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Backstage@Lollapalooza

| August 31, 2011 | 1 Comment

Catching up with artists playing Lollapalooza was tougher than we thought. Even with some acts stuck in town after their sets in order to play afterparties, we came up against a wishlist of musicians with schedules more hardwired than the festival’s own rigid set times. We sent Jaime de’Medici to lie in wait backstage anyway, and he came away with words from Deftones, The Pretty Reckless (starring Taylor Momsen from TV’s “Gossip Girl”), and local reps Kids These Days, Gold Motel, and Maps & Atlases.

Following a serious car accident in late 2008, Deftones bassist Chi Cheng entered a coma, with his current condition described as “minimally conscious.” In the aftermath of Cheng’s tragedy, longtime friend of the band and previous musical collaborator Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand, was hired as a touring and recording member in 2009. Vega would go on to perform on the band’s 2010 effort, Diamond Eyes (Reprise), and the ensuing tour dates. Now settled into his role in the band, Vega spoke with IE about his reception within the group, joining under tragic circumstances, and the group’s lost album, Eros, which was shelved following Cheng’s accident.

IE: You’ve been a touring and recording member of the Deftones for a few years now. How has that been?
Sergio Vega
: They’re really nice people, and they just make me feel at home and comfortable. They’re very nice to work with and collaborate with, I was totally surprised – [or] not surprised about that, because actually, I’ve known them for awhile. We met on the first Warped Tour, and I filled in for Chi in ’99. Being brought into it to this extent, and just the way they treated me and made me feel comfortable – while still Chi being very much a prominent part of the thing – it’s always been like I’m a friend. “You’re a friend, you’re a homie, thank you.”
IE: It’s never been “Deftones and Sergio”?
SV
: No. I’ve always felt brought into the fold and treated really nicely. It just speaks to their character, considering what they were going through, and not to have any carry-over and spillover. Chi was always a part of our sessions when we were writing and recording, just talking about him, and his presence was there. I can’t speak highly enough of them, really.
IE: Was it difficult to be brought in under those circumstances? In any other situation, it would be like, “I’m in the Deftones!”
SV
: Yeah, it was never about celebrating, it’s just more about just appreciating. I felt honored that they thought of me and they brought me in. But I don’t really know how to explain it, it just sucks, man. It sucks. I never would want to be the bass player of the Deftones; I’m friends with Chi, as well. That’s not what it’s about. I’m in here as long as I’m needed, [to] do as best as I can.
IE: Has there been talk of recording new material, or is the band still focused on the touring cycle for Diamond Eyes?
SV: No, we’re pretty much looking forward to putting together another body of work soon. We’ve toured on [Diamond Eyes] for a bit; we’ve been basically every place three times, and [we] really are enjoying ourselves. So we figure, the logical conclusion is that you get something new to support, you want to keep doing this, you’re having fun, you want to ride that wave of energy we’ve cultivated. No concrete plans as of yet, but just the desire and the knowing that basically it would be a good time to do that, soon.
IE: Has there been any talk about revisiting Eros, or is it all about looking forward these days?
SV: It’s never been about that. As far as the Eros material is concerned, I think it’s more about finding the right context for releasing it, so that it’s not so imbued with this tragedy. The real thought is to just give it a chance to be seen in the way that – in a fair way, like, “Here, listen to it.” And the hope is that Chi can be part of that completion in some way. But as far as me, myself, being part of its completion, that’s not anything that anyone’s interested in.

As an actress, Taylor Momsen could have remained involved in high-visibility projects like “Gossip Girl,” where she played the character Jenny Humphrey. Instead, Momsen opted to pursue a music career as frontwoman of The Pretty Reckless, an act aiming for a polished, Celebrity Skin-era Hole approach. The group’s debut effort, Light Me Up (Interscope), dropped in 2010.

