If The Ventures, Vivian Girls, and the Shangri-Las all got together and made a record, they would sound like these kids.
Photos by Scott Witter.
If The Ventures, Vivian Girls, and the Shangri-Las all got together and made a record, it'd sound something like this Florida band's debut. Trip Trap Attack (out now on Kanine Records), conjures up memories of flighty summer romances, popsicles dripping sticky sweetness onto sun-screened skin, and just about every other beach-bountiful cliché you can imagine. But, like, minus the corniness.
Singer Kimmy Drake, bassist Natalie Smallish and drummer Skyler Black write songs that combine 50s surf pop, and 60s girl group vocals overlaid with fuzzed up, garage rock guitars. The trio drove straight from a string of shows NXNE Toronto shows to meet me in Brooklyn, where we talked about being from the "other Hollywood," freaking out at the Motown Museum, and gleaning inspiration from jean shorts, leather jackets, and liquid eyeliner.
Noisey: You guys are from Hollywood, not in California, but the Florida retiree town. Can you tell me about it and how it influences your music?
Kimmy: It's like the 50s happened and just stayed there. It hasn't changed, and the people from the 50s haven't died. They're out there in their cars, walking around, on the beach.
Skyler: There's not too much going on besides the beach and houses.
What's the standard Hollywood, Florida look?
Kimmy: Ooh, let's see. Super-tan, leathery skin! Everybody wears shorts, like 90 percent of the time. When I'm there I live in jean shorts and flip-flops, normally we go to the beach all the time.
Skyler: It's super-casual.
Natalie:The older people are probably wearing the same polyester shirts they've had forever too. From the 50s and 60s.
Kimmy: Definitely in polyester. With the same cars! It's kinda cool.
What was the process of getting signed to Brooklyn's Kanine Records, joining the likes of Grizzly Bear, Splashh, and Chairlift?
Kimmy: We were only going for three months, and were sending stuff out to labels. Kanine's site at the time said, "Don't send anything, we don't want it," but I was like, "Let's just send it anyway!" So we did, and got an email back about an hour later, mainly asking if we were down to tour. Then a week later I was on the phone with Lio [Kanine's co-founder] and then we were on our way to L.A. to record.
Now you're signed, you've been releasing all this gorgeous, color vinyl. Can you tell us more about your role in the creative process of designing the pink records for Trip Trap Attack?
Kimmy: I designed our latest record. The gator is from a 1937 painting, from a postcard. Actually, from a German company making Florida postcards!
Skyler: Just the gator though, not the sky.
Kimmy: You can't find out who painted it, it's impossible. Everything else on the cover I created, except that gator. Then I was like, "We have to have pink vinyl."
At music school I had a handful of teachers who all insisted that pop music peaked at Motown. How do you feel about that, since you reference the 60s girl group harmonies so heavily in your music?
Kimmy: I think it's true, most definitely. We reference every decade from 50s to 60s to 70s punk, even. Everything's kind of whipped together. You brought up Motown, which we love. In Detroit we went to the Motown Museum and it was just such an amazing experience to go inside the studio where all those records were recorded.
Natalie: The tour guides are really into it.
Skyler: They dance, they sing.
Kimmy: One of the guides was like, "You guys are a band, right?" and she looked us up. Then she and a couple of other employees bought some of our stuff!
Skyler: They bought some of our 7" records. It was crazy.
What are your favorite stylistic elements from the 50s and 60s? From how people looked, to what made the music sound the way it did.
Kimmy: Okay, stylistically I love 60s stuff, and I love 50s teddy girl style. They were super bad-asses, these girls, and it was the 50s! They would wear skinny jeans, kind of rolled up, with oxfords. Then they'd wear jackets, usually letterman jackets. Some of them had bangs and wavy hair and they would have black eyeliner with red lipstick. If you look at pictures you literally couldn't tell if it was from then or now, it just transcends all of that.
Natalie: Definitely one of my favorite parts of representing that era is with make-up. I'd always do the eyeliner, and being in this band now I can really do it. I'm not so into the clothing, but the make-up is it. On my Pinterest—does that make me a Pinterester? A pinner?—I pin loads of make-up looks, lashes, and eyeliner.
Skyler: For me it's all about the way they drummed in the 60s. That beat, that surf pop drumbeat, I can't get enough of it.
You manage to sound cheery and sunny even when you're tackling heartbreak and more painful material. How'd you maintain that balance?
Kimmy: I like writing stuff like that because currently I just love upbeat, happy music. So I'll always go for making fun rock songs. I don't always want it to be a ballad. And as a writer, I'm at a period right now where I really don't want to be self-indulgent, and like moaning about my emotions and problems. I wanna tell a story and have people dance to it.
Natalie: It's like a form of therapy to listen to a song where you can relate to someone and not have to feel sad about it. You can say, "Oh, this person knows what I feel like, and we're gonna live tomorrow. We can all move on."
Kimmy, Skyler, and Natalie.
Given your East Coast base, how much of an affinity do you feel with the West Coast surf aesthetic and culture?
Kimmy: I definitely feel an affinity with that. I love 60s stuff from California. It's just amazing, with bands like The Ventures from the 60s that started out in California.
Natalie: I feel like we were born on the wrong coast sometimes.
Kimmy: But I'm all about the East Coast too.
Skyler: The Ramones!
Natalie: Yeah, I'm all about the 70s punk stuff that came from here, the New York Dolls and all. I guess it's kind of a blend, because we have some of the surf-pop stuff and some of the punky Ramones stuff.
What are you hoping your fans will take from Trip Trap Attack? What do you want this album to say about you?
Natalie: That's a tough question. Well, first we want them to actually listen to the record!
Kimmy: I definitely want them to be able to dance to the record. And to listen to the record, to tracks like "Seventeen" that are a little more melancholy and definitely close to my heart. I want people to dance.
Natalie: I want them to take an energy from it—related to what I said earlier— about how stuff happens in life and you just have to live it. And for them to know we're completely genuine in it. We're serious about what we do. But you have to just have fun and not dwell on things. That's really what this record is about.
You can catch Tshepo dwelling on how much she's into this album on Twitter - @NeuThings.
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