April 7th, 2009 | Interviews

Download: Greater California “It’s Great” (shea M gauer remix)


(from Trust Us on Fidotrust)

Long Beach’s Greater California release their long-awaited All The Colors album tonight at Fingerprints, so we are reviving this interview from the ancient L.A. RECORD volume 1 archives in their honor. They remain Long Beach’s closest thing yet to S.F. Sorrow or Odessey and Oracle and its farthest thing yet from Sublime. Pianist/keyboardist Kari Prine could not be present for zucchini sticks and scrambles at Hof’s Hut. This interview by Chris Ziegler.

Your last album was recorded exclusively between midnight and five in the morning, but what were you doing for the other nineteen hours each day?
Terry Prine (vocals/guitar): Sleeping or driving there.
Nick Benich (bass/guitar): Because the studio was in fucking El Cajon.
What is there to do in El Cajon when you aren’t sleeping or driving?
Greg Brown (drums): One of my favorites was going to eat at the restaurant on the corner and watching the prostitution.
N: Turning tricks into meth, just like that.
Chris Berens (guitar/vocals): An Iraqi restaurant, right?
T: Allegedly El Cajon has the largest Iraqi population east of Michigan.
I don’t hear a lot of Iraqi or prostitution influences in your music.
T: Maybe you haven’t listened to it enough.
What do you think of the imagery people always attach to your band—are you really that into long night drives?
C: Terry loves driving.
T: The idea about forming the band was kind of about that—if people pick up on it in that way, that’s great. One of my big heroes is Jack Kerouac, and if that comes out in any way, so be it.
That’s how half of rock ‘n’ roll probably started.
C: ‘Don’t fuck with the formula, Brian.’
How does Long Beach show up in your songs?
T: It doesn’t at all—I think outside people’s perception of what goes on here is really different, and we can thank all the drunken-reggae types for that. I think we’re trying to live that reputation down. And I think Long Beach is one venue away from being a really great music town—you go to other cities and there’s a really great venue for music that’s not only a place for music but kind of more like a centerpoint and catalyst for all these different bands and musicians and artists in general. There’s such a great amount of artists that are incredible on all these different facets that don’t have a common place to express themselves, and that’s why I think {open} books is gonna be fantastic—the new City Lights.
G: We are influenced by Long Beach—influenced by the unknown. By the stuff people don’t know about.
C: Like the stretch of Ocean Blvd. that’s actually on the beach—not by the cliffs but on the beach.
N: Oh, horny corner.
G: I tell people from L.A. that I’m from Long Beach and they give me that face—the nostril goes up and the eyebrow goes up on the opposite side, and you have to be like, ‘No, no, really it’s pretty cool.’ You kind of have to have a guide.
T: Signal Hill—the backside of Signal Hill! The myth of tunnels under Pine Street.
N: Midgettown! We turned down a road once, and we thought it was Midgettown because there was a guard shack, but it was just the posh backside of the country club.
Do you ever put on your own records when you feel like driving around late at night?
T: This is the first band I’ve ever been in where I can go back and listen and feel pretty good about what we did. Especially Little Pacific—listening to it as a whole, it feels pretty good. We did what we wanted to do. I think we’re past the point of picking stuff apart. We can sit back and listen and feel like we’ve accomplished a good piece of work.
What’s the next accomplishment going to be?
N: We don’t wanna write the same album again.
G: Before Chris and I, it was Terry and Nick writing the songs. And now we have four people writing because Chris and I are extremely into that aspect of it. But there’s more struggle now, too.
C: We come to blows more often.
T: But in the end, it’s all for the greater… California.
N: Don’t put that in.
What is Greater California able to do now that it’s never been able to do before?
G: One of my favorite bands out there is Wilco—not like I necessarily wanna sound like them, but I truly love the way they write and compose songs. They make songs for the sake of songs—it’s not about jamming things in, it’s about what’s gonna work for this song. My whole thing is really about arranging—I hate to break it down to math, but there is an equation to every song. What fits where and more importantly, what can be left out—for me, Wilco does that amazingly and beautifully.
T: I think in the past, we’ve played everything very safe—everything was very calculated and mathematical. The way we played over and over was exactly the same, and the record was very planned out and safe. People say ‘they sound just like the CD!’ but there isn’t the element of danger and chaos, and that’s what’s coming in—a little darker element without being heavy. Which is us saying, ‘Fuck it, we’re not gonna be nice about it anymore—we’re not gonna play everybody’s best pal.’ We kind of wanna come out and punch people in the face a little bit.
Have you ever punched someone in the face?
T: I have. I’m not the aggressive type, but I had to stand up for chivalry. Chivalry was on trial that night.
Does your new face-punching attitude fit with your pre-face-punching songs?
G: We’re not losing the old sound, but we’re pushing the floor down and raising the ceiling really high.
What are your favorite California pop records?
C: Fifth Dimension. Pet Sounds. And now Smile.
T: Forever Changes.
N: Rain Parade.
C: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. And the first Bangles EP.
T: The Bangs?
C: I’m thinking the Bangles EP—the twelve-inch.
That’s an era begging for reissue.
C: All the ‘80s psych—that stuff really influenced us because we were that age at that time.
T: Something that doesn’t get too much play is the first Doors album—it’s fantastic. That’s an album I was listening to a lot when I was younger, and that’s criminally overlooked a lot.
Morrison sort of overshadows the other people in the band.
T: We’ve drawn comparisons like, ‘If Jim Morrison wasn’t in the Doors, this is how they might sound.’ Which is pretty honorable.
C: I think we’re more like Love—I always thought that Love did the Doors better than the Doors.
Is there more Arthur Lee or more Jim Morrison in Greater California?
T: Arthur Lee, absolutely.
G: Though sometimes Terry gets drunk and he’s a real fucking asshole!