IE: How does a music career compare to the other media and performance projects that you’ve been involved in?
Taylor Momsen
: There is no comparison: music’s everything. It’s all I want to do for the rest of my life, and, pretty much, I think we got a good thing. So, we’re excited.
IE: Have you brought anything from your acting background into The Pretty Reckless?
TM
: Not really, they’re kind of completely two separate entities. Music is, it’s self-expression, I’m singing my own words, we wrote the songs, so it’s not – I mean, there’s an element of performing onstage, but you’re not seeing a character or anything.
IE: Is that something you’re more in favor of, being expressive of who you truly are vs. playing someone else’s written character?
TM
: Yes.
IE: There have been mixed results when actors cross into music, and vice versa. Have you encountered people with preconceived notions of you venturing into music because of past examples?
TM
: Sure. I don’t necessarily know if it’s because of past examples, but I mean, there’s definitely been some doubt, I’m sure, when people hear “Taylor’s got a band,” and, “Great, another actress putting out a record.” All I can ask is that they give the record a chance and listen to the music. It’s not a vanity project. We didn’t make a record because I could. It’s something I’ve worked on my whole life, and something I want to do for the rest of my life, and only do that.
IE: Now that people have heard it, have the responses been different than they were before you had something to show people?
TM
: Yeah, absolutely. The response has been amazing. The shows have been great, the fans have been insane, it’s been insane. It’s been great, honestly.
IE: What are your goals with music? Do you have any musical idols? Like, “If I could be where Debbie Harry is in 30 years . . .”
TM
: I love Debbie Harry, actually; I know her well. I don’t think there’s one specific person who I try to emulate. I want to do my own thing, and I think that’s what makes people who are icons. Debbie Harry, she was so unique and so specific. There’s elements of, I mean, I grew up wanting to be Robert Plant, and wanting to fuck Jimmy Page. So, y’know.

To call Kids These Days upstarts on the scene would be an understatement. The group began turning heads earlier this year on high-profile, blog-curated bills at South By Southwest, and have been making moves ever since. IE caught up with Liam Cunningham, Vic Mensa, Nico Segal, and Macie Stewart to ask the youthful group about operating across multiple genres and ageism.

IE: It looks like Kids These Days are having a hell of a year.
Nico Segal
: Definitely a hell of a year. Going to a lot of different festivals around the country, places I’ve never been, and doing a lot of shows, and recording music. We have a new project coming out pretty soon called Trap House Rock. And just making this music with all my brothers and my sister.
Vic Mensa: Yeah, man. It’s that official [Kids These Days] summer, so we’ve been in here all day, every day, getting it crackin’, at the trap everyday rehearsing, listening to albums, doing everything – just being together. It’s a good feeling to know that the world is embracing our work ethic, and just liking what we put out. It’s just good for anybody to like you. Because these days, there’s a lot of haters, there’s a lot of people who don’t like stuff. So, for them to like us, and for us to be so young still, and only two years into being a band, it’s just crazy.
Liam Cunningham: Yeah, I mean, the hands-down thing you can say is, in the past year we’ve turned this – a hobby and a passion of ours – into a job. This is absolutely in the purest sense a job: we work hard, we work more than a lot of people do, I think. And while it is fun, it’s what we love, it’s great to see our hard work is finally turning into something that we can really sort of work with over a long period of time.
IE: Running down some of the highlights from the last year: SXSW, Mobfest, the inauguration event in Grant Park, and performing at Lollapalooza. How does it feel? Is it surreal?
NS
: It’s surreal to me, man. Coming out of Chicago, being a jazz trumpet player, I never thought any of that stuff would happen. Obviously, it’s a sad thing, but jazz music doesn’t really get the recognition it deserves these days. But this type of band, and the music, I really feel, deep down in my heart, is this kind of music. So, the fact that this is getting the recognition, or starting to get the recognition it deserves, is a beautiful thing.
IE: Listening to Hard Times and witnessing your live show, it’s apparent Kids These Days don’t fit in one genre. You don’t even fit in four genres! Do people having a hard time pigeonholing you?
LC
: People understand it when they hear it. They understand where we’re coming from and they get it because it comes from a real true place and a real simple place. We come from blues, we come from hip-hop, and we come from music that has a lot of meaning. I think that gets in touch [with] people really easily when it’s very authentic. The whole genre thing and the sound thing has been a battle, but at the same time, I really don’t think that things would be happening for us if we hadn’t had that sound and genre. It’s a two-way street, and I’m totally a proponent of we do not have a genre, we have our sound, we are Kids These Days, we’re something new. And I think that’s why people are listening to us, anyways, because we’re something different.
IE: Similarly, have the band been underestimated due to the average age of its members?
VM
: It’s easy for people to do that, us being kids. A lot of times, we’ll be at venues, like, even headlining and selling it out, like Metro, but the people will treat us like we’re some little ass kids, just act like dickheads, just because they think we’re actual kids. In this music, within the music, we’re grown men and a woman. After you see a live show, if you still think that way, then something’s wrong with you. Because, the live show is like, man. After you see that, you’re like, “Wow, these kids are crazy.”

