SEXTILE: CHOOSE WHAT YOU WANT
photography by alex the brown
L.A.’s Sextile hammer out relentless and uncompromising post-punk with a gothic command of negative space and vintage synthesizers sparking and arcing lightning at the edges. It’s darkness without melodrama and inspiration without hesitation all the way through the ten precision-machined tracks that make up their razor-sharp new Albeit Living, the annihilating sequel to their notable 2015 album A Thousand Hands. They speak here about making it work no matter what. Their record release show is Thurs., July 13, at Zebulon. This interview by Vanessa Gonzalez.
I was looking at the Kickstarter for your tour with Soft Moon, and I was impressed by how modest the estimates for your needs were. $15 a day on food and $60 for a hotel room is tough.
Brady Keehn (vocals/guitar): You’d be surprised man—Melissa on Priceline.com wheels and deals. She’s a genius at it.
Melissa Scaduto (vocals/drums): I’m a straight hustler for that shit. My old band used to call me Scam-duto instead of Scaduto. This whole house I furnished with free Craigslist. Everything’s free. I grew up with a really poor hustling mom, so I learned.
Eddie Weubben (synthesizer/guitar): I didn’t even know the Kickstarter had dollar amounts for day to day.
Melissa Scaduto: Our label dude did that. I actually think what’s realistic for a hotel room daily, on an average … like, I’ll try to get us four-star places for like $70 cuz I don’t want our gear to get stolen. To me, it’s worth it on Priceline to throw an extra $15 on it to get a parking garage. And we’ll be more comfortable, so it’s like … fuck it. But we generally buy our own food. But that tour, we lived hard. We didn’t sleep in hotels. We used every cent to just go.
What other money saving tips do you have for touring bands?
Melissa Scaduto: I live for the idea of saving money. I always just try and figure, ‘How can I get what I want while saving the most amount of money?’ I go so low though, you know? Rather than buying a bottle of water I’ll just ask for a cup of water. It’s just little things like that go so far. And if you give yourself $10 a day, it’s really possible. And honestly, thank god for food stamps. On our first tour, I broke everyone’s balls about getting food stamps before we left. And it came in sooooo handy.
Eddie Weubben: They picked me up from the welfare office to go on tour.
Melissa Scaduto: Just give me a topic and I’ll tell you how to save money.
Brady Keehn: If the green room’s stacked, make sure you pack!
Melissa Scaduto: If there’s a case of water, there’s hummus, there’s red pepper, and if there’s a fridge where we’re staying because of that extra $15 that we kicked on Priceline, we take that food and we have a little breakfast. Also, if you see the maid’s cart, steal all the coffee. I only buy what’s on sale and I generally only buy it with food stamps. That way I’m literally not spending a dollar except in thrift stores and on cigarettes. That’s the only thing I want that’s actually going to cost money.
Eddie Weubben: And if you need any impromptu swimming trunks, she knows where all the thrift stores are.
Melissa Scaduto: Everyday we go to a thrift store on tour. I’m a treasure hunter. I look at reviews of all the neighboring thrift stores. Like the whole route on the whole way. I’m pretty obsessed with thrifting.
You’ve turned it into a business? You’re doing the flea markets?
Melissa Scaduto: Yeah, I have been for a while. When my leg went out at Amoeba, I couldn’t work there anymore. I was like, ‘Alright, what else can I do?’ I was already selling on Etsy, then I started selling on Melrose and I made in one day what I would have made all month, working like 40 hours a week. But I needed a job like Amoeba for a while to ground me so I wasn’t bartending cuz that was my hustle for a long time. I don’t feel like we actually gave any actual tips on the saving money.
If the green room is stacked, you better pack!
Melissa Scaduto: Oh yeah, that’s a good one.
How was SXSW this year?
