LA’s Funeral Party are here to save guitar music with their exciting brand of punk rock. The saviours of cool talk about a possible tour with The Strokes, getting kicked off their old label, recording debut album Golden Age of Knowhere next to a train yard, and Jared Leto’s terrible wardrobe.
So, Funeral Party, where did it all begin?
James Torres (Funeral Party guitarist): We’re from this little town in Los Angeles called Whittier. It’s the last town before you hit Orange County, so it’s a mixture of cultures. Hardcore metal was dominating and we were sick of it, so we thought let’s do something different. Chad (Elliott - vocals), Kimo (Kauhola - bass) and Tim (Madrid – bass) were already in a band, but Chad and I were in class together and I approached him and asked if he wanted to start a band. It all took off from there.
What were early Funeral Party shows like?
James: It was about going and having fun at parties and backyard shows, which was the culture at home. The parties were astonishing to us, just shocking. Anyone from 12 years old to 29 years was just partying together. Oh my god, I really miss ’em. The last one we went to, Chad broke a garage door. We were playing a show and the door literally collapsed on him.
Chad: They were ecstatic; they thought it was awesome. I didn’t have to pay or anything.
Your debut record Golden Age of Knowhere has just been released in the UK. Nerves or excitement?
James: It had lost its lustre because it’s been so long – we recorded it in 2008, but now it’s happening it’s getting pretty exciting. There’s a giant poster of us in Old Street, and I was incredibly astonished. There I am. It was kinda embarrassing.
Where did you record it?
James: It was back home in a town called Alhambra, in a little studio called Infrasonic Sound Studios right next to a train yard – which is pretty dumb. Two years before the actual album we made the demo there, too, and every time we were recording we’d have to stop when the trains would come. It was a nice little experience.
Why the title Golden Age of Knowhere?
Chad: It’s supposed to be somewhat of a book title, and also it’s from a dream I had. Where we come from it feels like nothing ever happens and it’s a nothing, nowhere place, so I thought it’d be a cool idea if all the people we know and all our friends started a society – a new dawning of the nowhere kids, the loser kids, all coming together and creating something new.
Kimo: Lord of the Flies.
Who writes the lyrics?
Chad: I do. It depends on what mood I’m in at the time if I make them personal. Sometimes I want to think of everybody in general and really connect with people, and other times I want to speak about my own personal experiences. I wrote a song about my ex fiancée and she didn’t like it when other people started enjoying the song. She told me not to play it and I was like “I can’t not play this, everybody likes this song.” Mexican girls are a little controlling.
Funeral Party - 'New York Moves To The Sound Of LA'
How are you coping with the hype you’re receiving? Any pressure?
James: No pressure. We do what we do. And just play on.
Chad: When we started getting recognition it dawned on us a bit – it’s still crazy walking round and seeing posters of us on the wall.
You toured with Julian Casablancas recently and he said you were one of his favourite new bands.
Kimo: He said that? That’s cool. He’s a nice guy.
So what’s he like?
James: He’s very down to earth. He’s in a different place at the moment since The Strokes. Just one of the kindest people you’ve ever met. He’d give us a shout out on stage every night. Hopefully we’ll be playing with The Strokes soon on the comeback tour. It’s in the works. There are talks.
Amazing! Have you heard any of The Strokes’ new record?
James: No. Apparently he wasn’t involved in most of the writing process, so it’s going to be very different. We’re waiting like everyone else.
How do you feel when people say you have a New York sound?
Kimo: Most people say we sound more like The Strokes than actually being from New York.
Chad: I guess you can see the similarity, but with our attitude as people, you can tell that we’re not from New York – our laidbackness.
But ‘New York City Moves to the Sound of LA’ - that’s fighting talk isn’t it?
James: Not really actually. Most people would think so, but it’s calling out about most people. We just had to nail it down to the two major cities in the United States.
Chad: It had a better ring than like ‘London moves to the sound of LA’!
James: It’s really about repetition and everything being circular and like disco coming back and all this crap. It’s all been done before and it will be done again, like the lyric says.
Any plans to crack the States after your tour here?
Chad: Our fanbase knows who we are, but as we’re not on TV at all in the States, it takes a lot to break through the market. You have to be a mega rock band. Our album comes out a little later over there, so hopefully it works out well.
James: The goal is to get as many ears open as possible. Doesn’t matter who they are or what age.
Why did you sign with Jive?
James: The label we were on before was Fearless Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and they weren’t putting us in the direction we wanted to go. They had this idea of us as a pop punk band and that’s totally not what we’re about. They have bands like Blink 182. They used to have At The Drive-In, who were awesome, but they also saw – and I have no idea what gave them this idea – this pop punk thing and we are not about that. So we tried our hardest to get thrown off the label, and Sony was already knocking on our door.
And how did you get kicked off the label?
James: Asking for a lot of money!
Chad: We were brats about it. We wouldn’t do anything they wanted us to do. We were putting up a fight because we knew if we got them angry enough they would eventually just throw their hands up.
James: We would have been working at a grocery store if we stuck with them.
Which has been your most memorable gig so far?
James: The one that I had the most emotional experience with was in Japan at the Fuji Rock festival. Witnessing this sea of people and every single one of them was jumping up and down. It was incredible to feel that energy from them.
Kimo: The best gig hasn’t happened yet.
Chad: We’re gonna play in space!
Who are you listening to at the moment?
James: I am interested in this guy called Stephen Wilkinson, aka Bibio. He’s about to put out a new album and I’ve heard snippets and it’s amazing. He’s from the UK. You should check him out. Every album he does is different. One will be hip-hop, the others mainly guitar work; really interesting stuff.
Chad: I have to say that I’ve only just caught onto the bandwagon in liking San Francisco’s Girls. Christopher Owens, the singer, plays such easy music. It’s almost country, which is good because I don’t listen to country, but his writing is really cool. I like the whole presence of the band – very San Francisco artsy, but laid-back and kinda stoners.
Any plans to return to the studio soon?
Chad: We’ve been writing whenever we go home, so I’m pretty excited about going back into the studio. Any time we have off we like to write. So that’s the next plan to make the next album.
James: This past month we were off, we wrote four songs that we’re totally happy with. We all collaborate together. Someone will bring an idea to the table and we’ll all construct the song from there.
So what’s next for Funeral Party?
Chad: We’re touring round the UK, then Europe. We’re really excited because we’re going to Berlin. I’ve never been and I’m super excited.
James: We’re really interested in the whole history of Nazis and stuff like that. Chad and I particularly are so enthralled by that stuff.
Chad: It’s because it’s all we get taught in high school. I mean seriously. I don’t know how many years in school we had to learn about the holocaust. We always had to read Anne Frank’s diary. They really stuff it down you. To finally go there and see it will be really awesome.
James: We go to Amsterdam, which is another one I’m particularly excited about. Well he and I are [looks at Kimo]. Wink wink.
Chad: I’m excited. Just cos I don’t smoke doesn’t mean I’m not excited about it.