 PM): Yeah... I grew up in Inglewood and South Central Los Angeles until I went to high school... My mom remarried and we traveled across the country to live in NYC with my new Stepfather... At 16, I had a band in Queens and we'd practice on rooftops and play in a couple of Irish bars in the neighborhood that would have us...
WeatherUnderground (1:14:58 PM): Man, were we horrible!
WeatherUnderground (1:15:05 PM): as you can imagine...
RFSL (1:15:19 PM): Ha, ha. It's like they say about painting, you need to get the bad art out.
WeatherUnderground (1:15:44 PM): Haha... Yes, most definitely.
RFSL (1:15:51 PM): I found a bunch of old high school poetry the other day and I think I'd been listening to too much Danzig.
WeatherUnderground (1:16:05 PM): haha!!!
RFSL (1:16:54 PM): So, how long has The Weather Underground been around? How did you guys come together?
WeatherUnderground (1:16:03 PM): Well, we've been around about three years...
RFSL (1:16:54 PM): How did you guys meet?
WeatherUnderground (1:19:07 PM): Well, I was in a band with an English guy named Ed and we were set to play on KXLU fm for one of our first shows... But Ed had got his visa denied (father in the UN) and moved back to England... Sho, my cousin, didn't really play guitar very well but I asked him if he could help me out cause I didn't want to cancel the show and I'd teach him the parts... He's a way better guitar player than me now...
WeatherUnderground (1:21:51 PM): Ryan, our bassist, had an ad out looking for a guitarist or something and his influences seemed perfect so i called him and he was confused as he was the one looking for a member...but he came in an Sho and I really took to him...he had a great charismatic energy that we needed...'cause we didn't really know what we were doing or going to do... so with in 3 days of rehearsing with Ryan and Sho we played our first show live on the Radio, KXLU, and ...
RFSL (1:22:08 PM): Was that on KXLU’s Demo Listen?
WeatherUnderground (1:22:14 PM): It was Noise Pollution i think...
RFSL (1:22:32 PM): Ah, cool. Such a great station. They've done a lot for local music.
WeatherUnderground (1:23:01 PM): Yeah, indeed they have...
RFSL (1:24:54 PM): And how did things go from there?
WeatherUnderground (1:25:28 PM): Well, we've all just grown as best friends and the chemistry has just always been there for us... Diego came about two years ago from the Bay Area ... A friend of a friend who told him he would be perfect for our band... and he was.
WeatherUnderground (1:27:09 PM): The first year and a half was really just playing and getting used to each other playing live... Then we finally started to just fire on all cylinders and decided to tour and finally release material that we found ourselves very excited about.
RFSL (1:28:06 PM): Speaking of releasing material, you have an EP release show at The Troubadour next Tuesday.
WeatherUnderground (1:28:42 PM): Yeah for our third EP, Bird in the Hand.
WeatherUnderground (1:28:53 PM): Very excited.
RFSL (1:30:10 PM): Excellent. Who are you playing with again?
WeatherUnderground (1:30:49 PM): Oliver Future, Aushua, and ...
WeatherUnderground (1:31:05 PM): Karin Tatoyan.
WeatherUnderground (1:30:01 PM): You should come...
RFSL (1:31:25 PM): That's a great line-up.
RFSL (1:31:31 PM): Definitely be there.