Brady Keehn: I think we played the best show we’ve ever had. James Chance and the Contortions had to drop out so we had to cover for them …
Melissa Scaduto: I thought everybody would be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Like if I go to see the Contortions and I see these young kids that are not the Contortions, I’d be like … but that show was awesome. I felt the energy and the vibe of the audience way more than I ever have. It was also the first time that old dudes actually came up to me and told me I was a good drummer. Dudes never come up to me. They’ll come up to [the guys in the band] and tell them that the band is great and say nothing to me—won’t even acknowledge me.
Brady Keehn: It doesn’t happen as much as it used to.
Melissa Scaduto: Of course it doesn’t—it’s gotten better—but that’s what I’m talking about. The turning point was literally from that show. I started feeling like dudes now say something to me. It’s just that for the longest time I’ve felt … I dunno, burned by men in general. I’ve walked into the Smell and they thought [former guitarist Sammy Warren] was in the band and I wasn’t. This was before he was in the band. They were like, ‘Um, hold up—are you with them?’ And I was like, ‘I’m in the band.’
Eddie Weubben: They let Sammy walk right by …
Melissa Scaduto: And then stopped me while we were together because they assume I’m just the girl with the band. And I was like, ‘This is the Smell.’ It’s just real.
Eddie Weubben: You guys want to touch on the good stuff that came out of South by … like…
Brady Keehn: Oh, well—we got a U.S. booking agent from Flower Booking.
Oh, congrats! So how does the new album feel different to you guys than the first?
Melissa Scaduto: To me, this record sounds more like the band—and when a band changes and grows into something else, like a bigger idea. Keep in mind that with that first record, we literally played one show and then we’re approached to record. It was … rushed. While we were recording it, we played our second show. The songs were thrown together and when we played our first show we were all playing different instruments. We even had two different people in the band that are no longer in the band … and it had a different name, too. It wasn’t even the same band. We were fortunate to put that out right away but I feel like in a weird way this is our first record.
Eddie Weubben: The second record all around feels really good. We’ve gotten way more comfortable, we’ve really put a lot more into it, and then life has gotten pretty good all around, you know? So the energy, the fun just of us gelling on it and just having a good time …
You recorded the first album quickly?
Melissa Scaduto: I think over a couple weeks. Brady locked himself in a cabin and did the majority of it … then [he] called me and Eddie to help.
Brady Keehn: It took two weeks to record, but I had been writing songs for months prior and we had been playing them together …
So you fleshed them out live?
Brady Keehn: Exactly. I’d write some stuff and then Eddie would come over and he’d write some stuff and then Melissa would write something and we’d make demos and then we’d bring practice them and they’d become even bigger. Then Eddie would be adding synth lines that I didn’t think about when I was writing or [Melissa] would be like, ‘No, this part’s cheesy! Let’s do something else here!’ and adding her own fills. I never really had lyrics until we recorded. At most of our shows I was saying a bunch of gibberish.
Melissa Scaduto: You still do.
Brady Keehn: Not anymore!
Melissa Scaduto: I swear to God, you sing it the same. It’s a mumble of the melody. I feel like that’s kind of commonplace—like every band does that.
Do you record the mumbling, listen to the mumble and then create lyrics from what you perceive in the mumble?
Brady Keehn: Yes—all the time. I caught that from Brian Eno. He would record gibberish and then listen back and record the lyrics.
Melissa Scaduto: Wu-Tang did the same thing.
Looking over your Twitter, I noticed a lot of Eno retweets.
Melissa Scaduto: I looked at our Twitter once and I was like, ‘Brady, you need to take some of this shit down or choose what you’re posting.’ Our Twitter presence to me was unacceptable.
Brady Keehn: I post the Oblique Strategy of the day, or I just like pictures of Brian Eno. He’s the only person I follow on there so all I get is Brian Eno updates and I’m like … cool.
Do you use Oblique Strategies in your writing process?
Brady Keehn: Like a half-assed version—my own version where I’ll be like, ‘OK, guys, we’re only playing things in one note and everybody’s gotta play a different rhythm.’ That’s how we came up with that song ‘Sterilized.’
On the new album, what is ‘Who Killed Six’ about?