The rich hardcore community of the Bay Area has been home to intelligent post-hardcore outfit Loma Prieta since their inception back in 2005. A decade later consisting of a handful of releases, multiple overseas tours, and a surplus of broken guitar necks and amps; they released their latest full-length, “Self Portrait” earlier this month via Deathwish Inc. “Self Portrait” displays their distinct progression as a band that has survived to the ripe age of ten years young. To celebrate this, the band has scheduled their upcoming East/West/East – Weekend that consists of two back-to-back record release shows in the Bay Area that are conveniently sandwiched between Pre-Fest and Fest 14 dates in Florida. In between his busy travel and work schedule, I was able to get a brief interview out of Loma’s guitarist and designated “creative guy,” Brian Kanagaki, before embarking on this notable Halloween weekend.
Loma Prieta has been a band for about a decade now. Is there a mentality to have for keeping a band alive for that long without it becoming mundane? And has your outlook of the band changed from the beginning?
Brian Kanagaki: I think that the most important thing to keep in mind when you are in a band is that it’s meant to be fun. This isn’t my job, if I wanted to make a living off of music I would l have chosen a different genre. There are easier ways to make money so you might as well have fun. I think we all know that so we just try to write the best music that we can and we are always changing our sound and trying out new ideas. It’s fun for us to be challenged and always be pushing our sound and aesthetic forward. To me, the band is a creative outlet, both in the writing and performing but also in touring. I love to tour and I love to travel, I try to take advantage of my privilege and document the tours as best I can and that fulfills another passion of mine which is photography. I feel like my art and photography wouldn’t be where it is now if not for being exposed to so many new places, people, and cultures.
For someone who has done extensive traveling and touring over the years; are you still surprised by other cultures or places around the world?
BK: I think that I have learned more from touring and traveling in a band than from any other aspect of my life. You really can’t learn this stuff in school or by just staying at home in your town. Seeing other cultures and being able to compare them to your own helps you grow and mature as a human being. Seeing that what you know and think of as normal is just one aspect of the world is so eye opening and really puts things into perspective. You start to realize how privileged you are, just by being born in America, or being from a certain place. It’s humbling and makes you less of an asshole. It’s made me appreciate my life so much more. Traveling is by far my favorite aspect of being in a band, I am surprised every single day, even when we tour the US. The world is an amazing place full of amazing people. I feel extremely lucky to be in a band that gets to tour as much as we do.
Now that you live in New York City is it any more difficult to stay in touch with the guys or to keep the band on a schedule of sorts? I’m sure you have a rather chaotic travel schedule at times…
BK: It’s not any harder that it used to be. It’s frustrating to not be able to see them and practice, we don’t practice anymore and that makes touring really hard. I still talk to them almost every day but now that I’m on the east coast, and James is in Florida, and the other guys are in CA, it’s really hard to plan anything. Organizing four people’s schedules to tour is already hard but trying to organize flights and logistics for us is kind of a nightmare now. It’s not going to stop us from touring but it has made my life more stressful, haha.
From an artist perspective, how did you get where you are now? And are you where you want to be with your art, photography, and other mediums? Any improvements or goals you still wish to achieve?
BK: It’s hard to say, I don’t even think about myself as an artist. I went to school for fine art and then once I graduated I started getting into photography. I never studied photography as an art, I’ve always seen it more as documentary, I never tried to master it and I’m still learning so much every day. I am definitely more interested in the fine art side of photography now though. I work as an art director and designer, those parts of my life I see as work and I try to keep photography as a side project that I can do for fun. I feel lucky to be working in the creative world in NYC and I have a lot of friends to thank for the help and support to get me here. There is a lot to be said about being good at what you do but you also need to be able to form professional relationships in order to succeed. I still have a long way to go in my opinion, I think it’s good to know that you don’t know anything and you have a lot to learn about your profession. It’s the same with music, you need to know that you aren’t the best and that you still need to work hard to always get better. Creativity is a muscle that you constantly need to work on strengthening.
All of the art and imagery for the band is very uniform, minimal, black & white. Is there a theme or direction you try to achieve with the Loma Prieta imagery?
BK: I think that most of the LOMA imagery has a very uniform aesthetic because I make almost all of it. For the last 7 years now I have made every shirt and record design other than Dark Mountain. It’s been a great project for me to learn on and refine my personal style while helping solidify the band’s aesthetic. I think that the imagery has been a big part of why people like our band, I feel like people can relate to it and feel strongly about it. I’ve always tried to make the strongest visuals that I can and I’ve always viewed the art that I create for the band as an extension of myself. I don’t have a theme but I do have a very rigid personal aesthetic and idea of what I think is good/tasteful.
You guys recently collaborated with Abominable Electronics to create the unique and limited “Throne Torcher.” Abominable Electronics being a company based out of North Carolina, what was the driving force to do so or to choose to work with them?
BK: Up until recently we weren’t a band that used pedals or effects. I think for the first seven or eight years of the band we only used a tuner and a overdrive pedal. I think Sean always hated effects so we just didn’t bother with them. I bought a few pedals to help out on one song, mostly to help me make noise on the Raein Split 7″, I mostly needed a pedal that would give me a freeze/hold effect. The results were really cool and interesting so I started using the pedals in older songs and I kinda fell in love with using pedals to accent notes here and there and bring attention to a certain riff. Deathwish had worked with Abominable before on a pedal and I think Tre proposed the collaboration but didn’t have anything in mind. Sean and I both wanted to just make a pedal that made fucked up noise, something that the average person wouldn’t ever want. We had the idea of making a reverse noise gate or feedback boost pedal. We asked Patrick at AE if he could make it work and he was able to figure it out. So what we have is a gnarly “Trilogy 6” type overdrive pedal with a second feedback boost pedal that just makes noise over the top of your distortion. It’s a pretty stupid idea but I’m excited about it.
The new record “Self Portrait,” has been out for a couple weeks now. You all have talked about slowly maturing throughout each record and this one not necessarily being on the angrier side. What are the reactions of this one and how have fans perceived it?
BK: So far the reaction to the new record has been amazing. I’ve hardly heard a single bad thing about it, which is amazing for our genre. I’ve heard that the vocals weren’t loud enough and that was a conscious choice because loud vocals in aggressive music sound terrible. When I see a band live I want to hear the instruments, not the dude yelling at me. Hopefully we have time to write more music and progress more and maybe Sean and I will learn how to sing and then we will move the vocals louder in the mix. As of right now we are still focusing on writing good songs with strong guitar melodies so that’s the part that we want upfront. To me this new record didn’t go as far as we wanted but we needed to ease into it and slowly make the move forward. To me it’s exciting to see what we did and to be able to still have space to grow within our genre. We have only played a few of these new songs live so the audience reaction has been a little ambiguous so far, it’ll be nice to have the record be out for a while before we tour on it.
You guys are doing this East/West/East Weekend coming up for Fest 14 with your West Coast release shows with Ceremony right in between two Fest dates. That is the epitome of just going for it. What are your expectations for this and are you stocked up on enough coffee for it?
BK: Yeah, this is definitely the stupidest thing we have ever done. This might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back…But hopefully not, haha. We love Ceremony, we have been friends with them for a really long time and they have always supported us. They asked us to play these shows and we couldn’t say no. We also love the idea of being able to play a record release show at ‘home’ in San Francisco at an amazing venue, The Great American Music Hall. I know that it’s going to be an extremely hard weekend and we probably won’t sleep or eat but it’s only 4 days. We can do it. It’ll be worth it to play four really big shows to a lot of hopefully new faces. These will also be our last shows of the year so we wanted to go out with a bang.