Echo Park outfit Corners may have a hard to Google name and minimal available biographical info, but they are slowly making their mark in the Los Angeles music scene alongside pals like Froth, Adult Books, and Wyatt Blair (all of whom share the same Lolipop Records label affiliation). I talked to Tracy Bryant, Robert Cifuentes, Rick Mabery, and Jeffertitti about their influences, their new record, and playing post-punk in a post-internet age.
Words: Yasi Salek
Photos: Alice Baxley
Let’s start with the boring stuff. How did you guys meet?
Tracy: Well, we all met years ago. We all grew up pretty close to each other out in the valley, and were kind of reacquainted through music. Robert was working at KXLU as an engineer there, that’s where Ricky and I re-met him when we played live there. We all had moved to Echo Park, pretty simple story I guess.
Where was the part where someone said: hey, let’s all start a band?
Tracy: The band was already kind of in motion a bit, and it kind of came together when everybody fully joined in late 2011.
So three of you are sound engineers.
Tracy: Pretty much. These other guys all do recording and engineering.
Tracy: Not professionally. I’m capable though.
Do you think that has shaped your sound, having so many engineers in the kitchen, so to speak?
Jeff: Definitely. That’s what’s exciting about it to me. Tracy made the first record by himself. Rick and Robert are engineers, I do recording. I feel like everybody is thinking about the music in a different way than just playing shows. We all have that understanding of sound.
Robert: It sure would be nice to have a bigger kitchen!
Let’s say you have to describe your band to someone who has never heard it by comparing it not to another musician, but to a TV show. What TV show does your band sound like?
Jeff: Probably Doogie Howser. No, maybe Quantum Leap.
Robert: Yeah that’s pretty accurate. Quantum Leap. Let’s go with that.
Someone told me that one of you guys mentioned in some conversation that you are taking your music in a more post-punk direction, as opposed to I guess, I don’t know, psych or whatever it has been.
Tracy: Yeah, I think at the beginning it was more Velvet Underground influenced, and then when we all kind of got together, and we were all making songs together…Joy Division was a band we all connected on and had always loved since high school. That’s just what we’ve been getting into. The new record that’s coming out is definitely more of a post-punk record. We added synth, synth is a big part of the new record. The songs are more bass driven than guitar driven, and we did that consciously.
Was there some measure of wow there are so many psych bands right now, we don’t want to be one anymore?
Robert: Kind of.
Rick: Honestly we weren’t really a psych band. We were more of a primal rock n’ roll band, with a surfy style.
Jeff: I think that word “psych” gets used so much it’s almost disgusting. Usually if you go out to see a concert around here, these people are amazing musicians and all, but a lot of the music kind of sounds the same. I think we’re probably consciously trying to avoid what’s so trite right now. It’s boring. Even if it’s good, if you hear the same thing over and over it’s not going to be as exciting as something that’s new in some way. That’s a goal of mine at least, to do something that’s new and exciting.
Tracy: I don’t think it was so deliberate. I think it’s just that’s what we listen to, and we want to make a record that we want to put on, that we want to listen to.
Rick: It’s definitely the common ground.
Tracy: We’re influenced by late 70s punk and early 80s post-punk and stuff like that, so we went in that direction.
Do you mind if I ask how old you are?
Tracy: I’m 29.
Rick: I’m 25.
Robert: I’m 27.
Jeff: I’m 31.
That’s actually really interesting in terms of shared influence. There’s this whole idea about a post-internet generation, which you, Jeff, and I are not a part of, but the rest of your band is. Tracy, you’re kind of on the cusp I guess?. There’s something about growing up with so much access via the Internet to every type and genre of music, as opposed to people who are a bit older and spent their youth more fixed in one scene or another.
Jeff: Yeah, or like whatever record you get, you would listen to the shit out of because it wasn’t so easy to click and get so many others.
Exactly. So do you find that to come up in your band, in between you guys, in terms of how you write songs and what influences everyone brings to the table?
Robert: I don’t think so. I think here in Echo Park, there are a lot of bands, and there’s this really healthy competition. I think we made a choice to add instruments and buy musical recording gear that was different in its nature, not something you could just pick up at Guitar Center or whatever….I did a lot of research trying to figure out what bands were using say back in the 80s, and what kind of interesting sounds you can create with that stuff. I think creating music with older instruments kind of helped us find what we were looking for. And also just us wanting to get away, wanting to be different and better, and to push ourselves.
Rick: I think we just felt it was a time for change, and we just kind of came up with new songs that just sounded different.
Jeff: Also it would be worth mentioning that the new record is called Maxed Out On Distraction. So that’s kind of what it’s about. The internet age, where you can be so ADD even in terms of what kind of art you’re taking in or what music you’re listening to, or people that you’re talking to, but not really talking to. I guess we are of the age that we kind of know what it was like before that, and that gives us some grounding in terms of using it as a tool but not being sucked up into this disposable kind of way of life, where things just move so quick and nothing has any meaning really.
I’m so into the fact that we’re having this conversation and "Tiny Dancer" is playing at this diner right now.
Jeff: Totally (laughs).
What’s coming up next?
Tracy: We're touring (with Mr. Elevator and Brain Hotel, Froth, and Wyatt Blair). The record’s coming out October 10th. We have a new music video coming out too.
Corners is on Facebook, Bandcamp, and Tumblr, and on tour starting this Friday. Check out the dates to the left.