NEW. THE EXPERIMENTAL ROCK OPERA MIXTAPE
photos by Shelby Duncan, collaged by Daiana Feuer
We saw New. in its first incarnation almost two years ago at Son Of Semele. It was cool then because the soundtrack featured local experimental bands like Hecuba and Rainbow Arabia. The Post Fact Productions girls had bigger plans in store. They brought New. back, got the Standard to sponsor so it can be free, booked the Million Dollar Theater, transformed the play into a musical, and cast some of their favorite bands as characters to write and perform original songs—which we bring you now on the New. mixtape. Go see New. tonight, Friday, Apr 23!
“New. tells a story about destruction and transcendence. Over-the-top neon clad party snobs seek power and hierarchy, destroy civilization, and try to conquer the afterlife. This twisted tale describes a world saturated in synthetic desire, a culture desperate for recognition without effort or compassion, and Mother Nature’s ever-increasing power to move us to become better people or put us in our place, realized through song and dance.”
In place of a plain old tracklist, we asked the musicians in New. to describe the songs they wrote for the musical. Here, in their own words…
Oliwa “New Under the Sun”
This song was written as an introduction to New. First, we wanted to invite the audience into the world of New. in a fun and light way. Second, we wanted to establish the setting by giving a brief back story. The drumming at the beginning creates the fun and lightness, and further serves the back story by referencing the pre-technological world. When the music transitions to the heavier synthesized material, it represents technological evolution and emerging oppressive power structures.
This piece joins together two parts of my identity. I’ve always been into rootsy, naturalistic music. Recently, I’ve been getting excited about electronic music. Listening to it, moving to it, and now making it. This piece brings both together. In the musical, I play HUMAN KIND…kinda. The character is birthed from the sun, learns about power and violence, and eventually love. The song evolves in reflection of how people have evolved.
What is Oliwa up to? My ongoing and ever evolving offering is The Pleasure Circus, a dance intentioned celebrational postmodern dance party band. The music explores dynamic balance and a wide variety of musical influences and inventions. It’s fun. I’m also playing in neo-psychedelic rock band, Jeffertitti’s Nile as well as composing for films and working as an arranger. (check out The Pleasure Circus Band on L.A. RECORD’s 420 Mixtape!)
Anna Oxygen “This” & “Dictator Jam”
“This” is a song of mine and “Dictator Jam” was written at first for a monster play but it never got finished. I then thought it had the right feeling for the “Dicator Jam,” so I expanded it into monkeys and heavy breathing and soft scary moments.
My character in the play is THE SOVEREIGN, the one who has the power and who others want to overthrow. I think the song roughly captures the beat driven element of this character’s personality. Like a fairy tale military leader calling her monkeys and marching on things rather than through them.
What is Anna up to? I currently am touring with my performance company Cloud Eye Control which premiered a fantasy media opera at REDCAT last fall called Under Polaris. We will likely release the live soundtrack to the show this coming fall.
Featherbeard “Happenis Heer”
I wanted to think of the brightest lie I could. Living by lies alone, we shoot ourselves out of a barrel every morning forgetting about death and pain, defying the possibility of either. This denial is apparent at first in the song since it is ridiculous. And then the irony comes to make all of these wrinkles in our lives flat. Lemons to lemonade when we are at the bottom of the ocean, the water pressure would crush us, explode us like balloons of blood and flesh, but my character claims that we’re indeed flying. Lemons to lemonade works with this irony, this little nip of brandy in the lemonade. Since the song is written with words, it’s all lies anyways. I don’t want to give the impression that I think positivity is a lie alone, so is the other side! This is a liberating force. Since we will lie either way, a beautiful lie is most necessary.
My character (the WATER king) fancies himself a sage in a way. He wants wisdom and joy to coincide and fails miserably in many ways. He is lucky to be alive in any way since this king of the sea is quite a dope. Not a Shakespearian fool, they were right about everything and this is why they found a tragic end—they knew too much. This fool really doesn’t know anything and is a drunk and a bombast. The gift of gab and the gift of blab! These are not bad things. For me, this is a very sympathetic thing. Leonard Cohen fills his songs with beautiful losers and here, I think we have another, but with quite a different tone.
What is Featherbeard up to? Featherbeard is a minstrel and storyteller of the Neolithic variety. Culling influences from as far afield as Hindu mystics, Tiny Tim, Shakespearean Fools, and the death cry of the ancient heartbeat, his incantations tightrope the archaic and the innovative. They are both steeped in and unmoored by time, playful and cryptic, lyrical and delusional. A duality is joined.
