When you talk about music with Daptone protégées, you can be sure they’ll have a lot to say. During Off Festival we’ve chosen The Mystery Lights to do an interview for our “Soundtrack of my life” series. We ended up with a ton of music to listen to and a really nice discussion. The guys, on the other hand, probably got to know themselves a little better.
The first album I’ve bought for my own money
Mike Brandon [guitar/vocals]: “Best of David Bowie”. I’m almost positive. I can’t really remember too clearly. I went and bought the CD. I remember the cover. My buddies tried to get me into it and they said “Go, buy it”. Everything else we just got from Kazaa or something.
L.A. Solano [guitar/backing vocals]: There was Napster and I think we were downloading everything at that point, so I don’t remember buying a lot of CDs actually. Oh, I bought Green Day when I was in 6thor 7thgrade, but I don’t even know, why I bought that.
Music, that reminds me of my childhood
L.A. Solano: My dad used to have a tape with all these soul and old rock ‘n’ roll songs and there was a bunch of Al Green songs there. That reminds me of going to school when I was a kid.
Mike Brandon: I have a very similar memory. My grandfather – he’d pick me up from school and take me to his water business in Watsonville or Castroville, where we come from. It’s the same thing – all oldies radio. That song – “I’m your puppet” and stuff like that. When you’re a kid it’s an “old man music” for you. Then you grow up to love it.
Alex Amini [bass/backing vocals]: “Blonde on Blonde” by Bob Dylan. My mom had it in the house and played it every day. She was a huge hippie, a flower child in ’69. Joni Mitchell and stuff… But I remember “Blonde on Blonde” as my doorway to Dylan, when I was 9 or 10.
David Molina[keys]: My parents speak Spanish, so I’ve listened to anything that was happening on the radio in Spanish. Nothing specific.
The album that changed my life
L.A. Solano: I got “The Best of Ramones” when I was in high school. And “Blank Generation” by Richard Hell and The Voidoids. It made me look further past even The Ramones or The Clash. That was the doorway to weirder music, I guess. Not just straight punk music.
Mike Brandon: Richard Hell and Patti Smith. I had friends that I used to skate with and they were into ’77 punk and power pop stuff and the one specific artist that they were into was Patti Smith. I read about her in “Please Kill Me” and then they showed me “Free Money” and “Blank Generation”. That’s when I felt that switch. Those recordings are pretty clean. But it showed me that clean music can be really tough and really raw at the same time. Cause, you’re so used to commercial sounding mainstream music, but then you hear “Blank Generation” – it’s pretty clean but it has that raw approach to it, that makes it tough. The same with Patti Smith.
L.A. Solano: And that opens up that New York era of Television, Suicide and everything that was going on in late 70s. Prior to that, I was probably listening to Jimi Hendrix every day, but then you hear all that stuff and it gets a little bit weirder.
Mike Brandon: And The Who, The Kinks… When you think of these bands – The Who, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin – you automatically put in that popular, classic rock category, but when you see where it comes from… The tough, punk stuff they were listening to… That’s a life-changer too.
Alex Amini: Probably for me it’s the first and second Stooges record. That kind of exposed me to the wild side of rock ‘n’ roll. I was watching their live video footage, interviews and stuff and it kinda inspired me when I was young. I like the rawness of these songs. It made me want to do that. It still holds up now.
David Molina: Probably the trilogy of second, third and fourth Dylan albums. They came in a package when I bought it and I listened to it every day for a long time. The songwriting there is really rich…
Mike Brandon: See? The different kinds of music, change your life in different ways. Bob Dylan blew my mind too. Great singer/songwriter with good lyrics, less tough musical and more insightful, poetic… That changed my mind in that way. And that combined with punk music, like Richard Hell, for sure changed my life. I can even say that there are jazz or blues records that changed my life. It wasn’t just the punk stuff.
L.A. Solano: Especially that bootleg stuff of Dylan – you start to see the value of demo sounding that is not polished and has all these little mistakes. I feel like everything we’ve heard when we were growing up was really nice sounding and we learned to appreciate the demos and bedroom recordings more.
Music that I always dance to
L.A. Solano: Ata Kak!
Mike Brandon: Yeah, he’s our new discovery.
L.A. Solano: We play him a lot in our van. Have you heard Doug Hream Blunt? He’s a new guy in Luaka Bop – David Byrne’s label. All of his songs are really groovy.
Alex Amini: Also Prince.
Mike Brandon: I can’t not dance to “High Pressure Days” by The Units. Everytime that comes on – even if I’m in terrible mood – I’m always bobbing my head or something.
The album that I think is very underrated
L.A. Solano: There’s a guy named Otis G. Johnson and the record is just him on organ and drum machine and it’s, like, gospel music. It sounds like he’d just press “record” and play. It’s really slow and repetitive. I don’t know if that many people know that record, but it’s really nice. Everyone that I show that to, becomes a fan.
Mike Brandon: From all of the records I listen to, I think there’s a big handful that probably go very underappreciated. I guess whatever’s popular, gets appreciated, but… I don’t know – the stuff that Ben Wallers from Country Teasers does. He came to New York City and he played, like, four shows and not many people showed up. Hailu Mergia – he had to become a taxi driver in D.C. and all of his albums were amazing.
L.A. Solano: I think that nowadays, there are record labels that are based around underappreciated records, like Mississipi Records or even Luaka Bop.
Mike Brandon: It’s good for them, too. Taking records that, according to them, need more attention and repressing them, definitely makes them more popular and sometimes it turns to annoying thing, when you go into Starbucks and hear some of these songs. But at the same time it’s good – it’s better to listen to good music that’s getting more popular than the terrible shit that’s out there.
L.A. Solano: Oh, there’s that guy called Craig Leon, who produced some Suicide albums and he makes his own electronic music and his stuff is really cool.
The album that I would take to a desert island
L.A. Solano: I’d probably take “Loaded” by Velvet Underground. I never get sick of that album.
David Molina: It’s a difficult question, because my favorite albums change with seasons but right now I really like “Stardust” by Willie Nelson.
Alex Amini: I’d probably take “Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. I could listen to that millions of times.
Mike Brandon: Every single day or even a couple times a day I listen to “>>” by Beak> so that’s probably what I would like to listen to on an island.
interview by: Agata Hudomięt & Krzysztof Sarosiek
Find more interviews from Off Festival in our “English” section.