Spend a little time getting to know Funeral Party. Chad Elliott and James Torres take a few moments to discuss their band and their new album The Golden Age Of Knowhere.
Los Angeles-based Funeral Party formed late one night while drinking in a park in Whittier, California, a sleepy suburb that sits on the outskirts of Los Angeles County. Chad Elliott, James Torres, and Kimo Kauhola formed Funeral Party as a means of escaping a nowhere town set amidst a cultural wasteland. The moroseness evoked by their moniker is undermined by Funeral Party's debut album, Golden Age of Knowhere, an up-tempo powerhouse that weaves a barrage of aggressively catchy melodies, propulsive basslines, and relentless rhythms with Elliott's raw, throaty vocals and the band's shouty group sing-alongs. The album opens with a triad of punchy tracks: "New York City Moves To The Sound of L.A.," "Carwars," and first U.S. single "Finale."
Golden Age of Knowhere is comprised of songs that "capture the urgency of youth." This undoubtedly reflects the context from which the band emerged. According to Elliot, "Whittier is pretty much a dead town. It's boring. That's one of the biggest reasons we wanted to be in a band, just to get the fuck out of there." Elliott's collaborators share his view of the landscape that bore Funeral Party, and the prevalent themes of Golden Age of Knowhere. "Everyone in our neighborhood is connected in some way," Torres explains, "and you're trapped. It's why I learned to play guitar, to tune it all out." Kauhola elaborates, "We definitely want the music to sound like an escape."
During the time of Funeral Party's inception, hardcore and metal bands dominated the local music scene. South of Whittier, in Orange County and Long Beach, screamo bands were popping up, and in Downtown Los Angeles, the burgeoning Smell scene was well underway. In the East Los Angeles neighborhoods adjacent to Whittier, however, a post-punk, dance-craze revival was exploding, garnering partygoers from all over Southern California.
Elliott, Torres, and Kauhola were well aware of the East L.A. backyard party scene and decided to book some parties, however, they needed a name first. Elliott brought the name Funeral Party to the others after a friend played him a Cure song of the same title. "We chose the name Funeral Party because it was just the most depressing song I'd ever heard," Elliott explains. "It was the perfect name for a band like ours because we come from this jail town: no one gets out until they're dead. We also liked the name because it sounded like a hardcore band, but it had the word 'party' in it, so it fit in on the East L.A. dance party fliers." Elliott concludes, "Initially, that name tricked people into seeing us."
Funeral Party began gigging every weekend, adding their own chapter to East Los Angeles's rich musical history. They owned no equipment and had to borrow gear from the other bands that played backyard parties and warehouses. Funeral Party was quickly embraced by the hundreds of dance-starved teenagers that came out to "jungle-juice" parties every weekend. This did not go unnoticed by law enforcement. Many Funeral Party gigs were shut down, usually before they played their first note, fuelling interest in the band and adding to their mythic stature.
Funeral Party was invited to record at The Mars Volta's studio in East L.A. They still had no instruments. "Back then, we only had three songs," explains Kauhola. Elliott adds, "I had no lyrics. I had to use raw emotion to summon the words. That's still how I write. I conjure emotions and they tell me what to sing." Torres reminisces, "It was an adventure recording those demos because we didn't have our own equipment, so we had sneak in during off-hours and use the gear that was already there."
The stage provided Funeral Party their only opportunity to write and practice. They focused on playing East L.A., honing their sound in front of their young audience. Rather than trying to become a staple at the Smell or gigging around the local club scene, Funeral Party began accepting support slots on local festivals, supporting such acts as The Faint, Cut Copy, The Mars Volta, and Crystal Castles.
The band's rise in popularity was not without its obstacles. "Man," says Kauhola, "after we did finally put some equipment together, my van got stolen with all our gear." Funeral Party would not have much time to lament the loss of their gear, however. Kauhola says, "I thought we were finished. No car, no bass, but then we started playing harder than ever." A preliminary recording of "Carwars" made its way to France, striking the attention of Yelle. The result for Funeral Party was an extensive North American tour with the band which also featured Passion Pit on the west coast dates.
Shortly after returning to L.A., Funeral Party embarked on another North American tour, this time with And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead, which concluded in Austin, Texas at South by Southwest Music Festival. Funeral Party returned to Los Angeles with an offer to play Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and a record deal with RCA.
Funeral Party has played Japan's Fuji Rock Festival, appearing with Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, among others. After completing their album, they embarked on two U.K. tours, as well as a U.S. tour with Strokes front man, Julian Casablancas, a highlight for Torres who cites The Strokes as a major influence. Funeral Party will be appearing at numerous festivals worldwide in conjunction with the release of their album.
Produced by Lars Stalfors (Matt & Kim, The Mars Volta) and mixed by Dave Sardy (Band of Horses, LCD Soundsystem, Oasis) Funeral Party's debut full-length, Golden Age of Knowhere, will be released in March 29, 2011 on RCA Records. The opening track, "New York City moves to the sound of L.A.," recalls the rivalry between New York City and Los Angeles. Elliott explains, "We wrote that song to satirize the way certain bands had to move to New York to get noticed. But the song also explores the way newer movements recycle the past, and our inability to escape that cycle." The song is a portal to the album's escapist theme. "When we wrote Golden Age of Knowhere, I was reading Lord of the Flies," Elliott says, "So I started thinking about the idea of a DIY civilization, like the world ends and the young people build everything back up from scratch." Golden Age of Knowhere also contains songs that address relationships, such as "Carwars," "Where did it go wrong," and "Youth and Poverty," songs that convey an overwhelming sense of loss, or a sense of never having had. In "Finale," feelings of loss and yearning coalesce into the ultimate escape: Death. According to Elliott, "It's about trying to remember what it feels like to be young one last time before you dieescaping life through death, and death through the memory of youth."
Golden Age of Knowhere will be released by RCA Records in March, 29 2011.