There are very few bands who can grip you by the throat so passionately with their music on first listen. Better still, with their first record. I can name a handful (I won’t) of bands that have debut records that do this. They are the records you still go back to more than once a week. I don’t mean bands from decades ago, I mean more recent times. It is so easy now to put something out, and to then be forgotten. But there are a few that, when I’m old and irritating those in the care home with my rowdy music, I will remember fondly and love them as much as I do right now.
A band that have become very important and dear to me over the past 6 months or so are Girl Tears. They are 3 guys from LA who make the kind of music that makes you believe pieces of Punk is still alive. The real raw essence of Punk is in their music, so it seemed obvious that I would really love this band. Kam, Sal and Tristan make music that smacks you upside the head and goes right into your gut. The lyrics get to you and the sheer boldness in the music, the short punchy songs really get you to the core. I’ve no heard anything like this in a long time.
In an ideal world I would have interviewed Girl Tears after a sweaty and ferocious LA show, but for now let’s just work with email. I sent the questions over to the band after they played SXSW as I wanted to hear first hand what it was like for a new band to play such a notorious event. An event that, some may argue as now a corporate affair- but the music lovers will see it for what it is. It’s a showcase for new music, and new music is always a pleasure to find and enjoy.
I asked Girl Tears what it was like to play SXSW and mentioned a quote from Alison Mosshart who stated that playing during the day in the blistering heat and sunshine isn’t meant for their music. A few other bands have said this, including the wonderful Dum Dum Girls.
Tristan: “SXSW was great. Crazy at times – but really great. We got to meet a lot of people and see some great bands. It would definitely be easier to go just to watch bands vs. playing. Getting around the city in the van was a little hectic, but you kind of have to expect that. We didn’t have to deal with any media people at all – I don’t think anyone really cares about us haha – there was like 916 other cooler bands there. I think this is actually the first interview we’ve ever done?! We played pretty much every type of show – a bar, an outdoor stage, a record store, a big tent, a barn(?), a backyard show, and a pool party. It was really fun. Playing in the day is kind of weird, especially for our type of music, people aren’t really that hyped to be berated by loud, fast music at 12 in the afternoon. Especially when most of them probably had been drinking the night before. But we got lucky – it wasn’t too hot that week, so that was nice.”
See dear reader, don’t listen to all the cynics that say SXSW is some corporate shindig. It is everything to bands like Girl Tears because they get to show new fans what they are about. As a band that play mainly shows in LA, playing in Austin is a big deal for them.
Kam: “I drank more beer and slept fewer hours, than probably any other week of my life. That was my SXSW. It was great. Like Tristan said, we played day shows, we played night shows, played in houses, in backyards, on stages, in a barn, in a liquor store, in a record shop… it’s all just kind of a blur at this point, but I can’t wait for next year.”
Sal: “SXSW was a dream. The luxury of living in LA is that most bands stop here for tour anyway, so (with the exception of getting to check out some new bands) I was able to just focus on our shows and hanging out with as many people as I could. In that respect, it didn’t disappoint, because it was pretty much a great vacation from work and the shows were terrific and extremely diverse. I wouldn’t trade any of the experience there for anything else, and enjoyed meeting all the people I got to meet!”
Just go through their Instagram page, and you’ll see tons of photos of the band having fun at SXSW. I really enjoyed their photos of them seeing Dum Dum Girls play. Girl Tears are excited about finding new music as they are making it. This attitude really comes through in their debut record, Tension. Which (and I’m not being biased) is honestly one of the strongest debut records I’ve heard in a long time. It’s got the dark, distorted feel that is found in the beloved Psychocandy. I feel like I’m in 1985 not 2014. So what could possibly influence a band like Girl Tears? For me they do sound like Iggy Pop, the Ramones and The Birthday Party bumped heads in a drunken bar brawl and Girl Tears happened. What made them all want to make music?
Tristan: “I would have to say that Operation Ivy made me want to play in a band & make music. The first time I heard them – it was totally one of those moments where I was so intrigued and confused as to what I was hearing. I had never heard music like that before, or that type of recording. I seriously thought something was wrong with the speakers. And then of course I couldn’t stop listening to it, and I dreamed about how fun it would be to play in a band like that, with all that energy and sincerity. And then a couple of years later I bought my first bass (that I still use!) from a friend. Since then I have played in a bunch of different bands – but Girl Tears is the first band I feel completely natural in – with that energy that I have been lusting after since I first heard Operation Ivy!“
I’m fairly sure in a few years time, people will be saying this about Girl Tears and citing them as influences. Each band member is influenced by something different to the other, and that really comes through in their music.
Kam: “The Replacements are a big one for me, The Ramones, The Nerves, everything Dischord and SST put out in the 80s, all the Slumberland bands, the Sacred Bones bands, Lolipop bands, Burger bands, so much.”
10 points go immediately to Kam for mentioning the above labels.