Following her time in The Hush Sound, Greta Morgan now fronts Gold Motel, an act whose upbeat pop is perpetually infused with a strikingly summer-set aesthetic. Prior to Sunday’s later torrential downpour, they opened the day at Lollapalooza, with Morgan later finding time to talk to IE about the group’s reaction to landing on the Lolla bill and what’s in store for their second record.

IE: How was Gold Motel’s set?
Greta Morgan
: We had perfect weather, and the set could not have gone more beautifully. I was so excited about how many people came early to hang out with us. I thought we played one of our best shows, and it was just perfect.
IE: That seems appropriate, as Gold Motel’s music is very sunny and inviting.
GM
: I think it was a good opener for the day.
IE: When did you find out you’d be playing?
GM
: I believe it was March that we were on tour; I specifically remember we got a phone call, and our manager said, “Is everybody in the van?” I said, “Yes,” and she said, “Put me on speaker phone.” The boys were very calm and collected, they were like, “Great news, thank you.” And as soon as we got to a gas station, I went into the bathroom and just locked the door and screamed and danced around. I was really happy, because we’re really a new band! We played our first show a year and a half ago, and Lollapalooza’s such a huge deal in our home town.
IE: You recently posted a new song, “Leave You In Love.” Is that a standalone single, or will it be part of a larger body of work?
GM
: It’ll be on the next album, which we’re going to start recording in the fall, for early 2012.
IE: What’s the status?
GM
: I’d say at least half of the album has already been written. We probably have even more material than that, but usually as we go we arrange and then revise and toss out and keep writing, and the direction becomes clearer.

Though the group’s full-length offering, Perch Patchwork (Barsuk), dropped last summer, Chicago’s Maps & Atlases are really feeling the pay off from that album in 2011. Dave Davison and Erin Elders talk about the year they’re having and delayed returns.

IE: I was looking at the Maps & Atlases Tumblr, and it looks like you guys are coming off a sizable wave of touring this summer. Are you guys exhausted at this point?
Dave Davison
: We were exhausted I think the day before yesterday, but being back here, being able to see lots of people, and sort of being in this nice environment in Chicago has genuinely been – it sounds cheesy – rejuvenating.
Erin Elders: We basically got into town from being on tour for like six straight weeks straight to Lollapalooza. So, it’s been crazy.
IE: Looking at 2011, Maps & Atlases performed at SXSW as an official festival act, and now the band is on the bill at Lollapalooza. Has it been a good year?
EE
: Yeah, definitely. It’s been really intense for us, but it’s been a really positive [year], and I think we’re definitely excited about all the stuff we’ve gotten to do in the past year.
DD: The record we released almost exactly a year ago, I think it seems like people are just getting more familiar with it, like people have developed more of a relationship with it over time, which is really, I don’t know, it just feels really rewarding.
IE: Some records have an instantaneous impact, and others are slow burners. It seems like Perch Patchwork is a slow burner, but is gaining momentum. Do you agree?
DD
: I hope so, that’s really cool. I think it’s a positive thing for something to be, a slow – I mean, we, as a band, I think are a slow-burning band. We started, and we didn’t play very many shows in the beginning because we were in college, and, we do things at our pace. And I think that this album has got a good pace to it. I like to have people who have a growing relationship with your music.

— Jaime de’Medici

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