JURASSIC SHARK: WE KEPT THE SHREDDING
photography by debi del grande
For a few years now, Monrovia’s Jurassic Shark have been building a dedicated following with hard work, wild shows, and a style that blends driving indie rock and classic heart-on-sleeve emo with some deceptively sophisticated psychedelic touches. The band self-released their debut full-length album Overflow in August, and it’s a record which sees the band moving toward more complicated and dynamic rhythms and melodies, as well as a cleaner and more focused sound. But none of this growth comes at the expense of the energy, passion, and sincerity which defined their earliest recordings—which is exactly what made the band so endearing in the first place. L.A. RECORD was able to catch up with all four members of the group—Max, Will, Daniel, and John—and hear all about the new record, their early history, and their absolutely practical affection for Foster’s beer. They perform with the Red Pears and Spendtime Palace on Sat., Oct. 27, at the El Rey. This interview by Simon Weedn.
Daniel Fowler (guitar/vocals): We’re excited! We’re just drinking some Foster’s right now.
My understanding is that’s Australian for beer.
Jonathan Hastings (drums): That is correct. It used to be thee beer for us, but I think we’re more Modelo people now I’d say. Our guitarist Will is quite the bartender as well—he makes a good Old Fashioned.
What drew you to the Foster’s?
Maximo Huete (bass): I think it’s because they’re cheap and they look like a good amount for the price.
Jonathan Hastings: They look like humungous oil cans.
Maximo Huete: And they look cool because they’re fat.
Will Cragoe (guitar): Quantity over quality.
I used to be a big fan of Miller High Life for similar reasons.
Jonathan Hastings: Those are great—the champagne of beer.
You just put out your debut full-length Overflow! Were these all new songs?
Daniel Fowler: It took us a while to get it recorded so the songs aren’t brand new. We’ve been playing them together for a while. But they’d never been recorded or released anywhere else.
Jonathan Hastings: It was about a year or two before we had them recorded.
Maximo Huete: I think all the songs were written in 2017? It was over the course of a year give or take.
Was it a conscious choice to put off recording that entire time or was it more logistical?
Daniel Fowler: Logistical.
Maximo Huete: Logistical.
Will Cragoe: Logistical.
Jonathan Hastings: Yeah—we have a hard time getting the ball rolling on things sometimes.
Daniel Fowler: The album is nine songs long, and if you put that in the span of a year and a half that’s a song every three months or something.We just put a bunch of thoughts and ideas together with the songs individually. As a whole I think the pieces fall into place and it ends up working out. Will made the tracklist which was pretty epic. I think it creates that individuality.
Did you each come up with your own track lists and pick the one you liked best?
Maximo Huete: We did them all individually and then we decided that Will’s was the best one.
Daniel Fowler: And I don’t think we even listened to it. I think we just saw it and knew.
That’s a thing that I think sometimes gets overlooked when people are making albums. It’s really cool that you put that much effort into yours. I know when it was originally released, Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness had different track listings between the CDs and the vinyl.
Daniel Fowler: Crazy—I did not know that. We were just talking about covering a Smashing Pumpkins song last night. ‘Today,’ right? ‘Today’ is the name of the song.
Jonathan Hastings: I don’t know if we were super serious about it, but we had to play it for a second.
That’s one of my favorite songs of theirs. I think it’s one of the most well produced tracks of the 90s. Do you work a lot of covers into your sets?
Daniel Fowler: We did a DEVO cover set two years ago. It was pretty amazing. We covered their first album.
In its entirety?
Daniel Fowler: No, it was minus two songs. It was minus ‘Satisfaction,’ terribly, and another one called ‘Mongoloid.’ Even though both are epic, we just thought that we couldn’t do it—we couldn’t touch them. It’s not super easy covering DEVO.
Maximo Huete: What’s funny is that we covered DEVO before we began writing our album and it really helped us. It made us better musicians.
Daniel Fowler: They’re a really punctual band—they’re so solid.
Jonathan Hastings: Learning other band’s songs totally made me think about my own drumming differently.
DEVO are one of my favorite bands and they’re so underrated. When you mention their name most people say, ‘Oh yeah, “Whip It” right?’ But they did so much more.
Jonathan Hastings: True! We did not play ‘Whip It’ and I think there were some disappointed people in the crowd.
Their first album is so good though!
Daniel Fowler: Yeah, and the B-sides before it are all epic. They’re just a great band. I think it really helped with our punctuality. Our music before didn’t have any breaks—or perhaps it did, but this music we’re recording now is a lot more precise. I definitely thank DEVO for that.
Are there other bands you’d entertain covering for an entire set?
Maximo Huete: We’ve thought about doing Radiohead before?
Daniel Fowler: No, we can’t do Radiohead.
Jonathan Hastings: I think In Rainbows would be one of the coolest albums to cover.
Daniel Fowler: It’d be so hard.
Jonathan Hastings: I think we’re up for it.
Daniel Fowler: I once had an idea that for every era of music we could choose a song, cover it, and then compile it into a time piece album. So from start to finish it’s like early era to post-modern music.
Jonathan Hastings: I think a one-hit-wonders Halloween set would be awesome too. There are so many good songs from bands that you’ve never heard anything else from. Like that song ‘Your Love’ by the Outfield … that’s one of the amazing songs ever. But you don’t even know who that band is.
I think that if you really committed to doing a specific Now That’s What I Call Music cover set though, you’d get to play some good songs … but also some really bad ones.
Jonathan Hastings: I wonder how dark that rabbit hole gets.
Daniel Fowler: Do they still make those? Do they have Now in 2018?
Jonathan Hastings: They’ve got to be pretty deep into it at this point.
Daniel Fowler: If they support bad music, maybe we could get on one? That could be our golden ticket!
I think they’re still making Now and those Kidz Bop compilations too.
Jonathan Hastings: That could be our golden ticket! If they got kids to cover our songs.
Which song of yours would you want a group of little kids to cover though?
Maximo Huete: Hmmm … ‘1963.’
Daniel Fowler: Probably ‘Vent.’
Jonathan Hastings: I don’t know—I want to hear those little kids shred. We’d have to pick a complicated one. Definitely ‘Arrowhead’ actually! Definitely ‘Arrowhead.’
Was it your plan all along to release your new album the same week as a summer blockbuster about a prehistoric shark?
Daniel Fowler: We didn’t even know that was happening.
Will Cragoe: We probably would have changed that a little if we had known.
Jonathan Hastings: I saw the movie and it wasn’t so bad.
I’m a really big fan of your band’s name.
Daniel Fowler: I just made it up in my bed. I was also watching Jurassic Park. We’re all just big Spielberg fans.
Jonathan Hastings: And it’s just his two best movies combined into one.
Daniel Fowler: I think initially I wanted to start a surf music project, and I thought that would be a good name for that project. Then we all liked it and it just kind of stuck. We also used to have a couple other band names as well.
Maximo Huete: One them was Mystery Alley because in high school we had a teacher named Mr. Reale. It was a terrible pun.
Will Cragoe: I thought our first show was as Radiohead?
Jonathan Hastings: Yeah, one time we were just Radiohead for the night.
Daniel Fowler: And John used to groom a horse called … Phar Lap I think.
Jonathan Hastings: No, I used to groom horses, but there was cool horse named Phar Lap and I thought that was a cool name. He was actually an Australian horse that won a ton of races and was super famous a long time ago.
I’m noticing an Australian trend running through this band.
Jonathan Hastings: Will went to Australia for a couple weeks!
Will Cragoe: It was cool! I only went to the cities and stuff, I didn’t get to go into the outback and stuff. The cities were a lot like America, but it was really beautiful and everyone was really nice. It was fun!
Daniel Fowler: We’ve played with a lot of Australian bands and they’ve all been super nice.
There are so many amazing bands coming out of Australia right now!
Daniel Fowler: All of the bands we’ve played with are excellent! We’ve been invited by a lot of the bands that come out here.
Maximo Huete: There was a band called the Bennies that invited us down there one time.
Jonathan Hastings: The Bennies are kind of big at this point.
Daniel Fowler: They kill it.
I hear Australian crowds are wild. You should take them up on the offer.
Jonathan Hastings: They must be—they’re selling them these giant cans of beer. [laughs]
You worked with Tabor Allen [Girlpool] and Devin O’Brien [Avi Buffalo] in the studio for this album, right?
Daniel Fowler: We’ve known Tabor for a while and we’ve always looked up to him for his music and intellectual qualities.
Jonathan Hastings: He’s engineered a lot of awesome records like Slow Hollows and he’s done a lot of cool stuff. We knew he was recording bands and we knew him from when we used to play with his band Wide Streets. We thought it would be cool to record with somebody that we were cool with.
Daniel Fowler: And he has the most amazing attitude.
Jonathan Hastings: He’s the nicest guy in the world.
Did you know Devin from before as well?
Maximo Huete: No, he brought him into the picture.
Daniel Fowler: I think they were just set to collaborate. They’re like a dream team. It was amazing—we did everything in a day and they nailed it.
Jonathan Hastings: They were down for everything the whole time and they were super helpful. We’d never been in a studio setting before, so they were really cool with everything.
Did they bring you in and let you do your thing or did they offer guidance or advice?
Daniel Fowler: They offered a lot, actually. They caught a lot of little tiny things that we really didn’t think about but in the end just helps overall. It’s important to have somebody from the outside helping us as a band. They definitely added their two cents and it was fucking worth it. There were a lot of times they kept the progression going just with their attitudes in general. I didn’t want to feel so overwhelmed and they helped me not feel overwhelmed. It was like having a mentor there—the nicest mentors ever. They were so balanced. It was an amazing experience for sure.
One thing I really like about Overflow is how energetic and alive it sounds. Did you record the album fully live?