Audacity

audacity

Illustration by Ika Lesniak

2016 has been a good year for Audacity, and it’s only May. Since the release of their fourth studio album, Hyper Vessels, last month they have been on tour non-stop. The band has 25 shows in the US, and a further 26 in Europe on the way. The Fullerton quartet might have been lost in all the California surf-psychedelia filling its musical community, but Hyper Vessels differs from some of the bands insistent on keeping the same “vibe.” The Audacity are as progressive as they come, with their latest release leaning towards a mature and heavier version of themselves. We caught up with guitarist-vocalist Kyle Gibson to hear more about tour, American politics, and what being in Audacity is like.

Heatwave: You’re heading out to Europe on tour soon – how are you feeling about it? Anywhere in particular you are looking forward to?

Kyle: I’m anxious to leave the country. The other day there was a parade on my street for some Catholic event in a nearby park and they had a mobile PA system hooked up to a car battery getting wheeled down the road blasting religious music louder than I’ve ever heard in my neighborhood before. They passed out horribly gruesome pictures of Jesus dead on the cross and told me I should get saved and confess my sins and all that stuff.
I look forward to the godless paradise that is Europe, where everyone abandoned religion long ago. I’m especially looking forward to the Beaches Brew Festival in Italy, going to Amsterdam for the first time, and visiting Manchester for the first time – It’s home to some some of our favourite bands, like the Fall and the Buzzcocks.

Heatwave: Your US-European tours span a total 50 dates. That is pretty monumental. How do you stay sane when on tour?

Kyle: I like to put a blanket over my head in the van and pretend I’m alone. Being on tour gives you a real caveman-like sense of purpose, where every day has the same few goals – driving to a place, unloading your gear, playing that place, convincing everyone at that place to like you and buy your record. It’s not hard to stay focused on these tasks. Sanity goes out the window around day three, I’d say, but that’s all part of the fun. Plus touring in Europe is so much more accommodating than the States. It’s practically a vacation!

Heatwave: You guys have been together forever – did you always know that you wanted to be in a band together?

Kyle: It all began in grade six and then really became something that sounded like good music around high school. I think that when we started we had no real conception of what a band was or what it meant to be in a band. I think we just enjoyed being creative together. All of our friends made fun of us, and even made a parody band called Bodacity. I think that’s how music scenes should be, not all this patting on the back and being proud of each other. Bands should be viciously mean to each other, and publicly shame and mock their peers. That’s how good music is made. Together Pangea are a bunch of dummies.

Heatwave: Bands who start out young usually break up once they all decide what they “really” want to do, and I’m assuming this has never been the case for you guys. What do you think has made it work?

Kyle: I think just enjoying the music and each other’s company has made it last. As we’ve become older, more real world responsibilities have reared their ugly heads, and like any band there are financial stresses… But it’s all worth it for the music! Maybe because we’ve been doing it so long and we’re hyper cynical about things we don’t let crushing defeats and disappointments get us down!

Heatwave: Your latest release, Hyper Vessels has received great reviews. How does it feel riding that wave of success? To be on tour in the US at the time must have been a great celebration of the new songs.

Kyle: Well, we are from California, so we know a lot about riding waves!!!!!!!!!! Success is fun. I think it’s important to focus on your own feelings about what you do, and not buy into praise or criticism from reviews too much. I grew up reading music magazines, and reading reviews so it does feel nice. Every night on tour is both a celebration, and a humiliation.

Heatwave: In my opinion, Hyper Vessels is your heaviest record. Would you agree? Do you think this is part of maturing as a band?

Kyle: It’s hard to say with the record still being relatively new. Maybe in a few months I’ll have a better grasp of how the record fits in our whole trajectory. But I do think it’s pretty heavy!

Heatwave: You have previously said that living and growing up in Fullerton has had a huge impact on your sound – it isn’t all happiness and sunshine. Is this a conscious juxtaposition?

Kyle: I think the songs just come out that way – it isn’t really a conscious decision. I think it did bug us that we would get pigeonholed as “happy, fun, California, carefree blah blah,” so there might have been more of an effort to emphasize the darkness. But nothing too calculated.

Heatwave: Like you mentioned, California bands aren’t ordinarily associated with being a downer, especially when they sound as upbeat as you guys. Where does this dark tone come from? Is it centric to California?

Kyle: I guess we’re naturally upbeat. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to mask our demons! I think there has always been darkness in California music. There’s plenty of fucked up Beach Boys songs too! It’s maybe a reaction to all the sunshine, or the fake happy people. Orange County, where we’re from, has always been one of the most conservative parts of an otherwise liberal southern California, so there’s a lot of evil stuff ingrained in our upbringing that we hopefully rail against, and are able to turn into good music!

Heatwave: Sorry to get political, but does “the state of America” that we hear about a lot over here (racism, violence, Trump etc.) have an impact on the music you make? Historically, these times of hardship and confusion have formed some great songs and bands – has this been the case while touring the US?

Kyle: I think America is scared and confused right now. It’s always been a racist, violent, and stupid place, but that shittiness does produce good music. It’s nice to see the Republican Party implode, but it’s scary how quickly our fellow Americans embrace fascistic ideas from a disgusting idiot. Trump is an American archetype: the con man.
We kind of relate to him because when we go on tour we are essentially con men, tricking people to give us their hard earned money! I think the rise of Trump is getting more people interested in politics, either because they’re scared of him, or they want him elected because they’re racist. He’ll probably do for punk rock what Reagan did in the 80s, and inspire a lot of music until it eventually becomes cliché sloganeering that doesn’t help anything.

Heatwave: You have toured a lot with Ty Segall, who worked with you on Hyper Vessels. Was touring and working with him an influence on the direction the album took?

Kyle: The very first tour we ever went on in high school was up to the Bay Area to play with and hang out with Ty’s old band, the Traditional Fools. I think since Ty has known us and our music for so long, he had an idea of the things he likes about our sound and brought that out more. It’s good to record with someone you have a long history with!

Heatwave: Ty is an obvious comparison to make, but what do you think has been your biggest influence, musically or otherwise?

Kyle: When we were in early high school, before we even started making the aforementioned “good music,” we had a lot of support from a guy named Mike Atta, who ran a vintage clothing/furniture/guitar shop in downtown Fullerton. Somehow he got a copy of an early demo and for some reason liked it – probably just cause of how young we were.
He would play it in his shop all the time, even years later when we had better music. He’d have us play outside of his store once in a while, and he’d sell these CD’s at the counter of a band called the Middle Class, and one day I asked him if that band were any good. He laughed and said to ask his wife. It turned out he was the guitarist of the Middle Class, who were the first ever hardcore band and one of the most influential bands in Southern California. So, nice people like him and his awesome band are very big influences.

Heatwave: So what is next for you guys after the European tour?

Kyle: More American tours, writing new songs, preparing for the end of America!

-Frieda Strachan