Amanda Jo Williams “Ocean”
The play and thoughts of Rachel and Lauren and myself inspired the song. I wanted it happy and scary. I think I recorded it when I was living in the tent in Topanga. The verses of my song entice Rachel and Lauren into our water world so I can carry out my plan with them, and the choruses reflect the eerie nature of what is to come. I pretend it’s happiness but it’s not, at least not for them.
My character is the evil sea queen/witch. I want to make Rachel and Lauren into merpeople, minions of the sea. I am not evil to myself. It’s my nature. Opposites are true at the same time.
What is Amanda up to? My 2006 album Yes I Will Mr. Man was just re-released by White Noise of Los Angeles. I’m playing the Silverlake Jubilee and Topanga Children’s Fest in May. I come from Georgia and write alternative folk country rock songs that channel the light and love of light and love. I’ve written a book, Grace Light Warrior, and make weird, neat-o videos. You’ll see my show with Daiana Feuer on L.A. RECORD TV when it launches this summer.
Ariana Delawari “Weightless States” & “Atrium Intruder”
We started discussing the music in October in my first meeting with Lauren and Rachel. It was definitely an evolution in terms of story arc, content, and sound. The first piece introduces AIR, who I play in the story. I come from the sky and beyond, outer space as well. The elements are all sort of purgatorial gods. We teach the humans about our nature and to revere nature, not interfere with us. “Weightless States” captures the sort of dreamy spacious quality of who I am as AIR. The second piece, “Atrium Intruder,” is more the extra-terrestrial element as well as the lightning storms of the skies. This is the moment when Rachel’s character attempts to intrude me. I wanted to work with Mecca and dance during the piece, so I decided not to play any instruments live.
I collaborated with Oliwa on both of these pieces. I had never worked with him before, and I really love collaborating with new artists, so that was great. I started with the melody and the basic strings and beats for the songs. I wanted it to be mostly strings and beats—no guitars, as I knew that WATER had guitar and autoharp and FIRE would be mostly guitar. I wanted my piece to be its own world so that the audience would be transported on a journey from element to element. Rachel had also described my part as representing the extra-terrestrial world as well, so I thought it was more appropriate to have Oliwa add an electronic element to the songs. I gave the basic sketches to Oliwa. He created more intricate beats, electronic sounds, wind sounds, and string sections. Then I added vocals, harmonies, wurlitzer, and piano. We then took these tracks into the studio and Pipe Ceballos (of Lemon Sun & He’s My Berother, She’s My Sister) added live drums. So it was definitely an evolution. The bird sounds on the second track were actually recorded in Costa Rica. I was there a few years ago and recorded this tree that was filled with very noisy birds. I brought these sounds into the end of the second track. I wanted the end to feel like the film The Birds.
What is Ariana up to? I recently released my debut album Lion of Panjshir. The sounds on that album are pretty different than what I created for this play. The album is all very organic with many many different instruments from both Afghanistan and the West. I’m also currently finishing up a song for a film. And I’m a member of the Ladies Choir, too.
KP’s tracks for this song had me imagining a figure performing a Spanish Flamenco style dance while being watched by some personalities from the shadows. Alien devil types descend and…well, my guitar part, for me, are these creepsters. KP does the beautiful ‘far out’ stuff. Neither of us will be performing in the play and the song was recorded while separated utilizing the internet and email.
What is Max up to? Black Hole Oscillators is working on an album that will sport the title Levitation and Creation Epic, and will be playing a few acoustic shows in L.A. soon.
KP chimes in from far away: I front the band Spindrift. We tour extensively and are about to tour to Austin Psych Fest 3 and then tour to Europe opening for BRMC. Rachel approached me with writing this piece and all I could think of was an explosive fire dance. Unfortunately, due to my hectic touring schedule… I cannot perform it live.
Aska “Gravity Sailing”
Giving birth to my daughter really inspired me to write this song. Through giving birth you feel such gravity, and that connection our bodies have to the moon and the tides. Feeling creation and the flow of nature within my body, that’s what inspired me.
My character is Ether. To me Ether represents both fullness and emptiness, a paradox of sorts.
“Gravity Sailing” is about giving birth within the universe, melting into the flow of nature, and waltzing.
What is Aska up to? I recently wrote a song for I’m Here, a short film by Spike Jonze and also just finished my first full length as a solo artist. My single “There are many of us ” / B-side Almost there is now available on itunes and also available from Manimal Records in May.
In addition to musical talent, New. features local stars in their respective fields: Directed by Satya Bhabha. Choreography by Mecca Andrews. Costumes by Miss KK. Set Design by Milo Reice. Make-up by Sarai Fiszel. Hair by Candice Birns. Photography by Shelby Duncan. Written by Rachel Kolar. Marketing/Getting free money by Nicole Disson. Dancers: Cortney Alexander, Cristine Tatomer, Jamila Glass and Melissa Schade