I love a feel good story. (I mean, I love a feel bad story too, but that's a discussion for another time). When a hero overcomes hardship through strength of will, conviction of character, and just generally being all around kind, you can't help but root for them (and also concurrently feel incredibly bad about what an actual piece of garbage you are in comparison). Girl Tears is the band equivalent of that hero and that story. The punk trio from Orange County is comprised of three of the nicest dudes on the planet, close friends all of whom have real adult jobs and just play music because (how novel) they actually truly love it. As it would happen, our hero's music is also really good: reverb-heavy, noir-ish punk that is catchy and simple while still being interesting. In the movie version, the part where Mike Sniper of Captured Tracks calls up a little band he has never met and asks them to sign to his new label Sinderlyn would be just the mid-point: a kick-off to what would probably a highly-stylized montage scene of punk rock glory. I'm pretty sure that's what will happen in the real life Girl Tears story too.
I chatted with the lovely dudes of Girl Tears about their origins, influences, and what's it like to be an adult playing punk rock.
Words: Yasi Salek
Photos: Alice Baxley
How did Girl Tears come together?
Sal: The short and sweet of it is that we've known each other as friends for some time and all of our past bands and friendship circles would overlap. Eventually, we couldn't take all the teasing and decided to make music together. It's similar to making love, except that you create children (songs) that grow up quickly and that you can leave behind without any regret.
Where did the name come from?
Kam: Someone told me this story about Candy Darling, the transgender actress from the 1960s who died in her 20s, about how when she was on her death bed, someone saw her crying and asked her if she was afraid of death. I'm probably butchering this story, but I think she responded something like "No, I'm not afraid at all. I'm crying because I'm happy to have lived my life and look forward to the next one." or something along those lines. I thought that was so beautiful and poignant. That bravery even in the face of death, something that I am honestly very emotionally crippled by the thought of. I wrote a song about her and called it "Girl Tears", about how someone can cry and it not be a sign of weakness, but of strength, even in the face of imminent death. Later I thought Girl Tears might be interesting as a band name, so we named our band that and changed the song name to simply, "Candy Darling". We also put Candy on the cover of our record. I've told that story to other people who have claimed that it wasn't entirely accurate, and that maybe it had been exaggerated by the person who told me. I don't know. I'll probably never know for sure, but I choose to believe it's true, and that humans can have that kind of strength even in times of despair.
What is your guys' song-writing process like?
Kam: I write a ton of songs, I love writing, trying to capture a thought or an emotion in a little burst of music. It's very emotionally satisfying. I just kind of vomit out songs, ideas, riffs, lyrics, progressions, whatever, and then try and sift through all the ideas to find something that is decent. Then I bring it to the guys, and we flesh it out together as a band and they make it sound good. It's a lot of fun. Definitely my favorite part of being in a band.
What's it like being adult people with real jobs in a punk rock band?
Sal: It's pretty amazing. It's like living a double life. You can compartmentalize the job and band, keeping them secret from one another.
It's like next-level spy stuff. On the practical level, the job pays and the band doesn't, so they balance each other out, and that balance is what keeps the universe in check.
Tristan: I like it. It's definitely strange sometimes, it's like, my whole teenage years all I wanted was to be in a punk band and it never happened. I kinda thought that ship had sailed - but now here I am; 29, married with a 9-5 job, doing it.
Girl Tears has not only a pretty specific sound, but also a very specific aesthetic with the art that Tristan makes for all your visual materials. How important do you think a strong imagery component is to music?
Sal: It's not really necessary in terms of how we approach creating the music itself, but I think it's mandatory in terms of identity. One of my favorite bands EVER is NIN - they have one of the strongest brands out there. As a fan, it's really fun to get engaged by a band that can capture you on more than one level. When the aural, visual and emotional all intersect to become one, you've got something special, and I think that's what makes Tristan's art invaluable to who we are.
You guys played in a more pop-driven band before this. Do you think any of those pop sensibilities ever creep up when you're writing Girl Tears songs?
Kam: Oh totally. Definitely yes. My heroes are like Paul Westerberg, The Ramones, The Undertones, The Nerves, those guys all wrote incredible pop songs.
Sal: Whether it's pop, punk, metal, electro, rap, I think all the best music is inherently "pop". My favorite songs are the type that can capture my attention and get me humming a hook before it ends. That's why I can listen to Charli XCX, Wiz Khalifa, Darkest Hour, David Bowie, and Jackson Five in the span of half an hour. I've got no filter for what's cool, only for what captures my attention. Kam's the kind of songwriter who cuts out all the fluff and gets straight to the meat when it comes to our songs.He's kind of a wizard at knowing how to grab our attention in seconds, and I think that's what good pop music is supposed to be.
Beatles or Rolling Stones? Why?
Kam: The Beatles for me.
Tristan: I was going be snotty and say "The Clash" - but I'll say the Rolling Stones - because Brian Jones.
Sal: We can't afford to take sides in this day and age.
If your music could be featured in any TV show, what TV show would make you guys the most happy?
Sal: Probably Orphan Black. I'm obsessed with the show (the other guys can vouch for this), and the main character Sarah (a punk con-artist from the UK), would totally dig the band.
Tristan: I am going to give the "hip" answer and say Twin Peaks, but I actually really love that show - it's the only TV show I've ever gotten into in an obsessed sort of way.
Kam: I wanna be on one of those shows like The OC. I wanna watch Misha Barton dump some OC bro while listening to "Hate".
What other LA bands are your favorites right now?
Sal: I'm super into Death Lens, Corners, Groms, Cobalt Cranes, and Froth.
Kam:Wyatt Blair and Colleen Green.
Tristan: Adult Books.
What's up next for you guys?
Kam: Doing a West Coast tour with one of our favorite bands, Terry Malts at the end of August, and planning some East Coast dates for October including CMJ in NYC. Our record "Tension" comes out on CD/LP September 23rd through Sinderlyn Records. Really hyped for that. Lots and lots of more shows. Hopefully a guest appearance on The OC.