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Introducing + Track Premiere: La Vega

By ; August 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM 

La Vega_1

Despite moving inland from his coastal homeland in California, multi-instrumentalist Evan Magers is still inexorably attuned to his summer seaside party genetics.  Settling in Austin, TX, and pairing with guitarist/singer Daniel Vega – though the two were initially not looking to form a band – the surf-rock duo La Vega was born.  And beach or no beach, La Vega churns out chiming guitar riffs and 60’s-indebted harmonies that would make Frankie Avalon proud.  But far from being just another clump of surf detritus in the wake of bands like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls, the band’s easygoing approach to their music never comes across as lazy or careless.  There is a ramshackle but resolute direction to their music that keeps it from shuddering apart under its own relaxed attitude.

Recently, we sat down with Evan to talk about the initial process of collaboration with Daniel and how that first meeting turned into something that neither of them had anticipated.  Bonding over The Beatles and a shared love of a wide variety of artists, La Vega became a way to express this communal appreciation of music with other people.  You can hear subtle – and not so subtle – threads of influence running throughout their music, but it never smacks of wholesale impersonation.  Vega and Magers have a clear idea of what their own musical tendencies are and feel the need to conform to a set of assumed stylized aesthetics.  And while La Vega trade in the same kind of nostalgia-tinged summer euphoria that their pop peers are happy to imitate, the songs on their upcoming debut record Wave never settle into any sort of  homogenous summer rut.

The band has also just released the latest single from Wave, which comes in the form of shimmering pop nugget “Jackie” – which you can stream below.  Digging into the recesses of their surf-pop aesthetic and coming away with something sugary and prone to start impromptu beach parties, “Jackie” successfully triggers that innate summer longing that lodges itself in the back of your mind.  Twisting strands of sparkling guitars and laid-back percussion with vocals that are reminiscent of the laid-back beach pop of the 50’s and 60’s, the band fully embraces their pop lineage without succumbing to its occasionally disposable tendencies.  Beats Per Minute is pleased to premiere this latest track from the surf-rock duo.  Tune in below the stream for our full conversation with Evan from La Vega.

Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): I know that La Vega was somewhat of a happy accident, with Daniel Vega approaching you initially to only produce some songs that he had written. Tell me a bit about how did those early sessions go? Did you both fall into a communal musical mindset fairly quickly, or did it take some time before you synced up musically with each other?

Evan Magers (La Vega): It felt like kismet, really. That transition, from what we thought we were getting together to do to what we ended up doing, was almost unspoken. It just sort of happened, and we both just let it happen, hopped in the boat and let it carry us down river, with hardly any discussion or deliberation or forethought. Daniel didn’t have any actual songs when he came to me; he had two or three guitar riffs and an idea for a hook (the fifth song on our album, called “Slow Down”), but more importantly he had a broad concept for this hypothetical EP he wanted to explore making together.

At the time I was playing keys in Wild Child and producing other music on the side, but what I really wanted, deep down, was to find the right outlet for my own songwriting. I was writing a lot of stuff, I’ve always been really prolific as a writer, but the music I was making then was kind of all over the place, unfocused. The self-imposed constraints of Daniel’s general concept–all analog, basically, music that could have been made before synthesizers and digital production and so forth came into the fold–turned out to be just the thing I needed to find my focus. For me as a writer, I found those limitations to be paradoxically incredibly liberating. The opposite of the idea of option paralysis.

So basically he came over to my home studio one afternoon, showed me these couple ideas he had, we recorded them and then he left, and within a few hours I’d teased out one of those ideas into our first song, all multi-tracked and fully written, sort of defining what our sound and basic instrumentation would be, and that was pretty much that. Then we were off to the races. It was a totally frictionless transition.

BPM: Were there any particular artists (older or more recent) that you both felt a kindred spirit with during the recording of Wave? Were there any specific albums making the rounds in the studio during those sessions?

EM: Man, I know it’s a boring answer, but our bond really formed over the Beatles. They’ve been a huge touchstone from the beginning, and one we’ve returned to along every step of the process of writing and recording and mixing our first album. I guess if you’re gonna look to somebody for inspiration, you might as well look to the best.

BPM: The songs on Wave practically bleed the idea of “Summer.” Were there any circumstances or influences that led you and Daniel to adopt this aesthetic?

EM: I actually think of Wave as being more about nostalgia for the summer than about summer itself. It feels really appropriate to me that we’re putting it out in August. Summer, the beach, that whole motif–it’s more a metaphor than anything else. There’s vivid imagery inherent in it, and the feelings associated with it, of youth and freedom and possibility, are resonant fairly universally, at least with everybody who grew up in the States. No matter how old you are, if you think about summer there’s almost surely some specific poignancy to the memories that it calls to mind.

Speaking of the States, we also wanted Wave to be a distinctly American record, reminiscent of the brand of simple, optimistic patriotism you sense from baby boomer era movies and books and post-war American culture in general. Before being quote-unquote proud to be an American became as complicated a notion as it is today.

BPM: Whenever an album is described as summer-y, there are often common thematic elements binding the tracks together: love lost and gained, nostalgia, and the unsuccessful (and occasionally effective) methods of getting laid. Were there any specific instances in your past that fed into Wave’s summer-themed narrative?

EM: Well, the entire album is essentially about one thing, one relationship with one very special, very complicated girl. The failure and dissolution of that relationship, more specifically. Summer, as I said, is a metaphor for the better days, you know, before the leaves of that love began to fall.

BPM: The term “surf-rock” has been thrown around in describing La Vega’s sound, but given that your hometown of Austin, TX is landlocked and beach-less, how did you go about interpreting those genre archetypes on the record?

EM: I’m not from Texas–I moved there from California only two years ago. That coastal culture is definitely a big part of me still, and I’m sure always will be. It’s not something you just shake off when you leave a place, especially a place with so much character, and no doubt the time I spent there informs a lot of my instincts as a songwriter.

BPM: Lastly, and if you can think of anything in particular, describe the wildest show that the band has ever played?

EM: We could both answer that in regard to other bands we’ve played in. But La Vega has never played a show. On the album, Daniel played the drums, and I did pretty much everything else. We’re in the middle now of putting the rest of the live band together and preparing to tour. So, um, ask us that question again in a few months?

La Vega’s debut album Wave is due out August 13th via Major Nation records.

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