Written by BBB Contributor Natalie Maitland
Popheart was actually the very first band I saw play in Los Angeles, at a kind of a weird venue just a few days after my move from the East Coast. So perhaps there is a subconscious sense of nostalgia influencing my immense appreciation for the band, but I don’t think that’s the case. At first I was nearly put off by how ridiculously cool they all were, but as the set continued on they wore me down with their insane charisma as performers, well crafted melodies, and a real sense of honesty in the music.
Popheart’s new EP More Me Less You has just been released on Lolipop Records, dishing out some great melodramatic 80’s new wavy synth-poppy tunes. I recently sat down with the band for a few beers to talk about musical influences, scenes, and how they went from being Paris’s solo recording project to a full-on badass band.
When did each of you begin playing music?
Paris: I started playing music about six years ago- I’m 27- recording equipment and instruments just kind of fell into my lap, and I wasn’t doing anything at the time so I just started doing that, and I haven’t stopped.
Paul: I started playing music, well, my parents really wanted me to play music so they tried to teach me violin and I played in my high school or middle school marching band. Then I got a drum kit and started playing drums instead and everyone wants you to play drums for them.
Jen: Yeah, that’s what everyone should play.
BBB: Yeah, but it’s such a commitment, to get a drum kit and suck so loud for so long.
Wilton: That was never a problem for Paul ‘cause he’s very quiet.
Jen: I started taking guitar lessons when I was thirteen because my parents were always really musical, well, they don’t play anything but they were really into music. They go to a lot of concerts together, but I never did anything with it and then I was like, “I should start playing with people before it’s too late.”
Wilton: I guess my mom noticed that I was constantly singing along to every radio song that ever came on and I was way into it, so she signed me up for violin lessons. Then my brother gave me a guitar. He gave me a choice, he said, “I have this bass and I have this guitar, which one you want?” and I thought the bass was way sexier; it was this Flying V bass….
BBB: Can you elaborate on what you meant by it “falling into your lap” Paris?
Paris: My father was a musician, and he generally was involved in the LA music scene in the eighties and nineties. He wasn’t really around in my life so I didn’t have a connection to him, but he died when I was around that age, like 19, 20-
Wilton: In 1920.
Paris: In 1920, a friend of his just dropped off all of his music equipment to my house.
Wilton: Like some kind of Quentin Tarantino movie, like, “Your dad’s dead, here’s all his gear.”
Paris: I was his legal next of kin, his only child, so I got all his stuff.
Wilton: So he didn’t just inherit musical gear, he inherited being a musician.
Paris: Kind of. So like, falling into my lap is pretty literal.
Wilton: I had to scare my mom and tell her that lunch was more expensive than it really was and pocket the extra money for a year before I could buy my first bass amp.
So how did you all meet and start playing music together?
Jen: Paris, who did you meet first, was it Paul?
Paris: Technically it was Wilton first, but the band existed years before I met all these guys. It was a recording project at first, and then it turned into a collaborative thing with some other people. I’d been recording under the moniker Popheart for the last three or so years, and then I met Wilton at Brite Spot where I worked. He would come in all the time and we kind of hit it off. Then I met Paul through mutual friends. I met Jen at Brite Spot as well, she left me her phone number on a napkin and I just had to have her in my band! We’ve been playing together for I guess about a year now.
Wilton: Paris and I probably wouldn’t have sought each other out as much if it weren’t for the the night manager at Brite Spot, Bob. He told Paris, “Hey, that guy’s a really great bass player.” Bob had seen me play in bands here in LA. And I didn’t know he’d said that, but that’s what Paris had in his brain. I mean, honestly I just thought Paris was cute. He gave me his website address, when we both found out we made music it just seemed to natural to be like, well, let’s check out what kind of music. Not only was I impressed by Paris being so forward with the, “Check out my website,” but when I did listen to it I was impressed by the fact that he produced it all himself and written it all himself, and that it was stylistically cohesive. Which I think is one of the most important things to indicate a real artistic vision. So the next time I saw him we were more towards the orientation of like, “Yeah, let’s work together.”
Paris: Keep in mind this whole time Wilton was communicating to me in a fake British accent. And I knew it was fake, it was obvious. I was like, “Ugh this guy keeps coming in and ordering in this fake British accent I hate him so much!” and Bob was like, “You know he’s a really good bass player…” and I was like, “Damn it!”
So why are you called Popheart?
Wilton: I can’t wait to hear this actually.
Paris: My dad was a shot in the heart, that’s how he died, so…
BBB: Wow that’s dark!
Wilton: If you wanna call this Darkwave, go ahead.
Paris: Since the reason I got into music was kind of directly related to his death, it just seemed fitting.
W: So if you don’t buy our record basically you don’t care that Paris’ father died.
P: Also, like, it’s just such a good name…
So why don’t you let me in on your creative/writing process?
Paris: So far I’ve been doing all the writing and recording, but I treat that totally differently than I do live. All the parts that they’re playing are their interpretation of what’s on the record. And the reason why we keep playing together, aside from us getting along with each other is that I also really like what they do, and it’s totally different, and I hope that in the future it’ll be more of a collaborative thing on the records. Right now I play all the instruments on the recordings.
BBB: Do you show them the whole recorded track and have them go from there or do you just play them the song and see what they come up with on their own?
Paris: Well we’re all friends so I’ll usually send out an idea and if they really like it then that encourages me to either complete it or we’ll start practicing.
Wilton: We’re all servants to the song, so you know, sometimes we’ll try something and Paris won’t like it and he’ll tell us, and that’s fine, and sometimes we like what he’s already done on there so much that we can’t really imagine it being different so we do exactly what was on the tape. But sometimes we add something or change something.
Paris: I often find that through playing it with competent musicians and talented people, that your vision of the original song begins to change, but it sounds much better.