Sal: “I feel like more than any of my friends, I had to discover everything on my own. My parents listened to pop music and I’ve always had different tastes, which made for great contrasts and unfortunately discovering everything late. The very first music I ever got into was metal on MTV when they used to play music! From there it was borrowing Metallica and Led Zeppelin tapes at the library and it’s all been downhill from there, haha. Still, what I love the most about the band is first and foremost the diversity amongst the three of us and how different we all are as people and musicians. Each person has their unique perspective on everything and together, the results are always unpredictable and super fun.”
That’s exactly why this band have a brilliant tight sound. They all bring something else; their influences aren’t typical or predictable- but they all have one thing in common. Kam, Sal and Tristan have mentioned bands that play with the same passion as they do. That kind of love for what you do is infectious, it just makes you adore them even more.
There’s one other thing that really made me love their music and what they do, and that’s their artwork. Their artwork is created by Tristan. I’m fascinated with his artwork- mainly because in my family, my uncle is the real creative one. He got me into Punk, he’s in a Punk band and is a brilliant artist. He drew me a birthday card last year with Patti Smith on. He also once drew me a picture of the Backstreet Boys, but I was 11 years old and didn’t know any better. What I wanted to know was how Tristan approached his art, is it the same as how he makes music?
*This photo is the flyer for their show at The Satellite by Tristan.
Tristan: “I’d like to think my approach to art is similar to music. Most of my art is pretty basic – black and white, heavy contrast etc. I think the way I try to play music is very similar, the whole “less is more” idea goes a long way for me; I always have the thought in the back of my head of “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. With art and music – I think a lot of people get excited with new techniques, or pedals, or effects they’ve learned how to use and want to incorporate them – but a lot of times it just comes out kind of wrong, or forced or gaudy you know? So I feel like you can’t go wrong if you keep it basic. I don’t know though, it might be because I can’t see colors that well and I’m not that great of a bass player! Haha! So I have to keep it basic!”
His art is just as brilliant as his bass playing, he’s just being modest. Girl Tears are down to earth chaps who care about music, and it really comes through. That’s how it should be. There’s no ego here, they just want to be heard. They have to be heard.
Girl Tears live in a place where if you’re not in a band, you’re probably an actor. A place where art, music and film is everything and is everywhere. As beautiful as this can be, it can also be a place where dreams wither and die. It can bring the best out of you, but it can also drain you. Everyone is facing the same struggle with their art, and if you see someone else’s hopes be crushed- does it deter you or does it make you tougher? Everyone is different. Some can cope with this kind of pressure, others just fold. The best way of course, is to just keep going and to ignore most obstacles. To never acknowledge others telling you that you cannot do something. Just how hard is it to be heard in the City of Angels?
Kam: “It can be difficult, most definitely. There are a trillion bands in LA, and you’re totally right, if someone’s not in a band they are an artist, or an actor, or a writer, or something. The only thing I know to do is ignore all of that, and try my hardest to make something that is honest and true to who I am, and who we are, as a band. At the end of the day that’s all that really matters to me. Also our friends at Lolipop Records and Dirty Laundry TV have helped us enormously, we’re really lucky to know good people in LA.”
Sal: “I’ve been playing music for so long and I’ve been in bands where the only goal was to push ourselves as much as possible to get “big”. The place I’m at right now is where I’m completely happy just hanging out with Kam and Tristan and love playing these songs every chance we get. We’ve had some great opportunities which blows my mind, but I’m trying to take it all as it comes, so being just one band amongst millions is just fine with me!”
Girl Tears are sentimental chaps who love each other and love what they do. Their music is at times dark, raw and in your face. But are these three like that? Oh I highly doubt it. Their songs, like I have mentioned many times before, really does keep the manifesto of Punk alive. They’ve got the short, punchy songs down to a fine art. Their songs sound right at just under 2 minutes long. But then you have bands like Warpaint who have some songs that last over 5 minutes, and they sound perfect that way. Warpaint jam on stage for close to 10 minutes after the song has ended, but Girl Tears manage to melt your face and blow your mind in under 2 minutes. Both are polar opposites, but are bands that you just need to witness live (I’m still waiting to see Girl Tears live, but I’m 100% sure their live show would leave me wanting to start a band.) Is having short songs something Girl Tears set out to do?
Kam: “You know, truthfully I don’t think I know what I’m doing half the time. I think when I’m writing songs, I’m just trying to do what feels right and what makes sense in the moment. This album is what made sense to me at the time. All these lyrics, it’s not necessarily how I’m feeling 100% of my life, but in the moments that I wrote it, they were totally honest and real. All I wanna do is write songs that are honest. Whether they are 1 minute long, or 8 minutes long, I’m down for whatever. As long as it’s fucking real, ya know?”
So there you have it. An insight into one of the most exciting bands around. A band that really love what they are doing and aren’t doing it to seek approval from others. Their fans are dedicated and truly believe in them. In a short amount of time, Girl Tears have become one of L.A’s most exciting and genuine bands around. They’ve got something that goes beyond words. Their music has heart, guts, passion, soul and all in between. Their plan over the next year or so is to keep playing live, record more, keep writing and tour some more.
Play at night for the full effect and allow yourself to be moved by something truly gorgeous, sinister and rambunctious. Girl Tears are my favourite new band; it’s about time they became yours.