POP NOIR: IN MY SUNGLASSES AND CAPE
(download free until Nov. 30 from the “DIY” single available now from Pop Noir)
Pop Noir grabbed the interest of French listeners because of their name and get noticed here in the States because of their similarities to New Order—and because their father designed Joy Division’s album covers. These twin musicians-slash-illustrators (seen often in L.A. RECORD ) and their drummer Nico Saavedra will be releasing their single ‘DIY’ today, and they explain here about making music, bathing separately and designing websites for cartoon penises. This interview by Britt Witt.
What was performing with the drummer from A Certain Ratio like?
Joe McGarry (guitar): It was really cool—we did a cover of Ratio’s classic ‘Do the Du’ and he was impressed ’cause he said we did it better than they did. He ended up recording a couple tracks with us. He stayed at our house for a week or something and we ended up riding a carousel with him. We rode a carousel with Donald Johnson! We got pictures of us riding and we’re all on the little carousel horses. I think we wanted to release a single of the stuff we recorded with Donald and that’ll be the cover. That was the highlight of our career so far I think. I think we’ve probably plateaued now.
What did you learn from him and what did he learn from you?
Joe McGarry: He learned what bars not to go to in Southern California.
What do you do to keep yourself busy?
Joe McGarry: Just draw pictures and do this. We work for a bunch of different people for illustration and we do web design. We’re working on a project right now for another cartoonist and it’s a website for his character ‘Pee Wee the Penis,’ so we have to do a website for a penis cartoon. It’ll look great in the portfolio.
Are the illustration jobs what keep you going?
Joe McGarry: Yeah, it keeps us afloat. So far we’ve avoided any real work.
Everyone knows what your father does—what does your mother do?
Joe McGarry: She’s actually the colorist on the comic strip ‘Baby Blues,’ if you’ve ever seen that. Right now she’s working at a Hallmark store just to keep busy, I guess, because she doesn’t have to take care of her babies anymore. One of her coworkers asked her what she does and she said, ‘I color in the comic strip “Baby Blues.”’ And they thought she just meant with a crayon—like she takes this job ’cause she’s a simpleton!
How long have you been living in the States?
Joe McGarry: We came out here for high school in 2001 or something. It was sort of a bit of everything. We went to the Orange County High School of the Arts so we probably wouldn’t have been out here if it hadn’t have been for that high school. I guess it was a culmination of things—parents’ work brought us out here.
Were you naturally good at art or did your classes in high school help?
Luke McGarry (vocals): It didn’t improve mine—I’m no good at figure drawing!
Joe McGarry: Just look at the figure illustrations in L.A. RECORD and you’ll get the idea!
Luke McGarry: Horrible figure illustration style!
Joe McGarry: Haha—he had to learn how to draw hands before he could learn how to undraw hands… But really he just can’t draw hands! But, I mean—it’s really cool having artists as your parents. Instead of like, ‘Oh, Mom and Dad, I really want to be in a band and draw pictures…’ They’d be mad if we got real jobs, you know!
What is the best subliminal thing you’ve ever snuck into a drawing?
Luke McGarry: I think mine might be a little too mean to point out. If you haven’t noticed it then it’s probably better I don’t tell you!
Joe McGarry: If somebody is wearing pins on their jacket he always sneaks a Pop Noir pin in there. If it’s somebody who’s consciously a punk rocker, Luke does like an Avril Lavigne pin or a Sum 41 pin. There was one I suggested but Luke thought it was too mean, which was surprising because Luke’s heart is as black and cold as a well. Luke is a horrible person.
What’s it like being twins?
Luke McGarry: I don’t know what it’s like NOT being twins!
Joe McGarry: It’s sort of weird now ’cause we only really sort of interact with each other and everybody else comes after. We’ll just hang out with each other and we’ll just sit in the house and work on music and artwork or something. We don’t feel like, ‘Oh, I need to go out and be sociable’ or something. I’m at home working with my best friend. I don’t know whether he’s actually my best friend ’cause I don’t know if I actually I like him that much…
Luke McGarry: I don’t like him!
Joe McGarry: …or whether I must be settling ’cause he’s around all the time.
Luke McGarry: It’s a lot easier than working by yourself.
Joe McGarry: Another you—like, ‘Yes, I agree with your idea.’ And it’s cool, too—you know, being brothers in the sense that if we’re working on something and I don’t like what he’s doing I can just tell him, ‘No, that’s awful, stop!’ without hurting his feelings. I know we’ll be all right later. Whereas you work with other people and you have to be tactful!
Do you do anything separately?
Luke McGarry: Eat. Bathe.
Have you ever had a case of mistaken twin identity?
Joe McGarry: No! But I have an excellent case of a mistaken manager identity. I think Luke had left the show and it was me and our dad/manager Steve. I think we were waiting to get paid or something and this guy came up to us—he sort of looked like he used to be a big guy, but he could do some damage. He says, ‘You used to work security for George Michael.’ Steve’s like, ‘No.’ ‘Yeah, you used to work security for George Michael—you and I have some unfinished business.’ He gives us his business card and he’s a fucking black belt in karate and a weapons expert and then he puts us on the phone with his girlfriend—‘Has he been drinking again?’
Do you have anything that you’re most jealous about each other?
Luke McGarry: Joe’s jealous of my insane good looks.
Joe McGarry: I’m jealous that Luke doesn’t have to play guitar on stage. He doesn’t have to worry about the effects pedal. Although he is the singer, so he might be jealous that I don’t have to sing as much. He gets ‘frontman syndrome’ where he doesn’t lift any amps or anything. Doesn’t do any work after the show. ‘That’s it, guys—I’m going to go drink and talk to girls.’
Luke McGarry: I don’t mind walking off in my sunglasses and cape. ‘Yes, I’m going to go drink now.’
Who is easier to shop for?
Joe McGarry: I think I’m a good Christmas gift buyer because if Luke says, ‘Oh, this is really cool,’ I actually make a note of it. And everybody is pleased with that. Luke never pays any attention to anything anybody says ever. ‘Oh, I think Joe likes Echo and the Bunnymen—yeah, I’ll get a DVD of that from like two years ago.’
Luke McGarry: Shit. It comes out—Joe didn’t appreciate my Christmas gift.
Joe McGarry: Now we just don’t get each other presents. ‘I’ll buy something for me and you buy something for you and we’ll pretend that we bought it for each other.’
Luke McGarry: ‘Hey, Joe, try this on—I want to see how I look in those jeans.’
What comes first—art or music?
Joe McGarry: Definitely the music—for me anyway. Probably for both of us. We grew up doing the artwork but I guess the music sort of piqued our interest. A big part of doing everything ourselves is we get to do all the posters and fliers, so it’s all a DIY operation. We screen the T-shirts in our garage so it’s pretty fun. I guess it’s all interconnected.
Do you feel any pressure from being compared to big bands and having your father be a well-known artist?
Joe McGarry: It’s sort of weird sometimes—like the obvious New Order comparison, which I think we embrace ’cause I think we feel that we do some stuff that New Order would never do. But there’s a certain vibe there. And New Order was sorta like the biggest band in the world so if we can achieve that then it’s pretty good!
What works best about having your dad as your manager?
Joe McGarry: We can trust him. We know he’s not trying to rip us off. And we figure if it was good enough for Paul Weller it was good enough for us! He’s not an industry player. I think we’re all kind of learning the trade. He’s this big scary English guy so he works as an enforcer—
Luke McGarry: Or he can sound really intelligent.
Joe McGarry: It works both ways. He can be scary or charming.
Would you be as passionate if you didn’t have your dad driving you?
Joe McGarry: Oh yeah! He only really got into it because when we started, we were 16 and he was driving us to our shows. I guess our poor managerial skills got us ripped off a couple of times. He’s sort of a reluctant manager so I think as soon as he can hand us off … but right now we just sort of want to keep him around because we can trust him and it’s not hard to get him on the phone!
Is it an entire record coming out on November 16?
Joe McGarry: It’s just a sort of a single EP thing—it’s an A-side and a B-side and two remixes and we’re doing a 7” vinyl with just an A-side and B-side. We were toying with the idea of just doing an EP and then we thought, ‘Well, let’s just do a couple of singles first just so we could do a rapid singles release so people could go, “Oh wow, these guys are just so prolific!” The album is still cool but it seems like a lot of people are trying to phase it out. A lot of bands are like, ‘We’re not going to do albums anymore.’ So we’re like, ‘How about we just never do an album?’ Because it’s our first release and for posterity and because we think it’s cool we’re doing a 7”. We’re expecting to lose money on the vinyl.
Luke McGarry: That’s what you’re supposed to do.
Joe McGarry: We’re doing it on our own label so we have to be sensible. We started specifically for this release so we could see what would happen if we did it all on our own. We’ve had offers from labels but none of them were enough where we couldn’t refuse. We’ll probably regret it! Fantastic Heat is the name of the label. It’s a joke ’cause the illustration company that we do is Fantastic Heat Brothers, and that came from some R&B soul band—a couple of white guys from Manchester.
Luke McGarry: I don’t think it was actually the band—it was the guys that fronted the band.
Joe McGarry: Oh right, the guys that did all the popping and lockings. So we’ve just appropriated that.
Luke McGarry: For all our popping and locking.
POP NOIR IN RESIDENCY EVERY MONDAY NIGHT IN NOVEMBER WITH NICO STAI, ON BLAST, LOVE GRENADES, THE POLYAMOROUS AFFAIR AND MORE AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA. 9 PM / FREE / 21+. DETROITBAR.COM. POP NOIR’S RELEASE PARTY FOR ‘DIY’ ON WED., NOV. 18, AT ORIGAMI VINYL, 1816 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 7 PM / FREE / ALL AGES. ORIGAMIMUSIC.BLOGSPOT.COM. AND WITH JAGUAR LOVE AND IGLU AND HARTLY ON FRI., NOV. 20, AT THE TROUBADOUR, 9081 SANTA MONICA BLVD., WEST HOLLYWOOD. 8 PM / $12-$15 / ALL AGES. TROUBADOUR.COM. POP NOIR’S ‘DIY’ EP RELEASES MON., NOV. 16, ON FANTASTIC HEAT RECORDS. VISIT POP NOIR AT POPNOIR.ORG OR MYSPACE.COM/POPNOIR.