Wilton: But it’s already recorded and printed on a thousand tapes!
Paris: But that’s fine, there’s also a moment captured in the original recordings that I wouldn’t want to alter. I do everything really quickly, and I like to think that there’s an innocence and that there’s a naïveté that is captured in it.
What’s one thing you’d change about the music industry today?
Paris: Actually I really like the state of the music industry right now.
Wilton: It’s perfect! Seriously!
Paul: I’d make us at the top of the industry so everyone knows us and we get a lot of money, but that’s it. Everything else the same, but I’d trade places with Tyler… uh…Taylor Swift.
Wilton: The fact that technology has ensured that not only can everyone can record themselves for a reasonable amount of money, but that you can distribute it yourself to everyone in the whole world. That is amazing, how can you not love that?
Paris: Not only can you do that but you can also do it at a standard that professionals are doing it.
Wilton: Exactly, that’s my point, you can make music as good or better than what’s been made before professionally, by yourself. The industry now is only good for how well they can promote you and sell you, and what that basically boils down to is getting some really talented Liars to trick everyone into buying your album.
Paris: Basically we wouldn’t change anything. Things are at an interesting place and it’s unclear what will happen in the future and I think that’s an exciting thing.
Wilton: And we’re excited to explore that while everyone else complains about it.
What influences/inspires you?
Paul: What influences me? I guess…
Paul: Yeah, some sort of substance, no-
Paul: I feel like I don’t, creatively I don’t really think about … I don’t really feel like I’m a creative force in the band per se, I feel like I’m more of an interpretive force. So I feel like my role is to interpret what the vision of this person (Paris) is, or us, or whatever the idea of the song is, and then kind of get as close to that as I can. So it’s hard to say what influences me.
Paris: This kind of ties into one of the earlier questions- I think true collaboration is a total lie. There needs to be a vision, and it’s either got to be unified, whether it’s one person or multiple people, whatever, it has to be a single vision, you can’t have lot’s of conflicting ideas. You’ll never read a book written by a committee.
Paul: Yes. That’s the best way to summarize what I’m trying to tell people all the time. So I don’t know, I don’t think any one thing is hugely influential, I think it’s just like a vocabulary that you pick up from exposure, from experience with all different music, and you have to choose what fits best, I guess.
Wilton: Oh yeah, so, Jen is a total hipster, who will engage in the nerdiest of music style conversations with anyone, and you’ve basically just thrown her a question wrapped in barbed wire.
Jen: So my family went to see Kim Gordon’s book tour, and it was like, terrible. All of her answers were like, “Uh… I don’t know…” and I feel like I’m doing that right now.
Wilton: I think your apathy and indifference is alluring. Everything you say makes me think like, “There’s got to be a way to make her feel something!” Honestly the best way I can answer that question is that when I was 14 and when I was discovering music that was not radio music, I was extremely excited about that, and some of the lyricists that I listened to in those bands were the first people- and I so needed this at that age- they were the first people to make me feel like I wasn’t completely totally and utterly alone on this earth. So it was very important to me to learn that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t crazy, and ever since that happened to me all I’ve wanted to do is be that person for someone else.
Paris: He’s talking about the Smiths. As for me, well, my mother is very cool, and I didn’t catch on to being cool at all until recently… so I just kind of listened to whatever she listened to, and that was typically like David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, John Lennon, a lot of trip hop, Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead. I don’t even know, she’s still introducing me to bands. She’s really into like The Bad Seeds, I mean so well rounded and well versed musically. So I just sort of had a really eclectic musical upbringing. I was surrounded by all sorts of avant garde random stuff that was very like, high brow and sophisticated, and I kind of rebelled and listened to like, Green Day, or something. Not that Green Day is bad or anything, but it’s kind of the opposite of what my mother was into, and I’m only now fully appreciating what she’s given me, so I feel like I have really particular stylistic roots.
Wilton: So what inspires Paris? Answer: Mom.
Paris: So, recently, if you want bands, I’ve been listening to China Crisis- 80’s band, I really like them a lot, it’s just pop in the truest sense of the word and I love that. Orange Juice, they came out just before The Smiths, a really kind of obscure Scottish band. My favorite contemporary band is The Drums- they’re pretty big, based out of New York, and they really influenced me a lot, with how they operated, their process for putting out work, and I love everything that they’ve done. And I’m actually quite fond of a lot of the bands that are on Lollipop [Records] right now, who are putting out our EP. I actually think this is a fantastic time for music especially in Los Angeles, there’s so much great stuff, and I’m really happy to be right in the middle of it
Wilton: I love our scene.
How would you describe your scene?
Wilton: Oh well I think that there’s a lot of, um, it’s really complex because there’s crossover between a lot of different trajectories, a lot of it comes from a place of modernism, minimalism, or electro, but then you’ll get a lot of different versions of that- some of it’ll be 80’s-ish, some of it will be post-apocalyptic or industrial, or experimental or noise-ish, but the way that it all comes together in our scene is something that’s very difficult for me to describe because of the amalgamation of all those different trajectories.
Paris: It’s very eclectic.
Wilton: I think you have to experience it for yourself to really know, and I think there should be a name for the scene to be honest.
What would you name it?
Paris: I actually find James acceptable. This whole thing is very dada.
Wilton: It’s very James.
Paul: I feel like the bands in our scene are bound together more out of necessity than by style. Or convenience, even. It has less to do with artistic style than just a network of people who know each other and can help each other out
Paris: The scene is very helpful and positive. So far I haven’t met any band who are like, shitty people I really dislike or are very very rude.
Who would you feature on BBB?
Dirt Dress, Roses, Knower, LA Drones, Fart Barf, Cellars, Terminal A.
FIND POPHEART HERE: