JURASSIC SHARK: WE KEPT THE SHREDDING
photography by debi del grande
Daniel Fowler: Yeah, except for Will’s guitar part. We recorded that the very next day. We recorded the whole album in one day except for Will’s guitar. Including the vocals—we did those live too. We also made it a point to not truly destroy the recording by manipulating it technically. We did that to be sure that our shows would be better than anticipated.
Jonathan Hastings: We kept the shredding for the live shows.
Daniel Fowler: Some of it sounds a bit minimalistic—that was what we were going for.
So you went into it making sure you weren’t doing anything you couldn’t reproduce in a live setting.
Daniel Fowler: That’s exactly what we did.
Jonathan Hastings: We played most of the songs if not all them live before we recorded. In the studio we were just making sure everything sounds nice and clean and not too crazy.
Daniel Fowler: We normally record all of our music live. We’ve used that same approach every time we’ve recorded music. It’s always pretty straightforward and we don’t add anything to the recordings as far as production goes.
The sound you all have developed straddles a few different styles in really interesting ways. Was there a conversation about what sound you were going for? Or this just came out when you started playing together?
Daniel Fowler: We’ve made a lot of music with each other; we’ve made a lot of sounds. I don’t think we ever generalized our music because we knew that it was kind of infinite.
Jonathan Hastings: We were influenced by some surf rock bands back when we started I guess … like Pangea. We saw Pangea live together before we knew who they were and we were all pretty mind-blown and wanted to play music like that. But then it turned into its own thing. The Burger scene was pretty big when we first started playing music, but Pangea was really it.
Maximo Huete: Moses Campbell too?
Jonathan Hastings: Yeah, Moses Campbell was really good, but they were a bit more on the folky side.
Daniel Fowler: Those first Growlers records were like the beach scene.
Maximo Huete: As far as what was influencing us around that time, it was kind of that new wave of stuff, but I also feel like we’re all influenced by different types of music individually. We all met to play music, but we all come from different backgrounds. So naturally we came up with music that has a lot of different styles crossing over each other. Me and Dan knew each other in high school—I always knew that he played guitar, and I knew he was really awesome. John and I met our first year of community college right out of high school. We were both into drums and bass and we’d talk about bands like Fugazi and Lightning Bolt, and we just started jamming. Then Will and I met at a battle of the bands in high school. So when John and I got together we reached out to Will and we started jamming all the time. Then when Dan came back from Arkansas, he was the final piece.
Jonathan Hastings: Dan actually joined us at our first show without ever having practiced with us before. And it was awesome! He just shredded the entire time over whatever we were playing.
Daniel Fowler: Then they put out an album without me on it, and I felt like I needed to be a part of something.
Maximo Huete: We don’t talk about that music though. It’s not out there!
Jonathan Hastings: It’s out there for anyone to hear!
How did Dan join you on your first show without ever practicing?
Maximo Huete: We were almost like a jam band back then. It was just these jam instrumentals. That was kind of Dan’s vibe, so we were like, ‘Yeah, this is gonna work! For sure!’ Then when Dan joined us, that was when we actually were like, ‘Hey! We can write some songs.’
Did any of that stuff you guys were jamming turn into Jurassic Shark material?
Maximo Huete: No.
Will Cragoe: No.
Jonathan Hastings: No
Daniel Fowler: No. [everyone laughs]
One thing I really dig about your music is that your lyrics are especially poetic. Do they come to you before or after the music?
Daniel Fowler: I normally just freestyle everything, then we record it, then I’ll write all of my words down, and they just so happen to make a little bit of sense. It’s also really poetic to me though because I notice things as they happen or words as I say them. So they’re about my life. Every time we gravitate towards finishing a song, we always start recording demos. That way we don’t forget it. Usually in those demos I’m saying the lines. Doing it that way is important to me because I don’t want the lyrics to be offset from the music, so it helps to create lyrics on the spot with the rhythm of the music. The most important part for me is the syllables because I have to feel comfortable singing while playing my instrument. Our songs aren’t like folk songs where we’re just playing chords, I have to make sure that my melody is in sync with the music which is sometimes hard to do. I could probably spend hours writing lyrics for one part, but I might as well just stick with what I’ve got. It usually turns out a bit poetically. I appreciate you noticing that.
You’re all from Monrovia and I found some videos of you all playing at VLHS (R.I.P.) from a few years ago. There’s a really cool DIY scene going on in the San Gabriel Valley/Inland Empire that not a whole lot of people in L.A. proper are aware of.
Daniel Fowler: Oh yeah—definitely influential. It’s sad that place is no longer there anymore.
I saw some awesome shows there.
Daniel Fowler: Yeah, VLHS was the greatest.
Maximo Huete: I think the first show we went to at VLHS was FIDLAR, Pangea, and Meat Market and that was something that completely destroyed us and inspired us.
I remember seeing FIDLAR and Pangea on the same bill right around that time over at the Echo and they were both incredible.
Daniel Fowler: Another band that was on that bill that influenced us was Summer Vacation. They were a huge influence on us.
Jonathan Hastings: They were more from that VLHS scene.
Will Cragoe: That whole VLHS scene I think was a pretty big influence on us. All of us went to a lot of shows there.
Jonathan Hastings: There wasn’t a lot of crossover between the VLHS scene and the L.A. scene—they were kind of separate deals.
It’s a shame that there isn’t a bit more crossover in the DIY scenes—that VLHS scene was so amazing.
Daniel Fowler: The scenes are definitely changing right now in terms of the popularity for DIY. I feel like it’s actually declining. Everything feels a bit more commercial now and bands are being appreciated a bit more. But I could be wrong—I know there’s an infinite abyss of DIY bands out there still.
Do you think that’s because of the crossover commercial success of bands like FIDLAR?
Daniel Fowler: No—I think it’s just a lack of community and communication.
Are you seeing this decline in the Inland Empire, or do you think it’s everywhere?
Daniel Fowler: Like John said I think there’s a lack of crossover and I feel like that crossover is important—to be very eclectic is important for communities.
Jonathan Hastings: There’s less shows at places like VLHS or the Smell. A lot of that stuff seems like it’s moved over to the Glass House or the Echo. It’s a little less DIY.
Daniel Fowler: It probably has a lot to do with us getting older too. [everyone laughs]
I know what you mean. I feel like the amount of DIY spaces ebbs and flows, and a few years ago they were everywhere. With big ones like Non Plus Ultra and VLHS gone the community feels a little smaller.
Jonathan Hastings: Pehrspace is gone too. There does seem to be a little bit of a void right now.
Daniel Fowler: I don’t think there’s any DIY spaces in Orange County at the moment.
Will Cragoe: They’ve got Riff Mountain.
Daniel Fowler: Yeah, but that’s just one spot.
How do you think going to shows at those spaces shaped your band?
Daniel Fowler: We made a lot of friends!
Jonathan Hastings: Totally! Being in that scene with all of these other bands we were coming up with … every weekend we were playing shows with all sorts of people, meeting new people, and getting to play to bigger audiences every time.
Will Cragoe: I think it gave us goals to work toward. We could be like, ‘Oh! We really, really want to play the Smell!’ That was the biggest deal in the world to us when we were coming up. When we got to do it, it was cool to see that dream come true. To outsiders it might not have meant much, but to us it was a really big deal to play the Smell or VLHS or places like that.
For folks around Los Angeles, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley, or the Inland Empire who want to see more DIY shows, what promoters or venues do your recommend they keep an eye out for?
Daniel Fowler: Sid The Cat seem extremely promising, and they make awesome matchbooks which I enjoy.
Maximo Huete: Penniback Records and Viva of course! Minty Boi!
Jonathan Hastings: Mr. Sunday! Mr. Sunday is in the OC and his shows are pretty fun.
Daniel Fowler: There’s not much in the San Gabriel Valley per-se.
Will Cragoe: Like they said, it seems like there’s a bit of a shrink in the DIY scene or maybe there are things going on we don’t know about.
Daniel Fowler: Marty from VLHS is still booking awesome shows at Characters in Pomona and a couple of other places.
On your Instagram you have a lot of interaction with your fans. Is having that direct line of communication to people who dig your music important to you?
Daniel Fowler: It is! We ran into some fans at a Mexican restaurant and they were the nicest people!
Jonathan Hastings: It’s awesome seeing people outside of a show that are fans. It’s definitely cool getting to talk to people that are into our music.
Daniel Fowler: We like to hear what our fans have to say about our music and art—it’s pretty great.
Jonathan Hastings: They’re usually more creative than we are.
Maximo Huete: I just bought a vintage typewriter and I was telling the guys that I wanted to bring it and keep it at our merch table for our album release show. That way people can just write down whatever they want. It has to do with how we want to be connected to our fans and we want to know what they’re thinking about us or music in general. That’s something I’m trying to do for the show.
You’ve been playing these songs on Overflow for a while, but is it exciting to be able to finally show them off to audiences?
Daniel Fowler: Yeah! Finally!
Jonathan Hastings: It’s cool! We did a Jam In The Van session back in January and [we were] letting a couple of those new songs out … Playing them live and having people already kind of know the words is really exciting.
Is it scary or intimidating to be playing these new songs in front of people?
Daniel Fowler: It’s my favorite thing!
Maximo Huete: It’s a lot of fun!
Jonathan Hastings: It’s new to everybody but us.
Daniel Fowler: It’s the best! It’s a lot of fun for us because it’s a bit more technical so we have a lot more fun playing it.
Jonathan Hastings: Yeah, I have to really be careful and pay attention because some of these songs are really hard and I tend to mess up. Gotta make sure I don’t have too many Foster’s!
So people shouldn’t be bringing cases of Foster’s to your van for you before shows?
Jonathan Hastings: No! They should!
Maximo Huete: They should!
Daniel Fowler: They should!
Will Cragoe: They should!
JURASSIC SHARK WITH THE RED PEARS AND SPENDTIME PALACE WITH SISTER MANTOS (DJ SET) ON SAT., OCT. 27, AT THE EL REY, 5515 WILSHIRE BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 8 PM / $18 / ALL AGES. GET TICKETS HERE! JURASSIC SHARK’S OVERFLOW IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM JURASSIC SHARK. VISIT JURASSIC SHARK AT JURASSICSHARKSQUAD.BANDCAMP.COM.