WeatherUnderground (1:31:35 PM): Fantastic.
WeatherUnderground (1:31:45 PM): Yeah, it should be a great night.
RFSL (1:31:47 PM): So I know I'm retreading some ground that Kevin Bronson at The LA Times already covered, but you mark your influences as Kerouac, Dylan, Camus, Ginsberg and Basquiat.
WeatherUnderground (1:32:02 PM): Yes.
WeatherUnderground (1:32:13 PM): Andre Breton...
WeatherUnderground (1:32:37 PM): And in my opinion one of the best poets of the 20th century... Bob Kaufman.
RFSL (1:32:24 PM): I can see why you guys get along with Mikel from Airborne Toxic Event.
RFSL (1:33:26 PM): Who is also a big reader. (I'm probably going to edit this line later to make it sound better...)
WeatherUnderground (1:33:29 PM): Yeah, Mikel is a big sweetheart... Saw him at our last show at The Echo... He loves the fact that I read a poem at our shows from time to time.
RFSL (1:33:40 PM): I don't know Bob Kaufman!
WeatherUnderground (1:33:51 PM): oh man amazing!
RFSL (1:34:15 PM): Will have to check him out. Been on a big non-fiction kick lately and need to diversify.
WeatherUnderground (1:34:17 PM): His wife wrote almost all his works for him as he recited it... She wrote it in short hand.
WeatherUnderground (1:34:26 PM): And later transcribed it...
WeatherUnderground (1:34:36 PM): A real rebel. The real thing.
RFSL (1:34:44 PM): So how would you say that they influence your work?
WeatherUnderground (1:35:38 PM): Well me, personally, lyrically I like to encapsulate a story or some sort of vignette in our songs...
WeatherUnderground (1:36:45 PM): I think the ethos of having the mad men and rebels always there by your side really keeps me/us afoot... Especially when the horse has broken and we must tread lightly...
WeatherUnderground (1:37:29 PM): Currently reading Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises.
RFSL (1:37:40 PM): I just listened to the book on tape on a road trip last week.
WeatherUnderground (1:38:00 PM): Really... Did you like it?
RFSL (1:38:01 PM): My favorite from him is For Whom The Bell Tolls.
WeatherUnderground (1:38:56 PM): To my shame I have only read Old Man and The Sea from him... but I am really excited about this story so far.... and plan on reading For Whom The Bell Tolls after…
RFSL (1:39:29 PM): I liked The Sun Also Rises. It's younger Hemingway, so it reads a bit more like him writing his own experiences and trying to capture the time.... the whole Lost Generation. It's good, but I love some of his later work where he really puts a lot of philosophy into it.
RFSL (1:39:59 PM): I need to read Old Man and the Sea. I was supposed to for a report for school but think I just read the back cover or Cliff's Notes.
WeatherUnderground (1:40:40 PM): haha... Oh Cliff Notes... or clip dotes.
RFSL (1:40:36 PM): I'm a big fan of philosophical writers like Hemingway, Kundera, Cormac MacCarthy...
RFSL (1:40:47 PM): Sorry, don't get me started. I used to work in a library and went to a liberal arts college.
WeatherUnderground (1:41:27 PM): No, I love it, man... My girlfriend is getting her Phd and
WeatherUnderground (1:41:39 PM): I have an uncle who is a librarian...
WeatherUnderground (1:42:00 PM): My biological father is a writer...
RFSL (1:42:34 PM): There's a theory that rock n roll is best when it takes from a lot of different mediums, so it's great that you're inspired by a lot of great authors.
WeatherUnderground (1:43:47 PM): I read as much as i can i find it comforts me to no end... and trust me I will take some titles and names you just put down ...
WeatherUnderground (1:44:06 PM): Next time we talk...
WeatherUnderground (1:44:17 PM): brb
RFSL (1:44:54 PM): Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is a recent favorite. It's kind of an atrocity exhibition, but it's frigging amazing at the same time.
WeatherUnderground (1:45:10 PM): Flipping over the record... My ipod just broke but I got a great record player... Little Richard’s Keep On Knockin’ is on.
RFSL (1:45:20 PM): Excellent.
WeatherUnderground (1:46:00 PM): Oh, shit... My girlfriend has that book right here... That’s so random...
RFSL (1:45:30 PM): So, you guys are going on tour soon.
RFSL (1:45:50 PM): What are the headlights going to be for you? You’re playing with French Kicks, right?
WeatherUnderground (1:47:07 PM): Well, we are heading on some sort of national tour in June...
RFSL (1:47:40 PM): You're just on the west coast first, right?
WeatherUnderground (1:48:11 PM): In May, we will be giving our love to California and heading all over, Santa Cruz, Merced, Modesto, Fresno, San Diego, SF, Sacramento, and LA with a number of those dates being with the French Kicks, who we love... Very excited...
RFSL (1:48:34 PM): That's great. You've got Bonnaroo and the High Sierra Music Festival during that national tour.
RFSL (1:48:52 PM): I was going to ask you what's next for you guys, but I'm sure that's going to keep you pretty busy for awhile.
WeatherUnderground (1:49:26 PM): Yeah... That’s going to be quite a head shaft so to speak...
WeatherUnderground (1:50:15 PM): The great thing too is that Bonnaroo is in TN, and we're planning on going to Memphis, TN to visit Sun Studios !!
RFSL (1:50:26 PM): Wow.
RFSL (1:51:15 PM): Just read Johnny Cash's book where he wrote about those days. That would be great to go there.
WeatherUnderground (1:51:27 PM): Yeah, I personally want to visit Lawrence, Kansas. I heard there is some sort of W. Burroughs museum there...
RFSL (1:51:53 PM): Ha. I have a Mayan hieroglyph off the cover of Burroughs' Ah Pook Is Here on my chest.
RFSL (1:52:01 PM): Most pretentious tattoo ever.
WeatherUnderground (1:52:07 PM): haha...
RFSL (1:52:09 PM): That would also be a great place to visit.
WeatherUnderground (1:52:16 PM): Oh, man... Johnny Cash... Ryan just got that book...
RFSL (1:52:48 PM): Best part of the Johnny Cash book? He wrote that “I was raised right so I knew right from wrong, but there were still times when the Black Dog had its way…"
WeatherUnderground (1:52:57 PM): My mom is from Guatemala and Sho and I just went in Dec...
WeatherUnderground (1:53:40 PM): I climbed many temples and pyramid in Tikal... Man, the ecosystem in that rain forest is just magical
RFSL (1:54:04 PM): That sounds like a dream.
WeatherUnderground (1:54:12 PM): Haha. That J. Cash quote is so great!!!
WeatherUnderground (1:55:05 PM): yeah the whole trip really was...
RFSL (1:55:29 PM): Sounds like you guys are going to have a great trip this summer. That's fantastic.
WeatherUnderground (1:55:47 PM): The new song from the new ep Fight Song for the Desalojos came from that experience, lyrically.
WeatherUnderground(1:56:43 PM): Yeah, we are excited... We've been very blessed and are really just grateful to be together and playing as much as possible...
RFSL (1:57:16 PM): So, hell, man. It's been really good talking to you. I don't want to take up too much more of your time.
RFSL (1:57:21 PM): Just one last question:
RFSL (1:57:31 PM): What are you listening to these days?
WeatherUnderground (1:58:18 PM): A lot of Etta James, Marlena Shaw, Otis Redding, Stax Records compilations...
WeatherUnderground (1:58:28 PM): new records:
WeatherUnderground (1:59:14 PM): love The National’s Boxer...Delta Spirit... Iron and Wine... Richard Swift... Two Gallants...
WeatherUnderground (1:59:45 PM): and i always listen to the two billys....
WeatherUnderground (2:00:24 PM): Billy Childish and Billy Bragg.
RFSL (2:01:11 PM): Right on. Well, that's all I've got for you.
RFSL (2:01:19 PM): Thanks so much for your time!
WeatherUnderground (2:01:20 PM): Great talking to you Joe! Cheers.
RFSL (2:01:30 PM): See you guys on Tuesday night.

- Neal Cassady MP3


Blogger Win said...

seems like you two share a literary fervor. very insightful. great band. thanks for the great read Joe

9:40 AM  

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