ATH Interviews: John Lamonica
As previously stated, I’ve been a huge fan of John Lamonica and the music he creates. From his days in post-emo outfit My Spacecoaster and then now to his solo work, Lamonica’s songwriting has always struck a chord with me. Knowing this about me, you’re sure to understand my excitement when Lamonica recently stopped into Austin and agreed to answer a few questions for ATH. You can find this short interview about this underrated musicians career after the jump. Hope you enjoy.
ATH: My first experience with your music was in 1999 or 2000 with a song called “Furtive” by your now defunct band My Spacecoaster. That song really resonated with me during my high school years spent in a Christian screamo band (maybe we should have toured together). You were obviously a church goer in your youth?
John: True that. It’s sad.
ATH: What ultimately led to the demise of MS? What were you up to in your time after the band broke up? I feel like you sort of left music for awhile?
John: It was a long time ago but I think that band just wasn’t destined for success, we tried but it wasn’t in the cards.
I didn’t leave, I just started working on the production/engineering side. Traveling to record people and do studio sessions. That was post-Spree, like ’02/’03 I think. Eventually I moved to SLC which is sort of like taking yourself off the musical grid. I became invisible, but it was voluntary. I shut down my myspace page and settled down there for about 4 years. I was still playing though and I did the ‘Shortbus’ soundtrack, did shows in NYC, Canada and recorded a little in Austin and LA. I just wanted to take it easy and do things my way. I’m not much of a socializer and I don’t much care for the music “business”.
ATH: After your time in My, I didn’t hear much from you until your name popped up as a member of Polyphonic Spree. What was it like being in a such a huge band and what was your role?
John: I started singing with the choir and ended up playing percussion. Honestly, it was great. I wouldn’t change a thing about my time in that band. It was a real eye opening experience too. Like, I never thought I’d play on Conan and play Glastonbury and all that.
ATH: Moving forward, I next caught word that you were recording under the name Tiebreaker. It seems like Tiebreaker was when you first really began the move to a more “electronic” sound. Care to share why you made this huge stylistic change?
John: It really wasn’t a big change for me, I was dj’ing on 1200’s at parties before I was ever in My Spacecoaster. Dance, idm, electronic and rap has been 90% of my music collection since I was old enough to buy cassettes as a pre-teen. With the other 10% being indie stuff…and there was that ska phase in high school. So, I actually don’t know if it was as big a change for me as it was me removing myself from outside influences and that music scene we were a part of and just pursuing what I was actually passionate about.
ATH: Currently you’ve made the move to toss out all those monikers and just put out material as yourself. Do you feel in some ways that this has caused you to “start over” in your career in a sense?
John: Sure but it’s what I wanted to do so it’s not something I was unaware of when i decided to do it. I guess ultimately I feel like I’ll get where I’m going and I’m where I want to be so there’s no real rush or anxiety involved in starting over.
ATH: So you transitioned from Tiebreaker, to WRSTLRS, and now to almost completely electronic material under your own name. Do you feel like this is the music you’ve always wanted to create? This sort of electronic-pop music?
John: Right this second I’m releasing more vocally driven tracks for the followup to ‘Volunteers’ mostly because that’s what I’ve accumulated over the last year or so. It’s different from the direction and sound of ‘Volunteers’ but it’s a lot more cohesive and yes, more pop. Live it’s a whole different thing where I do more improvisational electronic sets with remixes and looping, etc. I don’t know if I want to do pop music or that I like defining my sound in that way. I see everything as a progression towards new directions. I want to un-define my sound without completely screwing with people. I’m not deliberately trying to be confusing to the audience that I have, I won’t make or perform music unless it feels free and unconstrained…and I feel like I have a lot of room to make what I feel like making in the moment. So, like I was saying, ‘Volunteers’ sounds one way, the followup record is done and it’s more cohesive and vocally centered and I feel like after that I’m going to make bass music for awhile.
ATH: For someone who has yet to hear your new LP “Volunteers”, how would you describe the music to them? What’s a perfect situation to sit down and listen to the music for the first time?
John: It’s a challenging electronic record that I think you should listen to in headphones first to explore. I’m grateful that people see value In it and at the reviews it’s gotten so far where people have taken the time to really break it down. When I listen to it I just remember how isolated I was and I think you can hear that isolation.
ATH: Being now that you are mostly computer based, what goes into a live show for you? Do you bring anyone else on tour? How do you keep a crowd engaged on a nightly basis performing solo?
John: I do it solo right now. Live, I use traktor and some controllers. My tracks are all broken down into individual stems and loops that I trigger and edit live. I also sample my voice live and improvise. It hasn’t been difficult getting the audience into it at all, as long as the PA isn’t total shit. The plan is to incorporate live visuals.
ATH: Let’s say your getting to put together a 3-4 band national tour with groups that now fit in well with your current style. You’re playing opener. Who do you want headlining?
John: Modeselektor, Kylie Minogue, Ghostface not necessarily in that order.
Thanks again for the time John!