Los Angeles trio The Ivories identify their sounds as “indie surf psychedelic punk.” The band, who are signed to Vogue House Sounds, came together after meeting in college. The diversity of their backgrounds may explain why their style encapsulates several genres, so we sat down to talk with the three-piece about the music they grew up on, the atmosphere they try to create in their live shows, and why it’s appropriate that their debut EP will drop on Valentine’s Day this year.
Let’s start with a bit about your background. Where are you all from and how has that environment shaped your music?
Erin: I’m from Zaragoza, Spain. I remember starting to have some kind of interest for music when my aunt made a Spotify playlist for me when I was around 12 years old. It had songs from David Bowie, The Cure, The Doors… I thought it was sick! And then my family gave me my first guitar and I started playing music. One of the first albums that I discovered was The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie and it blew my mind. Later on I started digging a little bit more into Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, and also Spanish rock thanks to my group of friends back home. Rock’n’roll baby!
Bryan: I’m from Santa Fe, New Mexico. My mother’s from South Korea and my father is from Texas, so I got a lot of different cultures growing up. Before I knew how to use the internet, it was mostly my family’s CDs (Michael Jackson, Korean music, and my dad’s classic rock and blues stuff), MTV, and the music in the Gamecube games that I listened to. The first CD I ever bought was Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled record. Everyone around me in Santa Fe was self-loathing and depraved for the most part. I did a lot of crazy things- I traumatized myself by choice and had like 20 ego deaths from ‘shrooms by the time I was 17. I developed anxiety from all of that and then I started writing music that actually had some substance.
Xavier: I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado to a large family whose taste in music spans far and wide. I grew up surrounded by many amazing musicians who have inspired me to pursue my dreams. My earliest memories as a child were being in my father’s studio watching him record his EP. I was intrigued by the work he was doing and wanted to do the same thing. My parents had a nasty divorce that affected me for quite awhile as a child; as a result I was exposed to many things a kid were not supposed to see nor comprehend, so I became frustrated with the world around me. A few months after the dust settled I was gifted my first drum kit at the age of nine and found my escape from reality. I was able to take all of my angst and frustration and release them through rhythm.
How did the three of you meet and start making music together?
Xavier: We met in one of our classes while attending college in Los Angeles and proceeded to form a band based on our mutual interest in music.
Listen to “Red”:
Talk to us about your newest single and your upcoming EP.
Xavier: We’re planning to release our EP on Valentine’s Day. We just put out our first song from the record, “Red.” I think we’re making a video for it soon- we’re working with the incredible Italian filmmaker Caterina Piccardo. We have SO many songs written that we want to record!! Making music takes so long though. We’re playing a bunch of shows in the next few months as well.
Beyond the artists you mentioned listening to growing up, who do you draw inspiration from for The Ivories sound?
Bryan: If Kurt Cobain and Paul McCartney had a baby and they were raised by Talking Heads’ grooves- that’s us. We cover a few artists like P.H.F (a New Zealand band we love), Blondie, Blur, and Violent Femmes. I also kinda wanna be Morrisey. The Cure is a big one. When people hear us play live, they usually compare us to The Smiths, The Cure, The Beatles, and The Pixies, which is one of the reasons our band name is what it is. I loved the Tony Hawk [video] games and skating when I was a kid too, so definitely those soundtracks influenced me.
Xavier: As a kid, my parents as well as my uncle inspired me to play the drums. Seeing them play music made me want to do the same thing. When I first started playing drums and bass I received a copy of Death From Above’s “You’re A Woman I’m A Machine,” and was immediately hooked- from that point on I knew I wanted to be a musician. I loved the high energy rock’n’roll and was determined to re-create that emotion in my music. I draw a lot of inspiration from disco/punk influenced bands such as LCD Soundsystem, Death From Above, and Moving Units.
Erin: When I was in Spain there were not a lot of women playing music in the young music scene of my town. And since I moved to LA, I’ve been finding so many bands fronted by women, which made me feel super inspired and empowered to keep writing music. Bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Savages, The Kills, or The Runaways have been pretty important in my life lately. And also the LA scene is amazing- I love to go to shows of small LA bands and get to know what their sound is and how can I add it into my music.
When you perform live, what type of environment are you trying to cultivate?
Xavier: When we perform live, we want to pull people away from their thoughts, concerns, and troubles. We seek to make people feel euphoric as they witness one of the most raw forms of human expression known to man and woman.
Bryan: I’m trying to make everyone in the audience feel like I’m their Valentine. All the songs are about a girl, and I’m singing them all in first person like I’m talking to that girl... disassociated and detached… a whisper in your ear when in reality, I’m screaming into a microphone. It’s weird. I feel like coming to our live show is like being my counselor and just listening to me talk about all my problems. All the lyrics I write are kinda self-loathing and sad, but people dance and that makes me feel good and I guess that’s what matters!
What about your music most makes you feel most empowered?
Bryan: Being able to tell people things that I would never otherwise express. Whenever I get nostalgic and reminisce back to something, a big part of how I remember it is what music was playing at the time of the memory. I even associate people with certain songs and albums. I’d love for someone to feel that was about my music. I often overthink when something doesn’t go my way, so writing songs is a good way to channel that anxiety into a tangible form so that I can release it all and get it out of my mind. I take stressful or traumatic experiences and analyze them in a third-person kind of way to take myself out of the equation and try and look at it from a different perspective. I notice little details and little gestures or expressions that made something go the way it did, you know? Writing is a good way to process things- healthier than drowning it or bottling it up.
Erin: The fact that there’s music that can make you go back to one time of your life when you were having a similar sentiment- it’s amazing to me. And being able to make people feel that blows my mind. Also, just being on a stage makes me feel so powerful. It’s the moment that we have to show the best part of ourselves.
Outside of the glory and fame of celebrity, where do you see your music going?
Bryan: I want our music to be in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 soundtrack.
What are your plans for 2018?
Xavier: As we play more shows and just get to know each other better, we start meshing our ideas together more. Our music past this first EP is going to be much more collaborative and live-sounding; more how we initially imagined our sound being.We want to play some festivals this summer but we’ve been so caught up finishing our EP, making this music video, and playing shows that we haven’t been looking beyond that very much!
Bryan: I wanna put out at least two more EP’s, a few music videos, and I wanna have some kind of event that will put together fashion, visual art, and music. I also want to become truly happy independently this year.
Solid goals. When are your next few booked shows/tours?
Bryan: Our next show is at Harvard & Stone in Thai Town in LA on the 21st of February.
Keep up with The Ivories on Facebook.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.